The EASY way to generate agent referrals
If you’re just starting out as a home inspector, or you have an established inspection business that you’re looking to expand, you’ve probably been told that marketing to Realtors/Brokers is a good way to grow your business.
Well it is, but only if you go about it the right way. Do it the wrong way, and you’ll find you’ve spent thousands of dollars and countless hours with nothing to show for it.
This article is designed to show you how to grow your business as a home inspector by creating lasting relationships with top agents. It’s loosely based on a Tech Talk I gave at Inspection World New Orleans 2020 titled “HOW TO TARGET, ACQUIRE AND RETAIN TOP REFERRING AGENTS”.
Before I co-founded Repair Pricer and started building our home inspection cost calculator, I was an agent and broker in Texas. We had offices in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio with up to 85 full-time agents working across the state, and as the partner in charge of marketing I was INUNDATED with cold-calls and sales requests from all sorts of companies – contractors, marketing agencies, sign companies, janitorial services, (strangely a LOT of vending machine companies?), AND also home inspectors.
It got so bad that I actually switched my phone to “do not disturb mode” 24/7. Basically, if you weren’t in my phone book, you weren’t getting through to me. The main problem wasn’t that we didn’t need any of these services, we often did, it’s just that there was no value to the messages I received.
Normally they were boilerplate, non-personalized mass emails, voicemail drops and even flyer drops at my office that were aimed at every agent in the city, so I never felt compelled to respond.
Because it was so clear it was just mass marketing, and I simply didn’t have time to talk to some random salesperson for three hours.
So how do you break through the noise and actually get home inspection referrals, and more importantly, is it worth it?
Firstly, for those of you who may be skeptical about getting your business (or part of your business) from agents, let me explain why this is actually a good approach:
Agent referrals are (almost) FREE
Agents are trained to give/receive referrals already
If you don’t take referrals your competitors will
Even if you do your own marketing most buyers STILL ask their agent before deciding
In some markets the agent calls the shots
Now that I’m sure you’re 100% convinced that this is a strategy you want to take, let’s look at HOW you actually get Realtor referrals for home inspections.
1. STOP MASS MARKETING
From a guy with an advertising degree, this is going to sound weird. But it’s important. You have to understand that you’re not marketing a product for everyone, you have a VERY select target audience.
Sure there are probably thousands of agents in your market, but how many actually sell homes? How many sell homes every month? Every week? It’ll probably take you the same amount of time to win the top selling team as it will to sell to a part-time agent who closes three deals a year.
Plus, it’s way more expensive to do mass marketing than targeted sales. I’m going to end this with the caveat that you absolutely should be spending marketing dollars on advertising to consumers through SEO and PPC, and if you’re not concentrating on brand reputation on Yelp and Google Maps you’re crazy.
But that’s where your marketing spend should go – on consumers, not agents.
2. IDENTIFY A FARM
No, I don’t mean drive around looking for cows and pigs and fields of corn blowing in the wind. I’m talking about a marketing “farm” – a phrase agents are very, very familiar with.
It’s a geographic area that agents tend to focus their marketing efforts on. Be it a neighborhood, a county, or in metro areas even a specific large condo building. Your object here is to identify areas that you would LIKE to do inspections in.
If you’re focusing on volume, look up the area with the highest sales turnover. If you’re focusing on high end homes, go where the money is. The idea is to have a plan and stick to it.
(TIP – Title companies can help you here as they have info on every single home sale in every market).
3. IDENTIFY THE TOP 5 AGENTS IN THAT FARM
This is actually a lot easier and simpler than it sounds. For one, you probably see a specific agent’s signs all over the place (depending on how big your farm is). And the title company can help you out here again – they can tell you which agents/brokers sell the most homes in which areas.
If you can’t get help from a title company, go to Zillow.com and look up homes for sale (and recent sales) in that area or find the agents with the most reviews using THIS LINK.
And focus on the AGENT, not the brokerage. Find out who is actually selling, not the name of the company they work for.
See one agent’s name over and over again? That’s your target! Your concept here is to be in front of those agents time and time again, whether they are on the buyer side or the listing side. It doesn’t matter! They just need to be familiar with you.
What we’re also doing here is filtering out the bad agents. You know, the ones that want the cheapest inspector? That follow you around at the inspection telling their client “don’t worry about that!”.
The ones that HAVE to close the deal no matter what. The ones you never, ever want to send you business. Because they don’t have a lot of business, because these types of agents don’t do well or last long.
So we want to ignore them, and focus on the busy, high-performing agents who need the help of a reliable, professional home inspector.
