Commercial Magazine

Thinking Several Moves Ahead

A thorough marketing plan can help build an unbeatable strategy

By Garry Barnes

As a commercial mortgage broker, your future success depends on growth and profitability. That is easy to write, but difficult to achieve. So, what is the magic? Basically, to remain successful, you need to have a clear vision of tomorrow.

Today’s aggressive business environment requires you to quickly read the financial landscape, assess the situation and decide on the best course of action to attract new business. The future is murky, however. A vital tool for achieving your goals is to develop a marketing plan that helps you make all the right moves.

Commercial real estate finance is changing in form and content at a record pace. Innovative service providers are entering the market all the time, bringing new ways of uncovering new clients, submitting loan applications and clearing the underwriting hurdles. Today’s mortgage brokers also are facing new and innovative competitors. This means you’ll need to adapt.

All commercial mortgage brokers want to attract viable clients. If you want new customers, you need to actively get out and find them to let them know you exist. The best way to go about this is to clearly define the future path of your business in a multiyear marketing plan. A marketing plan is exactly that — a plan. It sets priorities, focuses the company’s resources, strengthens operations, and ensures that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals and outcomes.

Initial steps

Before creating a marketing plan, however, you should evaluate your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is commonly known as a SWOT analysis. This process requires considerable time, and it should include the input and ideas of many people within the organization. The SWOT analysis will serve as the compass for developing the marketing plan.

Marketing is generally thought of as the activities undertaken by a broker to publicize their products and/or services. It is not that simple, however. The process requires a laser-sharp emphasis on a specific set of goals and objectives. The major purpose of a marketing plan is to set the company on a course that promotes its services, name and brand. Your ultimate goal is to increase market penetration through product diversification, innovation and by aggressively pushing change.

Furthermore, a marketing plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company’s overall marketing endeavor. It is a blueprint that defines how a brokerage will execute its strategy and use a combination of resources to achieve business objectives. This includes specific sales tactics, customer-acquisition strategies, a sales forecast and an expense budget.

In the field of marketing, there is a concept known as the four ”W’s” that can be used to draft your marketing plan. First, who is your market? This refers to the specific group the broker wishes to reach with their message. Second, where is your market? Third, what are the products that spell out your market specializations? Finally, what is your budget? Marketing efforts cost money. You should set a budget that speaks to the cost of implementing your plan.

A marketing plan is a dynamic document that is subject to change. It reflects the everchanging conditions in the economy and the commercial real estate market. These markets are in a constant state of flux, and today’s late-cycle market makes for an especially good time to develop a marketing plan.

Although the economic fundamentals appear strong, real estate economists have raised the possibility of a recession late this year or sometime in early 2021. We may soon face the end of one of the longest recovery periods in our country’s economic history. It is only a matter of time until the economy turns. You should face that certainty with a plan.

When outlining your plan, you also need to accept change as inevitable. It is difficult for all stakeholders to accept change. It requires commitment, open communication, and accepting the views and ideas of others. To be successful, you need to be able to change long-held beliefs and ways of doing business. Progress and change go together. This flexible attitude must start at the top and cascade throughout the organization. Management must change what people do, and why and how they do it.

If your marketing efforts can’t be measured, they can’t be managed.

Defining your plan

The specifics of each marketing plan will naturally differ from company to company, but there is a template you can use. First, you need to start with an objective that clearly defines your target loan volume and profit. You should also keep a list of the 10 most-wanted potential clients and referral sources, and inform all staff members of this most-wanted list. Identify at least three potential products to introduce to a client. Send letters of introduction and arrange one-on-one visits.

 Often, Realtors will be at the top of a referral-partnership list. You can work closely with Realtors on marketing campaigns in a number of ways, such as sharing advertising expenses, adding your name to the property listing signs and creating joint fliers. Attorneys, chartered accountants, and other commercial and residential mortgage brokers are natural referral partners.

Many companies also plan to do regular direct-mail campaigns. To do that effectively, however, you’ll need to keep a database of businesses and high net-worth individuals. You also should develop a list of contacts at local newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations, then frequently send announcements to the local media regarding your products and events, as well as other industry updates.

Another way to generate business is to get involved in the local community through the chamber of commerce and other economic-development groups. There are a number of ways to position yourself as an expert, such as teaching a class on commercial real estate finance, speaking at public events or writing articles for trade magazines. Each loan officer should be involved in at least one outside activity. Your marketing plan should clearly define how many referrals that individual is expected to gain from activities in the community.

Another task in developing a marketing plan is to define employee incentives. Your plan should spell out how staff qualifies for a bonus based on new loan volume, when that bonus is payable and who qualifies. You may, for example, give incentives for support staff that generate new business for the company. All of this should be clearly defined in your marketing plan.

One final phase of developing a marketing plan should be emphasized and that is to establish a method to measure the results of the initiative. If your marketing efforts can’t be measured, they can’t be managed. You need to be able to identify the referral source of a new client and their preferred product, as well as the closing rates from your referral sources. More generally, you need to be able to evaluate how well your marketing plan is working as a whole. You need to know how much new loan volume is generated by each of your marketing efforts during a specific period. This enables you to adapt to changing conditions.

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The commercial mortgage broker is the architect of a changing future. A forward-thinking mortgage broker will work to embrace change and make that their strength. This starts by creating a vision for the future that frees you up to make all the right moves ahead of time


  • Garry Barnes

    Garry Barnes is managing director of PW Partners Consultancy, headquartered in Salt Lake City, and is a freelance writer. He is a former president and CEO of banks in Arizona, California and Utah. He has taught at the university level, and is a frequent writer and lecturer on banking, finance and real estate matters. Barnes has served on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council and received the SBA Arizona Financial Services Advocate of the Year award.

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