Let’s start with the big thing. People often buy more website than they need. Think of it, just like you would if you’re buying a car. You don’t buy a Formula One. You don’t buy a supercar as your first car. You want something that is just going to work that you can practice in, that you can learn what you need. And it won’t matter too much if you get something wrong.
It means you’re not wrecking a good car straight off the bat. Also, you couldn’t handle a really high-performance car when you’ve only just learned to drive, or still figuring out how to drive.
If all you need is a brochure website; an online brochure that’s there for people to help themselves. That’s just a few pages of regular HTML. It’s going to cost you a lot less as a few pages of HTML. It’s a cinch to keep it going. It doesn’t need regular updates. It’s just there. It’s done. And all it is the hosting costs. That’s it.
You need to know what you want your website to do, then use the simplest thing that does that. No extra bells and whistles. Don’t get carried away. Don’t go gadget mad. The simplest thing that does the job.
A lot of websites today are automatically built in WordPress because WordPress is free to install and WordPress is widely used. For sites that need dynamic structure, that are run from a database, they are complicated. To just change a little bit of a theme is going into a whole lot of PHP programming. And a PHP programmer is about five times more expensive than the guy who can do HTML.
We’re building on these things as we go. Conversion rate is what you need to know, and then build the site that does what you need to do. What your conversions are. What you’re measuring. And that’s it. That’s all it needs to do.
You do need to make sure that it’s cross platform, so that people can read it on a computer, can read on their laptop, or can read on their phone. That’s HTML, it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Circling back to that fancy car. It obligates you to so much. It’s just a distraction from what you need to be working on and where you need to be focused. and all of those are attaching into conversion rate.
There’s this classic old Toyota Hilux. These trucks just ran, and they would last forever. and, you know, you could drop them over a cliff, go down, and start the damn thing up. And, they were dirt cheap. And if you look at successful vehicles – the Willys Jeep, Land Rover – all of these vehicles that could take a beating and keep going for decades.
There’s a philosophy in engineering which is less is more. It takes a lot of work to make it simple.
If you think of how the regular business guy, especially somebody like an inspector, wants to be out doing inspections. He has to sometimes spend a lot of time on the phone, arranging inspections and selling inspections. But he wants to be doing inspections. He doesn’t have a lot of time to be working on his website. In the time he has, he wants to spend it on building content not having to install this month’s set of updates because of WordPress updating.
Your content can sit, and perhaps get stale. But it depends. If you’ve got regular visitors, regular viewers, a community, they need new stuff all the time. But if this is a landing page that people find the first time, for first-time people, it’s always the first time. It’s fresh to them… as long as it hasn’t started to look outdated. So, don’t be neglectful.
The whole idea of the internet is to be on point. Your website needs to stay fresh because people are basing it on that fresh criteria.
Every Touch Point is a Potential Failure
Less is more. What we’re talking about is the performance of your site. If somebody has come to your site to contact you, they don’t want a huge presentation. They already know they want to contact you. How fast can they get to that contact form? If you’re making them sit through a three-minute video because you spent a lot of time working on this video, they’ve gone before it’s finished.
Don’t Pay for Things You Don’t Need
If your budget is a bit limited, and from an inspectors perspective, it’s hard sometimes to justify the spend. You’ll find a lot of other things or a lot of different places that are more important. Keeping the cost down makes it easier to manage. A lot of people probably never get started because they think the cost is too big. So keep it simple.
Pieces of the Website
What pieces the website needs is going to be part of you deciding what pieces it has to have. Does it need to have an order form or not? If they’re going to phone you, and you don’t process online, then it just needs your phone number. It doesn’t need a web form. But if you do want it to take those bookings while you’re out, then that needs to go in there. It’s an extra piece of overhead, but it’s worth it in the long run. You’ve got to think of whether you’re going to have the site that actually converts to get them to fill in that form, or whether you’re better at doing that on the phone. So it’s all down to what you’re going to do, how you want your site to function.
Jeff Bond had different area code phone numbers because he serves a couple different markets. He’d get a phone call here and a phone call there and an office call and a text over there. It was scrambled. He consolidated down to email so he can have one number. You have to figure out how to work. He uses email and an online order form. Select a method that suits you, and then be consistent and engage. It’s tough to be on the phone when you’re crawling under a house. So, be consistent. And, with email, you have a way to track the engagement.
