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Published by OREP, E&O Insurance Experts | February 2013

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Building and growing your home inspection busines should be top of mind for any professional in today's fast paced real estate market. 

> The new Working RE Magazine- Home Inspector Edition has been published! If you haven't already, take a look!

>>Cover Story: Playing the "Not Readily Accessible" Inspection Card

Demystifying Sales and Marketing for Home Inspection Professionals

By Brian Bell, VP Sales and Marketing at Carson Dunlop

Operating your Home Inspection business comes with many challenges and the most neglected part of the business is always on the sales and market front.  Most inspectors say sales and marketing costs a lot and has no guaranteed return, which is why they place it on the backburner.  This article is designed to demystify the sales and marketing process  and provide home inspectors with an easy and hands-on approach to sales and marketing. Building and growing your home inspection business should be top of mind for any professional in today’s fast paced real estate market.

Sales & Marketing: What’s the Difference?
Marketing is about spreading the word about your products and services through many different media in order to create awareness. Think of your website, press releases, product sheet information and social media as marketing tools to help increase awareness about you and your services.

Sales is about building one-on-one relationships with prospective clients or partners to directly tell them how your products and services solves a problem for them or their clients. When you effectively combine sales and marketing, you are able to take your Home Inspection business to the next level.

Do you Want to Make More Money?
The vast majority of Home Inspectors answer YES which means they have to make a major commitment:  CHANGE.  You have to be  committed to doing things differently in order to build and grow your business. Doing the same things over and over again and expecting  different results is the definition of insanity. 

Now that you have taken the most important step of committing to change, the next step in the process is to build a sales and marketing plan. We know this sounds like a complex and difficult task, but in fact it is relatively straight forward and easy.  We have developed a simple five step sales and marketing process and created an easy-to-use free template that can be downloaded at www.carsondunlop.com/S&Mtemplate   

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How important is setting a goal? This story makes it clear: 3% of the 1979 Harvard MBA graduates have made 10 times as much money as the other 97%. Why is that? The big difference was they wrote down their goals and their specific plans to achieve them. The majority of the graduates had set no goals and had no idea where they were going.

Goal Setting: Making SMART Goals
Goal setting is incredibly easy, and yet most people don't do it. A simple guideline is to set a SMART goal. That means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound - SMART. Sound complicated? It's not. Let's have a look:

Your sales goal might be to Achieve $100,000 in sales in 2013.

Let's look at it.

Is it Specific? Yes, $100,000 is a very specific number.

Is it Measurable? Absolutely, I can determine whether I get to $100,000 in sales.

Is it Achievable? Make sure it is. If sales last year were $80,000, a target of $100,000 seems very achievable.

Is it Relevant? It's relevant to your ability to put food on the table.

Is it Time-bound? The guideline of 2013 gives a very specific time frame.

Your Plan

The first important rule in building your plan is that “It's not about you!”

Look at everything from the perspective of your audience. They don't care about the features of your company. They care about the benefit to them. Most don't care about your qualifications. They assume Home Inspectors are qualified and know how to inspect homes. They want you to help them. Try thinking like a customer and asking yourself this question, "What do I want from a Home Inspection?" The answer might be, "Help me decide whether to buy this house." Or they might say, "Tell me what condition it's in so I can make a good decision." That's what they want from you. That's pretty simple.

What else might they want?

Be available when I need you.
Talk to me in simple language.
Be friendly and patient.
Answer my questions.
Give me a report I can understand.
Be there if I have questions down the road.

Can you do all those things?

The goal is to create incredible value for your clients. At the risk of being repetitive, it's not all about you; it's about them.

What problem can you solve for them?
What need can you address?
How can you make their lives easier?
How can you make them more successful?

Your marketing message answers these questions for your audience.

Who is Your Audience?

Is it prospective home buyers, real estate sales professionals, home sellers, lenders, someone else? Your message changes because different audiences have different needs.

Your Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Everyone should have an elevator pitch. When people ask what you do or who you are, you need to be able to explain it in 10 to 30 seconds. The first part is about you and the last part is about them.

Here's our UPS, "We are an engineering company that has been focused on Home Inspection since 1978. We are pioneers and one of the largest inspection firms in Canada. We are passionate about using our knowledge and experience to help home buyers, owners and sellers make informed decisions on the biggest investment they'll ever make."

Create your own value proposition based on what you bring and how you help. And of course, you probably have different USPs for home buyers and real estate sales professionals.

Don't Make it About Price

Price should never be part of your value proposition as it is not a differentiator in your business. We view Home Inspection as a professional consulting practice that helps customers make an informed decision when buying or selling a home.  Focus on value by providing more benefits to your clients and partners instead of lowering your price. Ask yourself the question: “Are the most successful Home Inspection companies the cheapest?” People don't typically buy the least expensive house on the market, or the cheapest car on the road. They buy what represents the best value to them. That's how they should choose their Home Inspection company as well.

How You Deliver the Message

We said your message will depend on your audience, so decide which market(s) you will target. Here's a partial list to get you started.

