Define Who You Are and Who You Want to Reach
Defining who you are and your brand and working towards developing an online presence: your website, social reputation, and reviews. Your online presence is a constant, ongoing source of business for new business as well as established business.
This is your business. This is who you are. You need to account for that, through the rest of your processes. You want to be communicating who you are, who you want to be dealing with, who wants to be dealing with you.
Because otherwise where are you putting your message? You’re not getting it right. Then, how are you measuring right, even with all those analytics? If you don’t know who you’re trying to be, you’re trying to speak to, and who you’re trying to be to them.
This isn’t about, Oh, I’m a home inspector and I did this inspection and that inspection. There’s nobody out there saying, Oh, I’m a home inspector but I’m not very good at it.
Everyone is claiming to be a great home inspector and claiming to do many of the same things you do. So what really defines you is the things you don’t do or the things you don’t do particularly well. If you specialize in something, that’s the kind of thing that you need to put forward. Be aware of what makes you stand out.
Don’t spend too much time stressing the obvious that every other inspector is also going to be saying, because it misses the point. The person shopping around is more aware of other home inspectors right now than you are because they’ve just looked at 50 different profiles. So focus on what you don’t do.
When we talk about brand, a favorite example is Northwest Airlines, now part of Delta—what they choose not to do. They don’t do the major routes; they serve city to city.
They designed the whole business around that one particular function. They function like a service. There’s no big long check-ins. There’s no third party payments. Everything is geared around doing what they do really, really well. Again, knowing what they don’t do: they don’t do long distance, international flights, that’s not their business. That’s not who they are. Know what you don’t do.
Who are you? What are your core values? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What moves you? How does it move you? These are the core essentials to represent your brand online.
Your unique selling point (USP) is what sets you apart. It’s what compels people to buy or not buy. If they don’t have a history with you, it’s what they perceive as being unique about you. What are they choosing over somebody else’s offering?
Your USP must be aligned with your core values. People are inviting you into their home. They won’t want you there if your core values are muddy or not aligned with your business.
For example, somebody who can do very fast turnarounds and doesn’t need a lot of lead time. You need an inspection done tomorrow? I’m the guy you can call. I will get it done tomorrow. That’s your unique selling point. But you need to make sure that all your ducks are in a row to make that happen. What happens when you get busy? How are you gonna keep on doing that thing? So where it comes into your core values and your strengths and weaknesses, is how you deliver that unique sales proposition. Every single time. It might be your radius of operation. So you’re always one hour away from anyone you actually serve. That is a unique selling point.
What does your brand represent? For a lot of home inspectors, you and your brand are the same thing. You can grow your business by bringing others on board. Now your brand is a family brand. But, it’s not so much about what you want to be as who your customers want you to be. Be the right thing for that customer.
If you know you’re going to be dealing with a high-end customer, know there’s a little bit of snobbery sometimes involved there. You need to be going a bit classier, and you certainly need to be a bit more on point with your reports to make the client feel special. If you’re not good at making somebody feel special, you’re just good at doing a good, honest day’s work on time, every time, maybe you don’t want to go for the high end. So, those are the things you consider when deciding what brand values you need to be pushing.
For many customers, their thought about home inspectors is to find the lowest price. They’ll ask what you charge for a home inspection versus your qualifications. And for the client who wants to know about price, you’d better be focused on whether your price point is going to satisfy them. Sometimes you have to answer that maybe they have the wrong spectrum about price, because you are more focused on quality.
If you work with a large property developer or a large realtor who deals with large properties, then making them feel special by delivering the report in the format they need to make them feel special. That becomes core to your business.
They also don’t want a lecture if it makes their job easier.
If you know who you are but you still really don’t know who you’re serving, you have to figure out who your customers are. You need to consider developing some profiling personas. Not all customers are the same.
We know we have great customers and not so great customers. Identify the things that set them apart. What traits you spot help you target the customers who are most valuable to you. Drilling down through the analytics that we talked about in Session 2:
- who your customers are
- who the different customers are by paying attention to social media
- which customers ask which questions
All of these things help you know whether someone is likely to be one of your better, higher value clients, or one of the problematic ones.You need to have client profiles so you can determine the tactics that work best for each kind of customer.
