Gromicko on Home Inspection Brochures

You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

The home inspection business is different than any other business in that you donít get to meet your client until after s/he hires you.  This means that the home inspection business is almost all marketing, and very little sales.  A key part of successful marketing is your home inspection brochure.  Since your client wonít get to meet you until after youíre hired, your home inspection brochure -- not you -- defines your image.  You might only get this one shot, so make it a good one.
 

Note: For help with sales, visit http://www.nachi.org/convert.htm

The Goal of a Brochure 

The main purpose of a home inspection brochure is to:
  • generate sales leads;
  • provide documentation to justify higher prices; and
  • sell additional services.
In short, a home inspection brochureís goal is to sell more inspection services to more people, more often, for more money.
 

Marketing to Professional Marketers 

Real estate agents are more influenced by marketing than the general public is.  Agents often canít tell a good inspector from a bad one.  Many agents donít even know what a joist is.  However, agents do recognize strong marketing because theyíre in the marketing business!  Because agents are so influenced by marketing, the quality of your home inspection brochure has to be much better than what would be required for other industries.  Visit http://www.nachi.org/success_tips.htm for more information.

Bad brochures un-sell. 

A quality brochure implies that you are a veteran inspector, and a cheap brochure implies that you are new to the business.  If you are a veteran inspector with a home-printed cheap brochure, you will look like a newbie (the home inspection industryís slang for novice).  By the same token, you can fool everyone into thinking you are an experienced veteran inspector by having a high-quality brochure.  A brochure can sell or un-sell...itís up to you.
 
Delivering the Message

If your brochure design is just a hodgepodge of material without a well-planned, focused message, donít even print it. What is the message you want to convey? Answer:

                                 I am the quality home inspector you want to hire.

Headlines

Your headlines are often all that are read.  If you can say the same thing using fewer wordsÖ do it.  The reader is scanning your brochure, so your headlines should read like that of news story.  Brochures are nothing more than garbage on the way to the trash can.  Your job is to get a message delivered on the way to the trash, so keep your headlines short.  If you must break (continue onto a second line) a long headline so it fits on a tri-fold brochure, try to find a natural break, with the second line being longer than the first, if possible, but breaking at the natural pause takes precedence.

  • Worst:                                         ABC Home Inspections is num- 
                                                                 ber one in Kentucky.

  • Better:                                           ABC Home Inspections is
                                                           number one in Kentucky

  • Best:                                                ABC Home Inspections
                                                         is number one in Kentucky

Another mistake is to put a period at the end of headlines.  Periods stop the reader from going further, which is why newspapers donít use them at the end of headlines. 

Nothing to Brag About

Avoid "minimum expectation" taglines or slogans.  For example:

ABC Inspections

  Thorough and friendly service is our motto.
 
It better be thorough and friendly! There is general overuse of the words thorough, professional and quality within our industry. Avoid such clichť adjectives. Here is a better slogan:
          
                                                                        ABC Inspections
                                Members of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
                                                            Inspected once, inspected right.ô

Inspected once, inspected rightô projects confidence and competence...and implies that if you don't hire ABC Inspections, you might have pay to have it done all over again.  InterNACHI members are free to use the trademarked slogan as they wish.  You might also consider using InterNACHI trademarked tagline Anyone else is just looking around.  Visit http://www.nachi.org/anyoneelse.htm


Words That Sell

The overall impression your brochure conveys is more important than the actual information.  There are certain words that sell inspection services:

  • You/your.  Talk directly to the reader.  Instead of writing, "Our clients receive the inspection report..." try writing "You will receive your report..."

  • I.  If you are a one-man operation, say so.  Customers seek personal service.  Instead of writing, "Our company's goal is... " or "We at ABC Inspections seek to..." try writing, "I will perform..."  Visit http://www.nachi.org/promise.htm.

  • Easy.  Home buyers don't want their lives more difficult at this time.  So, write: "The report will be easy to read and understand."

  • Certified.  Anyone can say whatever they want about themselves.  The word "certified" is the ultimate testimonial (more later).  Use this word.  

  • Benefit.  Most home inspection brochures do state the benefit of a home inspection.  However, they neglect to actually include the word "benefit."  So, perhaps write, "As an added benefit, ABC Inspections..."

Your Photo

A picture of you is a must.  Visit http://www.nachi.org/promise.htm. You are not selling a productÖ you are selling yourself.  You are the product.

You canít judge a book by its cover, but many readers do, so reconsider using your picture if you:

  • look very overweight. It implies that you canít inspect the crawlspace.
  • look very young. It implies that you are inexperienced.
  • look like a mass-murderer.
If you are male and have a ponytail, hide it in the photograph. You want the reader to identify with you.  Keep your picture as simple as possible. Consider using digital air-brushing to touch up your picture.  Donít wear a tie, except for maybe in "My Promise to You" (discussed later). This is too professional and implies that you are so dressed up that you wonít inspect the attic.   Donít wear a t-shirt. This is too unprofessional.  You are a step above, inspecting the work done by men in t-shirts.  Try to find a middle ground, perhaps a nice collared shirt with the top button undone.
 

