I recently watched a TV commercial for a local bank. At first I thought the ad was for a travel website, because they showed families enjoying their vacation. Then I realized they were selling their ATM access. Nothing was said about loan programs or commercial lending. The fact is, they don’t want borrowers to contact them because the answer is most likely going to be NO.
Private Lenders are looking for borrowers. Most brokers don’t have the resources to alert the masses and most borrowers instinctively go to banks. This article will give you some ideas on how to fish for borrowers and get them to come to you.
Plan Your Fishing Trip
The first step is to prepare a marketing plan. This may sound elementary but the fact is, many consultants and brokers don’t bother with a business plan or marketing plan. It certainly helps to understand where you are going so you can develop a sound strategy.
A marketing plan should have clear, measurable objectives and a marketing message. The marketing message is your value proposition. There is a ton of stuff written on this topic. Read it, study it, and develop a marketing message that delivers your solution to your customer’s problem.
Once you have the message, use several tactics to get the message out there but don’t overdo it. Use a contact tool, such as Constant Contact.�
Be consistent with this message and use it in several postings and marketing communications. For example, on every TOP 10 Funding agent site, you will find the following text, “We are private lenders for commercial real estate. I have access to the largest portfolio of private lending institutions and investor backed funding sources available.”
An example of a poor attempt at marketing is from a website that came into existence in 2011, postyourpropertieshere. They are relentless with advertising on LinkedIn and SPAM heavily. The email is so wordy and poorly done, I have never read the whole thing. I finally gave in to their SPAM mail and joined the site just so they would leave me alone! What a mistake that was. It is a poorly-done Word Press Site with little value offered to the customer – A huge disappointment. I get daily friend requests sent to my email and few users publish their real name or contact me with any purpose. NEVER has anyone contacted me from this site nor has anyone of these “friends” indicated that they are searching for commercial funding.
Another marketing suggestion is to know your product and know your lender’s product. I have contacted lenders over the past couple years that have no clue. One of them just asks for a summary and never calls back to discuss the deal. He never follows up and doesn’t bother to include the project name in the subject of his email. He doesn’t bother to keep in-touch even though we have tons of deals. There are many out there like him.
Be consistent with your message and be consistent with the appearance of your communications, colors, font, signature, and contact information. If anything changes, go back to all the sites where you posted stuff and make sure you synchronize your public image.
Internet marketing, for the most part is free. A paid ad in a business news journal can cost a few bucks, but the response will be directly from your target audience. Don’t be cheap and make sure you measure your success.
Most of all – be professional in your correspondence and in your ads. We are contacted daily by brokers who don’t even include their last name or phone number on emails. Follow up email inquiries and keep track of your clients and your deals.
So where are the best places to peddle your stuff? Try placing an ad in the Sunday Newspaper in the Commercial Real Estate Section. Look at businesses for sale and contact the seller to discuss a possible refinance or other proposal.
BackPage.com and Craigslist Ads are free, but your ad may get lost in the wrong category or it may be flagged by a competitor. If you must advertise online, try a paid ad on LinkedIn or one of the other professional CRE sites. Online sites may be an overused source and may be better for establishing relationships than as a direct platform for targeted advertising.
Every metropolitan area has a Business News Journal. Most of them are owned by the same news giant. Nevertheless, it is a great place to do targeted advertising.
If you have access to the MLS of LoopNet, research the property. If not, walk into a CRE office and bring some doughnuts or a fruit basket. Get to know CRE Brokers and their agents. They know where the fish are.
Be a Skin Diver
Nothing beats face-to-face contact with clients. Go to networking events and get in your car and drive around. You will spot businesses in your local area that may need to refinance their property or may be planning to expand their operation.
Use a spear to focus your efforts. You marketing efforts should target direct borrowers, such as multifamily property owners, C-Level execs, and small business owners. Respond to specific newspaper ads, online postings, network events, and LoopNet and MLS postings.
Chum the Water by sprinkling your company name everywhere. Brand equity goes a long way in this business. This goes hand-in-hand with your reputation. Post valuable information in online groups – Get your name out there and build credibility. Be recognized by your peers and by the website owners.
If you like fly fishing, post teaser ads with links to your website. Keep your signature brief, but include your website. Respond to other postings with positive useful information. Don’t post an ad as a response to other postings. Helping others is a great way to build relationships.
Network with other fishermen. Send friend requests to CRE brokers, property managers, bank managers, and corporate offices. Network with these people and recognized their contribution to the online community. Find ways to synergize your business relationships.
Use the Right Bait
Focus on specific market segments, such as multifamily or shopping centers. Mine your lists based on these specific target markets and measure results of everything.
Change the bait if the fish are not biting. Make small, measurable changes that you can track.
Fish don’t eat SPAM. Your correspondence copy should be informative and provide a value proposition that shows how you differentiate yourself from the thousands of loan agents out there.
Your logo, signature, and colors should be consistent so people will associate you with the brand. For the TOP 10 Agents reading this – Leverage our Brand and Website.
Throw Nets – Newsletters
Newsletters are a great way to provide your market with information and maintain a credible reputation. Please, do not plagiarize someone else’s work. If you must quote, always reference the author/source and include a link to their website. Do not include propaganda in newsletters; this is a great way to get unsubscribed.
I know this article is long, but newsletter should be brief. At the very least, include only a summary, with a link to the full article.
Use Constant Contact or other email campaign management tool to allow users to unsubscribe, track progress and provide a consistent message with graphics and other media.
Party Boats – Networking
Networking groups are a great source for referral business; however your objective should be to provide referrals without expecting anything in return. When you help others, they will remember. If they don’t, they are probably not someone you want to be associated with.
In this business, every business owner, CRE Agent, and Bank Manager is a potential client. Everyone else is a potential referral. That means you should talk to people, join online groups, post to Blogs, and participate in online discussions. Always keep it light and positive.
So get out there! Chum the waters, use the right bait and gear to catch more fish. Remember to throw back the bottom-feeders and time-wasters. To find the best fishing spots – move around and try numerous marketing strategies. It is better to fish in a barrel by planning and increasing your odds to success.
Don’t tell fish stories – keep it real and have fun with it!