For many home inspectors, one of the most appealing aspects of the job is the opportunity to be your own boss. Running your own inspection business is freeing: you get to call the shots about the clients you take on, the hours you keep, and the rates you charge.
But you also have to do all the other tasks that come with running a business — including marketing. If you’re like most home inspectors, you know more about houses and how they’re built than anyone you know, but you probably didn’t go to school for a marketing degree.
The good news is that thanks to the internet, there are more opportunities than ever before to take home inspection marketing into your own hands successfully. The flip side? It can be tricky to know where to start and which marketing options get you the biggest bang for your buck.
So, let’s demystify modern marketing. Here’s what you need to know to get a handle on the basics and target the right audience for your inspection services.
How to market your home inspection business: The basics
First, let’s be clear: Over half of new home inspection businesses fail in their first couple of years, mainly due to the lack of marketing to get the word out to potential clients. So, competent marketing is critical to grow your business.
But what is marketing? A few important definitions:
- Marketing: Marketing is the active process of telling people about your business. Marketing can be done in many ways, including advertisements on TV, radio, and the internet, websites, social media posts, blog posts, mailers, billboards, and more. Marketing also includes more subtle strategies like building relationships and cultivating positive reviews.
- Branding: If marketing is about reaching your customers, branding is all about you. Your brand defines your business, including colors, logos, and fonts. Your word choice in ads and on your website is also part of branding, as are any slogans and taglines you come up with to help people remember who you are and what you’re all about.
- Advertising: Advertising is only one part of marketing; specifically, the ads you purchase on TV, radio, local publications, websites, etc. These can be useful, but advertising alone won’t do the job of getting your business in front of the people who most need your services. Advertisements might not be suitable for your business at all.
Developing your marketing plan
Once upon a time, a home inspector could run an ad in the newspaper once a week and spend a little money on an extensive listing in the Yellow Pages. These days, people rely on the internet for every need. So, how can you help people find you?
It would be best if you had a marketing strategy.
The first steps to developing your marketing strategy are the same for everyone, no matter what kind of business you have:
- Create your brand: Decide what your business is all about and how you will show that to your customers. This will require digging deeper than “I’m a home inspector.” What are your values? What do you offer customers that no one else does? What makes you unique? These aren’t easy questions to answer, but InterNACHI has a great primer on branding for home inspectors with helpful exercises to start building your brand.
- Build a website: Your website is a critical piece of your branding and marketing plan, because it’s the first place people will look to learn more about your home inspection business. The best websites include clear information about your services, qualifications, contact information, rates, and — ideally — glowing testimonials. HomeGauge websites are designed specifically for home inspectors to launch their web presence and make it easy for customers to schedule an appointment and download inspection reports.
- Think about your audience: Home inspectors generally have two main audiences: home buyers and real estate agents. Yes, these two groups want your services for the same reason — to inspect a house before finalizing the sale — but they have very different needs and shopping habits. You have to decide who you’re talking for each marketing element to so you use language and images that will impress that specific group.
- Target your audience: Once you know who you’re marketing to, you can more effectively decide where to place your efforts. A newspaper ad can be hit or miss depending on who buys a paper that day, but placing an ad in a professional journal for real estate agents will guarantee that many more people in your target audience get your information. Likewise, targeting local publications that feature homes for sale could be a good way to make sure actual home buyers see your ad. Think about where your audience would go to look for a home inspector, and focus your marketing dollars on those places.
Practical ideas for home inspection marketing
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your general marketing plan, it’s time to get specific about exactly how you will get your name out there. There are lots of ways to help people find you, and many are inexpensive or even free.
1. Optimize your website
You’ve spent a lot of effort creating a great website, but none of that work will matter if people don’t see it. When home buyers go to Google to ask about a home inspector near them, Google brings up results based on the keywords it finds on your website. Does your website include the information that people are looking for? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process that, among other things, makes sure to highlight the most important terms so search engines know you’re there and have relevant information for your potential clients. HomeGauge’s SEO Builder takes care of the technicalities by optimizing your website and building your internet presence with relevant blog posts to share.
2. Get active on social media
You can help build your online presence with the help of social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the most popular, and it’s free to set up an account for your business. Once you do, you’ll want to regularly share posts that offer some value and answer questions that your potential clients may have. You can do this by linking to relevant articles, offering advice and tips, or just by sharing some great images. Be sure to include relevant hashtags to attract the right audience: #realestate is a great place to start, or check out this list of hashtags that can attract both buyers and agents.
3. Cultivate positive reviews
Reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google are one of the most important ways that potential clients get information about your business. These are free and can be a powerful way to build trust and name recognition in your community — but they don’t just happen by magic. After every inspection, be sure to ask your clients for an online review, and make it easy by providing links. You should also be sure to respond appropriately to any negative reviews to manage your online reputation.
4. Build your personal network
Home inspection is a highly personal business. You work face-to-face with your clients, and they are trusting you to provide your expert opinion on a very big investment. It’s also very local work, since you will only need to build your reputation in your own city, county, or region. That makes referrals crucial. To keep the positive word-of-mouth about your home inspection company flowing, consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce and community organizations where you are likely to connect with potential clients. These personal connections are a great supplement to your online social media connections.
5. Offer some free advice
You know a lot about houses and can probably offer a whole book’s worth of advice, right? Offering useful tips can help you build your social media following, build your reputation for expertise, and even help you rank higher on Google searches. Consider adding a blog to your website to offer advice on common home inspection and real estate issues. Then post the link to your social media, or announce the blog post in an email newsletter to your contacts. You’ll show off your expertise and keep your inspection services on people’s minds.
6. Target real estate agents
Many home buyers will follow their agent’s lead when it comes to choosing a home inspector, so you definitely want to take advantage of those referrals. If you have a limited marketing budget — for money or for time — spend your efforts connecting with local real estate agents via direct mailers, email marketing, or personal networking. You might even consider offering a promotional rate for an initial referral to get their attention.
7. Try Google Ads
Have you ever noticed that the very first search result you see on Google is often a sponsored ad? Google Ads are easy to develop and let you directly target people looking for a home inspector in your area. You only pay when someone clicks on it, so it’s typically a relatively affordable way to dip your toe into digital advertising. Study up on how it works and try a small campaign to start.
Marketing for the future
Whether you start with free digital marketing like social media or prefer to spend your time networking and building personal relationships, the best marketing plan will specifically target your desired audience. Marketing isn’t a one-and-done proposition, but a habit you cultivate for the life of your business. To find out what works best for you, choose one method to start and try it for a month or two, then review your results. You can then tweak your strategy or add another method to your arsenal. The most important thing is to keep at it for the long haul.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be! HomeGauge has plenty of great tools designed specifically for home inspectors to make the most of their businesses. Click here to see what we can do for you.