Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Personal Touch

In the world of home inspecting, relationships are frequently the thing that separates you from the competition. A personal touch, whether it be a hand-written thank-you note, coupon offer or follow-up phone call, can be the difference between landing repeat business and losing your client to someone cheaper. Here’s how small business owners, experts and start-up consultants recommend that home inspectors get up close and personal with their business contacts.

Get Involved
“Be part of your community,” says Mara Dresner, vice president of communications for Strategies business coaching and author of “Super-Charge Your Staff Meetings.” “Devote part of your advertising budget to local events, such as school sports and theater programs…The payback isn’t usually immediate. You are building name recognition and showing care for the community.”

Dresner adds that inspectors can also increase their community presence by holding local seminars and adult education programs in their area of expertise. Since nearly every community has clueless first-time home buyers, a free seminar could be a great way to both provide some much-needed education and rope in a few new clients.

Be More Than an Expert
Social media provides an invaluable way to tell customers about your business, but it also provides an outlet to show them other sides of you too says Dr. Tom Anastasi, author of “The Successful Entrepreneur: American Dream Done Right.

“Of course adding up-to-date information on home repairs, preventative maintenance and such is important, but also interesting and entertaining videos and links and tidbits of information that they think are fun,” he says. “That way when their service is ‘liked’ customers will maintain contact long after the initial sale.”

Showing your human side can land you business, but it can also turn clients off if your posts are distasteful or offensive. Before hitting “post,” think carefully about who might read your content and what they may think.

Feature Your Client
Marisa Brayman, director of web and marketing for Stadri Emblems, a company that produces embroidered patches for scout troops, sports teams and other groups, says that her company has found success by featuring clients through their blog and social media channels. After sending out a shipment, Brayman invites clients to share the stories behind how they’re using her product along with pictures. Stories and photos are then put up on the company’s blog.

“This fosters great customer relationships. If we take the time to write about someone and promote him or her on our website, whom do you think that person is going to return to in the future when the need for the same type of service arises? There’s little question,” Brayman says.

The tactic also pays off for Stadri as well. Once customers see their names in print, the article gets passed to their friends and family through social media networks. Since there’s often a hefty emotional component to buying and renovating homes and since every house has its own story, home inspectors have a natural tale to tell when they inspect a property.

Reach Out
Whether it’s by offering refer-a-friend coupons, sending a New Year’s or Valentine’s Day card or e-mailing clients on their birthdays, making the effort to connect with clients individually, however you do it, can solidify a business relationship. According to Barry Maher, a customer service expert who includes ABC, Merck, Verizon and Wells Fargo on his client list, making personal connections boils down to one mantra.

“Make people feel important,” he says. “With all the talk about customer service, with all the blather about customer centric companies, making people feel important is still the easiest and the cheapest way to differentiate your business from the competition.”

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Tap Inspect Testimonial – February Edition

 Hearing from our clients always brightens our day. Here’s some feedback we’ve received this month:

“Since its inception in 2005, [our company] has always delivered electronic reports to our customers.  In late 2010 we switched platforms to Tap Inspect from a competitor and have never looked back.  All of our inspectors agree that this has been the single largest improvement to our business and none of them would ever go back to the ‘old’ way of generating our reports…Tap Inspect makes inspection reporting easy.  The system is intuitive and customizable.  Inserting pictures and comments for areas of concern couldn’t be easier.  Our customers and realtors really love the reports generated using Tap Inspect.”

~ Michael P. Zadeh, President of Inspection Tech in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

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Checking In with Gary Smith

The Mississippi-based home inspector uses location-based apps to drum up business.

In real estate, they say that only three things matter-location, location, location. Gary Smith, owner of SafeHome Inspections in Ridgeland, Mississippi, is proving that the same is true of home inspectors.Smith says that one of the most effective marketing strategies he employs uses location-based mobile apps like Facebook to let future customers know where he works, to get the word out to local real estate agents and contractors and to establish himself as THE home inspection expert in the area. Here’s how he does it.

The Goal: To get his name in front of every potential home buyer and real estate agent that may do business in a specific area.

The Strategy: Check-In Marketing. To target home buyers, home owners and real estate agents in a specific neighborhood, Smith uses Facebook’s location-based apps to get his name out and to show that he has a client base in that locale. When smart phone and mobile device users in the area check into local restaurants, coffee shops or retail establishments through Facebook, Smith’s name and nearby work history also pops up.

