Nathan Smith, director of award-winning brokerage Birdie Wealth, set up his own independent brokerage after leaving a major franchise. Here, he shares his tips for building a brand from scratch.
Earlier this year, broker and CEO of Birdie Wealth Nathan Smith took home the Australian Broking Award for Best New Office.
Speaking on The Adviser’s Elite Broker podcast, Mr Smith revealed how he got his start-up brokerage off the ground and the strategies he used to build an award-winning brand.
According to the Birdie Wealth founder, transitioning from a big franchise group to a small independent start-up has been an enjoyable process.
Recognising the support that major brokerages can offer new brokers, Mr Smith said that “having your own brand and putting your own flavour on it” was something he aspired to do and had been an enjoyable process.
“Whenever you’re with a larger franchise, everything had to run back through head office to make sure it fit with their overall brand message,” he said.
“I found that a little bit restrictive, so stepping out and actually having a brand to build on my own and build around your character and your style and the demographic you’re chasing is very exciting.”
Building Birdie’s branding
The name Birdie Wealth, Mr Smith said, refers to the golfing term for “beating the average, but doing it slowly”.
“It was about doing a little bit better, all the way through,” he said.
In discussion of his use of branding, the CEO stated the name has given him a number of branding opportunities to explore.
“Obviously you’ve got the bird, and you’ve got the golfing terminology as well,” he said, “and if you look at our logo very carefully, the bird is actually the head of a golf club.”
Apart from the name and logo, Mr Smith believes his branding strategy goes beyond the norm.
“We very much talk about brand as a bigger picture rather than selling directly to the client,” he said.
“One of the biggest things we do is we don’t talk about interest rates at all.”
Instead, he focuses on the end product that he provides his clients.
“As a mortgage broker, it’s an interesting business to be in, because we are selling a product that nobody actually wants. Nobody wants a loan and nobody wants debt, they want what that debt will eventually give them.”
“So what we’re focusing on is what does that end goal look like? Does that give you the family home? Does that allow you to retire earlier?”
“That’s what we’re talking about with our brand and our message,” he told Elite Broker.
Key to his engagement with clients is harnessing various channels, Mr Smith said.
For example, he positions the brand as a thought leader and trusted adviser through providing free education, such as his own podcast series on first home buyers, which involved interviewing his clients to discuss the process of buying their first home in the hopes of “encouraging other people to take the step”.
Starting a podcast was a rewarding move to market the brand, he said, although he added it was at times “nerve-racking”.
“It was a big learning curve starting out and getting some advice back from the technicians on what I was doing right and wrong,” he said.
“[Yet] it was a great way and a different way to market a business; it allowed the guest to actually promote the podcast for me, where they would share it with their friends and get the message out there.”
Alongside the podcast, Mr Smith also runs educational seminars for his clients.
In the last number of years, he had changed the format of these seminars, in an attempt to get clients more involved and have all their questions answered by industry professionals.
“We’re running it very differently now to how we initially did,” he said. “We often had one of the mortgage brokers and two other speakers speak to the audience.
“We run it more as a Q&A session now. So we still have these speakers come in, but rather than having slideshows and presentations and just screaming information at the audience, we actually have an email address set up, it’s up on the screen, and all they do is they simply email their questions through.
“Everybody who comes along on the night gets the information they actually want out of the event,” the Birdie Wealth founder added.
The importance of consistent marketing
According to Mr Smith, “consistency is everything with branding and marketing, so you need to be doing it regularly and on an ongoing basis”.
“Just as you have a process for putting a loan from submission through to settlement, you must have a process around your marketing,” he advised.
“I think anyone can post on Facebook, anybody can post on Instagram, but can you do that consistently for three years? Can you post four times a week every single week for three years?” he said.
“That’s the difference between whether it works successfully or doesn’t work.”
Find out more about Birdie Wealth and how Nathan Smith markets his broking office in The Adviser's Elite Broker podcast.
Hannah Dowling is a cadet journalist for The Adviser, Australia’s leading source of news, opinion and strategy for mortgage brokers.
Prior to joining the team at The Adviser, Hannah worked as a content producer for a podcast catering to property investors. She also spent 6 years working in the real estate sector at a local agency.
Hannah graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Media and Journalism.
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