For a lot of inspectors, even if the phone call is held, you want to be doing your business. It’s often worth having a website that allows people to request a phone call. Then you follow up and call them back. It’s a nicer system that way. It still happens over the phone, but it’s more practical.
You may be a phone guy, but your client is an email person. If you don’t provide that simple option, there’s no connection and then that business transaction doesn’t happen. So it makes sense to have an option, even if it’s not your main focus.
On the website, there’s got to be confirmation. Everything that someone can click needs to confirm that it’s worked. Also, head off any common questions, because you’re a busy person. You don’t want that phone ringing with questions that you could have answered on your website.
Make clear what they need to know before taking action. Get rid of those tire-kicker questions before they ring the phone and take up your time. Some of them will still call you and ask them, the thing you’ve already told them on the website, but it’ll be easy to reduce that down. Include the area you cover, what you don’t do, what you don’t cover. We said that was important to your brand. Make sure that your site is authentic to your business. Get rid of as much wasting of time as possible on your website.
Making sure that they know where to go. When you go back and look at your analytics, that’s when you can see what sequences work to bring people in. They’ve looked at the FAQ’s and spent this much time and then they went to the contact page. You will be able to gauge if you’re putting out the right information.
Isolate where site visitors abandon the process, because that is probably where you’re making a mistake. You need to make some corrections. Or if they backtrack a lot, then you’ve led them down a bad path. So try to follow the path as they navigate through the website, because that does a lot to demonstrate that your content is on target, funneling, and working them towards the ultimate idea that they’re able to make an informed decision. Whether or not they choose to use you, there is content there because that’s what they deserve.
The Content Inverse Pyramid
So when we’re talking about content, a lot of people say, how do I write content. And the example I always talk about is the inverse pyramid.
Now, first of all, we’ve got to explain what the normal laws of writing work; and this is very much like a scientific paper. Have you ever had one of those big papers of what they want to prove and then how they went about it and how they were going to cross check everything, and then how they did the experiment. And then finally, at the end, at eighty-five pages, is the answer. Nobody’s got time for that online.
So the inverse pyramid is a very successful format of presenting information people want. It was developed by the newspapers. It’s the way a newspaper story is written: the headline is first and the headline tells you the whole story. Hero Fireman Saves Family. That’s it. If you’re not interested in firemen or people saving anybody, you know that story is not for you. If that interested you… Oh, where was that?
The first paragraph, almost always says hero firemen, name, each location, saves family of four. In your next paragraph there’s all the important details. When was this? Oh, it was Friday night. As you go down, the details get more and more specific. The whole point is it’s very easy to abandon at the point where your interest wanes without feeling you’ve missed anything. Which means you can go on to the next page. Next story. The next part.
You really want to engage people right away. Any attempt to build the drama and the build up of the story, actually, is counterproductive to conversion. You’ve got your site, you’re a home inspector, and somebody’s looking for somebody to inspect something. They want their aircraft inspected.
The sooner you point out that you are a home inspector and you don’t do aircraft, the sooner they can be on their way to find what they want. They won’t remember, Oh, I went to that site once it was rubbish. I can’t remember why but I went there and it was a terrible experience. They won’t remember they were wrong. They just remember that they saw your brand once, and whether it impresses them.
This is a matter of not presenting what you want to present but rather what the client needs and how they’re going to make that decision. This is not about you and your job it’s to fully document who you are, what you do, and where you do it. There are so many potential clients out there, you don’t have to feel obligated to catch every fish. What you want to do is catch the right fish that is consistent with who you are and who you want to serve. It’s not even catching at that point anymore, it’s just proper alignment of a service provider with the client that needs that service.
Say, you’ve got a radius. You’ve got an area, you can reach all of these businesses within two hours. That’s your catchment area, and somebody is just outside. Do you want it or not? It’s really tempting to facilitate, to leave your options open especially in the early days. It’s much better to be crystal clear about what your area is, and to quickly eliminate anybody who’s outside, and not just eliminate, send them to somewhere good. Tell them who does serve the area or tell them where they can do a search to find somebody who does.