It’s not always about how much they pay. It’s more about your feeling that you’re really giving something of value, making a home safe. It talks to the idea that you need to know who you are and who your customers are. Make sure those two things are aligned well for different customer types.
It’s not just about who they are as a person, it’s about their situation. Somebody who’s in a hurry, is a lot less patient than somebody who’s got all the time in the world. Somebody who is selling their own home at their own leisure, has a very different proposition than somebody who is out of town and is only going to be available on one day. You need to take this into account. Different customers have different needs, different things that you say are going to sway them to either work with you or not.
Sometimes you have to do your business a certain way. Something might be profitable, but the very fact that it is makes it harder, makes it part of being known for what you are. For example, you may only deal in a 50-mile radius, and you will not do 51 miles no matter what. Sometimes that’s going to be a tough thing to stick to. But set the line somewhere. And once you have, that’s your line. Hold your boundaries.
If that creates a problem from a business perspective, then you look to change. You’re going to need to look at why the plan wasn’t working. Was your original area too small? Or was it simply the wrong area? The wrong supplier for the customers in that particular area? That the property values in this area are a little bit too low for long detailed inspections? Would smaller, cheaper inspections work out better? Or do you need to move to a different area? You need to find that circle to include higher value items.
You need to think that the customer is king. Always look at everything that you’re offering, not from whether you think it’s reasonable, but from whether your customer, in this particular mindset, going through your personas for different needs or services, is this reasonable from their perspective? Does this really sing to them, because they’re gonna vote with their wallet.
Usually a couple that buys a house are not the same. What she thinks is completely different from what he thinks. You can help identify the different concerns and hold them together to reach a conclusion. That can be gold, helping one spouse understand what the other is looking for in a home can help them understand the home. It’s a little bit of therapy, but it works.
Every home inspector wants to have a website and other channels. But, your website is your constant presence online. That allows customers to come to you and find out about you. It is you online. It represents you.
Use a navigation menu to address your different personas, like buyers, sellers, and realtors. Then present material that speaks to each of those personas in their language.
If people are looking for home inspections or mobile home inspections or commercial inspections, they may tell you that with their selection. Through their selection they may tell me whether they’re a buyer or a seller, or they may just signal that they want a particular type of inspection. The different website pages talk to them on that specific topic level.
Buyers and sellers have different priorities. Buyers want something that’s completely different than sellers. Buyers want a home as nice as possible and sellers want repairs to be as cheap as possible. So create pages set up to talk to them independently.
Realtors work the same way. Whether they represent the buyer or the seller, their interests are completely different. With commercial brokers, it’s all money for them. Each page talks in detail to that persona. You’ll talk differently to a listing agent than an agent who represents a buyer.
Create an order form that helps you define the required information. Collect name and contact details as well as details for real estate representatives. Give them a selection of square footage so you will know the size of the job. And, add a brief place for notes. Sometimes people don’t have a lot of time, so send them a text with the link to the order form.
The benefit of having the website work for you, is receiving new business while you are out working. For example, a week’s worth of business that came for 15 home inspections. That’s without an office or a secretary or answering service. You come back to the office and these inspections result from a form on the website. It’s worth doing.
When you reply immediately to those requests, you build a reputation of being reliable and responsive to client needs.
Reputation and Reviews
We become what we do. And we do that by developing forms and procedures. People love consistency, and that translates into a perception of quality. They also love sincerity. Your respectful conversations, the way you treat them in interactions on the phone and in person builds trust. Those are elements that lead to positive testimonials and reviews.
People remember your service and the way you interact with them. And, they tell stories about you. From clients gossiping with friends to posting online reviews, they are amplifying your business.
People form an idea of you through your reputation. That idea of you has a large impact on how they choose your business. People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust.
Reviews are factors that you need to take into account, because they can directly affect how likely you are to close a deal or get a recommendation or anything else along those lines.
