It’s always a good time to review your business to ensure it’s in good shape to make the most of every opportunity. All too often it can be easy to fall into ways of working that do work, but don’t necessarily make the most of your potential.
Assessing your business fitness is particularly important at times of uncertainty. After all, you may not be able to control the political environment, the housing market or the regulatory landscape, but you can control the way that your business adapts and reacts.
For example, you know that lenders are investing in sophisticated CRM systems to contact clients automatically as they approach the end of their existing mortgage deal. There is little that you can do to prevent this, but you can make sure that your business has the right systems and processes in place to make sure that you are also communicating with your clients when they start to think about remortgaging.
This is why, at Brightstar, we will be producing a number of guides to help you think about some of the considerations in ensuring that your business is fit and ready to thrive, whatever the world throws at it. Over the coming months, we will provide information and tips on different aspects of running your business, and this time we are focusing on Marketing & PR.
Marketing needn’t be a daunting task, and you don’t have to do everything available to you to build a successful business. The trick is to identify exactly what you want to achieve and then select the most appropriate tools for your requirements.
Marketing also doesn’t just mean advertising. It’s much broader and probably includes lots of things you are already doing on a daily basis:
- Market research
- Product design
Who are your customers and how do you reach them?
The first thing to think about is who are your customers? By identifying the right audience and asking yourself a few questions you can ensure you make the most of your budget? So, ask yourself:
- What makes your clients tick?
- Where are they?
- How can you reach them?
- What can you offer them?
- What makes your business different or better?
There are many ways of promoting your business and not all will be relevant or affordable. What is important is know your options so that you can find the most effective way of reaching potential clients and communicating with existing ones.
Preparing your promotions
Before committing to any promotional activity, you should be clear about what you want to achieve. If you have clear objectives, your marketing will have a greater chance of succeeding. Typical objectives could be:
- Generate 60 enquiries
- Generate 40 meetings
- Create greater awareness of your brand
- Revitalise your existing client base.
You can have more than one objective but being specific and realistic about what you want to achieve over a particular timeframe will help you to identify the most appropriate approach.
Ways to promote your business
The first thing to consider when you start to promote your business is does your website give the best impression or your brand and capabilities? Your website is your shop window and much of your promotional activity will probably be to drive people to the website to get more information, so make sure that you are happy that your website sells your business as well as you can. We will cover some basics about building an effective website in a later guide.
In this guide we will cover some of the most common methods you can use to promote your business.
- Billboards and outdoor advertising
- Banner display advertising
- Press advertising
- Search engine advertising
- Direct mail
- Leaflets and door drops
- Social media
Billboards and outdoor advertising
There are many opportunities for outdoor advertising nowadays, including outdoor poster sites, bus and taxi advertising and underground advertising. The primary objective of doing this type of activity is to promote your brand to a wide audience, but there are some challenges. For example,
- Can you communicate your message in just a few words?
- Is there a particular location that works for you?
- Is your message engaging enough to draw attention?
- Your site location can be as specific or widely spread as your budget allows
- A strategic location can work well for your business (e.g. outside of an estate agent)
- The unit cost for a single poster can be relatively low
- The poster needs to promote the message in isolation and with minimal explanation
- It is open to weather damage or vandalism
- The production costs can be high
Banner and display advertising
Many websites offer advertising options on their site and it is possible to buy online adverts that specifically target the types of client that you want to attract. You can also choose to serve banner and display advertising directly to people who have already visited your website.
Online advertising can be very targeted, which can be more efficient
- It is possible to engage with online advertising with just a limited budget
- Many platforms will allow you to vary your text, enabling you to test different adverts to see what performs best.
- To make the most of the options and analytical tools takes time and can be a steep learning curve, unless you choose to work with a specialist agency
- There is a large variety of formats, so you need to be selective about what you purchase, or create lots of different versions of your ads
- Almost all browsers now have ad blocking capabilities and the large number of online adverts can make it difficult to stand out.
Press advertising covers newspapers and magazines that are distributed locally, regionally or nationally and can include specific trade magazines, specialist interest or lifestyle magazines or local papers.
- You can usually scale your exposure to your budget and there is option to get in front of a wide audience
- Press is good for repeat exposure, which can make advertising more effective.
- There may be opportunity to place your advert amongst related editorial topics, making it more meaningful to the reader.
- Large adverts and adverts in popular publications can be expensive
- Deadlines for print can be tight and are non-flexible
- It’s a competitive environment so you need to stand out.
