This thread is not going to be what you expect from the title.
First off I want to say that if you plan on using IR strictly during a home inspection then this post isn’t really about that. I know of businesses that use IR as a service within a home inspection, use it to gain an advantage against competition and also make it part of their everyday home inspection. I know nothing about the business model, or how it effects the bottom line of the business. There is nothing wrong with this avenue, but I would consult with someone that has went this path.
-Marketing of an IR business is more about customer education than anything else. Knowing extensively about IR and the application to be filled is very important. Showing a potential client how IR works as a PDM tool and saves them time and money is probably the biggest marketing tool you will have.
-Find niche applications that are already familiar with IR or are at least being mandated to have scans done. Often times a potential client has no idea what an “infrared scan”, “thermographic scan”, etc is, but the facility manager is being told to get it done. They will go searching for the first company that can fulfill these needs. “Pre-marketing” of these industries is vital, so that when the order comes down to have it done, you will have already planted the seed. A great example of this right now is commercial and industrial electrical applications. IE: An insurance company wants scans done on all panels, disconnects, transformers, etc done at a facility. The insurance sales rep for the client will probably not know what a thermographic scan is but will have a default letter to send out to his/her clients. The facility manager may or may not know what a thermographic scan is. As an IR company you want both sides to know in advance (Pre-market), so that when the insurance company does mandate it, they know who to call. I used electrical as an example, because it is “hot” right now, but there are others out there. “Pre-marketing” in this arena will also yield jobs without any 3rd party intervention.
-Separate your businesses and treat them as such. Build a completely different website for just IR. Make it look nice. Have short examples with each example and make web forms for those individual examples. If you want one of the better sites to look at for an IR site check this one out: http://www.infraredimagingservices.com/ . To get imagery like Wayne’s, go out and find someone with a 640x480 camera and ask. You will find that most people in the business are very helpful. If not, rent one, give me a call and I can point you to someone that has some images, or I might have a 640x480 laying around to go horse with. Along the same lines make Youtube videos in IR. SEO the title well and add good description with a link back to your site in the description box. Add good tags. You can do this for several video sites if you wish for backlinks for SEO purposes. Most are “No Follow” but some are SEO type backlinks, plus you can generate real traffic as well.
-Get educated. I am not talking about IR training here. If you want to go after electrical scans, then go get trained in electrical. I see so many posts around here about IR training comparisons, but I never see any about how to get trained in X application so that you can do IR in those applications. I will not let the cat out of the bag, but those that went can if they wish, but the guys doing the flat roof stuff around here have went out and received additional education on flat roof systems. Want to really open yourself up to a market that many cannot get to? Go get PQA (power quality analysis) trained and do IR and PQA at the same time. That whole industry is only going to grow as the cost of energy goes higher and higher. Once again, knowing IR and the application behind it, makes your marketing that much easier.
-Learn how to listen. Think back to how many potential client calls you get and your close rate on the shorter ones vs the longer ones. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to get a deal is talking too much. Switch your calls from 75% you talking to 25% you talking. Get the client to engage and answer their questions in their terms.
-Get educated in electrical mechanical applications on both the IR and application side then learn basic networking. Data centers are one of the largest growing sectors in IR. Once you get a data center customer they will always come back to you. Don’t forget that they are in a high tech industry so you have to be high tech as well. Make your reports available in the cloud, and even better, make them so they can give their presentations via the report. Make sure everything works with all OS’s and mobile products. I know companies that only do data centers and they crush it.
-Think outside the box!!! John Snell has a term to “think thermally”. There are companies out there that have established themselves as the brand in their niche because they came out with a new application or testing method using IR. Flash thermography is a great example to look up.
-Stop beating up training provides on prices. They get what they get. We work in a free market capitalist system. You can go where you want, but realize that a company that has been around for a while, and charges more, probably has a good reason for it. Once again this isn’t about just IR. If you are going to go out and learn other applications, you will need training in those fields. If you could afford it, would you send your child to the local university or Harvard/Stanford? The same goes for your own education. If you do not have the capital for it, then wait or focus on your current business model.
-Hire consultants for applications you are not an expert in. When I do a data center I have a friend that is an IT security administrator for Visa/Mastercard. I have the luxury of being able to pay him in concert tickets and beer. Ultimately you can do any application when you can bring in an expert. You will also get extra work via these partners. I have a list of electricians I call to pull off panels in front of a scan. I use several because the more you deal with the more that will send work back your way. Electricians love IR because the fixes cannot simply be low balled on their bid, because their competition doesn’t usually have IR. Plus we will naturally get the future scans from the electricians as they make relationships with the same customer you brought them to. They will semi do your follow up marketing for you (don’t rely on this, but it happens). Not to mention the liability is lessened (sometimes required), by having a “certified” or “licensed” professional on location.
This post was written really as more of thoughts off the top of my head. I can go in to more detail based on responses to it. Lets try not to argue in this thread as I am very sure the others that have started from scratch 5-6 years ago will have a lot to add to it and a pissing match will only take away from it and maybe even keep them from posting.
I am going to eventually make a white paper on how to start an IR business and get it off the ground. Kind of a less than 1 year thing. There isn’t room for it here, but I can add the individual ideas/theories as they come up in this thread.
Jason Kaylor - JJ
VP of Specialty Products
AC Tool Supply