Time to take a fresh look at marketing

Brokers are in a good position to make themselves the central contact for all their clients\' needs and in the process build loyalty within their client base, says Payam Azadi

What is marketing? Google throws up at least 20 definitions. Two of the given explanations are ‘a communication about a product or service’ and ‘the planning and implementation of a strategy’.

Initially it seems marketing requires spending time and effort which otherwise could be spent elsewhere. Why would a broker want to do this? Brokers will only embrace marketing if they can see it directly producing leads and therefore having a direct effect on sales and the bottom line is that most still see brand development as secondary.

The most successful will be able to carry out marketing activities alongside an effective sales operation. That may be easy if you have a seemingly unlimited marketing budget like First Active or HBOS, but most brokers will need to see an immediate investment return as budgets and cashflow are limited.

Marketing could also be defined as finding out what customers want in a product and devising a way to offer it to them. This could mean teams of researchers conferring with sales staff or just having your finger on the market pulse.

Once you have chosen your product the most cost- effective marketing strategy is to ensure your message is spread by word of mouth and recommendations. Interpersonal skills are the key to developing business as I have discovered in conversations with successful brokers at roadshows.

The term that describes this is networking and I liken it to the Yellow Pages directory. You essentially make yourself the central contact for all your clients’ needs. Due to the diverse range of clients encountered on any given day as an intermediary, you have the perfect opportunity to become the link between people with different roles. More importantly, this will enable you to be constantly in touch with your database.

By making yourself the key contact for clients you keep in touch with their day-to-day lives. For example, you may have 50 people on your books, all working in different fields and coming from different walks of life. The key is to build a strong enough relationship with them for you to be their point of contact should they need anything.

Although the call may not be about a mortgage or an insurance policy and it may just be a referral to one of your other clients, this response shows you are servicing your database. By keeping in touch at this level you are building your chances of that all important referral as well as building trust.

Providing a service similar to the Yellow Pages is the most basic way of building a database and referrals. This will also help you with outbound call costs, letter writing, mail shots and advertising. A broker who takes the time to service its clients in such a way will find its business gradually growing. More importantly, because of the strong relationship that will have been built from the network marketing strategy, clients will be more loyal. This is what all brokers are looking for in the competitive market in which we operate today.