This is an abbreviated version of an article published February 2005. ASHI enlisted the services of Buz Buzogany, SAVVY – Strategic Resource Partners, LLC, to advise ASHI chapters regarding marketing and media plans.
In October 2004, at the Chapter Leadership event, I was fortunate to meet and speak to many of ASHI's leaders and to do a presentation on how to develop a media strategy on the local level. It takes time, money and media-buying expertise to take full advantage of what was provided by ASHI. In all candor, home inspectors don't usually have these things in abundance. Nor should they be expected to have media expertise. That's why my connection to ASHI should come in handy as chapters undertake marketing efforts.
Questions to ask
Before anyone begins a media campaign, he or she needs to ask: Who do I want to reach? How often do I need to reach them? And, how much must I spend?
Radio, newspapers and magazines all are designed to reach large audiences (hence the term "mass media"), and they can be expensive. Not everyone is a buyer or seller of homes, nor is everyone likely to use home inspection services. Therefore, home inspectors need to whittle the "mass" down to a primary or target audience.
Who do I want to reach?
ASHI has identified the target audience as adults 35-54 years of age, both male and female, with household incomes in excess of $50,000, as the best-defined group of potential buyers due to mobility, financial security and the most frequent group in the market for a home.
How often do I need to reach them?
How often you need to reach your target audience is determined by how many times an advertising message (impression) must be seen to be remembered and to have someone react to it. According to test results, the minimum number of impressions (times someone has been exposed to your advertising in print or on the air) for it to be recalled is five.
So, it takes both reach (finding your target audience) and frequency (the number of times the target audience is exposed to the message) to make a successful advertising buy. Fortunately, ASHI has creative, memorable advertising materials, for both print and radio, so the message will help break through the clutter.
How much must I spend in my market?
Since market size is determined by number of people within a geographic area or "area of dominant influence," ADI for short, the larger the market, the more money that radio stations, newspapers and magazines can charge the potential advertiser.
Therefore, $30,000 in New York will buy far, far less media space or radio ads than $10,000 will buy in Des Moines, simply due to the number of potential readers or listeners in the market. But the good news is, you don't have to reach the largest audience, you simply want to reach your target audience as frequently as possible.
Something for everyone
We all know that advertising works, some better than others. What we don't know is how much each chapter is willing to commit to make an impression in its market, and if the dollars spent will be the best use of the money. Finally, what most of you don't know — because you are home inspectors versus media mavens — is where to start.
The key to any advertising buy is to feed your business, not your ego. If your budget doesn't allow for radio placement, then don't buy radio. If you can't afford the local newspaper with a campaign that includes both reach and frequency, then use your money elsewhere. ASHI strongly suggests chapters consider pooling resources by looking into partnering with other chapters within close geographic proximity as well as taking advantage of the advice we can give on where to spend those advertising dollars. If your chapter simply does not have enough funding to do any paid advertising, don't lose heart. At the Chapter Leadership event, participants suggested using the four-color print ads as flyers. The ads can be downloaded from The ASHI Experience section of the Membership Extranet. With a list of chapter members on the reverse side, the fliers are ready to be distributed to real estate offices and handed out at home shows.
No matter what your political position might be on real estate professionals as liaisons to your business, no one can deny they speak to the audience you want to reach. Are there real estate publications in your market that accept advertising? Are there trade shows that cater to the homebuyer/seller where the chapter can exhibit or be a sponsor? Is there a specialty radio show that targets homebuyers or does segments on the housing market? What are the top radio shows in your marketplace that cater to the 35–54 demographic?
To validate what can be accomplished, the Southern New England ASHI Chapter and the Central Illinois Chapter investigated two markets: the Hartford-New Haven market in Connecticut (ADI rank 27) and the Springfield, Illinois, market (ADI rank 96). In both cases, there wasn't enough money in the chapter budgets to take full advantage of newspaper and radio as the primary media, so they looked at specialty publications, trade shows and expanding the public relations effort.
Both chapters put together media plans that take advantage of the uniqueness of their specific marketplaces, assess the constraints on their overall budgets, and both have chosen the best vehicles to increase their exposure.
Southern New England will be using a mix of radio, print, trade shows and potentially real estate-related Web advertising to maximize its exposure within its budget. Springfield has increased its visibility in the community through volunteerism (Habitat for Humanity) and is planning an advertising campaign in a statewide real estate publication that reaches an active marketplace for homebuyers.
SAVVY's role was to help the chapters understand their options: Which radio stations attracted the largest 35–54 demographic, how much the stations charged per spot, what publications most effectively penetrated the market, which publications had special real estate sections, etc. We did not tell them what to buy; rather, we prevented them from wasting time, effort and money on what would not have been an effective media strategy due to reach, frequency and budget constraints.