With the economic crisis creating a demand for help and support, staying on top of your marketing strategy remains vital. In fact, a crisis like COVID-19 might be the opportune moment for brokers to keep the lines of communication open with their clients. We find out the key aspects broker marketing campaigns need to include right now
As brokers attempt to keep their head above water amid the coronavirus pandemic, new regulations and legislation, and the day-to-day running of their business, devising or updating their marketing strategy might not be their top priority. Yet the current environment might be ripe for brokers to focus on this element in their business.
While advertisements or social media campaigns have their place, in-depth communications and content are key to helping clients navigate through the rough waters in this dangerous time, says Smartline senior marketing manager Rechelle Coombes.
According to Ms Coombes, businesses must prioritise quality advice above everything else, especially in this environment.
“During the COVID-19 environment, successful brokers have stayed in contact with their clients and have helped them navigate uncertainty,” Ms Coombes tells The Adviser.
“We focused on one simple task for our brokers: communicating and sometimes overcommunicating with clients to help ease their concerns.”
Deena Janes, managing director of finance industry marketing agency Your Client Matters, echoes this view, stating emphatically that the most important thing brokers should be doing now is communicating more with existing clients and their pipeline of potential clients.
Speaking to The Adviser, Ms Janes says: “It’s not just about generating new leads right now but ensuring their existing client base is regularly updated with the latest information, educated on their finance options and reminded that their broker is here for them in good times and in tough times so they don’t go directly to the bank or lender.”
Only then should brokers focus on lead generation, and for this, word of mouth is the best marketing strategy for most brokers, according to Ms Janes, so regular communication is vital to any broking business.
“It provides an option for referring family and friends. Brokers need to provide opportunities for their clients to refer within their communication,” she says.
The online world
A compelling online presence will assist brokers with reaching their clients and communicating their knowledge to them.
Facebook and YouTube are Australia’s most widely used social networks, with around 18 million users and 14 million users, respectively, during an average four-week period.
Roy Morgan’s Single Source survey, which interviewed 25,000 Australians aged 14 and older over the six months to February 2020, found that 90 per cent of Millennials, 87 per cent of Gen X, and 86 per cent of Baby Boomers use Facebook.
According to the founder of content marketing company Social Broker, Sarah Barnett, consumers have researched online for many years, but COVID-19 amplified the importance of a strong online presence for brokers.
“Any crisis presents an opportunity for professionals to cement themselves as the trusted adviser, and one way to do this is by consistently sharing high-quality, informative content,” Ms Barnett tells The Adviser.
Ms Barnett also emphasises that this is less about lead generation and more of a brand and reputation-building exercise.
“Consumers are growing increasingly cynical of marketing, so it’s about connecting with them in a genuine way, respecting their intelligence and delivering real value. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.
Further, she warns against brokers treating their social media profiles as their “own private billboard and taking a scattergun approach”, which she says can do more harm than good.
“I would encourage brokers to reconsider posting that next ‘apply for indicative pre-approval today!’ ad, as you’ll have better results from content that engages, inspires and educates – rather than attempting to sell.”
But as well as providing informative materials and tips, an effective social media strategy should also humanise the business, according to Connective head of marketing Andrea Roberts.
“Moreover, promoting good content can prove your expertise as a broker to your audience, which in turn creates new business opportunities,” she tells The Adviser.
Mortgage Choice head of national and local marketing Damien McDonald agrees, suggesting that brokers must be a recognisable face and embed themselves in their local community or target market, and gain an understanding of the demographic of the area, the potential clients’ income levels and their occupations before designing a social media strategy.
“They can tailor their marketing strategies to suit those sorts of people, whether it is a young market where they’re looking at first home buyers or maybe an older population where they’re looking at investment loans,” he says.
Connective executive director Mark Haron said the aggregator had recognised the need for providing marketing templates for brokers during the COVID-19 pandemic because it felt that customers were hungry for information.
“We started developing and educating brokers on how to use the Connective digital marketing hub. There have since been more than 800,000 emails sent to broker customers,” he tells The Adviser.
“It’s about putting context and giving the brokers good information to send to clients, and helping them send it to their clients in a professional format.”
As many property buyers adopt a wait-and-see approach during COVID-19, AFG national marketing manager Jon Amery opines that short-term, direct response campaign activity will likely not yield the same results it has in the past.
“However, there is a lot of evidence to show that those businesses and brands that invest during a crisis will reap the benefits longer term,” he tells The Adviser.
He advises brokers to cement their fundamentals before increasing their spend across paid channels. This includes focusing on keyword-rich search engine optimisation-friendly content on their website, leveraging and building social channels, and segmenting their base to ensure that the content is relevant across email and other channels.
“Don’t go overboard and spam your audience. Less is often more,” he says.
It is then about implementing a multichannel strategy, according to Mortgage Choice general manager of marketing Stephan Gervois. He outlines that a successful marketing strategy is an integrated activity. Brokers could think about connecting with clients directly, as well as through media channels, he says.
“I think that integrated communication where the brand becomes a part of the consumer’s everyday life is most effective,” he tells The Adviser.
“Brokers that are dealing in a single channel are almost always failing because single-channel initiatives are no longer working.”
Mr Amery agrees with this, adding that the focus on communicating through multiple channels should always start with website content, email and social media. He also recommends mixing content with lead generation messages.
“Keep your content channel specific and don’t be afraid to balance the ‘inform’ part of your strategy with lead generation messages. There will always be a segment of your base who are active and need a reminder of how you can help them,” he says.
“For most brokers, the bulk of their business comes from referrals, either via existing customers or professional networks. Reinforce the message that you are always open for business and ensure that your campaigns and customer messaging are actively encouraging referrals.”
Ms Janes concludes by saying that even in a digital marketing world, print-based communication still has a place as it gets noticed and read and stays top of mind for weeks, and sometimes months.
“If your client list is accurate, when you post something in the mail, 99 per cent will get delivered or ‘looked at’,” she says.
If the receiver picks up the material, it is considered an “open rate”, regardless of whether it is read, left to lie around, or thrown in the bin.
“Email communication on the other hand is more likely to give you a much lesser open rate (somewhere around 25-30 per cent). If you send out 300 emails, about 100 will open your email. If you send out 300 printed magazines, then most likely 300 (or close to) will be opened.”
"Don’t look for a cookie-cutter approach. Just because something works for one business doesn’t mean it will work for yours. It’s important to test and learn and see what works "- Rechelle Coombes, senior marketing manager, Smartline
"Test, trial and then test again to ascertain the channel mix and message sets that get the best result for you." - Damien McDonald, head of national and local marketing, Mortgage Choice
"Set KPIs and keep track of return on investment. Marketing and content creation have traditionally been expensive, particularly if you’re doing it in-house, and are often ineffective if not tailored to your brand and strategy. By setting your objectives upfront, you can monitor your progress and tweak your approach where necessary." - Sarah Barnett, founder, Social Broker
"It is simple – if you know where you are today, where you need to head and how you’re going to get there, you have the start of a strong marketing strategy." - Andrea Roberts, head of marketing, Connective
"Don’t become a slave to a paid campaign strategy or paid leads. Generate the majority of your new customers via word-of-mouth referrals, professional referral networks and inbound leads." - Jon Amery , national marketing manager , AFG
"SMS marketing is one of the best and most underutilised marketing strategies of all – besides picking up the phone of course. Learn how to use SMS as a marketing tool and watch your business grow. But don’t overdo it. You need a planned SMS strategy." - Deena Janes, managing director, Your Client Matters