A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Archive for marketing

Home Inspector Marketing Part 2

Most business that inspectors receive come through Realtors suggesting your service to their clients. A good Realtor may provide you with eight jobs per year. However, word of mouth plays a big role in your success as well. The real estate industry is changing. Consumers are becoming more savvy about what they want, and what they need. Most homes sold in the United States still are found through Realtors, but the internet is catching up fast. How people are finding inspectors is changing, so you will need to keep up on trends to find out how your marketing will need to change.

In my last post on this topic, I went over my current internet campaign (maybe skirmish would be a better word), but traditional marketing still plays the biggest part for inspectors at this time. For new inspectors, most of your business is developed through direct customer contact, while older inspectors have more business because of their Realtor contacts. Some older inspectors boast of how they do not rely on Realtors, and there is a website dedicated to this group, but I know for a fact that the inspectors listed in my area are favored by Realtors, and these inspectors cater to them. As an inspector, you want to develop close ties to the best Realtors, but this is hard to do. Here are the means that I have used to generate business.

I network at parties, company picnics, or any place that has a crowd of people were I am invited. I am not hard selling my services, but I do let people know what I do. I answer questions about their homes, and I give them advice on where to find services. I make myself useful. If I find that someone is in a related business, I ask them for their contact information to pass along to my clients, and they will do the same. On most occassions, the person that you speak with will not hire you, but they will pass your name along, and this eventually leads to work. I do not push people to use me, because it is probably their friend who will use my service. This method has led me to real estate investors, who consistently use my service, which means steady income. Sometimes one client recommends me to another, and sometimes the seller uses me. I treat everyone that I meet with respect, since they may be a potential client or their friend could be one. This has actually been my best marketing tool. I joined a chamber of commerce for this same networking opportunity. The people in the group might not use me, but they will give my name to others.

I go to various meetings where Realtors will be present, and I introduce myself. With Realtors, I really take a low key approach. Texas has a law in place which discourages a Realtor from saying you have to use a certain provider, because this could be used to scam the consumer. Good Realtors appreciate good inspectors. Introduce yourself; be helpful to them; but do not push. As Realtors consistently see my face, they begin to use me more. I directly market to Realtors by two means. I send a package in the mail with beneficial information for their clients, to which I include coupons for my service. I also send out e-mails with links to this blog and my website. I inform them that they might find information for their clients here. They get information for free, and I eventually get business out of it. I do my best to make them look good to their clients, even if they are not using me. In time, this good will pays for itself. I have found that this marketing can be hit or miss. Many Realtors seem to be on the move from firm to firm, so your efforts may go unnoticed. The return in responses is around ten percent of what I sent out.

I have done some print advertising, but this has brought me the least amount of business. Currently I am reworking my campaign to include my website, which my original campaign did not do. I think that the data on the site would produce some good will on the part of the consumer, so this may cause the print ads to work better than they did before. I will let you know. Pick magazines or newspapers that will be seen by twenty five to thirty five year olds or those over fifty five. The younger group is looking for the first home, and the older group is looking for their vacation home. Check out the publications in you area that might appeal to these people.

Since I have a good deal of material for Hispanics, I am developing marketing schemes where I can effectively each them. For example, the local soccer games draw crowds. You may find a group that is interested in buying a home, and you might discover where they gather. Offer them free advice along with your business card. I think a singles group at a church would be a good place, or maybe a social club like the Masons. Some place or group can work for you. This type of marketing is an extension of the social networking that I mentioned above.

I hope this gives you enough to get started. Again, if you have any comments or suggestions, leave a comment to help me and others.

To conclude, I would say be consistent. Keep the same look on all of your marketing materials. This gives a professional look to your business, and it helps make you recognizable. Keep sending out marketing materials each week. The materials may be different things, but by keeping it up, it will pay off.

Home Inspector Marketing Part 1

I noticed that some people have been coming to this blog for marketing information, and I have had some people analyzing my site for keywords or other marketing data, so I thought that I would make it easier on you, and give away what I do.

Well, firstly, you have picked the wrong person to research. I am not that accomplished. I will go over what I am doing on the web here, and the next post will go over my other marketing attempts. I have been doing my own SEO (search engine optimization). My nature has led me to figure out how to do it on my own, rather than hiring a firm. I just wanted to understand how it is done, and then I will probably hire someone later. I have been in business for awhile, but my internet presence started in August of this year. I created a website and then this blog.

