CREIA USP Marketing Article

What Makes You Different?

Marketing is not just about advertising. Marketing is about how and where you position yourself in the marketplace. In a slow economy, there are more inspectors competing for a piece of the home inspection pie. Many times inspectors fail to differentiate themselves in the market place and feel they are left to compete on price. That rarely is a winning strategy. I want to help you get a bigger piece of the home inspection pie by helping you position yourself in the marketplace..

Have you ever grabbed a cup of coffee, sat down in a quiet area and considered, why should a Realtor® or client choose me over my competition? What exactly makes my home inspection company different? What benefit or advantage do I offer over my competition? In the business world it’s called a Unique Selling Proposition or USP. It’s a concise statement that communicates what makes my home inspection service different or unique from my competition. It was a term invented by Rosser Reeves, who astutely observed that in advertising campaigns, in the early 1940’s, unique propositions were made to customers in an attempt to get them to switch brands. There were companies who were clearly communicating what differentiated themselves from their competitors and were increasing their market share as a result. Rosser Reeves observed that an effective USP contained several characteristics. It should make a promise to the consumer. Not an empty promise. Not window dressing. It communicates, use my home inspection service and you will get this benefit. He taught the promise should be one your competition does not or cannot offer, but you do. Lastly it should be strong enough to move Realtors® and clients to your service. A USP differentiates you from your competitors. It’s what makes you unique so that you become the obvious preferred choice. Today companies, both large and small, use USP as a basis for their marketing.

You are well aware of the Unique Selling Propositions of many companies. Avis says they “Try Harder” while Enterprise says they will “pick you up”. Head and Shoulders will help “you get rid of dandruff”. Olay will help you “get-younger looking skin”. FedEx, “when your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”. M&M’s “melt in your mouth, not in your hand”. Kaiser Medical helps you “Thrive”. But, a USP does not have to be a slogan. Consider the example of the Schlitz Beer Company.

I do home inspections. My competition does home inspections. We both do the “same” thing. But not every home inspection company conducts its business or relates to its clients the same way. Consider the example of the Schlitz Beer Company. In the 1920’s, there were about ten brewing companies, each competing in the marketplace. Schlitz Beer Company was ranked in the lower middle of the sales ranking. Each company basically had the same marketing message. Their advertizing emphasized the purity of their product. “Our beer is pure”. Schlitz hired Claude Hopkins, a marketing consultant, to help them improve their sales. Claude Hopkins was given a tour of the brewing plant, which was located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Even though water was plentiful, Schlitz explained to Claude how they drilled deep wells to ensure they were getting the best water for the their beer. They showed how they distilled the water, not once, not twice but three times to ensure it was absolutely pure. Over 1,500 experiments were conducted to ensure they had the best yeast product for the brewing process. The filtering process was extensive utilizing white-wood pulp to provide a superior filtering process. The pumps and pipes were cleaned twice to ensure purity. The bottles were sterilized, bathed in steam four times, to make sure they were clean and bacteria free. Every batch of beer was tasted prior to bottling to make sure it was the best possible product. Claude Hopkins was impressed by the beer making process. His advice to the Schlitz Beer Company was to tell the consumers of the extraordinary measures they took to brew their beer. Schlitz management replied that, “everyone follows the procedure”. Claude replied that “but no one in your industry explains it”. “The first person who tells the story and explains how, and the reasons why, you do something, will gain distinction and preeminence in the marketplace from then on.” Schlitz told of their process and “pure” became more than a “buzz” word, it became tangible to the consumers. In six months they went from eighth to number one in the market place. Schlitz told their story. Schlitz brought their USP to life in the minds of the consumers. What’s your story? As a home inspector you need to tell your story. You need to communicate what you do. You need to clearly communicate the steps and extent to which your company goes, to provide the very best home inspection. Doing so will position you as the obvious choice for a home inspection. Some may not be sure what makes their company different. Ask the Realtors® who use you. Get some feed back.

How do you develop an effective USP? First, you have to understand your particular slice of the marketplace. In marketing, it’s called your “niche”. There is a “Beverly Hills 90210” type community about a half hour from where I live. I occasionally do an inspection in that community, but it’s not my niche market. My niche market is more the “Leave it to Beaver” community. My market is families who are just starting out. They have young children. Sometimes those in my niche market are looking for a larger home as their family grows. Ask some questions. What are their fears? What are their dreams? What exactly is your niche market looking for when they need a home inspector? What needs do they have? What are their expectations? What needs are not being met by the home inspection industry or the marketplace that you could deliver. The mechanics of the inspection will generally be the same. The home inspection will be exceptional. You are a professional. Your inspection will be professional. Your report will be professional. Each of the beer companies made beer. Many home inspectors do quality inspections and produce quality reports, but what draws them to your company? Understand your market.

Second, you need to understand your competition. What are they offering that you don’t? What do Realtors® like about your competition? What deficiencies are mentioned about your competitors? What services do your competitors offer that you could potentially offer? What needs are they meeting that you are not? Understand your competition.

Third, you must be able to deliver on your USP. Your USP needs to be within your capacity, to deliver what you promise. Early in my inspection career, before the days of email, I was associated with a company that promised that the written home inspection report would be delivered the next business day. If not, the inspection would be delivered the following day and it would be free. That sounded good, but I was spending my days inspecting houses, evenings writing the reports and nights delivering the reports. I found myself sleeping on the way to the inspections. Make sure you can deliver the goods. Having a USP that you can’t live up to, can be disastrous.

Where do you start? Block out some time. This step should not be rushed. Think through your entire interaction with your Realtor® and clients, from the time the phone rings to the time you put the stamp on the thank you card. Make a list of all the features you provide in your home inspection. For each feature, ask yourself the question, how does my client benefit from this feature? List the specific benefit. Eliminate the benefits your competition offers. You want your USP to be about the benefits you provide to your client. If you have eliminated your entire list, you will need to go back and rethink your features. Tweak some of them as needed. Write a paragraph or two about your benefits. Distil and refine your paragraph into a clear statement. Your finished product should be one sentence which is clearly written, and communicates the benefits unique to your home inspection company.

Your USP should be integrated into everything you do. My USP is four words long. It’s on my truck, on my letterhead, on my business card. Your USP should be the basis for your marketing. It is the message you take to the marketplace. It’s what sets you apart.