October, 2015
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

What Are Your Clients Really Buying?


Let’s step back and look at what your clients are buying. It’s not always obvious. For example, when we buy a car, we are really buying one or more of the following—safe transportation, a status symbol or a thrill. Similarly, we do not buy a power drill for the pleasure of owning a drill, but because we want holes. And we don’t buy clothes primarily to keep us warm; we buy most of our clothes to make us look good.

How about a home inspection? What are our clients buying? We believe our clients are looking for protection, insurance, peace of mind, a negotiating tool, reassurance about their buying decision or some combination of these. They are not buying an audit of the home’s condition, a 67-page report, a guided tour of the home, a maintenance plan or your reputation of “20 years as a builder.” Our clients want to feel that they are making a good, well-informed choice. Your goal is to show people how you will help them make the right decision. You are in the knowledge and communication business.

Focus on Benefits

Your marketing should not focus on what you do, but rather on what your client wants. This should be clear in all your advertising, information and campaigns. Marketing experts encourage us to emphasize and focus on benefits rather than features. The table below lists some examples of how you could describe the same report-writing software points by focusing on its features and its benefits.

Choose from over 250 professional title pages. Great reports make you look good.
Online booking on your website. Online booking can get you more business! It also saves time for you, your clients and agents.
You can set items to appear in every report. Complete your reports with speed and consistency.
Automatically drop illustrations and articles into reports. Your reports will look better, be easier to read and provide more information at your fingertips.
The software remembers one-time notes and auto-completes items the next time you start typing the same words. Get your reports done with speed and consistency.
You can do a “completion check.” Our software ensures that you don’t forget anything.

As you’ll notice, many benefits include a concern and the solution. For example, “Our software ensures that you don’t forget anything” (in the Benefits column below) is powerful because it reminds you that the software will help you address something you are probably concerned about. In this way, providing a marketing focus on benefits shows an understanding of the client’s (or in this case, the software user’s) issues and how you (or the product) can address them.

How does this translate to your marketing strategy? Your marketing materials already might state something like this: “We help you make a great decision on the largest investment of your life.” But you can broaden this message by stating, “We help you make an informed home-buying decision for you and your family.” Adding the word family can be very effective. “We’ll help make sure your new home keeps you and your family warm, safe and dry.” Or “We’ll help you keep your new home a comfortable place to live for you and your family.” Some marketing folks think more dramatically and use more direct, colorful imagery: “Ever bought a lemon? Ever had to live in it?”

A Word of Caution: Don’t Overpromise

Be careful what you promise. We do not recommend advertising “complete peace of mind” or “a worry-free home” because home inspections are not technically exhaustive. Unless you are way better than us, you can’t detect or predict every adverse condition.

People Buy With Their Heart, Not With Their Head

Although we’d like to believe that most decisions made are rational, most purchase decisions are emotional. Home inspections are no exception. People are not buying bricks and mortar. Instead, they are envisioning a lifestyle—family dinners in the dining room, games in the back yard, entertainment in the family room and great conversations around the kitchen table.

Those positive images can be offset by the fear and uncertainties often associated with buying a home. It helps to understand the emotional forces that are driving your clients and to create marketing messages that address those emotions. Let’s look at a partial list:

Client’s Feelings Your Solutions
nervous assurance
at risk risk reduction
worried about making a mistake unbiased expert
worried about losing money savings, good investment
uncertainty certainty
apprehension comfort
isolation support
bad decision good advice
money pit dream house
fear of the unknown knowledge
helpless a helping hand
overwhelmed calm, focused and reassuring
disoriented perspective

It makes sense to incorporate solutions to clients’ concerns into your marketing messages. Think from your client’s perspective, not your own. They don’t know much about home inspection. What are they looking for from you?

A Word About Consistency

Marketing is intimidating to many. It seems complex, expensive and difficult to measure. One way to minimize the challenge is to simplify the process. Clear, simple marketing messages delivered consistently in various media are more effective and less expensive than many different messages delivered less frequently.

Your website, business cards, brochure, letterhead and advertising should all be similar in look, feel and messaging. Don’t worry that people will get bored with your message. Think how often you see the same ads on television. The repetition is by design. It’s important. Keep your messages exactly the same on your website, your brochure and your business card. There can be less of your message on the small items, but the words and format should be same.

And if you do events, trade shows, presentations, email campaigns, flyers, mailers or anything else, keep the messaging for those events or activities simple and consistent as well. You don’t need to be a creative genius every time. It often hurts more than it helps. And most importantly, make the message about your clients, not about you.

The good news is that it costs less and takes less time to do it this way. The better news is that it will be more effective and help you build your company’s reputation. It’s great to be known for one thing. Take your time, find the message that addresses your clients’ needs and stick with it. Less really is more.

Have fun and keep it simple!

Thanks to Kevin O’Hornett for his keen editorial eye and insightful additions to the article.