Fully Inspected: Q&A with HouseMaster Home Inspection Services' Keith Gerson

Keith Gerson is currently president and COO of Sopra Brands, a privately held, multi-concept franchise system headquartered in Salt Lake City. The organization is experienced in growing small and large companies in the franchise industry.

Gerson, who was formerly president and COO of PuroClean, now oversees the day-to-day operations of each of Sopra Brands' franchise and business concepts - including HouseMaster Home Inspection Services, Teriyaki Stix, Hogi Yogi, Yoasis, LunchBoxers, and GFEazy. He's also playing an integral role in introducing new Sopra-owned brands, such as EarthFruits Yogurt.

With more than 30 years of franchise experience, Gerson brings a wealth of sales, marketing, and operational knowledge. We asked him about Sopra's HouseMaster brand.

What external factors are affecting the HouseMaster brand right now?

The housing market is having a dramatic impact on new home sales, which our brand has been highly dependent upon. At the same time, the foreclosure market is creating a mirrored opportunity and these homes tend to be in the worst shape and more in need of an expert evaluation. There are, however, numerous opportunities with secondary services, such as radon testing and audits, which are top of mind and in the news on a regular basis.

What's different about your customers and market today?

Though home buyers continue to put their trust in a professional Realtor, buyers are better informed thanks to the ever-increasing advent of the Internet, and at times can take the "do-it-yourself" approach. This can also be at the home buyer's own peril, in much the same way as someone who does a self-diagnosis playing "Dr. Google" versus seeing a physician. Our inspectors have to go through very rigorous and certifications, and much of what can hurt a home (and your family) can lurk behind the surface and should be left to a professional.

How do you stay ahead of the curve (competitors, changing marketplace, evolving products/services, etc.)?

We stay ahead of the curve thanks to a long-tenured staff of professionals who carve out a piece of their day reading industry data, studying the competition, and surrounding ourselves with the sharpest franchisees in the business. We also have retained a government lobbyist and stay close to the associations in our industry to keep apprised of trends. Our training and R&D team spend time at many industry and secondary market conferences to be kept abreast of changes in laws, technologies, and other factors so that our franchisees don't have to.

What are the most effective marketing at your disposal and how do you use them most effectively?

Though we make great use of PR, marketing technologies, email campaigns, and other our business is still one that requires good old-fashioned face-to-face contact with the greater influencers in the sale process, the Realtors.

As a franchise executive, what is the key to your success?

I am a student of the business. As the company's COO, I still know that the purpose of the business is in the making and keeping of customers, and that there's little that's more important than mastering integrated sales and marketing. I am reading marketing and brand-building related books and I have one going at all times. I happen to be reading two at the moment: one on SEO, and another entitled Real-Time Marketing & PR by David Meermam Scott.

What are your marketing objectives for the remainder of this year?

To help extend the reach of our franchisees through continuing courses to Realtors and through mastery of CRM through our new proprietary system known as THO.

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