You’re not losing the customer, because they’re not in your area. What you’re getting is the chance to impress somebody who may one day meet somebody who is one of your customers and say, Oh, you should have a look at this guy, I discovered it by accident; I wasn’t covering that area but he does their area. That’s a win.
You don’t need to make a sale every time.
Serve, Not Sell
(Ammon’s example.) I was working in an area of London outside of my usual stomping grounds. And during my lunch break I wanted to pick up a particular piece of equipment, which was kind of rare. It was a data modem for a mobile phone, back in the days before smartphones. They were quite rare items. So I’ve got some time to see if somebody’s got one. The first shop is one of these really big chains; does everything mobile, everything electronic. They don’t have it but they really, really want to order me one.
I’m just seeing if it’s here. I’m on my lunch break because if I wait to the weekend, I can go to another part of town, and pick it up there. And so I know I can, I’m just seeing if I could pick it up today, I’ll have it. So I go to another shop. This one tries to send me back to that first shop. It’s one of these ones where you know they’re related. And so they can be basically an affiliate link. It’s a mutual arrangement for them. It’s not good for me.
I go into a third shop. This guy doesn’t have it either, but he knows this little shop around the corner that has the oddest things. He can’t guarantee that they’ll have it, but he might, if anyone’s got it. That’s the place.
So, because the guy didn’t actually have it but it was a really good lead, I remembered that third shop because they had tried to serve me. They hadn’t tried to get me to book one. They haven’t sent me to their friend. They tried to serve me. They got my business time and time again for the next six months because they would always try and serve me, not sell me.
(Jeff Bond) You’d think that would be automatic, but in California, there’s a state bill, SB 258, for home inspectors. It says, if you do a home inspection, you can’t work on the house for a period of a year, to avoid any potential conflict of interest. It is trying to avoid that issue. You’d think that this would just be so common sense, but obviously it’s not, because they had to write a law to tell people not to do that. You really appreciate the person that just provides service.
Inspector Example Inverted Pyramid
The first thing, a reliable inspector in whatever your town is what your experience is. Just a headline. No more than eight words that sums up. That’s it. That’s your headline that’s your lead paragraph.
And then from there, in order of the most commonly asked stuff, the most important stuff. Fill them in. Don’t go too deep too soon. Make it very easy for somebody to see what they need to see very early, to skip down, and get as far as they need to get, and then call you. Not be looking for that vital information before they can, they can’t get anywhere because it’s very, very way down. Prioritize.
So, first of all, who you are, what you do. Second, your experience, and a really punchy statement. Then your testimonials, then your qualifications and references, then your price guide and contact details.
Some people are afraid to put their price on their website for fear of scaring people. But not having the price is a distraction because people want some closure on that item. They like you, you’ve got all your experience, so they think it must be expensive. The decider there is going to be, do other inspectors tell them how much. If you don’t and they do, they’re getting the job.
Before online presence, it was common to have a three-page, trifold brochure. And people were throwing them out as quickly as you’d hand them out. And then when you’d print a price on it, as soon as prices changed, that whole guide was irrelevant and you’d throw out the old ones. So, recognize that one of the beauties of the online presence is if you want to do a price shift, if you want to do a market adjustment, you can do it online and just put in the change. You don’t have to throw out any brochures.
Make sure your testimonials are updated as well. So, they’re not from five years ago. They have something a little fresh. If this is about your Huntsville customers, maybe you do three different towns that are in a radius of your Huntsville page, have testimonials from Huntsville. Have stuff that’s relevant to Huntsville, to the kind of properties there are and the kind of people that keep it super relevant.
Make sure if you’re going to start that you commit to it.
(Jeff Bond) I have a technical writer, because I’m not a writer. She’s amazing. I’m a home inspector. We engage and share ideas, and then we collaborate to create a piece. But I leave the writing to the expert. I’ve made a commitment to continue that because I know that it adds value to my clients. They like those articles. Make sure if you’re going to commit that you’re going to stick with it.
