August, 2019

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

The Power of Storytelling


I recently read Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller, published by HarperCollins Leadership. While reading it, I discovered that the author’s message can apply to marketing many types of businesses, even a home inspection business.

Everyone loves a good story. Whether it is a book, a song, a television show, a movie, a podcast or a play, people are engaged by stories. So, how can that idea relate to marketing your business? By using the “strategy of story,” you can address not only your website, but everything else you do, including social media posts, presentations, one-on-one discussions, brochures, flyers, advertisements and more.

The goal is to connect with your customers and build relationships

Telling stories is a great way to do that. When storytelling for the purpose of marketing, there are some twists:

  1. Every story has a hero or a main character. The key to successful storytelling is to avoid making yourself the hero of the story. Instead, make your client the hero.

  2. Every story has a problem, a challenge or a villain. You’ll need to make it crystal clear who or what the “villain” is.

  3. Every good story involves a prize for winning and a penalty for losing. Without a risk of loss, the story is not compelling.

To market your business, you don’t have time to write a novel. Your prospective clients wouldn’t read it anyway. But you do need to provide absolute clarity about what problem you solve—immediately and in as few words as possible. 

How will you help your client survive and flourish?

Donald Miller’s storybrand model is built around the seven components of telling a story: the character (hero), the problem, the guide, the plan, the call to action, the risk of failure and the opportunity for success.

The hero wants something, but it’s hard to get. A guide appears. The guide provides a plan and helps the hero take action. The hero avoids the failure and gets the reward.

In home inspection, the main character or hero is the homebuyer. The problem is that they might buy a money pit. The home inspector is the guide who provides the plan—a great home inspection and report. The hero arranges the inspection, avoids the disasters and lives happily ever after—or at least stays warm, safe and dry in the newly purchased home.

It’s challenging for home inspectors not to portray themselves as the hero, but that is the secret to successfully applying the storyboard marketing technique. The inspector is a guide in the background, and the home inspection is the tool that the client (hero) uses to avoid failure and achieve success. If you think of the Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot is the client (hero), Merlin is the home inspector (guide) and Excalibur is the home inspection (tool). The Holy Grail is the right home for the client (the reward).

Your marketing messages should focus on the customer and their needs, not on you and your experience, your credentials and your accomplishments. In general, clients don’t care that much about your company history or how long you have been in business. They are looking to solve a problem. 

It’s important to focus on just one problem. Although many home inspectors offer an assortment of ancillary services, those services are rarely the main problems for the client. Once you have built a relationship with your client, you can offer to solve additional problems, but it’s important to first focus on one main issue.

When it comes to getting your message across, speed is critical and less is more. Focus on clarity, use visuals (a picture is worth a thousand words) and make every word count.

When you discuss the client’s problem from their perspective, you can make a strong connection. They will feel that you understand them, you get it. The clearer the problem and the greater the risk, the more important it is to find the right solution. They don’t need just any inspection; they need the right inspection.

As the hero or heroes agonize over the decision of making this huge investment and wonder if they’re making a big mistake, you show up as the guide, bringing wisdom and unbiased expertise. If the client is Luke Skywalker, you are Yoda. If the client is Frodo, you are Gandalf. If the client is James Bond, you are Q. If the client is Batman, you are Alfred.

Guides have two important qualities: empathy and authority. You need to show that you understand how the client feels and show them how they (not you) can defeat the villain. Your experience and credentials play a role here—just remember that you are not the leading player.

Even after a potential client trusts you, there is still no guarantee that he or she will hire you. You need to make it easy for them to take the next step. They should not have to wade across a raging river; instead, they should walk across a comfortable bridge. You take away the risk. (We’ve covered risk reversal in a previous Marketing Focus article in the ASHI Reporter.)

You also must set the expectation that action is clear and simple. Is it easy to book an inspection? Where do they go? What do they do? Do they accompany you during the inspection? Do they pay now or later? Will there be a written report? When will they get it? What will it say? All of these questions are barriers that you can remove through your storytelling.

Remind the client (hero) about the risks of failure. The wrong home can cost a fortune, make their family’s life more difficult and make the client feel foolish for making a bad decision.

It’s interesting that, for most people, the fear of loss is greater than the joy of winning. Losing $1,000 is more dissatisfying than winning $1,000 is satisfying. That’s why your marketing story needs to remind the hero about what can go wrong.

Once the hero clearly understands the risks, he or she will be more receptive to the happy ending that you provide. Success includes financial security and the satisfaction of making a good investment. It also includes peace of mind and a happy life. The hero has chosen a home that will be warm, safe and dry. Success also means status and credibility. People who make good decisions are considered to be smart and successful.

Get the idea? This broad overview does not do the book justice. I recommend reading Building a Story- brand. In my opinion, this is not just a book, it’s an approach. It provides a roadmap for effective messaging that can be applied to your home inspection business. It is specific and detailed. It’s well written in plain language. Reading it just might make a difference in marketing your business.