By far, marketing to real estate agents is the bread and butter of most inspection companies – whether we like to admit it or not. Direct to consumer marketing is great – but each consumer represents one inspection, but each agent represents multiple inspections for many years. If an agent sells 10 houses a year, over the course of 10 years that is 100 houses. So you need much less effort to get multiple inspections when you market to agents.
So many inspectors may get upset at the fact that home inspectors market to agents. Many feel they are dishonest, and that the way to market to agents is to write a “soft” report. While there is the potential for that (and it does unfortunately happen quite a bit) it is not the only side of it.
I have hundreds of agents that refer me and my other inspectors – and we write some of the hardest inspection reports out there. In fact, we are “blacklisted” by some agencies because they feel we are too hard on a house. So why do we have more work than we can handle from agent referrals? Because we don’t go after EVERY agent – just the honest ones.
There are dishonest people in every trade, and as an old friend once said “scum floats at the same level”. So dishonest home inspectors tend to end up with dishonest agents. So if you are honest, professional, hard working, and state things as they are, you will attract the agents that are like that too. Market honestly, be honest, and do a good job.
So now that we are over the ethics of marketing to agents, let’s talk about how to do it.
Four Times – Many years ago I heard a home inspector say that you need to “touch” an agent four times before you have a relationship with them and they start referring you – and there is a lot of truth to that. It doesn’t mean it’s an exact rule, but it helps us to understand relationship building. So how do you “touch” an agent four times?
There is always the tried and (somewhat true) method that everyone falls back on of bringing donuts and business cards to real estate offices. You end up spending a lot of time on this, and while results can happen, the return on interest is not always that great.
While doughnut money and gas money can add up, there are some better ways to market to agents if you are on a budget. First of all, emails. Do NOT spam email everyone in your market, but follow up on EVERY interaction.
Did you leave doughnuts in an office? Then grab some of the business cards of the manager and some of the agents (or look them up online). Since you obviously put a sticker with your logo on the box of doughnuts, they know who left them. Afterward send an email and say “We hope you enjoyed the treats we left in your office today….” and “touch” them again. Do that at every office, every time you meet an agent, every time you are on an inspection.
We talked about online marketing previously, so use that. Now go on their Facebook Business Page, Instagram, etc, and just casually “like” their listings. Every once in a while, leave a tasteful comment like “Great location!”. A word of caution though: Don’t get over eager and barrage them. Step back and just ease into each agent relationship. Remember, agents get marketed to by lenders, attorneys, inspectors, movers, and just about everyone under the sun – so they get sick of it pretty quick. Be present, but not aggressive.
Coupons – So this is simple and effective. After you have been building up your email list of agents, start sending coupons. But again, caution is needed. Too many coupons or too big of a coupon and you seem desperate. Too small of a coupon or a coupon that is confusing and you seem all over the place. Here is the formula that I always used: Once every 3 months I would do a $50 coupon and limit it to the next 30 days. $50 was enough to make it worth it, but not so much to seem desperate. I ALWAYS got new agents that way.
So those agents that you had been building that relationship with who have never used you have a client who is tight on cash and needs an inspection – now, all of a sudden,they has a coupon from an inspector that he/she recognizes from all the stuff you did from the subheading above – who do you think they will call?
So awesome! You have your first inspection or a new agent. Now what? Now keep emailing them and marketing to them like before. Casually ask for them the next time you visit their office with the doughnuts (can you tell I don’t like the whole doughnut thing?), and then use them to eventually work your way into meeting the office manager – and that is key.
The Office Meeting – After you meet the manager, Casually as about doing a 5 min presentation at their next office meeting. Most offices have a weekly meeting which usually happens on a Monday or Tuesday. Once you are in though, what do you do?
Remember to see things from their angle. All agents dread having a home inspector in. It’s the same speech every time “Hi, I’m Joe Home Inspector and I am thorough, professional, etc.”. So don’t be that guy. Here is how I always started out every meeting “ Hi, I am obviously a home inspector, and I know how much everyone loves to hear a home inspector talk about how awesome he is for 5 minutes”. After the slight chuckle, I would say “So I am going to spare you all of that. I am thorough and qualified, but I want to talk about something that may help you and what you do”.
After that, I would build a presentation around something for THEM, but was secretly about me. For instance, we used Home Binder for a while. We would set it up for each client for that office and insert their info so it looked like we were marketing for the agent. In reality, we were marketing ourselves – because the agent got email reminders from us from Home Binder. It got to be a lot of work though, but the new Home Binder does it for you automatically it is much easier to use in this way.
Another thing we did were the InterNACHI coloring books. Every agent ends up with the clients who have crazy kids inside of other people’s houses. So I would print the InterNACHI coloring book at Office Max in a nice cheap binder, buy a $1 box of crayons, slap my logo on both of them, and give them to the agents to keep the kids occupied on their listings. By far, that was my most popular office presentation material to date. They loved them. And when the parents finally bought their house, who do you think they ended up calling? Us, because our logo and contact info were already in their view during the whole house finding process.
So the point to take home with office meeting is that instead of marketing yourself, bring something useful to the agents, and then they will like you for that.
Trade Shows – These are another way to meet and get to know agents, but something that many home inspectors do not like. The reason they don’t like them is “I get no work out of them”. But that is a very short sighted view. Most things that build a business do not give you immediate results.
Trade shows make you known. They get you to “touch” that agent at least once. More importantly, you get to “touch” a lot at once.
When it comes to trade shows, doing the ones that count are important. Contact your local board(s) of realtors and try to sponsor a table with your cards and things like that on it. Always be sure to have something to draw the agents in – something simple like candy at the very least. As they approach, talk to every one of them. Do not spend too much time with any one agent though – there is always that one agent who doesn’t sell any houses that will talk your ear off for an hour.
Always have a giveaway. Nothing big, but nothing too small either. I always found that a wine gift set (bottle of wine with a fancy opener and glasses) was always effective. For $30 I would have a giveaway that attracted agents to leave their business cards in the giveaway entry box. So for that $30, I would sometimes have 200-300 business cards. I would take those cards and enter them into my email. I would email all of them a thank you note for visiting our table. Then say “while you didn’t wine our wine, we wanted to give you a $25 off coupon on your next home inspection with us”.
Then I would go and “friend” all of them on Facebook. Then I would tag as many as possible/reasonable in different pictures from the event. I would also be sure to “like” all of their pages and connect with them on linked in and endorse them for some skills. Again, caution is needed. Allow enough time in between all of this so that you do not look like a creepy stalker.
So in short, marketing to agents is all about just being there, having professional and polite interactions with them, and building a relationship.
And again, if you are an honest, hard working, and professional person, those are the types of agents you will attract. They are the ones who care about people, and who recommend you because you care about people too.
Now let’s talk about a subject that is closely related to this one – Networking