In this increasingly challenged marketplace, we who speak house must look outside the box to market our businesses for growth and success.
Old-school teaches us to give up money and/or time and effort to market our business. We buy phone book display ads. We pay to belong to this network group and that network group. We pay to market our business. New-school teaches us to get paid for marketing our business. The inspection itself, whether it be full home, partial, commercial, radon, termite, infrared, mold or even expert witness testimony, should indeed be our best marketing opportunity.
Use every inspection to its full potential
I do not advocate that we give up marketing to real estate professionals, insurance professionals, loan officers, attorneys or doctors (yes, doctors). Nor do I advocate that we give up our ads and/or network groups, be they social or business, that cost us time, effort and money. Rather, I advocate using the inspection we are being paid to do to its fullest potential.
By gathering as much human intel as we can during an inspection, we can connect with our clients on a grass-roots level as we build relationships with them and within their communities.
If it is a real estate transaction, we should know its close of escrow date so we can connect with the client on this important anniversary. Also, we should find out birthdays, anniversaries, cultural and religious affiliations, and even the date of deaths.
Your clients will remember you
Driving traffic to our Web site and to our social networking pages; sending newsletters or e-mail; podcasts; and blogs on technical issues to prospects are all recognized marketing tools. However, it is the human intel we gather from the new widow who we did an inspection for two days ago that will have the most impact when she receives our condolence card. Cultural and religious communities are closely knit. Send that Black History month, Easter or Hanukkah card or a note at Ramadan wishing your client an easy fast.
Your satisfied clients will remember you when their kin, friend or colleague is buying real estate.
Greeting cards are a multi-million dollar a year business, but using them does not have to cost you a lot of money. A high-resolution photo of a client’s new home can be used to create “We Have Moved” cards to send as a gift. You can design your cards, as I do, or you can take advantage of ASHI’s endorsed SendOutCards program. Three clicks on HomeInspector.org will take you there: click the Members Only link; click Resources and click Partners Program, and you are on your way to building a grass-roots relationship with your satisfied clients within their communities.
Use add-on services
Then there are the “add-ons.” So you don’t do radon or termite inspections — no problem. Book the inspection anyway. Charge a small booking fee, then refer it to a colleague who provides these services, or refer it without a fee to a colleague who will reciprocate when one of his clients is in need of an add-on service you do provide.
Doing an inspection on a for-sale-by-owner house (FSBO)? The sellers may have a lawyer to read the abstract, but offer the name of a colleague anyway. Smart businesspeople build networks of relationships to ensure success. Leave nothing on the table.
Doing a new-construction inspection? The builder will offer your client a 12- or 24-month warranty. Explain why you recommend an 11- or 23-month inspection, and let your client know you will be following up with him or her at that time.
Then there are the re-inspections: “Tony, how do I know the seller has fixed the deficiencies in the attic or electrical panel?” Be sure to explain your re-inspection service and its additional fee at the inspection you are being paid for.
Impress your clients
Strongly encourage your clients to attend the full inspection. It is your best marketing opportunity and a time to let them see how hard you are working for them. “Tony, you dress so nicely. I did not expect you to go up inside the attic or crawl space.” I remove my protective clothing only after my clients see how dirty I got on their behalf. I use it as a marketing tool.
Some inspectors offer a warranty for an additional fee. Recently, I signed up for a consumer product recall program. Some inspectors offer this program as an add-on. I include it in my fee.
One high-profile inspector I know charges extra for decks, or has the client or customer sign a deck waiver at time of inspection.
Market to sellers
And then there are sellers. What do you do about sellers? To do nothing is old-school. However, what you do must be done after you complete your inspection. More than likely, the sellers will be buying a home within your market area. If they are not home, leave a card and marketing materials. If they are home, give them the marketing materials and let them know you would be honored to conduct the same high-quality inspection on their new home. Most of your satisfied clients will not object to this. When sellers are moving outside your market, encourage them to use an ASHI inspector and direct them to the ASHI Web site to find their new inspector.
Last, but by no means least, your invoice should include a line for referrals. Ask, and perhaps you shall receive.
Remember, the best time to look for a job is when you have a job. Likewise, the best time to market your business is when you are busy.
Happy marketing and maximum respect.