At first glance, business growth might seem like a daunting task. There are so many strategies to choose from. The good news is there are really only three main ways to grow your business:
1. Increase the number of customers you have
2. Increase your fee
3. Sell more services to each customer
1. Increasing the number of customers
This strategy includes:
- finding new customers
- getting more people to refer customers to you
- keeping your customers for life
- increasing the retention rate of your referral base
- improving your sales techniques (turning more prospects into customers)
Increasing the number of customers is the conventional way to grow a business. This requires using tactics like online marketing, direct mail, brochures, newspaper advertising, marketing to real estate agents and other related professionals. However, as your business grows, you can get more traction by focusing on getting repeat business with your established customers. This efficient way of growing your business is based on the concept that it's cheaper to maintain a customer than it is to find a new one.
Take your referral base for example. If it takes more money and time to develop a new relationship than to maintain an existing one, doesn't it make sense to spend some time maintaining relationships? Many home inspectors fail to see this, and as a result, relationships fail. Agents drift away often from sheer neglect.
Simple tactics for maintaining relationships
follow-up letter to agents after inspection: Collect the agent's business card at the inspection and send a letter or postcard saying something like, "It was a pleasure meeting you at 123 Any Street yesterday. I look forward to working with you again soon."
follow-up phone call to agents after inspection: Instead of writing a note or sending a postcard, you can follow-up by phone. You can ask if everything was satisfactory in addition to offering your services for the next client.
follow-up phone call to agents who refer you business: Call the agent periodically to find out if your services continue to be satisfactory. You can also ask them how you could serve them better.
follow-up phone call to agents who no longer refer you business: This is an important gesture and an opportunity to mend the relationship. And even if you can't, you can learn something from the experience that can be applied in the future.
Following-up with customers: After an inspection, it's good practice to follow-up with customers for at least three reasons: to capture repeat business when the homeowner buys another house in 5 years;
to remind the homeowner to tell their friends to hire you when they buy a house; and your client will be more receptive when you call to offer additional services such as a one-year inspection.
2. Increasing Your Fee
Nothing seems to scare home inspectors more than increasing their fees. The inspectors immediately imagine that nobody will want to hire them at a higher price and that they will lose much of their business to competitors.
But the following cannot be overstated: Demanding progressively more for your professional service is a highly effective way to grow your business. Here are some good reasons:
- There is a strong perceived relationship between inspection fee and quality of the inspector
- If you have not changed your fee in a long time, you are effectively gaining more experience while getting paid less money over the years
- You should keep up with inflation
- Your employees want more money
- You can work less and make more money
- You should get paid for what you know, not how long you work. Every year, you know more.
Don't sell yourself short. Home inspection is a business with high liability, slim profit margins and limited economics of scale. You provide an incredibly diverse, multi-disciplined consulting service. You owe it to yourself to get paid what you are worth.
3. Sell more services to each client
Ancillary services are other inspection related additional services that you can offer to your customer at the time of inspection and also after they move into their house:
additional services at the time of the inspection, like testing for lead paint, radon, asbestos, or carbon monoxide.
follow-up services once your client moves in, including an inspection to verify that your recommendations have been addressed correctly, an indoor-air quality inspection, a seasonal or periodical inspection, or an energy efficiency study.
It's universally understood in marketing and sales circles that once you're committed to a purchase, it's easy to sell you a smaller purchase related to the initial purchase. An obvious example is McDonald's classic question, "Would you like fries with that?" Some inspection companies have been very successful offering these services. They turn a $300 inspection into a $600 inspection with very little extra time on site.
Many ancillary services require some additional knowledge, training, and in some cases, a license. You may also need specialized equipment. Investigate each of these to find out it's a good fit for you.
Look at what other inspectors are offering. Ask clients if there are other services they would value. Pay attention to current issues in the media. Is mold a big issue in your area? Adding these services will not only bring you more revenue per customer, but it can also help position you as an expert in a specialized field. This in turn, can help you differentiate yourself from your competition.
Learn more about diversifying your services with new home inspections