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.
“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.
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.”