Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there was a concise formula for developing a strong marketing strategy in the commercial mortgage world. In these unusual times, however, a marketing plan that was constructed for the start of 2020 is probably no longer applicable nor sufficient.
On top of having to adapt to a new and constantly changing reality, commercial mortgage lenders and brokers now find themselves with far fewer lending options for their clients. Your ability to pivot quickly is the difference between surviving or shuttering. So, how do you not only keep your head above water but thrive during these uncertain times?
With all of the doom and gloom in the news, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Every commercial mortgage company, however, should base their marketing efforts on their core values, principles and the mission statement on which the company was founded. This is the time to go back to your roots and start developing a new plan of action based on the groundwork you have already laid for your business.
Take a look at your existing marketing plan and figure out what portions of it can be salvaged and what needs to be scrapped entirely. Taking an inventory of what you planned for the year is key to setting yourself up for future success. If there are marketing campaigns that will no longer work in the current environment, use this time to do outreach. Try to postpone or cancel these campaigns, and attempt to recoup any expenses so that they can be applied to other marketing efforts.
If you were planning on sponsoring or attending events, make sure you know when the new dates will be, as well as what the updated cancellation policy is, in case you have scheduling conflicts in the second half of the year. Take a deep breath and take this time to prepare for when things get back to some semblance of normal.
Many commercial mortgage lenders and brokers were immediately faced with a new reality when the coronavirus hit this past March, causing liquidity to dry up. They could no longer lend in the same manner. On top of trying to shore up their businesses for the foreseeable future, there also was the challenge of figuring out what to tell clients. As any seasoned marketing professional knows, however, communication is key in times of crisis.
Be as transparent as possible with your clients. During a challenging time like this one, borrowers are looking for as much information as you can give them. It’s imperative to communicate openly and often. If you have several different types of customers, make sure you tailor your messaging and delivery methods in a way that is best suited for the audience.
For example, you may choose to schedule one-on-one phone calls to discuss the current environment with all of your top clients so that you can easily address any concerns. For customers that haven’t done business with you in a few months, it may be more appropriate to send a well-crafted email that clearly provides a point of contact should they have any questions.
Whether you are still operating full speed ahead or your company has hit hard times due to the crisis, you owe it to your customers to update them regularly as the situation changes. Even during normal business times, it is a good idea to provide customers with industry and market outlooks as a way to stay in front of your clients and provide them with better insights.
Although customer outreach in times of crisis is rarely easy, you shouldn’t dance around harsh truths. If you take the time to communicate immediately and often with your customers, you will find a much brighter outlook for your business when the recovery begins.
Once you’ve assessed your previous marketing strategies and you’ve communicated your company’s new reality to clients, where do you go from there? If your company is still operating and able to do business, it’s time to embrace new marketing trends and the technology that comes with them. It is important to try a digital alternative to the many face-to-face meetings or events you previously had planned.
Video conferences and webinars will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. Take the time to invest in a video-conference platform, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom or GoToWebinar/GoToMeeting. Plan out a timeline of virtual events and meetings to do customer outreach and facilitate business. Concurrently, prepare updated marketing materials that clearly outline any changes in products and services. Make them easy to share on these digital platforms or via email.
Finally, do your research on what virtual conferences, events and webinars are occurring in the industry. Tap into your contacts to see if existing partners have any opportunities that may be a good fit for your business. Get on board with them early to maximize your company’s visibility in promotional efforts. Although it may take some adjustment, the world has not stopped because of the pandemic. It is imperative, however, to adapt to the current marketing landscape.
For mortgage companies that have had to put things on pause, or those that are adjusting their product and service offerings due to COVID-19, you may think there are no real opportunities to market yourself right now. Regardless, it’s important to maintain visibility with your customers. So, how do you achieve that when you have nothing to sell?
You should take this time to prepare your business for future success. First and foremost, develop a strategy that frames your company as an industry leader. Provide your customers with industry insights and valuable content through virtual trainings, webinars, newsletters and regular contribution of articles to industry publications. This allows you to promote your company’s name and brand without overt advertisements. The best part is that many of these marketing efforts will have minimal or no costs associated with them. Creating content usually only requires your time and commitment to whatever schedule you develop.
During this time, you also may want to consider taking steps to partially or fully rebrand your company, depending on what products and services you anticipate offering once you are back up and running. If what you will be offering will be drastically different, now is the perfect time to rebrand your company. Develop a new brand image and materials that will better suit your new ventures. Upon reentering the market, it will be clear that your company has undergone a major change and customers won’t associate you with previous product offerings.
For companies that plan to retain similar products or services once the recovery begins, this is a good opportunity to develop new customer-facing materials for every aspect of your business. This will allow you to maintain the strength and integrity your brand previously had while emphasizing your new offerings and showing you are moving forward. Even if you don’t currently have a product to market, there is no shortage of things to do to prepare yourself for future success.
Marketing trends will continue to evolve and change even after COVID-19 is a distant memory. It is in every business owner’s best interest to stay ahead of these trends. Don’t wait until the next pandemic or crisis to change your marketing strategy. Regularly assess these plans and be prepared to make changes as your goals, objectives and the marketplace dictate. Commercial mortgage companies that are able to recognize new trends and adapt will not only survive but thrive in both good times and bad. •