As published in Scotsman Guide's Commercial Edition, October 2007.
People in need of loans spend a lot of time on the Internet. Often, they're members of online social networks, forums and business groups.
Brokers who know how to use the Web to their advantage can find many leads without paying for advertising. One of the most-affordable and effective forms of this is social-media marketing. This is the art of communicating to your target audience using online social networks and forums.
If you aren't sure where to begin, look to some of the large business- and social-networking Web sites. Here, you can create a Web page about yourself and network with others.
The next trick is to locate your target market. Your competition is bound to target obvious markets such as real estate developers, investors and contractors. It might be wise, therefore, to find smaller, niche markets that aren't being targeted and join their forums and networks. Find Web sites that focus on specific industries. Their members will probably be thrilled that you're taking the time to help them.
Once you have a page set up, join the conversation. Find people with whom you have interests in common and begin a discussion. Forums are generally subject-specific with many threads (running conversations filed under separate titles) you can join.
For example, if you join a doctors' forum, there will be specific threads about various types of medical practices. Most important, there will likely be threads about the business side of things.
When you see a thread about running a medical office, this is where you can probably find a good lead. Move slowly, however. Read the thread for a few days. Review what has been written recently. Get a sense of who is on the thread, what they're discussing and what their issues include.
Don't hop right on and tell everyone you're a broker who can get anyone funding at the best rates today. That's a blatant ad, and you'll be kicked off posthaste.
Instead, reply to a specific entry from a doctor who asks others for information about financing or working capital. Write a message to that doctor and indicate that working capital can be generated in many ways. Let the doctor know that there are other options than just banks. If you focus on private money, for example, explain that financing with private institutions often requires less paperwork, is more flexible and can be accomplished quickly.
Make a good impression
In general, be careful to tell people what you do without sounding like you're pushing your product. And be specific. Rather than saying you're a commercial loan broker, note that you specialize in "medical-practice purchases, refinances and working-capital funding.⍊Further, when conversing online, write clearly and be sure your grammar and spelling are solid. You're in a profession that requires respect and trust. Your reputation suffers when you're perceived as sloppy. Avoid emoticons, those smiley faces and other icons often abused in chat and best kept to nonprofessional use.
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Social-media marketing is the art of getting to know potential clients in places where they're comfortable looking for information and open to the conversation. It's your chance to educate a goldmine of potential clients. Present yourself as an expert and your bottom line could reap the benefits.
Gillian Muessig is the president of Seattle-based marketing firm SEOmoz. With many years of experience serving clients in the hard-money commercial real estate sector -- including Avatar Financial Group, www.avatarfinancial.com -- Muessig provides expert advice, analysis and industry forecasts in print and online media.
Muessig can be reached at email@example.com.