Despite COVID-19, the economy, and the recent dip in the housing market, contractors in nearly every industry are flooding the market with new business. What does this mean for your contracting business? You need something – a gimmick, marketing tactic, or attention-grabber – to create more awareness about your business and get in your foot in the door (literally!) Few things get a homeowner's attention like the word 'FREE'.
When you're scraping for every job, offering something free can leverage your marketing and efforts and get you more business. So, why not start by offering a free inspection? Whether you work in the HVAC, appliance repair, electrical, plumbing, pool service, remodeling, or handyman industry, a free inspection may be your ticket to landing a new client.
Not all contractors agree on what a free inspection is and what it isn’t. An inspection can differ significantly from industry to industry, depending on what type of problem you are diagnosing. So, what is an inspection?
Simply put, a free inspection is an analysis of the symptoms of a technical or systematic problem. You agree to analyze the problem for free. An inspection does not involve anything beyond the initial analysis.
Also, keep in mind that an inspection is not the same as an estimate. For instance, during a roofing inspection, a licensed roofing contractor visits the site to assess the roof's condition and determine what type of work needs to be done to upgrade, repair, or replace the roof. The contractor may submit a report of the evaluation.
By contrast, a free contractor estimate is a free service that a contractor offers to figure out how much it will cost to complete a project. The estimate may include the cost of labor and materials. As such, an estimate may include an inspection. An inspection rarely includes an estimate. With that in mind, a contractor can quickly leap from an inspection to an estimate in the same visit if the homeowner is interested in further pursuing the current issue.
There are several ways that you can use a free inspection to leverage your marketing efforts and get more customers.
If people don't know that you offer free inspections, they won't take advantage of them. Therefore, you need to promote them as much as possible. Here are some ideas:
The BBB, Consumer Reports, and Angie's List have recently released articles warning people of 'free inspection' scams from contractors in various industries (mostly, the roofing industry). The scam works like this: A contractor contacts an unsuspecting homeowner and offers a free inspection. They arrive and fabricate evidence of damage or other problems, then convince the homeowner to sign on for a repair or replacement.
Scams make it difficult for legitimate businesses to offer free inspections. So, if you want to separate yourself from the scammers, you'll need to be proactive in addressing any objections from potential customers.
Your first few interactions with people will be a period in which you earn their trust. Some of these people have already been scammed and will be wary of anything you have to offer! However, this presents an opportunity for you to make a good first and lasting impression.
Be willing to meet with potential customers face to face. Answer their questions and address any concerns they have. Be transparent and sincere with your answers. Use the free inspection to help customers, not just to make more money.
You are never obligated to offer a free inspection. Some reputable contractors who stay busy with lots of clients never offer free inspections. However, these contractors are usually established and have built up a sizable clientele. They may even turn away or refer clients simply because they cannot handle the workload.
If you are about to head into a complicated, expensive, or hazardous job, you may want to make it worth your time and effort to charge for an inspection. For instance, if you need to inspect an electrical system after a house has been flooded, you may want to charge for the inspection because the job may be labor-intensive and dangerous.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to approach free inspections. A lot of it can depend on the scope of work, the industry standard, and your business model or philosophy. You may also want to consider creating tiers for your free inspections. For example, you may offer free consultations over the phone but paid in-person inspections.
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