Before these sites, I had advertised on a local search engine, which did not produce a good return on investment. When choosing to pay for an ad on the net, ask the provider if the figures on searches are national or local. I was led to believe that national numbers were for local searches. Consumers are using the internet in greater numbers for real estate searches, but the numbers are pretty dismal for consumers looking for inspectors. This may change, as buyers start relying less on their Realtors to find better value service providers. For this reason, I maintain my web presence, even though it has not generated much income for me. Most of my business has come from other sources.

Most people who come to my site type in my URL into their browser. I use my other marketing means to promote my site. All of my marketing material, which is any item coming out of my business, has my website listed. They come back to the site, because I try to make it useful for them. About fifty percent of the people come to my site by this means. The remaining 50% breaks down to people coming to my site through search engines (25%) and through links (25%). About ten percent of those coming from the search engines are actually looking for an inspector. Most come looking for some type of other information. The most successful links that I have which bring people to my site have been websites that deal with real estate in my local market. HoustonTexasRealEstate.com and InvestorNationBlog.com have been great for this. However to make these links work, I produce material for them. I am actively involved in posting to their blogs and answering questions. Another link strategy is to post comments on other blogs. These comments lead back to your site. If Realtors in your area have blogs, this could be a good way to introduce yourself, while also having other people find you. I only post comments on blogs that interest me, and I only make a comment when it is appropriate. A comment for a comment’s sake is useless, and it probably be deleted, so my comment strategy makes my presence known, but it is not really marketing.

I do have listings on Active Rain (which is a social networking site for real estate professionals), LinkedIn, and Naymz. To be honest, I do not get social networking, and I do not see how these sites can help my business. I have made some contacts though, so I guess that I need to put some more effort into this medium. Facebook or MySpace could also be a means for marketing, but again, it is not my cup of tea. I think that YouTube could be great. You could show people what you do. I am an ugly man, and no one needs to see me crawling through an attic, but I offer this idea as a good tool. I am a member of the Houston West Chamber of Commerce, which links to my site. Being the only inspector listed has caused interest in me.

My site does not show up high in the rankings for inspection services, but search engines rank my site high for information about the home and the process of buying and selling. There seems to be a Catch-22 for new websites. You need links to be recognized by the search engines, but the penalize you if you are new site who is building links. I noticed that the inspector sites that rank high are ones that have been up for around two years. I did pay for links on sites like Joeant, Gimpsy, Sitesift, and WOW directory, and this has led to minor interest in my website. Writing articles for Ezine Articles has been good. The first ten articles are free, and good posts will get you noticed. I am currently experimenting with Adwords, but this has not brought in business for me. I will continue to play with it to see if I can make it work.

The all important keywords. The term “home inspection” seems to be the most common search phrase. I just use phrases that are used for the profession, like home inspector, real estate inspector, or phrases that describe the service, like home inspections. Other keywords for my different web pages describe those pages. The two best tools that I have found for analyzing other inspector sites are my web browser and a plug-in for that browser. My browser is Mozilla Firefox. It is a free download from Mozilla. Any browser will have this option though; look at websites with the page source option, where the HTML code is given. Keywords are on the top of the page. There is a plug-in for Firefox called SEO for Firefox. This is a great tool for understanding how your competitors have built their links. There are many free tools out there, but these are the ones that I use on a regular basis.

I also subscribe to the e-mail letters from MediaPost Publications. These are free, and they have good marketing tips. Posts and articles are collected in one easy place with some great ideas. The number of e-mails can be overwhelming each day, so pick the ones that you want. I have picked up a few books from the library to skim through. I would not buy one of them.

Well that is it for my internet marketing. In the next post, I will tell you my other marketing means. I am not pursuing a clear cut SEO strategy at this time, because I think that the search engines are of no use to me at this point. The most useful purely internet marketing has been other local websites and the Ezine Articles, so I am concentrating on them for now. My main marketing focus is still outside of the internet. If you have any tips or suggestions please feel free to leave them as a comment. If you have a good inspection blog, tell me about it, and I will give you a link from this blog. Hey, Google may not like you for it, but maybe it will help you.