SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: MARKETING & LEAD MANAGEMENT
17 Nov

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: MARKETING & LEAD MANAGEMENT

As we previously noted in the first post of this series, home inspection volume on a national level continues to be softer than usual this time of year. Now, with winter around the corner, combined with sustained challenges in the housing market and an uncertain economy, home inspectors remain concerned about the future of their business.

 

Shifting gears

We all know the late fall and winter months are traditionally a slower period for most inspectors across the country. However, if they aren’t careful this year, they could easily see a slower season turn into an economic blizzard for their business.

While there’s no shortage of speculation out there about what our housing market is going to do over the next year, most housing market prognosticators do agree that things are going to be a lot slower in 2023 than they have been in the past few years. And yes, that downturn will obviously have an impact on inspection volume. Yet, it’s what inspection business owners do during this downturn that will truly separate the success stories from the failed and forgotten. Here’s how to pivot now and improve your odds of becoming a success story when the tale is told.


Driving & delighting

As incoming leads become scarcer and home inspection business owners are forced to compete more with each other, they must:

  1. Drive more new business leads by refining and dialing up your marketing efforts
  2. Close more leads and delight more customers by having a comprehensive lead management process in place

We encourage you to explore the other methods and approaches we cover in this series that can help home inspectors not just survive during these slower times, but actually thrive. However, there’s little debate that engaging in the right marketing efforts while having a strategic plan for managing the greater customer experience, are always things an inspection business owner should be doing. No matter if economic times are lean or fat.

 

Upping your marketing game: A list of “must-dos”

It’s simple. When there’s less inspection volume, you have to compete more for leads. And marketing is all about promoting your brand in the market to drive more of those leads so you can convert them. However, these days, there are a dizzying number of methods for reaching your audience. But when budgets get tight, it’s time to narrow your focus on where you get the greatest ROI. Here are a few key areas you’ll want to make sure you’re investing in right now:

  • SEO: At its core, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a long-term strategy. So, it’s our hope that you’ve already been investing in this acquisition process. If you haven’t, it’s time! When there are fewer people actively searching for information related to your inspection services, your website and content have to be showing up online sooner and more often than your competitors. Period.
  • Social Media: Social media marketing (SMM) is a tremendous way to connect with your audience and differentiate your brand from the competition. The key is to create engaging content that’ll resonate with your customers. Don’t quite know what this is? Then spending time to discover the answer is not a wasted effort!
  • Email: Now is a critical time to make sure you’re staying connected to previous customers and agents. By sending the occasional email – sharing relevant content, important/interesting updates about your brand, or even a simple holiday greeting – you’ll remain top-of-mind when they’re ready to engage the services of an inspector.
  • Content: Content marketing is a strategy that allows you to attract potential customers by providing them with informative and valuable content. Each of the three previous items in this list is part of content marketing, but as a strategy, it can be very effective. Additional content marketing media examples to consider creating for your inspection business include:
    • Blogs
    • Newsletters
    • Videos
    • Infographics

As you engage in promoting your business and services in the market, it’s important to remember to do it all in a clear, consistent, and branded way. Whether your audience interacts with or has exposure to your brand on a website, on social media, in a marketing flyer, or in an email, you must present it in a way that is unique to your brand’s voice, its look and feel (color pallet, logo, tagline), and that it produces the perceptions you wish to convey to your audience.

 

Managing your leads: A comprehensive approach

Now that you’re successfully promoting your brand with your target audience, expanding awareness, and building interest, you need to ensure that every lead crossing into your brand territory is closed, delighted, and ready to return for another round of awesome – hopefully in the near future. Here’s how to greatly improve your chances of nailing this most highly coveted trifecta of business-building outcomes.

Incoming

These days, potential customers expect to find your business and request to engage in the services and products you provide quickly, easily, and in a multitude of ways. Phone, email, text, business and referral websites, social media, and more. The convenience this provides to a would-be customer is immeasurable, but for the inspection business owner, it means you MUST have a process in place to manage those incoming leads as they flow in from those many sources.

Every incoming lead is always important and should be handled strategically and with care. But right now, especially so. You simply cannot afford to lose a customer because you let an incoming call go to voicemail. Or maybe you missed a text message and then forgot to respond until the next day. Or perhaps you didn’t see an email until several hours later because you were on an inspection and then it got pushed down further on the list as the day went on.

The simple act of responding quickly to an incoming lead in our industry is a business imperative. Did you know it’s been estimated that as much as 85% of callers who can’t reach an inspection company on the first try will not call back? And according to Consumer Reports, 75% of those same callers will not leave a voicemail. It’s also been proven that companies who contacted leads within an hour were seven times more likely to qualify a lead than the companies who decided to contact a lead just an hour later and sixty times more than the companies who waited 24 hours or longer.  