With homes, it’s such a big investment for most people, that they don’t want to get it wrong. So they will talk to friends who’ve already sold a property or former property. They will ask if you did a good job with them. they’re going to give a positive review. If you did a bad job, or just didn’t impress, you’re back on square one. All the way back down to zero.
Reviews are evergreen. When someone writes one, it sits forever for someone to see. Jeff Bond of Inspect.Net has had people call up and say, I saw your review on Yelp. And that’s a four-year-old review. They used that to make part of their decision. There is still power in a review that’s four years old. Plus, if you told them something four years ago they won’t remember. Reviews stick and they stick forever.
Reviews are lifeblood. They’re the way other people look for social proof that other people have worked with you and they haven’t regretted it. When people buy a service like an inspection, they’re not buying it every week, so they look for social proof. When they look for social proof they look for brands or expert approval.
- Never ask for reviews
- The best ones are genuine
- They’re a powerful testament
- They’re evergreen
- Don’t leave long replies to compliments
- Engage with complaints and resolve them immediately
If there is a complaint, usually don’t go online. You don’t have to resolve it in public. Encourage the disgruntled client to reach out. Be open about how they can get in touch with you. Ask them to send you their phone number. Then instantly respond (at no cost to them). You’ve kept it private. You’ve instantly responded. They want to know you have listened and that you are being responsible.
When you receive a bad review, always apologize for them having a bad experience. Because, you are always genuinely sorry they’ve given you a bad review. That’s not saying that you did a bad job. That’s saying you’re honestly sorry they had a bad experience. Apologizing does not mean you are admitting that you did something wrong.
Something went wrong. Maybe they were having a bad day. Maybe you were. Maybe the expectations weren’t being set quite right. Maybe they’re just a complainer. But, something went wrong. If you immediately leap in and dig in, you’re not going to see what it was. You’ll miss an opportunity to heal a wound.
Focus on getting good reviews by being systematic, creating a strong website, and using Google Ads to get your name top of mind. Then, work hard for customer satisfaction. Please customers so well that you show up on the top of a review list especially Yelp.
Channel Your Business Presence
You’ve got to know who you are, what you want to offer, and who you want to serve, instead of leaving everything to chance. If you’re not mindful about it, it’s a crap shoot.
When you’re young and getting started, you want to be everything for everyone. It doesn’t work. You’ll feel scattered and distracted and and not focused,
- Clearly define strategies and tactics
- Filter out the noise
- Engage your audience for feedback
- Use social listening as a weather vane
Social listening is important, not just for mentions of you and your particular service, but also listen to what people say about other home inspections. Take note of what they expected and what they don’t like, because this is research for you. This is free ideas on how we can offer new services, or how you can improve your services to be something above and beyond what people expect.
For example, Instagram is such a vibrant medium for building inspectors to connect with a ton of people. Inspectors post what not to do or what to do in photos. And you get a good idea of their personality.
The Power of Your Online Presence
We have this early in the series because what’s the point of driving 100 visitors now if you could convert another 300 if you work on your conversion rate as early as you can? You’re going to want to convert 300 customers.
A thing that often people would come to the search engine optimization expert for was, we’ve been around for a while, and we’ve got a level of traffic. They say, we want more traffic, we really want to get about 50% more people. Do you want more traffic, or do you want more business? It’s a lot easier to improve your conversion rate 1% than to try to go from 30,000 visits to 45,000 visits.
It’s usually a lot easier to go from a 3% conversion rate to 4% than to build more traffic. It’s more efficient and effective than trying to grow your volume. Once you drive the conversion rate up, you can drive more customers and make more money. That’s really how you want to make your money. You’re going to do well working with the people that resonate with you.
The third in a 10-part series of marketing with Ammon Johns dedicated to property inspectors in the United States. He has been variously described by others as a veteran, pioneer, and expert in the field of SEO and search marketing. He has spent over 20 years in all aspects of Internet marketing, working with several leading SEO agencies, helping to launch several of them to industry-leader status. Ammon is best known for innovation, pioneering many of the common strategies of today, and he continues to innovate strategies.