Marketing Like a Kid

We were all young once (and if you ask my wife, I still haven’t grown up yet.) We can all remember the times when we were small and purposefully did things to test our boundaries, to see exactly how much we could get away with before we got into trouble. And if you were anything like my brother and me, you ended up getting punished (and getting a sore backside) more often than you care to remember. But you still did it. You still tested those boundaries.

kids fighting like an agent and a home inspector

As adults, we find ourselves still doing the same thing. When we’re driving, we go a little faster than the posted speed limit. On April 15th, we try to push the line when it comes to tax deductions. And we all take two free cookies, when the sign clearly says, “Take one only.”

It’s human nature: we all want to see how far we can push the issue. How far can we go before someone in authority pushes back.

This inborn need to push the limits of what’s acceptable is what helped our species thrive. Without testing the limits of our environment, we’d still be hunched over in our caves, scraping out a living on nuts and seeds, and watching reruns of I Love Lucy on our 19” black and white televisions.

But, sometimes pushing too far can backfire on us, especially when we’re running a small business. New business owners, like all of us, feel the irresistible draw of this inborn need to push farther. Unfortunately, pushing too far when we’re just getting started can often lead to our downfall. It’s important to note that, when we’re starting on our business journey, there are some boundaries we should adhere to, some guiderails we should stay behind, some rules we should follow. In order for us to stay in the game long enough to begin to successfully start challenging the rules, we need to make sure we take advantage of those same rules long enough to establish ourselves in our marketplace.

Staying in our lane can be amazingly frustrating for us, as new business owners, struggling to gain traction in our space. We look around at our competition, and they all seem to have everything figured out. From our viewpoint, they’re all making money, marketing everywhere, and seemingly doing it all on autopilot, never having to expend much energy in order to get those impressive results.

Obviously, we believe that if we simply follow their business model, we’ll reap the same benefits!

But we never stop to think about how those businesses got to be at the top of the heap. We don’t consider the time, investment and energy it took for them to get where they are. We don’t see the sweat, pain and suffering; we only see the success.

And that’s all we want: the same success.

I’m not interested in how they got there; I just want to be there beside them! Look out, because here I come!

Of course, we all want out businesses to be successful. We all want everything we touch in life to turn to gold. But for some reason, when it comes to our business, we forget the lessons that we’ve learned throughout our lives about how to achieve success. We didn’t just hop on our bike when we were young and start popping wheelies; we had to endure many scraped knees (and maybe a few broken bones) before we were able to ride. We didn’t walk right into kindergarten writing term papers and solving equations; we had to start out by learning the alphabet and practicing how to count to 10.

In everything we’ve done in life, we’ve had to start at the bottom and work our way up through repetitive lessons, practice and the school of hard knocks. Why should we think growing our business would be any different? We’ve all got to learn how to walk before we can think about running.

Recently a new inspector came to me asking my opinion about whether he should pay to join a service that promised him leads for home inspection jobs. He’d been struggling to gain traction in his new business and was hoping that this service would provide him a shortcut to quicker success.

Now I’m certain that he learned the same lessons that we’ve all learned throughout our lives: there are rarely any shortcuts to success. We’ve all been promised, cajoled and convinced by snake oil salesmen that all we need to be successful is the magic elixir that they’re selling.

Just send me your money and I’ll let you in on all the secrets to lifelong success!

We’re all too often blinded by our ambition. We find ourselves so desperate to join those businesses at the top of the heap that we ignore the facts that are right in front of us. We’ve got such a desire to be successful that we’re willing to give our money away to someone we know nothing about to gain the secrets to an industry that they (probably) know nothing about.

If we step back and think about this situation from a logical (and not emotional) standpoint, a few things start to jump out at us. First of all, if this business model is such a great idea, then why aren’t they using it themselves to become rich, instead of selling it to us? If they’ve got such a fool-proof plan to grow a business, then why are they even wasting time peddling it to other inspectors? Why aren’t they running the most successful home inspection business that anyone’s ever seen?

(I think we already know the answer to this first question.)

Secondly, do they have so many leads that they’re supplying different ones to every one of their home inspector clients in our area? Or, more likely, are they simply sending out the same list of potential home buyers to every inspector that pays them money? No matter what they’re promising, it’s inevitable that each of their clients is receiving some version of the same list.

And lastly, where are they finding this amazing list of people who’ve signed a purchase agreement and are sitting idly by, waiting for a home inspector to cold call them so they can schedule their home inspection? Do they have a crystal ball? Did they secretly hide a camera and microphone in every real estate office’s conference room to record meetings between home buyers and their agents? Maybe they’ve got an agreement with every Realtor in the country, so that when a purchase agreement is signed, they’re notified immediately that an inspection is needed.

More than likely, they’re simply paying some type of search engine for access to the personal information of anyone who’s searched for terms related to home inspections or home buying. Then, they’re turning around and selling that information to unsuspecting home inspectors who are desperate for clients.

So, in effect, we’re paying for a list of anyone in our area who’s Googled any terms related to houses. Hard to believe that we’re going to get a lot of business by randomly reaching out to someone who just happened to search the internet for something house related.

burning money while trying to market our home inspection company

If we stop for a moment, put aside our desperate desire for new clients, and think rationally about the situation, there are only two ways to get clients for our home inspection business. One way is through direct marketing and the other way is through “indirect” marketing.

When we market directly to real estate agents, we’re going right to the source of the majority of scheduled inspections. We don’t have to pay someone for a list of people ready for an inspection, because we already know where they are: waiting for their agents to tell them who to call. By marketing directly to the source of most of our business, we can eliminate all middlemen and focus our marketing dollars where they’ll produce the best results.

If direct marketing focuses our efforts directly to our target market, indirect marketing casts a wider net, promoting our business to an audience who’s likely to (eventually) need our services, but who’s not in immediate need of an inspection. This can be accomplished in many different ways, but the most effective methods available to today’s inspectors are through digital marketing.

Utilizing the power of the internet, through Google, Facebook, Instagram, and the like, we’re able to market our businesses like never before. I say “indirect” marketing because today’s digital marketplace allows us to focus our marketing efforts directly on the audience that’s most likely to need us. In the past, we’d have to place an ad in a newspaper delivered to thousands of readers to try to reach the few that needed our services (known as true indirect marketing.) Today’s digital media allows us to target our clients like never before (also known as targeted marketing.)

We can set up an account to show our ads to people searching for keywords like houses, home inspections, or real estate. We can cast our net to an audience as broadly or as narrowly focused as we’d like, with the only constraint being our advertising budget.

Digital marketing can be accomplished in-house relatively easily if we’re willing to spend the time and energy learning the ropes. We can also pay someone to handle our digital presence for us, enabling us to focus our energy on doing the inspections that help pay for our marketing efforts.

Regardless of the marketing method we chose, direct, digital, or some combination of the two, it’s never been easier for a new inspection business to make an impression in their market.

marketing our home inspection businesses on the internet

While it’s relatively easy for us to get our name out there, the biggest hurdle still remains: mustering up the courage to put ourselves out there. All the ideas in the world won’t help our business one bit if we never implement them. Get out there and (to quote Jerry Seinfeld) “just work.”

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

Dale Carnegie

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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector