Opinion: Don't buy into a sinking ship

Broker recruitment expert Zak Wilford argues brokers should avoid tired old franchise models and develop their own online-facing brands instead

Developing a personal brand is essential for success in the social era – one that reflects your personality and reputation, and one that is recognised as a trusted business entity. It leads to increased sales, more referrals, better customer retention and an overall better market position.

I have a strong interest in marketing and branding. I’ve invested a lot of time in developing my own, and building Zak Wilford as the name in the market to think about when you’re looking to recruit. Currently, all opportunities I’m working on are with groups that are happy to invest in the right person and those that, once they bring someone on board, will support both financially and from a business perspective. 

One thing I’m often asked by brokers looking for a new opportunity, or by people looking to get into the market, is about the aggregators whose offering includes buying into a franchise – groups like Mortgage Choice, in which becoming part of their group includes a large upfront fee. I have turned down opportunities to work with these kinds of groups because I strongly believe their offering cannot compete with one that doesn’t include buying into a brand and shop front.   

As a result of the internet and social media, the playing field has been levelled. Big budgets are no longer necessary in a marketing strategy where social media can be used to organically grow an audience or a following. And, with new platforms emerging such as Snapchat and Periscope, it’s important that a business’s marketing strategy has an aspect of fluidity and can adapt to these changes in order to leverage the attention these channels get.

The idea of buying into a franchise of generic marketing material through tired, stale channels and investing money into a physical street presence almost seems ridiculous in the year 2016 – certainly unnecessary. The idea of selling something completely intangible from an expensive high-street location makes no sense when everything is moving online. 

I see these big mortgage groups competing with each other. I imagine them sitting in meetings thinking about what their competitors are going to do next. The Hilton Hotel probably had similar meetings in which they would discuss what other hotel groups were going to do next – no one thought to put forward the idea of a website in which people would advertise their own place. Cue the launch of Airbnb, and the quick acquisition of market share from these large groups. 

Furthermore, I can’t help but relate these groups to the likes of Blockbuster and other franchise groups that have lost and disappeared as a result of digital disruption in their industry. To put marketing and other business decisions in the hands of a larger group sounds dangerous when today markets can be so easily disrupted. Blockbuster even had the opportunity to buy Netfl ix and turned it down on the basis that “people like the experience of going into the store”. Yet what’s become clear is that we as consumers want everything now – we’ve come to expect it.
 
With so many barriers to entry already present for new brokers, I would advise going down the road of a lean start up. Even if marketing isn’t your forte, there are alternatives to investing in a shopfront with tired old branding. Social media marketing offers a much better and more measurable return than a street presence and there are numerous, affordable solutions to help you get there.

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