LOWER PRICES “NO GUARANTEE OF PROFITS”
By BILL ROSS, AHIT SR. Technical instructor
Most home inspection companies and inspectors are always looking for ways to be different from their competition. It is not uncommon to see newer companies starting their business with lower prices. Many home inspectors believe offering lower prices for their home inspection services will get their business off the ground and get some cash flowing. The first thing that they think of as an entrepreneur is, “We’re going to be cheaper. That way we will get more home inspection jobs and beat our competition."
New companies often think they can succeed with a strategy of undercutting their competition’s prices for products and services. They believe that low prices will generate sufficient sales to make up for smaller profits. “What I lose in margins, I’ll make up in volume.” It is a big mistake to assume this in almost any market!
We see tons of advertisements every day from big companies that only seem to emphasize low prices, trying to beat the competition’s prices and bring in more sales. Newspaper ads, magazines, flyers, road signs, everywhere we look it seems the only advertising we see is to offer the lowest price. While this strategy may work for large, established companies, it may not be the best strategy for home inspection companies. Most, but not all, home inspectors can assume that customers/clients will “PRICE SHOP” before they make a decision to purchase. They think low prices are the path to business success.
Offering the lowest price may be a good strategy for a few giant retailers or airlines, but it is extremely risky for most small companies—and a lot of big companies as well.
Competing for lowest prices is risky. Low prices mean “NARROW PROFIT MARGINS” Lower profit margins always mean less cash available to operate your business. With a smaller financial cushion, you’re vulnerable to every slight increase in business cost. Gas prices, phone services, marketing costs, E&O Insurance, Association fees, continued education fees, licensing fees and a host of other business fees can and usually do rise from year to year. In turn, that means you’ll have to find ways to reduce the cost of operating your business. As you cut and reduce your business operating costs you will slowly start getting less work or home inspections and will have less money to operate on until you finally will be forced to go out of business.
The customers who do use your services can be fickle. Low-price shoppers are loyal to “LOW PRICES” only, not to you! So if your competition decides to squeeze you out with even lower prices, many of your customers will be gone in an instant. While price should never be the cornerstone of your strategy, it also can’t be ignored. So how can a small business still maintain competitive pricing?
“CARVE OUT a NICHE”
If you own a market, you have more room to set prices. If there are 20 home inspectors in your area, you’ll face constant price competition. But if you’re the only company offering other services, or you are offering more services than the competition, you will face much less pressure to lower your price. You should survey your competition yearly; check their pricing, services offered, how they answer the phone etc, so you can be competitive.
“WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER!”
Most of your competition is not marketing much and many of them have not had much training or education on how to professionally operate a home inspection business. They may be technically astute but many home inspectors lack the knowledge to out perform their competition. Look for their weaknesses, such as a lack of marketing, poor customer service, no professional career apparel, or no color pictures included in their home inspection reports - anything to set you apart from them. Also, make sure your home inspection company is not doing things the negative things your competition is doing that could hurt your business. Concentrate on the business tactics that will allow you to grow and be a leader in the home inspection industry. The key is to know what your competition is or is not doing, so that you can fulfill the need in your local home inspection industry.
“FOCUS ON VALUE NOT PRICE”
Value is a term for the combination of price and quality. When most people shop for anything they are willing to pay a higher price to get the high quality products or services that will last many years. Providing a more in-depth professional home inspection and report that exceeds the home inspection industry standards, exceeding the clients expectations, etc. is a good start in raising your value. Once the client understands what they are paying more for, they most likely will pay the higher fee. They must know what it is they are paying a higher price for. Excellence and service are competitive advantages that let you justify higher prices in the home inspection industry.
“TARGET THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS”
Not all customers, clients or agents are willing to pay more, even for better service or quality home inspections/reports. So make certain you aim your marketing and business efforts at customers who will respond to the differences you offer and can pay a slightly higher price for that value. It’s also important to market your business in a consistent manner, daily, weekly, monthly etc. Continually informing prospective customers about the benefits and value you offer allows them to choose the best home inspector, the best report, and the best services in the area. Customers and clients need to know the difference between you and your competition, so they can compare and make the best choice. Consistent marketing will accomplish these goals for you.
“BUILD LOYALTY TO YOU NOT YOUR PRICE”
Many new and existing home inspection companies use special pricing, discounts coupons, introductory offers, seasonal pricing, etc. to initially attract customers/clients. Though these tactics may work for some, you should immediately go to work developing relationships that will keep customers/clients coming back and referring you when prices go up. You don’t want to be known as a “DISCOUNT” home inspection service. You may win the pricing battle to be the lowest price leader in your area; however, you could end up losing your business.
Being a high volume home inspection company using “Cheap Pricing” seldom leads to success. The benefits and value offered through your business is what builds satisfied customers/client, which results in a consistence flow of referrals.
Loyalty and services such as professional inspections, excellence in report writing, being the best inspector in town, offering the best service, etc. is what will make you successful and beat out the competition. Remember you have a lot more to offer than just “Cheap Prices”!
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