December, 2002
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Marketing Secrets: There's Strength in Numbers

MAX CURTIS

In most areas of this vast country of ours, it’s still easy to become a home inspector. Buy a report-writing program, get some fresh batteries for the old flashlight, organize a few hand tools and print up some business cards – you’re ready to go. Now for the tough part: How do I make that darn phone ring?

You’ve probably taken the most important step toward marketing your business, and you may not even realize it. In my experience with both local and national public relations, one fact has become evident to me regarding the success of my business and the success of the other ASHI inspectors in my area. What’s this secret formula for success? It’s simple. It is far easier to market ASHI inspections then it is to market Deal Killer Inspection Service.

Some 10 or 15 years ago our local chapter numbered 30 to 35 members, who worked in a large nine county metropolitan area. Most of them operated in only one or two of the counties. We were seeing an influx of new home inspectors invading our market and sapping off our business. We talked about how to respond. Do we cut our prices to compete with the newcomers and their lower priced inspections? No. We decided to work together to sell the benefits of ASHI membership as the only way to guarantee a competent home inspection.  

Marketing the ASHI advantage

Many of us bought advertising space in the local real estate boards’ newsletters. Instead of ads featuring DK Inspection Services, the ads featured ‘The ASHI Advantage’ concept. While selling ‘The ASHI Advantage,’ the ads contained pictures and phone numbers of the members who participated and split the costs of the ad. The next phase of the program consisted of producing an ‘ASHI Advantage’ brochure, and then we took the following steps to ensure our brochure worked on our behalf.

  • Regionalized the brochure by listing members by area.
  • Secured a local 800-referral phone number (this was prior to the national 800 number and Web site).  
  • Developed a list of real estate companies in areas the members wanted to target.
  • Mailed the brochure to all identified real estate office managers.
  • Hired a telemarketer to call the managers and try to set an appointment for an office presentation.
  • Arranged for two or three ASHI chapter members to make a combined presentation to the sales staff on the “advantages of using only ASHI inspectors.” Brochures were left at each office. Members took turns supplying the office with brochures.
Strength in numbers

The point is none of the members would have been able to undertake this degree of marketing on his own, but as a group it was easy for us. And, we were much better received because we were selling ASHI, rather then DK Inspection Services.
Was the program successful? I believe so. ASHI is widely recognized as the benchmark for the inspection profession in our area. Now our schedules are full, so only a few chapter members continue to market. Once in a while, one of our members requests additional brochures because a real estate office would like its supply replenished. We review and print the brochures and distribute them to the participating members to be placed in the offices.

Three new marketing programs for chapters

Now ASHI national Public Relations Committee and staff are making it easier for you to endeavor in this type of marketing program. Brochures, which have been available to the Membership for years, have been redesigned for chapters. In addition to cost, the advantages of using these brochures include continuity of message throughout the chapter area, and not having to go through HQ for content and design approval.

In addition, HQ is making available a professionally designed ad and local media lists.

Final anecdote

Awhile ago I was hunting for an inspector in another part of the country for my nephew who was in contract on his first house. I sent an e-mail to a local ASHI member asking if he serviced the area. A few days went by and I received an e-mail back saying he did not and to try inspectors in a few neighboring towns. I e-mailed him again, asking for a referral to one of these inspectors. He replied that he could not provide the referral as the local ASHI guys did not communicate with each other. What a shame for a number of reasons, the least being public relations.