Marketing is often seen as a chore—the work that you have to do when you’re not actively performing an inspection—and the less-than-enthusiastic result barely goes beyond a sign on the truck, a box of business cards, and a list of contacts. But our success depends on marketing not just our services, but also ourselves. Our credibility is our true calling card, and it’s important to get our reputation out there, so that it’s as obvious as that sign on the truck. It’s our most important possession because without it, we are nothing.
“Branding” is the process with which you distinguish your business from those of your competitors. If you have been successful at branding your business, when people think of inspection, in their minds, they will see your logo, they will think of your company, they will call you. The methods you use for branding will vary with the market you are trying to reach.
Online Home Buyers
Home buyers searching for a home inspector online are really the prime target market. To enable them to find you and make them want to hire you, obviously, you need a website. A good website is the most important marketing tool an inspector has. Those viewing your website will be forming their opinion of your inspection skills by assessing your marketing skills. A professional-looking website will leave the viewer with the impression that you have professional level inspection skills.
The only reason for someone to choose an inspector with a basic or poorly-designed website is if they are looking for a cheap inspection, which is a major mistake on the part of the home buyer. To learn where to find a reasonably-priced website designed for inspectors and to learn where to find content and how to arrange it, visit InterNACHI South Africa’s page on Inspection Websites.
As South African legislation recently passed begins to have its effect on the real estate industry, estate agents will become increasingly aware that they can shift a significant amount of liability from themselves by passing it on to home inspectors.
In the past, concerns about the qualifications of home inspectors have been a barrier to the expansion of the home inspection industry across South Africa. An increase in the amount of online inspection training will help improve inspector qualifications for those who have access to it. This, in turn, will help alleviate estate agent’s fears.
When marketing to estate agents, meeting face to face is an advantage. With their commission depending on the successful completion of the transaction, agents want to feel confident that the inspector is qualified. Speaking directly with an agent allows them to ask questions and get a general feel for your capabilities.
There are a number of ways to meet estate agents. You may stop by their place of business for a short conversation. Ask if you can leave a card and brochure holder with printed information about your services.
When an office has multiple agents, you may offer to give a short presentation on the growing home inspection industry and the advantages to agents in using an InterNACHI-trained inspector. This is especially good for new agents who often don’t understand the advantages to them in using a qualified home inspector.
When you leave behind, or hand someone printed marketing material, it’s important that it look professional. Again, without meeting you, those reading it will be judging your inspection capabilities by the quality of your marketing material. InterNACHI South Africa provides a free card and brochure design service for its members.
Online newsletters are a great way to keep your name out where it can be seen and passed on to prospective clients. Newsletters don’t need to be long, but they do need to be useful and interesting. Newsletters are inexpensive to produce and distribute and you’ll find plenty of information about them online. Start building a data base of email addresses while you take a few tutorials. Good newsletters generate work for inspectors!
Tags and stickers
When you inspect a home, be sure to leave something behind with your contact information on it. If you identify the main water shut-off by leaving a tag on it, that tag should have your logo and contact information on it. If you look for a pressure relief valve on the geyser, put your sticker next to it. Good branding means putting and keeping your name in front of as many people as possible for as long as possible.
Lenders and Insurance Companies
Having a home inspected at the time of sale is an advantage to both mortgage lenders and insurance companies. Both industries have had claims files after a home has been sold that might have been avoided had a home inspection been performed before the close of the transaction.
Make an attempt to meet representatives from the lending and insurance industries. This may mean making cold calls, knocking on doors, or visiting conventions. These contacts are made any way you can think of to make them happen.
Your vehicle is a rolling billboard for your business anytime it is in the public eye. If you drive a good-looking vehicle, you look successful; include your custom logo with business contact information. Magnetic signs are the least desirable, but better than nothing.
Word-of-mouth is a great way to get repeat business. You’ll get repeat business from past clients when they buy another home, and you’ll be referred by past clients to their family, friends and acquaintances. Some inspectors have had success with offering referral rewards in which a past client who refers you is rewarded with cash or a gift certificate.
Telephone Yellow Pages
Don’t bother advertising in the yellow pages. It’s been tried many places and for home inspectors, does not work anywhere.
Which marketing strategy works will vary from one place to another. Use your imagination and don’t be shy about introducing yourself to anyone. You may be surprised at who needs your services and how grateful they are to have you take the time to introduce yourself and explain your services.
Emphasize your membership in InterNACHI South Africa in order to both promote InterNACHI and to demonstrate that you are a member of a professional inspection association that has entrance and ongoing educational requirements, a Standards of Practice, and a code of ethics.