Building a business is always challenging, and one of the greatest challenges most business owners face is simply getting the word out about their products or services.
You might think marketing and other forms of promotion will be too costly, but there’s nothing further from the truth. In reality, many marketing tactics a local small business owner can deploy to bring in new clients can cost very little, or nothing at all.
With the right low-cost strategies, you can set yourself apart and attract more clients, and (hopefully) develop a reputation and a recognizable brand that can add a steady stream of client inspections to your calendar – without eating into your business’ budget.
These four approaches focus on in-person interactions, which rarely cost more than a smile, a handshake, and a few good words… and maybe a business card or flyer, to stay top-of-mind after you part ways with your prospect.
Collaborate with Real Estate Agents
Real estate agents are typically the single best professionals to partner with, simply because they’re in direct contact with folks who could use home inspection services every day on the job.
There’s no “best” way to develop close relationships with real estate agents, but as with any other source of referral business, you’ve got to justify their trust to continue earning more referrals. Being a top-quality professional every time is a baseline – what will you do, beyond being great at your job, to turn those agents into raving fans?
Low-Cost Ways to Get Clients By Collaborating With Agents
To get your foot in the door, you can create a well-designed brochure or other piece of collateral to promote your services, which you can hand out at real estate offices. Make sure your flyer focuses on what’s in it for them (the agents), instead of just talking about what you could do for anyone. You could offer discounts for referrals, either on the collateral or in direct conversations.
Local networking events are great places to meet hungry real estate agents, too. Any real estate-related event, networking-focused or not, should have a good representation of real estate agents to schmooze.
Potential Problems (and Solutions) Collaborating With Agents
Many agents may have existing relationships with other inspectors.
It’s not always possible to win a productive agent away from their existing inspector relationship if they happen to have one. But the only way to find out if they’re receptive to partnering up is to ask, so get out there and talk yourself up!
You can use your collateral to differentiate yourself by showcasing your expertise, turn-around time, or additional services like radon testing. Researching what competitors are offering can give you a way to target their weak spots, or at least help you better identify these differentiators.
Join Local Business Associations
Being part of a local business association can increase your visibility and credibility. And as the adage says, “people buy from who they know.” There are few better ways to become known in relevant entrepreneurial circles than by becoming part of their preferred groups.
Low-Cost Ways to Get Clients With Local Business Associations
There are tons of business groups in any reasonably sized city. You could join one focused on professional networking, or others related to home improvement or real estate investing. Anything involving home purchases or sales will likely have plenty of viable leads for your business, but you don’t have to restrict yourself solely to real estate-related groups.
You can join as many groups as you have the time, energy, and resources to capitalize on. You might find them on LinkedIn, Meetup, or by searching for “[my town] business associations” or “[my town] professional groups,” or something along those lines.
Real estate professionals tend to show up frequently to many local business and professional networking groups or associations, simply because their business model is pretty similar (while not being competitive) to yours.
Potential Problems (and Solutions) With Local Business Associations
There’s only so much time in a day to devote to networking activities, and many of the groups that might provide leads for you may also ask for membership fees or event-focused entry fees. You’ll need to evaluate the ROI of joining any group or attending any event by considering your potential exposure and client acquisition opportunities against the price of entry.
Give Speeches or Host Free Local Workshops
Hosting workshops on home safety, maintenance, or the importance of inspections can position you as an authority in the field. Putting such an event together is more likely to succeed if you’ve already established good relationships with other local entrepreneurs.
If you’re still trying to make a name for yourself in the local market, appearing as a speaker at relevant local events can be another low- or no-cost way to build credibility. To make the most of your speaking time, focus your message on the audience’s benefit, rather than just providing expert insights into the inspection industry.
Low-Cost Ways to Get Inspection Clients With Speeches or Workshops
Identify a topic of interest to a solid number of folks related to your work. Can home inspections save money? You know they can – now make the case to your audience.
Secure a local venue, such as community centers or libraries, or identify local events that might be in need of an expert speaker. Make sure the venue or event you’ve identified can be booked far enough in advance for you to properly promote it.
Promotion will be important, especially if it’s one you’ve put together. Talk about the event on social media, send messages to everyone you know who might be interested. Use other forums to get the word out if you can, like Meetup.
And make sure you have something to pass out to keep your name fresh in attendees’ minds! A business card is a low-cost option, but if you feel like splurging to be more distinctive, there are all kinds of knickknacks and handheld gizmos you can slap your company’s logo on with the help of an online print-on-demand shop.
Potential Problems (and Solutions) With Events
Low turnout is the kiss of death for any event. That’s why it’s so important to demonstrate its value to potential attendees, and to talk it up as often as you can.
Collaborate with local businesses to co-host or sponsor the event to tap into their audiences, or consider partnering with someone else who’s looking to host a similar sort of thing. The more folks you’ve got talking up your event – regardless of your participation in it – the better it’ll be.
Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to promote the event, too. Don’t book things just a week or two in advance! Most successful events take weeks or months to plan, and even smaller events benefit from a bit of advance forethought.
Many established inspectors promote referral programs to satisfied clients and friendly real estate agents, offering some sort of discount or kickback in exchange for being sent a ready-to-pay customer.
Low-Cost Ways to Get Inspection Clients With Referral Programs
It’s easy to create a simple referral program offering discounts or small rewards.
You can even automate much of the reward process through one of the various online services for managing referral programs. This may be more costly than it’s worth when taken all together with the cost you’ve already committed to paying for each referral.
However, these online services can make it extremely easy for anyone to refer clients to you by providing a dedicated referral link you can easily email or text to interested parties. Your time is valuable too, so if you believe you’ll save hours by using a referral program management service, it might be worth a few extra bucks a month.
Potential Problems (and Solutions) With Referral Programs
Tracking referrals can be challenging if you don’t have a digital system, or if your referrals just happen to forget to name-drop the person who clued them in to you. The cost of rewarding referrals can also eat into your profitability if you were already running pretty lean on “standard” inspection rates.
You might find an online referral management service that’ll help you calculate the ROI of various bonuses or payouts, which would make it easier to justify doing everything online profitably.
You should also be able to do some fairly simple back-of-the-napkin calculations with the numbers you already know about your business, to best figure out what sort of referral benefit would entice folks to send you lots of leads while also keeping a healthy profit margin for yourself.
Wrapping everything up
Growing your home inspection business shouldn’t require a massive marketing budget.
With persistence, creativity, and genuine engagement, you can effectively market your services and gain a competitive edge. Remember, while the quality of your service will always be a fantastic marketing tool, being able to confidently and convincingly talk to others about that quality is how you can win the trust and business of all the clients you can handle. Deliver exceptional value – and make sure the world knows about it – and the clients will come.
Will you be ready when these new clients come calling? With ISN, you can automate much of the typical back-and-forth communication leading up to an inspection, from scheduling to contract delivery – all with easily modified templates for a range of common email responses you can use to stand out without spending another second in your inbox.
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