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hanging on


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Catherine,

I know this may sound menial, but it does work for me. First off, there are no tough times, only changes in opportunities. I truly believe marketing and sales is directly related to how you see life. Don't think about cutting prices or trimming services, think about how you can take advantage of the current market. Push Seller inspections, work with staging companies, use the free time to build relationships with potential clients or sources of business. You should also use the spare time you have now as an opportunity to expand education or services. How many times did you want to go to that "Decks for Dummies" class or the like but couldn't because you were booked all the time. As your riding out this market, you are getting yourself better prepared for the next "Good Times" market.

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It's been winter mode all year long with only two months where I had weeks that I booked out.

They say the west here is in a lot better shape then anywhere else in the country, but if this is better, God help us.

The one thing I have learned this time is how important non-realtor referrals are. This year, my 10th, has been the first year where I have had many weeks where non-realtor referrals exceeded realtor referrals.

Chris, Oregon

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Hi,

I haven't marketed, or even attempted to market to a realtor for many years. I made a conscious decision, about 9 - 10 months into this gig that I would no longer do that and that I'd make it on customer referrals or I'd die on the vine and do something else. Well, now, for me it's been consistently steady through the spring, summer, and into the fall. In the good times, the numbers I do usually earn me some kind of a remark from the realtor toadies that goes something like, "Jeez, Mike I could never make a living if I only did that many inspections a year. Well, now the chickens have come home to roost; when you put your eggs in only one basket, you're in deep kimchi if that basket gets knocked off the table.

I'd suggest doing something else to tide you over. Then, once sales start to pick up again, begin doing very careful, detailed, and thorough inspections and write a very carefully worded and complete report. Ignore the 'zoids when they protest, concentrate on the client only, and just keep plugging along and ignore the folks that tell you you're taking too long with the client, that you don't need to exceed the standard of practice, etc.. Then, the next time the realtor referral well dries up, you'll find yourself working when others around you are complaining about how slow it is.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Market Your buisness. Leave cards everywhere. If you go to the stop and rob for gas and milk, leave a card on the counter. If you go to a bar or out to eat or the super center or anywhere you normally travel to, leave a card. Yup, they'er gonna get tossed out most of the time but, not before someone reads it. Print flyers and put them anywhere you can get away with it. You're in this game because you believe in it and yourself right? Put on one of the other hats and push yourself.

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Everyone's got their idea of how to make the gig work.

I like Mike's idea. Every guy I know that runs it that way is doing fine.

It isn't a bag race. It's an endurance marathon.

Eat well. Focus on health. Drink lots of good water. Greens and high nutrition/low density foods. I'm not kidding.

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I just finished my first year of business as a home inspector. 25 jobs in one year. Woohoooo and raise the roof huh? I am learning and getting more comfortable.

It started to pick up a few months ago and now seems to have gone off the cliff. I'm glad I still have my "day job". I'm gonna hang in there. Nowhere to go but up.

BTW, this forum and its members have been a tremendous help and support to me. Thanks again everyone.

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Originally posted by kurt

Everyone's got their idea of how to make the gig work.

I like Mike's idea. Every guy I know that runs it that way is doing fine.

It isn't a bag race. It's an endurance marathon.

Eat well. Focus on health. Drink lots of good water. Greens and high nutrition/low density foods. I'm not kidding.

Don't forget to keep your tire pressure up and get a tune up to solve the energy crisis.

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Stale popcorn and water. Get the popcorn from the local cinema dumpster. The water swells the popcorn and the kids stop crying because they think they are full.

I have an old fedora that works well at the Mall. A couple of versus of "Three Irishmen Sitting in a Boat" and the net is well over $8.00!

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Hi,

Something I should have suggested yesterday but forgot; the next time you do a house for a client, ask the client whether he or she knows what Angie's List is. If he says that he does and, in fact, uses it, tell the client that you believe in putting your advertising dollars where they'll do the most good and offer to rebate to the client $25 if the client will post a review of your work and a recommendation to use your company on Angie's List - provided, that is, that the client turns out to be happy with the inspection and report.

It'll net you more for $25 than any other kind of advertising there is.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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It is all about word of mouth and a little diversification. As an inspector you can do more than just "Home Inspections". Just this week I have billed over $1,300 just in draw or progress inspections. That amounts to, three commercial and two residential inspections. I also had one regular home inspection(6,400 sf home with a radon test) and an EIFS inspection (front & rear of the home). So on what looked like a very slow week ended up pretty good! I actually billed right at $2,430! Not a bad week at all.

Next week I already have one commercial draw, one relocation home inspection, a roof/flashing inspection and a normal home inspection. This already amounts to about $1,250. I'm sure I will get some calls on Monday, they always call after looking at homes over the weekend.

The roof inspection came from a local insurance agent as did the EIFS inspection! Not one of the above jobs came from a real estate agent.[:-party]

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As I've mentioned before: HIs could benefit by mastering the skillset of a PR person. Possibilities include:

Create newsletters with good content, distribute them to RE agents/offices. Don't sell, inform. (When I did this, I tripled my business. Got my biz off the ground.)

