By Ivan Misner & Edward Craine
It may take a lot of work, but branding yourself as a local expert will do wonders for your career.
Branding your business is a hot topic these days, in nearly every industry. But in the mortgage industry, which bore witness to staggering numbers of new companies opening their doors in recent years, branding your business is not just a good idea, it’s essential for your continuing success.
Branding your business, either as a single originator, broker or as a company owner will boost your networking efforts, will likely increase your referrals and when done effectively, can help your business to boom, even in a slower market. But wait! There’s more good news about branding yourself or your company. In most cases, branding yourself as an agent or as part of a reputable company won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It won’t require that pay for expensive advertisements, or hire an outside agency to handle your public relations. Yet, you’ll still get the benefits of enhanced networking opportunities, more referrals and an increase in business.
So how to go about getting started in branding yourself?
Get yourself published.
While the thought of trying to write and then publish an article may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Even if you’ve never written an article, or shudder at memories of long past term papers, you need to realize that what you’ll be writing is something you’re passionate about; your career. Writing takes on a whole new allure when you are able to write about something which you likely won’t need to spend hours in the library researching. Because your “thesis” is essentially what you do everyday, you’re already armed with most if not all of the knowledge you’ll need to write an article for publication.
The logical starting point to launch your branding efforts is really in your own backyard. Make a commitment to increase your visibility and enhance your credibility in your community by positioning yourself as a local expert. Begin by reviewing the types of media outlets that are either in your community, or that cover your community. Remember that in addition to newspapers (daily, weekly, monthly) and magazines there are likely also online opportunities such as e-zines, blogs, online newsletters and information sites that will cover your community. Armed with the media outlets in your community, decide which of them you’d like most to be featured in, and begin to develop your article topic.
Your article topic will need to have relevance for a specific audience, and for a specific media outlet. For example, let’s say that a new loan product has recently come on the market, which may be of benefit to community residents. In this case, we’ll use the emergence of the reverse mortgage. Does your community have large numbers of baby boomers? Note that the odds are good, as baby boomers are rapidly becoming -if they aren’t already- a majority of the population in certain areas. Next determine what you want to tell them about reverse mortgages. In this example, since we’re using the emergence of the product, an article outlining how a reverse mortgage works would be the most useful piece.
You’ll need to now contact the editor or a reporter for the publication. You may be surprised to find that editors and reporters need good story ideas all of the time. While they are constantly bombarded by people wanting press coverage, the truth is that too many people send the equivalent of a company brochure. They fail to realize that editors and reporters need hooks, angles and other ways to relate to distracted, overworked, frenzied readers.
Next either by phone or letter, cover the five W’s (who, what, when, where, why) of your topic. Using the example of the reverse mortgage, you’ll need to tell the editor who will be interested in your article (baby boomers). Explain what your article is about (new product). Next, explain why readers will be interested in the topic (perhaps as supplemental income, or because it’s a brand new product). The when is covered for you as the product is brand new. Lastly, the where of the article is also inherent in the topic as it’s targeted towards residents of the community.
If you have contacted the editor via email or mail, simply include your article in with your letter on why the article is relevant. If you have chosen to call the editor, ask if you might fax, or email the article over immediately. Understand that while this article might not be a match for them this first time, you’ve at least opened the door to contact with an editor who will likely be willing to consider other pieces in the future. If the publication does not accept guest contributions, request to be considered an expert source for an article written by one of their staff members. While being quoted doesn’t necessarily carry the same weight as authoring an article, it is still a great branding accomplishment.
If nothing pans out on your first attempt though, take comfort in knowing at the very least, you’ve made a valiant networking effort. You’ve also demonstrated your desire to contribute to their publication, something that will flatter most editors and reporters, perhaps prompting them to call on you to weigh in on timely, topical mortgage related articles.
However, it may turn out that this article is absolutely something they are interested in using in their publication. If so consider yourself a huge success! You’ve made an enormous step towards branding yourself as a local expert. Then get ready to get busy, because your calculated branding effort is likely about to pay off for you, in sales or referrals when you make the most of it.
Making the most of Your Published Pieces
When you get some of your pieces published, promote them! You might consider sending a copy of the article with a brief letter to all of the clients in your database. Or, you may look into posting a link to your article on your website. Certainly, when you attend any networking functions, or meetings with potential referral partners, you ought to bring any copies of your articles to showcase. Though your articles won’t increase your sales overnight; they’ll enhance your credibility throughout the local community, prompting those interested in learning more about your topic to contact you directly.
There’s one last benefit to publishing articles. That is, that the more articles you publish, the easier the process will be, and your writing will likely improve. This then may allow you to expand your reach of potential media outlets to target. Instead of only writing in your local community you may want to try your hand at writing for an industry trade journal. Since you’ll have a few by-lines under your belt, you may find that publications with a larger circulation are now interested in your ideas.
This may sound like a lot of work, but once you publish your first article, don’t be surprised to find that you actually enjoy the process. Better yet, your new found hobby will also help brand you as a credible mortgage expert, opening the doors for unlimited referrals to pour in, and new clients to reach out to you.
Dr. Misner is a New York Times bestselling author, Founder & Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), and the Founder & Visionary behind the Referral Institute (www.referralintstitute.com). Dr. Misner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ed Craine is CEO of San Francisco based Smith Craine Finance, an award winning mortgage brokerage. He also serves on the State Board of Directors of CAMB and as an Executive Director for BNI. Contact Ed at 415-406-2330 or email@example.com.