Other Pictures

Make sure each picture earns its keep.  A picture of a house within a home inspection brochure is a waste of prime advertising space.  Each picture should help sell your service.  Perhaps the picture could be of you using a specialized meter.  Sell yourself.  You cannot bore people into hiring you.  See http://www.nachi.org/images.htm

Donít be silly.

Avoid cartoons. Cartoon graphics do not present a professional image.  No Sherlock Holmes characters looking at a house with a magnifying glass.  Would a professional engineer use cartoons?  And donít make up clever plays on words.  Strike the right tone.

Captions

Make sure every picture or illustration has a caption below it.  Each caption must be an ad within itself.  If you include a picture or illustration of your report, donít have the caption read: ďOur reporting system.Ē Instead have it read:

                                            ďDetailed yet easy-to-read report!Ē 

Each caption must promise the reader a benefit.  Also, a picture of a sample report is smart. Ads for cooking ingredients always show a picture of the finished dish.

Testimonials

Add a few quotes from satisfied agents and clients.  The use of short references works, but you should always get permission first.

ďABC Inspections did a great job, finding defects even the seller was unaware of. I highly recommend ABC Inspections.Ē
                                               
~~Mrs. Jane Smith 
                                                    Toledo, Ohio

Donít include anonymous quotesÖthey must include a full name and city.  Only credible testimonials work.

Donít preach to the choir. 

Including Reasons to Have a Home Inspection is a waste of prime advertising space.  Anyone reading a home inspection brochure is past the stage where they need to be sold on having an inspection. Donít waste your time and advertising budget on helping the entire home inspection industry.   Instead of telling the reader why they should want a home inspection in general, tell them why they should want your home inspection service.

Make them want YOU. 

Make your list of qualifications as long as possible.  Your list of qualifications can be broadened to include information such as your reporting system and schedule availability.  Each qualification you have can be broken up and expanded.  For instance, instead of stating merely that you are a member of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, state something like this:

My Qualifications:

  • I am a member in good standing of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).
  • I have passed InterNACHIís Online Inspector Examination.
  • I have completed InterNACHIís Code of Ethics Obstacle course.
  • I have taken InterNACHIís Standards of Practice Quiz.
  • I abide by InterNACHIís Code of Ethics.
  • I follow InterNACHIís Standards of Practice.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Safe Practices for the Home Inspector course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's 25 Standards Every Inspector Should Know course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Residential Plumbing Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Residential Electrical Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Roofing Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's HVAC Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Exterior Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Attic, Insulation, Ventilation and Interior Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Deck Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Moisture Intrusion Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Green Building course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Wood-Destroying Organism Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Mold Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Inspecting Foundation Walls and Piers course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Log Home Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Radon Measurement Service Provider course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Commercial Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's Septic System Inspection course.
  • I have completed InterNACHI's How to Perform Energy Audits course.
  • I fulfill 24 hours of Continuing Education every year.
  • I own and use high-tech equipment, such as a gas leak detector and Infrared Camera.
  • I am available Saturdays.
  • I generate easy-to-read inspection reports.

Deliver the message: I am the quality home inspector you want to hire.

Sub-Contractor Qualifications

If you use sub-contractors to perform any portion of your inspections, include their qualifications.  For instance:  "Wood-infestation inspection performed by licensed pest control inspector #12345"
 
Act like youíve been in the end zone before. 

Avoid giving the impression that you are new to the businessÖeven if you are. Donít put anything in your brochure that would reveal your inexperience. Kiss-of-death terms include: New to the business, Affiliate, Just-licensed, Grand opening, Associate, Recent graduate, Introductory offer, and the mother of all kiss-of-death terms:  Candidate.


Full is cool.
 

Avoid using the header: What our basic inspection covers. It sounds like an insurance disclaimer. Instead, use: Our full inspections include...

If the list of what your full inspections include is long enough, and few people will read it completely, so make it really long!  Rather than listing seven or eight sections of what your inspections include, such as Roof, Foundation, etc., make a longer list. The reader will see the list in entirety without actually reading it word for word.  A long list makes it appear that you inspect more.  Here is a sample list:

Our Full Inspections include:

  • roof, vents, flashing and trim;
  • gutters and downspouts;
  • skylight, chimney, and other roof penetrations;
  • decks, stoops, porches, walkways and railings;
  • eaves, soffit and fascia;
  • grading and drainage;
  • basement, foundation and crawlspace;
  • water penetration and foundation movement;
  • heating system;
  • cooling system;
  • main water shut-off valves;
  • water heating system;
  • interior plumbing fixtures and faucets;
  • drainage sump pump with accessible float;
  • electrical service line and meter box;
  • main disconnect and service amperage;
  • electrical panels, breakers and fuses;
  • grounding and bonding;
  • GFCIs and AFCIs;
  • fireplace damper door and hearth;
  • insulation and ventilation;
  • garage doors, safety sensors and openers;
  • and much more!