4. WRITE DOWN YOUR USP (UNIQUE SELLING POINT)
What is it that makes you unique? Why would a customer or agent choose YOU over another inspector? Why should this agent trust you with their referrals?
Don’t do this by yourself. Ask a trusted friend or partner to help you answer this question – it may even be something about you that you’ve never thought about. Look at your background, past careers, experience and most importantly TOOLS that you have at your disposal. Whether that is a physical tool like sewer scope, radon detection, infrared etc. or something like Repair Pricer reports (we turn home inspection reports into home repair estimates) it doesn’t matter.
If it makes you more attractive to the consumer and the agent, then that is your USP. Bonus points if it makes the agents life easier and/or saves them time and money.
5. RESEARCH YOUR COMPETITORS
You need to know your market, who your competitors are, what they are offering and what their pricing is. Sometimes this will help you with step 4 above, but we put this as Step 5 because it’s important to base your USP on yourself and your company, not your competitors.
Make sense? You need to know how to offer a rebuttal on anything that comes up in step 5.
So read on to find out why this becomes important.
6. INTRODUCE YOURSELF
Remember, this is sales, not marketing. You need to be personal, and also have a reason for calling. And this is definitely best done over the phone, rather than email or text.
If you’re not comfortable with it, either figure out a way to get over that fear, or hire someone whose sole purpose is to get out there and do sales for you. And when I say figure out a reason for calling, the more specific you can be the better.
So get prepared before you call that first big prospect agent or team, and prep yourself for the conversation.
Here are some examples below:
“Hi Tim, this is Tom with ABC Inspections. I noticed that you just closed on 123 Main Street and just wanted to say firstly, congratulations, and secondly let you know that we do a lot of inspections in Shady Oaks, so if you’re ever in a bind and need an inspector, we’re here for you.”
Then stop talking. What you’ll normally hear is something like “Oh thanks Tom, yeah we normally use Sandy with 123 Inspections but I appreciate the call.”
Not a problem. Now is your chance to use what you learned in Step 5, and also prove your knowledge.
“Got it. I’ve heard great things about 123 Inspections, but I do know they haven’t added “radon/WDI/drone/roof/repair pricer etc. to their services yet” (this is your USP) so if you or your clients ever need any of those extras, just know we’re available. Anyhow, don’t want to take up too much of your time so I’ll shoot you a quick email to email@example.com with my info in case you need it. And congrats again on the closing!”
That’s it. If they want to chat, obviously stay on the phone. But understand that most SUCCESSFUL agents are busy and want to keep things short and sweet.
7. FOLLOW UP
There’s a mantra in sales that you should always “under promise and over deliver”.
That’s where the follow up comes in.
You promised you would email them, but you didn’t say what you would send. Here’s what I recommend you send:
A sample inspection report
A breakdown of your USP and what makes you different from your competitors
An unbeatable offer
A sample email would look something like this:
Hi Agent – thanks again for taking the time to talk to me earlier. As promised, I wanted to send you some information on our company in case you find yourself in need of an inspector any time soon.
As I said, we’re one of the few companies that offer INSERT USP HERE in this area, so if you’re not familiar with how that works I’ve included a sample inspection report and SAMPLE USP to this email. NOW EXPLAIN WHY THEY WANT THAT USP AND HOW IT HELPS THEM AND THEIR CLIENTS.
Anyhow, I’d love the chance to work with you at some point in the future, so I’d like to extend a special offer to you.The next time you or one of your clients uses us for an inspection I’ll be happy to INSERT SPECIAL DEAL HERE. Just as a special thank you.
We always go the extra mile for our clients and we think it shows in our customer reviews. Check out our YELP/GOOGLE/BLIPP reviews here.
8. STAY IN FRONT OF THEM
The next step is to make sure they don’t forget you. Over the next 60 days you need to stay “top of mind” when they think about inspections
Add them on Facebook – invite them to follow you on social media
Make sure you follow THEM on social media and SHARE anything business related they post
Drop off marketing materials at their brokerage
Add them to any email newsletter/drips you have
Find out if they’re holding any open houses and stop by to say “hi”
Remember, you are not doing this for 100, 50, or even 20 agents. You just need to identify and become a go to person for around 5 successful agents for there to be a knock on effect.
And there you have it. A simple, step-by-step guide to marketing to agents in order to gain business. I hear a lot from new inspectors who say they are struggling to get their first 5, 10 or 15 inspections under their belt.
Well trust me, if you’re in that boat or you’re just looking for a way to increase your business, the methods described above do work. You just need to have a plan in place and then actually follow that plan.
Schedule your marketing efforts. Maybe Tuesday between 12-4pm is when you do this. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it and do it consistently.