Ancillary services are additional services that you can offer to your client at the time of an inspection. For example, when you book an inspection, you can ask the client if he or she also would like you to test the paint in the home for lead. (Testing for lead paint is the ancillary service.)
Ancillary services fall under the broad category of “selling more services to each client.” There are two distinct types of ancillary services:
• services offered to your client at the time of the inspection
• services offered to your client after they move into the house
An excellent example of an ancillary service is the classic fast-food question: “Would you like fries with that?” Clearly, the marketing team for McDonald’s understood that once a person is in a buying mode, it is very easy to get that person to buy more. Most home inspectors, however, know very little about how to apply this ancillary service concept to their business.
The basic premise of selling ancillary services is based on this concept: Once you have made a sale and convinced the prospective client to hire you to do a home inspection, it is very easy to sell the client something else.
An Example at the Car Dealership
Here’s another example of this psychology in action. Have you ever bought a new car? If you have, there’s no doubt that you’ve been fed through the “new-car buying mill” at the dealership. Critical to the car salesperson’s pitch is that he or she sells you a number of “invisible” options, such as an extended warranty, undercoating to protect the frame from rust, clear coating to protect the paint, upholstery treatment to protect the upholstery and many other similar options. The cost of these options can add up to make the dealership lots of money, but they are harder to sell than the more “visible” options, like a sunroof or electric windows. The car dealer’s strategy is to sell you the invisible options after you’ve already agreed to buy the car.
Let’s walk through the process. Typically, you make a deal to buy the car with a salesperson, but the owner or manager approves the deal in his or her office. Once the deal is wrapped up, you go to another office to finalize the paperwork for the financing or leasing. It is here that the salesperson hopes to sell you ancillary options. They know you are in a vulnerable position psychologically because you have committed to buying the car. Getting you to agree to add a few other relatively inexpensive options can be easy, especially when the salesperson can just wrap the cost of it all into the financing or lease. If you’ve ever bought a car, you’ve heard someone say to you: “For just $20 more per month, you can have the extended warranty.”
Spot the Best Strategy for Home Inspectors
This universally understood marketing principle can work for a home inspection business, too. The following examples illustrate the point:
• An inspector in San Francisco offers a home inspection that includes a number of ancillary services as part of the standard service. This inspector feels that all of these additional services should be wrapped into the price of the home inspection. Sure, the inspection will cost the client a little more, but the client will have carbon monoxide and lead paint testing included in the total package.
• A home inspector in Cincinnati offers a standard inspection for $400. In addition, clients can choose optional services to add on to the standard inspection. One package adds on carbon monoxide testing. Another package adds both carbon monoxide and lead paint testing.
• A home inspector in Boston offers a standard home inspection. Once the client agrees to hire the inspector and books the inspection, the inspector asks the client if he or she would like to have a carbon monoxide test done while the inspector is on site. The inspector then asks if the client would like the home’s paint tested for lead as well.
Which of these three home inspectors do you think is the most successful? If you selected the inspector from Boston, you are correct.
Ensure That Ancillary Services Are Profitable
Many ancillary services can be offered at the time of inspection. Most of these services, however, require some additional knowledge, training and, in some cases, a license. You also may need specialized equipment. Investigate each of these services to find out which ancillary services are good fits for your company, your personal comfort level and your profitability goals.
Some home inspection companies have been very successful at offering ancillary services. They can turn a $400 inspection into an $800 inspection and spend very little extra time on site. It’s helpful to note that an ancillary service that is not profitable on its own can turn out to be profitable if you are already on site because you have removed the travel component.
Pay attention to what other inspectors are offering. Ask your clients if there are other services they would value. Pay attention to current issues featured in the media. For example, is mold a big issue in your area? And most importantly, make sure that you will be able to perform the services you offer in a competent manner.
Keep the Client Relationship Going
Consider what ancillary services you could offer to your clients after they move in to their new home. The philosophy behind this strategy is that, during the inspection, you spend two to three hours with the client and during that time, you develop rapport. At the end of the inspection, you’ve become a trusted advisor to the client. Most home inspectors throw that rapport away at the end of the inspection, but it’s possible for an inspector to get some referral business from it. And it’s even more likely that the inspector will get more business if he or she keeps the relationship going.
Implement Back-End Business Strategies
In fact, the most neglected part of marketing a home inspection business may be the back-end business strategy. What is a back-end strategy? It is the ability to sell to the same client over and over again. Your business should have a back-end strategy because the cost to acquire a client is fairly high in the first place. At first glance, a home inspection business appears to have no clear back-end strategy. Essentially, you acquire a client who is unlikely to call you back for another inspection in the near future. If you are lucky, you may get one more inspection in a lifetime from that client. From a back-end point of view, this repeat rate is simply not good enough.
There are two good reasons to offer ancillary services to your client after they move in:
• Your clients already know and trust you, so they are more likely to be receptive to your ancillary services.
• From an overall perspective, it’s important to have a back-end strategy for your business.
What could you offer as back-end or follow-up services?
• Improvement checks: You could offer to verify that all of the improvements you initially suggested in your inspection report were carried out properly.
• Seasonal inspections: You could offer to inspect seasonally relevant components of the home every year. You could have separate checklists for the spring and fall, for example.
• Periodic inspections: Some clients have expressed an interest in having their home inspected periodically to help avoid costly repairs. Maybe you could develop a “Year Five Inspection,” for example.
• Indoor air quality inspections: Indoor air quality is a hot topic that will likely get more attention over the next few years. Because indoor air quality usually is related to how the occupants live in and use the home, it is best to offer this inspection as a follow-up service rather than at the point of the initial inspection.
• An energy-efficiency study: You can inspect the home and make recommendations relative to the energy efficiency of the home. You can project the payback relative to the cost of improvements to enhance energy efficiency.
Other examples of ancillary services include the following:
• Hazardous materials testing
• Solid fuel heating inspections
• Radon testing
• Pool inspections
Of course, to perform these additional services, you either will need to be qualified yourself to do them, or you will need to hire a third party who is qualified.
Give It a Try
Providing ancillary services can help you increase your bottom line and it certainly can enhance your reputation as being a “one-stop shop” for all types of inspection services. We encourage you to give it a try!