Review our Standards of Practice at www.nachi.org/sop.htm for complete details.

The last line is an important one for legal reasons, so donít leave it out.
 

Breathing Room

White space is a tool to use sparingly.  Make related item lists compact.  Then use white/blank space around them to clarify related items.  Be consistent with the spacing and margins throughout the brochure, but donít overdo it.  Give your readers enough information to hire you.  Direct-mail advertisers use long body copy because it works (and they know it).  Your Qualifications list and your Inspected Items list can literally run right off the bottom of the brochure, as if you didnít have enough room to list them all.

Warranties
My favorite warranty:

   If you are not completely satisfied at the end of the inspection, you donít have to pay me.

Insurance

Do tout E&O insurance if you carry it.  E&O insurance is expensive; so try to offset this expense by exploiting it for marketing purposes.  If you carry E&O insurance, let everyone know.

My Promise

The following is something you could add to the inside of your brochure (preferably on the right-hand side).  It is a promise.  Include a head shot of yourself looking straight into the camera, positioned above the promise.  Also, add your signature on a slight angle below it. Few will actually read the promise word for word, but the message will be conveyed nonetheless.

My Promise to You

Choosing the right home inspector can be difficult.  Unlike most professionals, you probably will not get to meet me until after you hire me. Furthermore, different inspectors have varying qualifications, equipment, experience, reporting methods, and, yes, different pricing. One thing for sure is that a home inspection requires work -- a lot of work.  Ultimately, a thorough inspection depends heavily on the individual inspectorís own effort.  If you honor me by permitting me to inspect your new home, I guarantee that I will give you my very best effort.  This I promise you.

John Smith
ABC Inspections

To see My Promise in use, visit http://www.nachi.org/promise.htm

Certifications

Use logos demonstrating third-party certification or qualification if youíve earned them. They should go on the back of your brochure.

Certified.  The word Certified creates the most positive response from the general public, which is why you should write out the words Member of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, not just the acronym InterNACHI. Various InterNACHI logos are available for member-use at http://www.nachi.org/logos.htm

Licensed.  The word Licensed, along with your state license number (Texas for example: TREC# 12345), should be included, and its inclusion may, in fact, be required in some states.  However, consumers give you little credit for being licensed, as they know licensing is a bare minimum standard and they assume that you are operating legally, even in states without licensing.

Society.  Anything with the word Society in it should be avoided, as studies have shown that the general public equates a society with a social club, not a professional trade organization.

Training Institute.  Unfortunately, the schools or training institutes you attended can work against you a bit.  Schooling is sometimes associated with being a novice.  Use only their logo (if permitted).  Don't write out "graduated from..."  Your Qualifications List (discussed above) is the better location for detailing your educational background. 
 
Move In Certified logo.  Place this logo on the back of your brochure.  http://www.moveincertified.com  
 
Infrared Certified logo.  Use this logo on your IR page if you are Infrared Certified.  http://www.nachi.org/ir.htm
 
First-Time Home Buyer Friendly seal.  Use this seal to attract first-time home buyers and their agents.  http://www.nachi.org/first-time.htm 
 
IAC2 logo.  Use these logos if you are a member of IAC2.  http://www.iac2.org/logo.php  Membership in IAC2 is free.
Youíre not fooling anyone. 

Donít include an attached discount coupon as part of your brochure.  Such built-in coupons are a silly way of simply charging less, and everyone knows it.  Something of value printed directly within every brochureÖis worthless.  Donít make your client cut out and present a $20 coupon when they are buying a several- hundred-thousand-dollar house.  You should also visit http://www.nachi.org/convert.htm.
Contact Information

Your contact information should be one local phone number and one professional email address. Visit http://www.nachi.org/membersemail.htm for a free professional email address from InterNACHI.  Avoid toll- free numbers.  Customers will nearly always choose the local inspector with the local area code.  Customers want to talk to the actual inspector.  A toll-free number implies an impersonal, non-local, corporation who will send someone out.  A few very cheap customers dial toll-free numbers first to save a few pennies when buying a home.  Let your competitors have those customers.  Avoid filler words like Call Today!  Every unnecessary thing you include diminishes the important points you are trying to convey.  And put your contact information at the bottom of your brochure.  Readers will first look for the phone number near the bottom.