The bottom line is...if you don't respond immediately or soon after to an incoming lead, the odds of you converting that lead decrease dramatically. If you haven’t already, make the investment in establishing a thorough process for managing incoming leads so you can be as responsive as quickly as possible.

Closing

Just because a lead comes knockin’, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the job. Some inspectors answer their own phones and emails, respond to messages on social media and from their website, and more. They often feel there’s no better person to speak to and interact with a potential customer about the services they provide and how they provide them than the owner. And this may be hard for some inspectors to hear, but in most cases, they would be wrong.

The simple fact is you shouldn’t be the inspection business owner, the inspector, AND the sales manager. We know this because after a quarter of a century serving inspectors, we’ve closely analyzed the lifecycle of small- to medium-sized inspection businesses; and our experience overwhelmingly shows that the most successful ones are those whose owners focus more on doing inspections and growing the brand – NOT managing leads.

An inspection business can and should automate certain aspects of its lead management process. Automated email and text responses, chatbot integration for websites, and more. Consumers have embraced these technological advancements in communication and are willing to complete simple steps in the transaction process. However, according to a survey performed by research firm Clutch, nearly 90% of your customers will still prefer to talk to a real human being at some point. And it’s absolutely in your best interest for this to happen!

For example: A call comes in and they need a home inspection. Ah, the beginning. This is your opportunity to upsell your ancillary services. To educate, if needed, the caller on the process. To ask key questions about property specifications, access, utility considerations, client attendance, and more. To turn each and every lead and inquiry into an actual inspection – while showcasing what’s unique about the inspector and the brand. Can a form or chatbot do all that? Of course not.

Delighting

Your lead management process should be bound together by a strategic thread. A simple idea that guides each step and activity during the entirety of the lead management process and even through the inspection process lifecycle. To delight the customer.

The good news is, if you’ve established a comprehensive and thoughtful lead management process, you’re most of the way there. But it’s important to listen, learn, modify, and improve your process over time.

While the bulk of what we covered here was about active leads and turning them into inspections, you must also have a process for leads that don’t convert right away. Establishing a process for following up with these leads is just as important as the active ones. And just as you want to delight those converted leads all the way through the inspection lifecycle process – including the final delivery of the report, that last follow-up email, and even a thoughtful holiday card – you’ll want to determine how to do the same for those non-converting leads. Some simple follow-up communications include:

  • Email to see if they might still be interested in your services or if you can answer any questions
  • Email with content about your process and what makes you unique
  • A call or text to see if they still need an inspection or if you can answer any questions
  • Email about promotions you’re having or new services you provide

ACC (America’s Call Center):

ACC is a fully integrated customer service and communication-handling solution exclusively for home inspectors – no matter if you’re a sole proprietor or a multi-inspector firm.

ACC has 25 years of experience and knowledge of what it takes to successfully navigate more challenging economic cycles. And when budgets are tight, it’s good to have a partner that has a history of producing an increase of 15% – 30% in revenue after inspectors begin services while only paying an average of $2 – $5 an hour for those services. That’s a big boost for such a small investment! We are inspectors’ smartest approach to growth and the essential partner that will make all the difference for your business. During this shift in our industry, make a shift for your business. Make a shift to ACC.

 

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: UPSELLING
04 Nov

SURVIVING THE SLOWER SEASON: UPSELLING

It’s not exactly breaking news that home inspection volume on a national level has been on the decline for the past several months. Now, with winter around the corner, combined with sustained challenges in the housing market and an uncertain economy, home inspectors are rightfully concerned about the futures of their businesses.

The successful pivot

Late fall and winter months are traditionally a slower period for most inspectors across the country. However, if they aren’t careful this year, they could easily see a slower season turn into an economic blizzard for their business.

While there’s no shortage of speculation out there about what our housing market is going to do over the next year, most housing market prognosticators do agree that things are going to be a lot slower in 2023 than they have been in the past few years. And yes, that downturn will obviously have an impact on inspection volume. Yet, it’s what inspection business owners do during this downturn that will truly separate the success stories from the failed and forgotten. Here’s how to pivot now and improve your odds of becoming a success story when the tale is told.

The hook: Creating more opportunities

As incoming leads become scarcer and home inspection business owners are forced to compete more with each other, they must:

  1. Improve their odds of closing more leads than the competition
  2. Increase the average ticket price to compensate for fewer overall leads

While there are many methods and approaches we’ll explore in this series on how home inspectors can survive and even thrive during these slower times, one surefire method for improving the odds you’ll close more leads and increase your average ticket price is by diversifying your services.