Don't buy a canned newsletter. They're awful.

Buy a long-running ad in a local publication that serves the demographic you want to serve, which presumably is affluent and intelligent people who want to live in the good part of town.

If you're an expert, send your CV to lawyers who specialize in building-defects cases.

Get on local radio and TV. Try to get a housey column in a local paper. (Warning: HI columns are usually boring and the writers are often ill-informed and fulla folklore. If writing -- and fact-checking -- ain't your thing, don't waste your time.)

To make all this work, be sure you're right about all the housey things, and be sure you can communicate effectively, in writing and in person.

Be better than everybody else, and charge more than everybody else. In my humble experience, there are more people looking for the best than there are people looking for the cheapest.

WJ

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you gotta hear this.

Today at my local stop and rob, I ran into a guy I have not seen in year. After all of the how are ya where you been stuff. I gave him some cards. He told me that one of his employees needed an inspection ASAP. An hour and a half later he was booked.

Later, I stopped to pay my cable bill. I laid a card down with my check. The girl read the card and told me that one of the other employees is looking for a home and will need an inspector.

ya never know!

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Originally posted by kurt

....... Eat well. Focus on health. Drink lots of good water. Greens and high nutrition/low density foods. I'm not kidding.

Yeah, there's nothing healthier than green vegetables.

I had a bumper crop of jalapeño peppers this year. Grilled, they make for a particularly tasty 'healthy' snack. Since they burn rather easily, I protect them by stuffing them with sausage and cream cheese, then wrap them in bacon.

Now that's healthy snackin'!

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Originally posted by hausdok

Hi,

Something I should have suggested yesterday but forgot; the next time you do a house for a client, ask the client whether he or she knows what Angie's List is. If he says that he does and, in fact, uses it, tell the client that you believe in putting your advertising dollars where they'll do the most good and offer to rebate to the client $25 if the client will post a review of your work and a recommendation to use your company on Angie's List - provided, that is, that the client turns out to be happy with the inspection and report.

It'll net you more for $25 than any other kind of advertising there is.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Pay a client $25 to write a favorable review? That's not right. That's gaming the system. It could also backfire on you.

Being the ornery curmudgeon that I am, if a service provider offered me such a "deal", I'd write a review all right, but I wouldn't take the $25. My review would detail how that provider in essence tried to bribe me to write favorable review.

I think Angie's list is a great avenue for gaining new business. Why not be above board and simply ask the buyer to write a review, with no quid pro quo?

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Hi Joe,

That works too...better. But I don't see anything wrong with offering incentives and I don't consider it a bribe. Remember, I said that the client should only do it if he/she is happy with the service.

A "bribe" is where you offer money to someone to do something that they normally wouldn't otherwise be inclined to do. An example of a bribe would be offering a cop money to not write you a ticket; offering the guy who'd going to tow your car away money to unhook your car and ignore the fact that you were parked illegally and that it's his job to tow the car; offering money to someone to lie about your service; offering a home inspection board member money to form legislation the way that you want it, etc.

All sorts of companies offer incentives to clients for referrals. As an example, Vonage offers two free months of service to any existing customer who is happy with their service and refers a new customer to them; Comcast does something similar; some apartment complexes offer a month's free rent to any tenant that refers a new tenant to them, every self storage place I pass in my daily travels offers a free month's storage to customers that refer new clients to them, etc..

Sit back and think about it for a minute and I bet that you can think of a couple of dozen referral incentives that you've seen over the years - you might have even participated in one or two at some time or other.

The poster wanted suggestions; I see providing customers an incentive as being a whole lot more ethical than looking past problems and showering gifts on realtors and becoming their toadies in order to get their referral business.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Mike, offering an incentive for a referral and offering an incentive to write a favorable review on Angie's List are two entirely different things. The first one is a private offer between you and the buyer. The latter involves a third party - Angie's List. On the AL home page is a section titled Why use Angie's List? The first reason given is Unbiased ratings and reviews. By paying someone for writing a favorable review you ARE introducing a bias. The next reason is Companies don't pay to be on Angie's List. No matter how it's spun, you ARE paying to be on AL.

Let's assume that every person who takes your incentive and writes a favorable review is 100% truthful in what they write. I think we can also assume that you're going to get more people writing favorable reviews than you would otherwise have. Isn't that going to skew the results? Wouldn't that be unfair to a consumer looking for a home inspector, because he would have no way of knowing that your number of favorable reviews has been artificially inflated above your competitors who don't pay for reviews?

"A "bribe" is where you offer money to someone to do something that they normally wouldn't otherwise be inclined to do." Isn't that exactly intended purpose of your "incentive"? If they are already inclined to write a favorable review, why offer them cash to do it? Wouldn't a simple request be a sufficient prod?

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a strange bird. While I agree that there's nothing unethical about offering referral fees and realize that they are common because they work, I personally find them distasteful. I've never taken advantage of one, and probably never will. I see it as prostituting myself. If I give a recommendation to a friend or relative, it's because I think it's in their best interest, not because I'm getting a kickback.

