Here's how creating your own sales promotions and packaging services can boost your bottom line.

Since today's homeowner has more gadgets and electronics than ever before, that's a marketing clue for you. Homeowners don't just need electrical work anymore. They want all the benefits you can provide, including lower utility bills, better lighting, better security, increased convenience, and a safer home.

Consider for whom you will do the bulk of your work. Landlords or occupants? Single parents or families? This makes a difference in terms of convenience and scheduling. Middle, upper, or lower class? Old homes or modern? Take care when considering this last question because older homes usually correlate with serious work issues.

Make sure your products and services match the needs of your market. Customers want it good, fast, and cheap. You'll have to determine the right mix, because you can rarely deliver all three. However, you can consistently make your operations more efficient through better materials, tools, and techniques.

Let's look at a few sales promotions that may boost your bottom line.

Do free electrical inspections. Tell customers your company is doing 100 free inspections as a public service, and they are under no obligation to hire your company to do the repairs. Check with your accountant for tax deductibility.

Here are some secrets to succeeding at this. First, look for a neighborhood likely to have defects. New homes make good prospects, because builders often put these up under tight schedules. Therefore, errors are common. Homes about 10 to 20 years old and on their second or third owner are good prospects, too. Old homes can be a "Pandora's box." You should either specialize in them or leave them to someone else.

If you find defects in one house, others nearby are possibly good prospects. Typical defects include improper GFCI installations, undersized range cables, poor grounding at the service entrance, HVAC-related electrical work, and dangerous do-it-yourself (DIY) add-ons.

Think about why an inspection makes sense for the home you are marketing to, and get these reasons across to your potential customer. A common objection is: "My house passed inspection. You're just looking to do work I don't need done." Though most inspectors try to do a good job, the trend in municipal budgets is to reduce the number of inspectors. It's hard to do decent inspections when you have 12 min to inspect a home.

Another twist: Work with a competitor or small pool of competitors. You can't discuss prices, but you can arrange to refer each other. You can tell your customer: "Our policy is that if we do the inspection, we refer the work to a competitor. This way, you know we aren't lining our pockets. We have a strong incentive to be honest." It would be best to form an association with a board that meets to oversee this joint venture.

Do free grounding surveys. Inform customers their surge strips and UPSs need a good grounding path to provide protection to their computer and other electronics. Let them know some grounding setups can leave them vulnerable to electrocution if their neighbor has a grounding problem. Discuss the phone, cable, and service grounding and bonding; which is typically incorrect in any home. Bring up issues of surge protectors, line noise, and lightning protection.

Install and program electronic thermostats. This is easy to do. Customers will love the savings on their electric bill, as well as the increased comfort. Plus, you can offer "two free service calls" for programming or other needs involving only the thermostat. If you call again after six months to ask if there are any problems, your customer will speak highly of you. This is nice when a friend or relative wants to upgrade a service or wire up a garage.

A special offer on ceiling fan installations can also get you into the home. The DIY will often select the wrong fan or just purchase the cheapest model. You can select a fan that will work in the typical floor plan of a targeted neighborhood, and you can get one or more of the higher quality models. If you buy in bulk, you may get a price break. Or you may be able to arrange an "exclusive supplier" agreement with the store manager.

To make this promotion work, "sign up" people weeks ahead of time. Run a promotion in one neighborhood, so residents encourage each other to take advantage of your offer. Offer a "finder's fee," where you'll pay your customer $5 (or offer them a discount coupon for a local restaurant) for anyone who will give you 15 min for presenting your promotion. Offer $25 for each neighbor who buys a fan installation from you.

Your presentation should include a free ceiling fan evaluation, where you visit the home with tape rule. This helps you plan for what ladders and other equipment you'll need. Give the homeowner options on lighting kits, and prepare some "package deals" ahead of time. This is a good time to offer the free, no-obligation inspection, as described in the first two promotions.

Offer coupons to your customers, based on strategic alliances with local vendors. Depending on your target market, you can give discount coupons for use at a local restaurant (and the restaurant may pay part of that cost for the exposure). Consider car washes, dry cleaners (upscale customers wear more wool than average), grocery stores, and appliance stores. If you run a security lighting promo, make arrangements with a few companies so you can offer discounts on locks, security systems, and fire alarms.

Offer package deals. This is a proven technique. Suppose you typically offer a ceiling fan installation package at $399, electrical inspection for $59.95, electrical safety course for $99, and home energy audit for $49.95. The total cost of these services on an individual basis is $607.90.

Why not pick a slow month and offer these same services as a package for only $499? The customer sees a savings of $108.90, and you keep busy during this slow period. Few customers would get these services individually, but you may sell them bundled at such a discount. This costs you almost nothing, while opening the door for more work.