Company Name Placement

Put your company name up at the top of the front of the brochure, not the bottom.  Brochure display holders often hide company names when they are placed on the bottom.  Many inspectors do business under their personal names.  If you are going to incorporate, or if you are having trouble thinking of a company name, visit http://www.nachi.org/namesearch.htm.

Nothing says Quality louder...

If your pricing is much higher than your competitors, flaunt it. High pricing is the sure-fire way to convince a customer that you are one of the best. Americans believe that you get what you pay for.  If your brochure is making the contention that you are the best home inspector in town, your pricing has to support this contention.  Charging too little contradicts this claim.  Read http://www.nachi.org/convert.htm.

Huh? 

Avoid complicated or ambiguous pricing formulas. Example: ďBase price + $1 for every $1,000 in home price over $250,000, additional fees and Saturday/mileage surcharge applies, call for quote.Ē Instead, keep your price structure straightforward and respectably high.

Help them read.

People are accustomed to reading in lower case.  Using all capital letters is a mistake in that it makes it harder for the reader to recognize the words. All caps tend to be read letter-by-letter.  Look how difficult it is to read the all-caps version of InterNACHIís slogan: 

                                                     INSPECTED ONCE, INSPECTED RIGHT, 

                                       as opposed to:

                                                 Inspected once, inspected right.

When in doubt, avoid ALL CAPS.
 

Fonts

Avoid using many different fonts.  It diminishes the continuity of your brochure.  Stick to two fonts, one for headlines and one for the body text.  "Impact" fonts are best reserved for headings.  Impacts command attention, and they help the reader determine what is important.  Choose a serif font for the body text.  Serifs exist for a purpose:  they help the readerís eye pick up the shape of the letter.  Bolding or italicizing do not necessarily count as separate fonts.  However, only use them to add emphasis and clarity.  And never use comic fontsÖyou are a professional, not an entertainer.

Spelling

Check your spelling and grammar.  By the way, piece of mind is spelled peace of mind, and your automatic spellchecker wonít catch that one!

Size matters.

Size your brochure to fit in a #10 envelope.  You will want to be able to mail it and encourage others to mail it, so make sure it fits in a standard business envelope.  Besides, most brochure display holders are this size.

Paper 

Use heavy cardstock.  Brochures printed on your home printer using 20-lb. paper look cheap and flop over in a display holder.  Cardstock is not expensive.  Gloss paper with bold colors creates an upscale image.  Plain copier paper creates a poor image.

Ink 

Avoid light-colored ink. It's simply hard to read.  When a real estate agent learns a buyerís offer has been accepted, the buyer is usually at work.  Under time constraints, an agent will often copy several home inspection brochures and fax them to his client so that the client can schedule the home inspection.  Light- colored ink is difficult to copy and fax.  If your brochure has light-colored ink, try test-copying and faxing it to yourself to make sure it comes through.  Also, avoid reverse copy (white text on a dark color).

Ownership

If you are having your brochures printed professionally, make sure that, upon final payment, all film, color separations, art work, etc., become your property.  This leaves you free to switch printing companies and keeps you from becoming a captive customer.

Use it or lose it.

A home inspection brochure should be:

  • provided to real estate agents to give to their clients;
  • direct-mailed to home sellers (who are likely also local buyers);
  • left behind after each home inspection;
  • displayed in banks; and
  • delivered to attorneys.

If you are planning on printing only 1,000 copies of your brochure, you are planning to fail.

More Than One Weapon 

Consider having a separate brochure for every target audience. Target specific brochures to:

  • home buyers, who are your most frequent customers.   Their brochure should emphasize your: 
           ○  thoroughness; 
           ○  the ease of understanding your report; and 
           ○  ancillary services you offer.

  • real estate agents, who are less frequent customers.  Their brochure should emphasize your:
           ○  schedule availability;
           ○  risk-reduction (such as E&O insurance or your hold-harmless clause); and
           ○  the speed at which you generate the report.

  • home sellers, who are your least frequent clients.  Their brochure should emphasize your: 
           ○  price; 
           ○  the marketing advantage of a sellerís inspection; and  
           ○  disclosure liability reduction.

Remember, your brochure is not likely to be read by the general public. Rather, it is intended for a targeted clientele.  Also, if you do create more than one version of your brochure, keep them all somewhat consistent-looking.

So sad... 

A home inspection brochure, like all marketing, is a catalyst or a magnifier. If you offer a poor service, marketing will lead you to your demise quicker.  If you do good work, marketing will magnify it.  Your brochure is only second to YOU as the key ingredient in achieving success.  If you are a good home inspector, you have an ethical duty to market so that more of your fellow citizens can learn about and benefit from your good work.  It is so sad to see a good home inspector with a bad brochure.
 
Nick Gromicko
Founder
International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
www.nachi.org
 
 
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http://www.nachi.org/promise.htm
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