Search engine advertising
There are two main ways of helping your website to become more visible on search engines.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): This is making sure your site ranks as highly as possible on search engine listings without paying a fee. This would generally involve the way you structure your website and the content you host on it. There are a number of specialists who can help you to optimise your SEO.
- Pay Per Click (PPC): This is paying for advertising on the search engines that will appear upon specific search terms. You pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
- SEO is free to implement if you know what you’re doing
- PPC is relatively low cost and it’s possible to set daily budgets
- PPC means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and goes through to your site.
- There are no guarantees where your website will rank with SEO
- Your website content must be relevant to what appears in the search engine
- PPC is becoming increasingly competitive.
Direct Mail can help you directly target an audience and can cover things such as letter, specific leaflets, brochures and branded items that are sent to the addressed to your target audience.
It can be a particularly effective way of communicating with existing client, but it is important that you have the correct permissions to do so and so it is important to have an appropriate customer database. For each person on your database you should record:
- If they have opted into or out of mailings
- A response code for each mailing so that you can see how well it has done
- A notes section for comments about each enquiry.
- It is easy to monitor whether the campaign has worked
- Each piece can be personalised which can make it more effective
- The format makes it easier to communicate more complex messages.
- You need to consider Data Protection and possible consider professional advice
- Success is dependent on the quality of your lists
- You are dependent on mail distributors delivering on time.
An email can be treated as an online version of direct mail in that you can send a targeted message to a specific group of people. Email campaigns can take the form of simple e-shots or more detailed newsletters and there are a variety of platforms to help organise, send and monitor your email campaigns, including MailChimp, Dotmailer, Campaign Monitor, Pure 360 etc. These platforms will usually design your campaign so that it automatically resizes to fit the device that it’s being viewed on.
- Cost effective method of reaching your target audience on a regular basis
- Opportunity to personalise communications
- Easy to track and evaluate responses
- You must obtain permission before you email someone
- Easy to delete without reading
- Difficult to stand out, so investing in content is important.
Leaflets and door drops
Leafleting and door drops are a popular marketing method for small businesses that want to grow awareness in the local area. The coverage of a campaign can be tailored to scale, from one house or one street to every house in the country.
- Easy to reach a broad, diverse audience
- Opportunity to communicate more complex messages or promote a larger range of services
- Can be accomplished relatively cheaply.
- Your audience may find your communication a nuisance and this could reflect badly on your brand
- Door drops can be popular, particularly in some areas, so you could have a lot of competition for your audience’s attention.
Social networks are an effective way of engaging and conversing directly with potential customers and there are a series of platforms that allow businesses to share content and interact with clients and prospects. These include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. It’s worth noting that despite being a more relaxed format of communicating, social media still requires you to adhere to the same rules and regulations as standard advertising.
- Puts you in contact with your target audience, enabling increased engagement and humanising your brand.
- Can provide an additional customer services channel
- No set up costs and you can do it all yourself.
- Can be time-consuming to set up and maintain
- You have no control over what people will post about your company
- The content you share needs to be relevant, interesting, entertaining and compliant.
Public Relations (PR) aims to put favourable coverage of your organisation in appropriate media. This can include sending press releases and providing written content for publications and websites. There are PR agencies that can help you to manage PR activities and you can undertake it yourself.
One way that brokers could engage in PR is by offering to write a personal finance column for their local newspaper or community newsletter.
- Good PR can help to reach people who are sceptical about advertising
- PR can help you build trust amongst your audience and demonstrate that you know what you are talking about
- Journalists are overworked and keen for people to help them fill their pages and websites, so there is plenty of opportunity for PR.
- You never have complete control what an independent publication writes about your business.
- Difficult to measure impact through direct leads but can support other activity through raised awareness.
Compliance is an important consideration for any promotion you undertake for your business and you should ensure that you understand and apply the relevant rules in the Mortgage Conduct Of Business sourcebook (MCOB). It’s recommended that you seek professional advice to ensure your promotions are compliant. If you are a member of a network or mortgage club, they may be able to offer help or guidance.
Here are some general points to consider:
- Is the promotion clear, fair and not misleading?
- Is the name of your firm and the address of point of contact included?
- Have you used plain language and is it easily legible?
- Are all statements of fact accurate and can they be substantiated?
- Are any assumptions clearly and prominently disclosed?
- Does the promotion include details of any fees charged?
- Does it include the required health warnings?