        Home buyers

o   Pro

  They will benefit directly from your service

  Most are looking for a Home Inspector

o   Con

  It's hard to know who's about to buy a home; message has to go out broadly

  People only buy a house once every 5 to 7 years; one-time event

        Real estate sales professionals

o   Pro

  They work with home buyers and sellers all the time; possible stream of business rather than a one-time event

  They are easy to identify and target

o   Con

  Their goals are different than the buyer's to some extent

  They are an intermediary between you and the buyer

  They are easy for your competition to identify and target

Now, prepare your messages to meet the needs of each audience. Here are a couple of starters you can build on.

Home buyers needs: protection, information, reassurance.

Real estate sales professionals needs:  commission, liability protection, referrals.

What are Your Messages?
We can't tell you, because we don't know what you bring. You are unique. Think about matching your assets to the needs of your audience. Remember, most will not be challenging your technical competency, they assume it. Go back and look at the list of things they might want.

Table Stakes
We said that people will assume you are going to perform a competent inspection. There some other things that you need to do well. While they are not unique skills, it's amazing how many people mess these up. These are basic business skills and life skills; not at all specific to Home Inspection. They are however, critical to success in Home Inspection.

These are things like first impressions, how your website looks and feels, how you answer your phone, how easy it is to make an appointment with you, whether you show up on time, how your vehicle looks, your appearance, your smile, your first words, your manner and attitude, your respect, patience and interest in people, the promptness and usability of your report and your availability to answer questions after the fact. While you may not think of these as your marketing messages, each of these sends a message to your audience.

Somewhat sadly, if you get these right every time, you have beaten 95% of your competition.

Differentiate Yourself

Go back to your unique selling proposition. Think about your background. Think about your clients’ wants and needs. This obsolete list may give you some ideas about how you can make yourself memorable:

        We never keep you waiting - if we're not on time for the inspection, it's free.

        Will provide free technical consulting firms long as you own your home.

        We offer a money back guarantee. If you are ever less than completely satisfied with us for any reason, we will gladly return your fee, no questions asked. (Some offer a double or even triple money back guarantee.)

        Give people a tape measure with your logo.

        Give people your report on a memory stick that they can use. Of course it has your logo.

        Give or send people change of address cards.

        Bring colouring books and crayons to the inspection for children.

        Bring water and/or healthy snacks to the inspection.

        Give clients a water bottle or coffee mug.

        Brings slip on booties that people can put over their shoes as they walk through the house.

        Build a custom maintenance program for your clients based on the inspection report.

        A carwash coupon on their windshield.

        Cut their grass on move-in day.

        Send handwritten thank you card.

        Offer a home warranty.

        Offer a free one-year update inspection.


Building your Home Inspection business is not a one-time event; it requires an ongoing commitment and effort. The information in this article is excerpted from Carson Dunlop’s Building Your Home Inspection Course. This course provides you with the tools to help you take your business to the next level. To learn more visit www.carsondunlop.com/tools

In Toronto, brick foundation walls were popular until about 1935. In other parts of the province, you will find no brick foundation walls at all. With the exception of custom built houses, most houses built with concrete block foundations are pre 1970. Most subdivision houses built in the 70s or newer have poured concrete foundations. Most brick houses in Ontario were solid masonry construction (two widths of brick) up until the late 1960s. Most brick houses built after 1970 were brick veneer construction (one width of brick with a wood stud wall behind).

If you stand in an unfinished basement and look up at the sub flooring, you will find that most houses before 1965 used plank sub flooring. After 1965, most houses have plywood sub flooring, until the early 1980s, when wafer board sub flooring became popular (with the builders at least).

Aluminum wiring began to be used residentially in about 1965, however, it did not really catch on until about 1970. When was it banned? It was never banned. However, it received so much bad press that aluminum wiring stopped going into houses in about 1978. To this day, aluminum wiring is still used to bring power into the house from the street.

As you are probably aware, knob and tube electrical wiring makes insurance companies very nervous. Knob and tube wiring was superseded by conventional modern wiring in the late 1940s. Even though wiring looked modern through the 1950s, it was not until 1960 that modern wiring contained a ground wire. Therefore, houses built before 1960 have two prong outlets as opposed to modern electrical outlets which are designed for three prong plugs.

Before 1950, supply plumbing was galvanized steel. Houses with galvanized steel supply plumbing also tended to have cast iron waste plumbing. In about 1955, waste plumbing was more likely to be copper than cast iron. In the late 1960s, the price of copper went through the roof. Waste plumbing became plastic very quickly. (It was this jump in the price of copper that also led to the use of aluminum wiring.)

Old houses have plaster on the walls and ceilings, whereas new houses are built with drywall. When did the change occur? While there was no magic day when plasterers quit and drywallers began, most houses built before 1960 are plaster and most houses after are drywall.

Dating houses can be helpful for a number of reasons; for example, furnaces sold and installed 20-25 years ago have a life expectancy of 20-25 years. Therefore, most houses built in the early 1970s have a new furnace or will need one shortly. Most houses built in the early 1980s were built with asphalt shingle roofs that last up to 15 years. Again, most of these houses either have a new roof covering or need one. The good news about a 1982 house in need of new shingles is that it couldn’t possibly contain Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation. It was banned in December of 1980!!

This story is used with permission of Carson Dunlop, providing inspection services and home inspector training, education and reporting systems. For more information visit: www.carsondunlop.com.

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