As you think about a marketing strategy for your home inspection business, you should understand some fundamental terms and concepts. In this article, we’ll start with differentiating marketing and sales, and then we’ll discuss features versus benefits.
Marketing and Sales
Marketing and sales are not the same thing, although many people use the terms interchangeably. You can think of the difference between marketing and sales in this way:
Marketing makes the phone ring. Sales picks it up.
Marketing Makes the Phone Ring. Marketing is an activity designed to encourage prospective customers or clients to contact your company. Marketing in the home inspection business includes advertising, brochures, business cards, presentations at real estate offices, direct mail pieces, websites, email campaigns, content marketing, social media, trade show booths and so on. Marketing is also inherent to the inspections themselves, the inspection reports and any of the follow-up activities such as thank you notes. All of these contribute to attracting prospects or retaining customers. Essentially, a successful marketing activity results in someone contacting the company.
Sales Picks Up the Phone. Sales is typically a one-on-one activity with the goal of converting an inquiry into a sale. Sales activities may be face to face, over the telephone, online or by email. Sales usually involves a real-time or a virtual conversation. The successful conclusion to a sales activity for the prospective customer or client and for the company is an order.
Let’s look at marketing benefits and features.
Features Versus Benefits
The Client’s Perspective Is Key. The distinction between a feature and a benefit is a key marketing concept. A feature is a characteristic of your service, whereas a benefit is how your client will be better off. Put another way, a feature is an element of your service; a benefit is what this element does for the prospect or the customer. For example, “Open 24 Hours!” is a feature that the company offers. The ability to book an inspection at any time is the benefit that the client enjoys.
The success of any professional service depends largely on its ability to satisfy clients’ wants and needs. All the client cares about is getting what they want. Everything in marketing, advertising, public relations and sales should focus on what aspects of the service are going to benefit customers. To successfully market your business, you need to think, “It’s all about the client.”
Features Describe; Benefits Sell. Features are easier for us to promote because they are the parts of our business that we think are desirable. It’s easier to think and speak from our own perspective. After all, we know more about our company than anyone else does. Benefits, on the other hand, are a little more difficult to identify. They require us to think like a client, because a benefit is what your client finds desirable about your features.
Practical Example 1. Focus Your Services on Customer Benefits. Let’s say that you need to book a flight to Europe for an important business meeting. The airline is advertising “business class seating.” You are trying to decide if you should fly business class or coach. The advertisement says that business class has larger seats and more legroom. You immediately book the coach tickets because you aren’t going to pay twice as much just for a little extra legroom and a larger seat; you’ll get by in coach. The airline failed to sell you the more expensive seats because they only provided you the features of a business class seat, rather than showing the benefits of these features.
A more compelling message by the airline would have pointed out that the larger seats in business class provide ample space for you to set up a workstation. And having extra legroom means that you can stretch out and sleep during the flight, if you choose. With proper room to work and a comfortable place to sleep, you will arrive for your meeting prepared and refreshed. You will excel at the meeting, win the business and develop new long-term relationships. The business class ticket is a small investment with a big reward.
Practical Example 2. Show the Benefits of Your Service. Although benefits are the obvious and logical conclusion of features, don’t assume that your prospective clients will make the connection. Most people don’t fill in the blanks. You need to make the benefits of your service apparent. You can demonstrate benefits without discussing features, but not vice versa. You must focus on selling the benefits.
Here’s an example. You are looking for a new flashlight and you walk into a store and see a display with this headline: “The world’s first carbon fiber flashlight!” The fact that the flashlight is made with carbon fiber is clearly a physical feature of the product of which the manufacturer is very proud. What is important, however, is what that feature will do for you. The value of that feature lies in how the company describes what that product actually does.
The fact that the flashlight is made with carbon fiber will help you justify the added cost, but the manufacturer also should be telling you that the added strength of the product means that if you drop
it, it won’t break. Another benefit may be that the product’s light weight makes it less tiring to use. The manufacturer should say, “You will never have to buy another flashlight again–guaranteed!” The feature is platinum construction, but the benefits are durability, reliability and ease of use. The rewards of using a product (not simply its physical features) are what matter the most.
This example brings up another discussion point. What is important to home inspectors who are looking to buy a new flashlight? Is it durability? Is it brightness? Is it battery life? Suppliers need to understand their clients’ needs and wants, as do home inspectors. What are your clients looking for?
Practical Example 3. Benefits Are Explanations. If you are giving a presentation to several agents in a real estate office or speaking to a single client or agent, you should have plenty of time to describe the benefits of your features in detail. Written marketing materials, however, need to be concise to hold a reader’s attention.
Many people fill their brochures and websites with features, which can result in sending a weak message. Look at some of your competitors’ brochures. Are they filled with features? Marketing messages should lead with the benefits, and then support the benefits by identifying the features. Catch the attention of your prospective clients by telling them how much better off they will be by working with you. What problems will you solve for them? Be sure to “prove it” by explaining the features of your business.
A benefit may sound like a promise. That’s why the features need to follow, to show how you will make good on a promise. You can write out your features and benefits in the form of a narrative (that is, a story or a case study), or if you have a lot to say, you can format them into a table or an infographic. See the example belowof how to market the report-writing software that’s used in a home inspection business.
These examples should help you get some ideas. Creating a table like this one that lists the benefits and features of your business can help you think about your business from your clients’ perspectives, which is a very healthy thing to do.
We hope this article has provided you with some food for thought. Marketing and sales seem complex and intimidating to many inspectors, but they are key elements of all businesses. Most of it boils down to common sense and thinking from the client’s side of the table. Good luck!