I was kind of dismayed when ASHI started offering a referral fee a while back. I thought it was a pretty tawdry thing for a professional society to do.

Like I said, I'm a strange bird.

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

Mike, offering an incentive for a referral and offering an incentive to write a favorable review on Angie's List are two entirely different things.

It's offering an incentive for a referral any way you look at it and I just don't see it as being illegal or unethical. It would be unethical if one offered someone money to write a false review about one's services.

I didn't know much about Angie's List other than the fact that I know folks are terrified of being criticized on it, so I just checked it out. I saw that a consumer must pay $40 to be a "member" but the companies that they praise or skewer on there don't pay a cent.

So, I guess for my evil suggestion to work, one would need to offer the client a $40 discount to make it worth the client's time and effort, then the client would get a full year of being able to review reviews on all sorts of other company's services as well.

Here's my view of unethical:

Bill: Hey Lou, do you know what Angie's list is?

Lou: Sure, but I'm not a member. Why?

Bill: Well, times are tough right now. I could sure use some help getting the word about by company. Do you think you could write a favorable review about my company on there? I'll pay for your $40 membership fee plus another $25 to do so.

Lou: Well sh**, Bill, you've never even done a home inspection for me; I have no idea how good a job you do.

Bill: Ah, nobody'll know the difference; do it for me 'ol Buddy.

Lou: OK, what the hell, at least I'll get a free lunch out of it.

Here's my view of ethical:

Lou: Bill, that was a great inspection. I'm really happy and I'm going to tell everyone I know about your company.

Bill: Thanks Lou, I really appreciate it, but you know what would really help me out?

Lou: What's that?

Bill: If you could spread the word about my company to an even larger audience by telling folks on Angie's List about me. Do you know what Angie's List is?

Lou: Yeah I do, but I'm not a member.

Bill: Well, tell you what, if you're comfortable with it, I'll discount you $40 off your fee so you can sign up on Angie's List so that a lot more folks will hear what you have to say about my company. It'll be a win-win situation for both of us; with that $40 discount, you can get a year's membership on Angie's list, and the $40 less that I charge for your inspection - which is one-tenth of what I'd pay for a small one-time quarter-column ad in my neighborhood paper - gets me an endorsement from a happy customer on a well-known referral list where people who are actually out there trying to find a good inspector will learn about me from a happy customer. Waddaya say?

Lou: Well, would I have to read from a script or say anything specific?

Bill: Nope, just tell folks on that list whatever you as a happy customer were going to tell your friends, relatives, or neighbors about my company before I suggested this. I'm not asking you to lie or exaggerate, I'm just trying to get a little more exposure for my company.

(At this point the response might be either..)

Lou: Sure, that's easy. You did a great job, I'll be happy to help you out.

Bill: Than I guess you'd better void this check and cut me another one for $40 less.

(or..)

Lou: You know what, I'll pass. I'll be happy to spread the word about you, but I really don't feel comfortable doing that Angie's List thing.

Bill: No problem, like I said, I really appreciate your business and your spreading the word about my little company. I'll see you on the next one!

Saw Sally Fields doing a paid commercial for Boniva on TV the other day. I wonder if she and other paid spokespersons feel like they are prostitutes?

It seems to me like the client would be getting something for free along with the inspection - well, not really free, because the client would be endorsing the company in exchange for the discount that's paying for the client's membership on the list - but it's kind of like the restaurant gift certificates some guys give out to every home inspection company and advertise on their websites - and I can't really see where it's much different than tossing in a 90-day home warranty along with an inspection, except that it's done with the assumption that the client will tell others the truth about your company. That's prostituting?

The poster asked for suggestions on how to hang on during these tough times. I see nothing wrong with offering suggestions as long as they aren't suggestions to do illegal or unethical things to gain business. Spending $40 to help a very happy customer, who fully intends to spread the word about your company, to spread it to an even broader audiance, versus blowing $400 on a one-time ad that will buried in the back of a neighborhood rag, just makes a whole lot more sense to me.

But then again, I'm a strange bird.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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After my morning inspection yesterday I drove out to a house (about 30 miles one way) to conduct a 4-point inspection. The client had called me several days ago and we talked about the inspection and that just because I provided the inspection it won't guarantee an insurance policy.

I get there and I can tell from the truck the roof is at least 20 years old (3-tab) and should have been replaced several years ago. He proceeds to tell me he had an electrician and plumber tell him everything was ok and all he needed was for me to say the roof had another 5 years of life.

I told him I couldn't do that because that roof needs to be replaced. He said it doesn't matter that no one will know because its just for insurance. I told him that I would know and that's not how I operate.

He decides he doesn't want the inspection and that he hates that I drove out there for nothing. I told him that hated it as well because it took up about an hour of my time and my Excursion ain't no hybrid. He hands me $20.00 for gas so I take it and start to leave resisting the urge to snatch a knot in his head, as my Dad would say.

He ask me to wait as he calls his insurance guy. Insurance guy says go ahead and do the inspection but stretch the life on the roof as much as possible.

I do the inspection, he writes me a check, I give him his $20 back, and I sent the report that says the roof needs to be replaced.

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