For brokers, and everyone else in the mortgage market for that matter, it means getting better at marketing.
Gone are the days when we can just rely on word of mouth, referrals and repeat business. How many people are remortgaging right now? How many young people are telling their friends that you helped them get a foot on the mortgage ladder?
Not so many I guess.
The writing is on the wall. Find good customers and you will survive and indeed prosper; think like you did five years ago and you will probably go hungry.
My five top tips for a successful 2012 are get good at marketing x5. That’s because marketing is the engine room of your business. Without it your company may stall.
I believe that business owners should be spending about 80% of their time on marketing strategy, but not necessarily as much time on implementation. This can be outsourced, leaving you with time to concentrate on the overall approach and tactics.
Marketing is especially important for brokers because the product development piece is largely handled by the lenders and, to a certain extent, the networks that get involved in product design.
Here are some pointers to get you hitting the ground running in 2012, although I’m just scratching the surface:
1: Adopt a market position
For example, position yourself as an expert at buy to let or perhaps specialise in mortgages for high net worth customers. Identify a niche and own that space in your geographic area. Whatever it is, be an expert to someone.
Have half a dozen websites if you like, all specialising in different aspects of the mortgage market. Customers are more likely to choose an expert; it’s as simple as that. People trust experts or specialists, follow them and do what they say – it gives you credibility.
2: Communication tools
Once you have decided on your marketing position, start putting your communication tools in place to position yourself in your chosen way.
A company name that reflects what you are an expert at will help. A website and brochures that reflect your specialism are a must.
3: Pricing strategy
Experts can charge more, because they offer a better, more tailored service than a generalist in the eyes of most customers.
Many people are not primarily price driven when it comes to buying advice, knowledge and guidance, especially when making major decisions like funding a property. Remember that even if unemployment is running at say 10% that means 90% are employed.
Therefore, nine out of ten people still have jobs and a regular income and they still have necessities that they need to buy and luxuries they want to buy.
The truth is that people are still spending money, but they are becoming more value conscious. After all, those people interested in mortgage funding must have some funds of their own; they just need the advice and guidance to make the right decisions and to save them time and aggravation.
4: Develop a marketing plan
Try to secure a regular column in your local press to inform people about your specialist area.
Consider pay per click advertising on Google and other search engines. It is possible to set up localised campaigns on search engines, so that you are only targeting people who live in your area.
Be sure to capture names and email addresses when people visit your website. A great way to do this is to offer them free information in return for their contact details, such as “the secrets of finding the best buy-to-let properties” or perhaps “how to fund the purchase” or maybe “the pitfalls of…”
Always keep in touch with these people by sending them regular news, information and tips, because they may not be ready to buy from you at the time they initially make contact. As well as email contact, incorporate occasional telephone calls if people are happy to be contacted in this way.
5: Test everything you do
There is a saying: “I know that half my marketing works, but I don’t know which half”.
Smart entrepreneurs are constantly testing their marketing tactics to enable them to refine and improve. They are also trying out new ideas in a small way and then scaling up once they know it works.
As Oscar Wilde said: “There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about” – so don’t be afraid to try something different.
Sally Laker is managing director of Next Intelligence