Think about it. A lead comes in and they need a home inspection. OK, great, but many times, they really need or want more than that. That’s why offering additional ancillary services can be very attractive to customers, as they represent more of a one-stop solution for home buyers. Not only is it a great way to attract and retain more customers, but it’s a great way to boost your bottom line and grow your business. And during a time when you need to close more leads than the competition and boost those average ticket prices, you don’t want to lose one because you don’t offer radon testing or termite inspections.

The lineup: Diversified services

As a home inspection business owner, you might already offer a set of ancillary services. Some of the more popular ones being offered by the top businesses in our industry today include:

If you’re an inspector who doesn’t offer some or all of these ancillary services, now is the time to invest in adding them into your offering. You already recognize so many issues that affect homes — yet many of these issues aren’t technically within your purview as you write your report. So, now is the time to consider additional certifications in areas you’re already likely well versed in, or which are popular in your area. Worried about the extra investment right now to add in those services? Don’t be.

Too often, when home inspectors begin to experience much slower periods in their businesses, they mistakenly end up cutting out critical business initiatives – sacrificing long-term growth and stability, for short-term financial comfort. Sure, trimming back on some business costs during leaner times is a smart strategy for sustainability, but certain initiatives need to be bolstered, not clipped.

The experience: How vs what

Truly maximizing every lead and upselling your diversified services in a way that feels more helpful than salesy, isn’t always easy. And it can get even tougher during a down economy. But it’s the businesses that have a thoughtful approach to customer service, and a strategic plan for managing the greater customer experience, who will always win the day.

We’ll explore this in greater detail in another blog post, but as leads present themselves, how you market and sell your inspection services becomes just as important, if not more so, than what you sell. Consider the following statistics:

  • 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services – McKinsey & Company
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer FEELS they are being treated – McKinsey & Company
  • 67% of customers say they would definitely be willing to PAY MORE for a great customer experience – McKinsey & Company
  • 51% of customers will never do business again with a company after just one negative experience – Forrester Research
  • 33% of Americans say they will consider switching companies after just a SINGLE INSTANCE of poor service – American Express 2018 Customer Service Study

According to a 2018 report by New Voice Media, poor customer service is costing U.S. businesses more than $75 billion a year. And the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®) reported this year that customer satisfaction in the U.S. is at its lowest level in 15 years. So, with so many upsides to providing a great experience for customers, why are so many businesses doing it so badly?

Most home inspection business owners understand the concept of providing great customer service and the benefits that come from its application. However, the customer experience is a little harder to wrap your noodle around. Because it involves how your agents and clients perceive your brand from the moment they first interact with it, all the way through the inspection lifecycle process – including the final delivery of the report, that last follow-up email, and even a thoughtful holiday card. That’s the “experience.” But bottom line, too few inspection business owners are placing enough importance on customer experience management. During slower times, this will be a costly mistake for some, but an opportunity for others.

The shift: Making the investment

Maximizing every lead. Upselling more ancillary services. It all starts by focusing on creating a greater, overall customer experience. Have you spent the time and made the right investments to ensure every new lead and customer will have a great experience with your brand? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How often are your agents referring business to you? Has that been increasing over time or decreasing? Either way, do you know why?
  2. Does your website give the impression you will provide them with a great experience, or does it overwhelm them with details?
  3. When their call is answered after a few rings, does a friendly voice greet them, giving the time to answer all their questions about one of the biggest purchase decisions they may be making in their lives?
  4. Are your marketing materials friendly and engaging?
  5. Are you handling leads, offering your services, and booking inspections in a helpful, easy manner?
  6. Is handling special requests a non-issue?
  7. After the inspection, how would you describe the reaction of your customer?
  8. How are you addressing questions or concerns they may have?
  9. What are you doing post-inspection to make sure the agent and client received the best possible experience?

Not every home inspector is a natural marketer or salesperson. In fact, very few are. Becoming an inspector, performing thorough inspections, creating insightful and valuable reports for clients, keeping up with continuing education requirements, and trying to run a profitable and sustainable home inspection business…all that is hard enough. But when an inspector chooses to trim back on business costs that are actually critical business initiatives – like lead management and upselling by highly trained professionals – they are jeopardizing their ability to provide an exceptional customer experience for your clients.

ACC (America’s Call Center):

ACC is a fully integrated customer service and communication-handling solution exclusively for home inspectors – no matter if you’re a sole proprietor or a multi-inspector firm.

ACC has 25 years of experience and knowledge of what it takes to successfully navigate more challenging economic cycles. And when budgets are tight, it’s good to have a partner that has a history of producing an increase of 15% – 30% in revenue after inspectors begin services while only paying an average of $2 – $5 an hour for those services. That’s a big boost for such a small investment! We are inspectors’ smartest approach to growth and the essential partner that will make all the difference for your business. During this shift in our industry, make a shift for your business. Make a shift to ACC.