The last thing you want is to be trying to become a writer or trying to become a social media guru, doing updates and keeping on top of stuff. That’s a pain, that’s something you don’t need to do. So, yes, don’t get a blog,
Your website developer may want to install a blog because he knows how to do that. But if you don’t need a blog, don’t put a blog up. Stick to what you need, as simple as possible. If all you need is a couple of pages don’t let a developer talk you into something. If you asked for those two pages and he can’t do it, find somebody cheaper. Because a three-page website, just the design and then you can fill in the stuff yourself, is dirt cheap. You can get that for literally about 50 to 100 bucks flatline. It’s like – a homepage, an About Us page, and a contact page. That’s really it.
You could always find different articles to share, like sharing from ASHI. And so there are a lot of other places that you can share content from. Those articles make you look giving, because you’re saying, hey, look at this great article. You can share that on social media, and then focus on what you do best, which is inspection.
Don’t be a whirlwind to your site visitor. Start with simple and focus on conversions.
When people are very busy trying to do something and it’s a bit of a hassle when the kids are messing about in the background and they’ve got to do this thing that they don’t even know what they’re doing exactly because they have never done it before, the last thing they need is a whole other distractions and pretty much an intelligence quiz. Let them find what they need to do, and get on with it.
Your aim is to start simple and focus on those conversions, getting people to do what they want to do, the way they want to do it. Have clear paths. Don’t offer too many choices. Just give them very simple things. Whether they’re customer buyer, whether they’re needing this kind of inspection, that kind of inspection. Not too many choices, all in one go. Keep it simple. It’s much better for them to ask several different questions and feel confident than to have a deluge of questions, and they don’t know where to click. The confused mind doesn’t buy.
Clients of home inspectors have a few key things on their mind. first they want to know that you’re qualified. They want to make sure that the person that they’re asking is an expert. You’re doing something important, so they want to check your qualifications so immediately. Let them know which qualifications you have – contractor, architect, engineers. They also want to make sure you have experience. Has this guy been doing this for a day? Let them know about your experience base, so that they can build relevance. Let them see you’ve done this for a while.
You probably have some testimonials or reviews that they can go back and fact check. And they’re very price conscious. They care what they’re spending. They’re not going to go and spend as much money as you tell them. They’re going to want to feel that they have fair value. Make sure that you share your prices, but try to be in competitive range. Understand if you want to upsell your services at a higher price, make sure you’re delivering more service. They want to know if they can trust you. If they can’t trust you, they’re not going to count on you. You’re giving them some of the most important advice of their life.
There are times when people don’t necessarily want the cheapest, when they’re looking around, and they probably don’t know. You’ve done this yourself. When it’s a product you don’t know, you deliberately choose, not the cheapest because you assume it’s going to be the worst. That’s where you go to somebody around the middle of the pack.
So sometimes you can do your own framing of it with a low price and a medium price. This is the bells and whistles on this sell, all these things, what they’re getting for their money. And that gives them more confidence in the middle price range. But every now and again, you get a customer who wonders for that top product is and buys it.
There’s something from selling marketing. We used to try and pitch what the customer would buy. Well that’s great except, we’re not psychic. It’s much easier to pick the absolute minimum that anyone could possibly buy, and that’s a bottom level offering. But it’s much better if you pitch what you think they’ll buy as that bottom level. What you’d like them to buy, as the middle one. And as a top one, think to yourself, if money was no object, if this client could let me run away with all the things I can do and still deliver great value. What could I do? That’s your top product. Your top product is the one that stretches you to deliver as much as possible for the value.
Price chasers, the ones that insist on the lowest price, are often the hardest client. Their expectations are higher. They want more for less. They’re harder to please. Sometimes you give them your gold and they want more. There’s really not a lot of benefit in trying to chase price down. You’re underselling what you’re worth, and you are sometimes asking for your own problems.
You think, what’s the lowest I can go when I cut my margins down? But then you’ve got no wiggle room. You’ve got no margins. You’ve got no room to do more than you’ve been asked for. So you can’t delight, anybody. It’s much better to have a bit of wiggle room, where you can do a little bit more than they were expecting, really wow them. Don’t think about race to the bottom.
Study when the pages are abandoned. You’re going to know what’s not working for people. I know that seems like a lot. We have a lot of takeaways. But once you get this down and then keep coming back and checking it, you’re going to be able to see what’s going to work for you.
The fifth 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.