The Method: “After I inspect a house, the first thing I do [as far as check-in marketing] is to look on Facebook and see if someone has created a subdivision name of the area I’m inspecting,” says Smith. “If they haven’t, I create that subdivision name and then I post a picture of the real estate sign of the listing agent in that area and any interesting photos of the front of the subdivision. I’m very careful not to list the address of the home or particular information about the home. That’s pretty private, but I do take photos of anything interesting in the subdivision, such as a lake or playground…”

“It only takes me about 20 seconds to take a photo of the subdivision where I’m inspecting a home, but, over time, you wind up with a dynamic that allows you to increase your visibility on Facebook. Now whenever I return to that area, I can check in and every time I do, it allows me to share that information and those pictures on my personal [Facebook] page and on pages of other locations I’ve created.”

“Every time I check in, it posts that I’m there, doing an inspection, being active in that area to anyone who may be looking at that page. I also share photos of other services [real estate service professionals, etc] while I’m in the neighborhood. It’s a co-branding opportunity and spreads the news that other trusted services work that area. Now the next time someone checks in at the Wal-Mart near that subdivision, they will see that there’s a home inspector or other real estate service in the area who’s doing work. It becomes free advertising.”

“Once the page is up and running, anyone involved in real estate in that area can also help it grow by posting their activity on the pages. Pretty soon, we have builders, agents, contractors, anyone who might be involved in property in that area, building the page up and drawing more attention to it.”

The Result: Better web traffic targeted specifically to home buyers in his area without investing much time. “What we’re finding too is that some of the pages are beginning to show up in Google searches for locations/areas [SafeHome Inspections] they weren’t before,” says Smith. “Since Facebook allows all business pages to be seen by search engines outside the Facebook domain, we’re getting free advertising both to people who check in using [location-based apps] and to those just searching on Google…For me, this is local advertising, [a kind] that targets people who live within 20 to 30 miles of my area of focus. If the majority of the neighborhoods in that area have my contact information in the check-ins, I’m certainly ahead of the game.”

Home inspectors who are interested in seeing how Gary’s location-based marketing works can check out the Ridgeland, Mississippi Real Estate page here.

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Tap Inspect Tip Of the Month

Did you know…

Inspectors who use Tap Inspect on the iPhone 4S can use voice recognition to record their comments. All iPhone 4S’s come with Siri and voice recognition that allows you to dictate memos, e-mails, even home inspections. To use Siri with Tap Inspect, just tap the little microphone icon that shows at the bottom of the keyboard and give your fingers a break.

Need some pointers on how to get the most out of voice dictation. Check out this video:

 

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App-solute Power

You’re already doing inspection reports by phone (Thanks Tap Inspect!), but these apps can take it to the next level. Here are four apps that will transform your cell or iPad into a company command center.

Skitch
Tap Inspect allows you to import photos from an inspection into your report, but this iPad app provides editing and annotation features that allow you to show clients exactly what they should notice in the photo. Free and simple to use, Skitch is an easy way to add those arrows and circles your clients love that point out the mold lurking in the bottom lefthand corner of your photograph.

Cost: Free!

Invoice2Go
You can complete a report on the job site. You should be able to get paid there too. This app for the iPhone and iPad allows you to create customized company invoices (complete with your logo and everything) that can be shown to your customers or e-mailed to them directly. Customers who want to pay on the spot can do that too since Invoice2Go can connect with any PayPal account. A double bonus is that the program will also automatically sync to your desktop computer, creating a backup of your invoices just in case anything happens to your cell or iPad.

Cost: $10.49 for the basic app.

Square
The inspection’s done; now it’s time to get paid. With Square, home inspectors can process Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover credit cards by phone without leaving the job site. Funds will be deposited into your business account within 24 hours. To get going, inspectors need to sign up for a free cell-ready credit card reader here, then head to the app store to download the app for their iPhone or iPad.

Cost: The apps are free, but the processing isn’t. Square charges 2.75 percent per transaction every time you accept a credit card payment by swiping. Transactions that are manually entered into the phone will cost a 3.5 percent plus a 15 cent fee.

Chase Quick Deposit
There are lots of arguments to be made about why small business owners should avoid big banks like the plague, but Chase offers one super sexy incentive for business owners on the go (ahem: inspectors). With Chase Quick Deposit, inspectors with iPhones and iPads can make deposits into their bank accounts by simply taking two photos of a check with their cell phone. No more rushing to the bank. No more crossing your fingers that your lockbox/glove compartment/home safe doesn’t get broken into. In addition to Quick Deposit, the company also offers online billpay by phone and the ability to check bank balances and transfer funds with your cell.

Cost: Quick Deposit is free for Chase users with a personal checking account. For small business owners who need to make several deposits of multiple checks per month, the company provides an at-home check scanner for a minimal fee.

 

This article originally ran in our Tap Inspect newsletter. To sign up for our mailing list, click the “Join Our Mailing List” button to the right.

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