Generating small-commercial leads: The (tenaciously) personal touchTom Brubakerquality leads, marketing strategy, busy prospect, your community
Brokers who are winning big in small-balance commercial lending
have one thing in common: They tenaciously build and maintain a
steady stream of quality leads. And they employ a variety of lead
generation techniques, with an emphasis on a personal touch, to
keep that stream flowing.
It all begins with understanding small-commercial
borrowers—how they work, what motivates them, where they get
information and who they trust for financial advice. This knowledge
is critical to developing a lead generation and marketing strategy
that will get the attention of a very busy prospect.
Take note of those two simple, but important words: "busy
prospect." The point of departure for your small-commercial lead
generation strategy is as simple as getting out and walking the
streets of your community. That's where your prospects
are—busy working and managing their enterprises. This being
the case, the most productive, inexpensive strategy to generate
leads is to canvas commercial districts in your community, always
with a supply of brochures or introductory letters to leave
Keep in mind that small-business owners are jacks-of-all-trades.
They make the pizza, balance the books, order supplies and clean
the restaurant. Time is very limited, so strike at just the right
time—never drop in on the pizza shop owner during the busy
lunch hours. Without a doubt, after a few hours spent visiting with
shopkeepers, building owners and real estate agents, you'll return
with both applications and referral sources.
Engage in this same type of inexpensive networking with your
friends and acquaintances who own businesses, and with people you
see at the gym or club. Take it to the next level at Chamber of
Commerce meetings or gatherings of local business associations.
Most members of Chambers of Commerce or business associations are
small business owners who either own (or would like to own) a
small-commercial property. Attend meetings and spread the word that
you finance small-commercial and mixed-use properties. Take every
opportunity to promote your expertise everywhere you go, making
sure your message is consistent—even down to the fundamental
details, such as including the phrase "commercial financing" on
your business card, letterhead and signage.
These methods are simple, yet effective, and you'll encounter
opportunities to network continually during your regular daily
routine. Take every chance to tell your story, and watch the
referrals you get from this simple plan of action.
The personal touch of your networking efforts will be enhanced
by following-up your visit with a phone call to thank prospects for
their time. Offer to send additional information or to see them
anytime they have further questions, and be sure to refer them to
your Web site.
Another effective lead generation technique is referral
marketing. Your existing relationships (and new ones that you
continually establish) with professional contacts throughout your
community—from attorneys, to financial advisors, to
accountants—can provide a mutually beneficial exchange of new
Keep in mind that you'll be speaking to people who are probably
unfamiliar with non-traditional, small-commercial money sources.
Clearly explain to your referral sources the types of clients and
properties your lending can serve, such as cash businesses and
non-traditional property types. Ask if they will be willing to
display your business cards or brochures in their offices. Be sure
to maintain a schedule for regular follow-ups with referrers, and
seek to create win-win opportunities by also referring your clients
to these professional service providers.
Here are some examples of the types of referral partnerships you
should seek to develop and build:
•Property and casualty insurance agents: Property
and casualty insurance agents have become a hot source of referral
business for Mortgage Brokers. The selling point for insurance
agents is that they will be able to offer their clients
small-commercial financing through you. The more services these
agents can extend to their clients, the more likely they are to
retain business over time.
•Small-commercial real estate specialists:
Identify and contact real estate agents and leasing agents in your
community who specialize in commercial properties. They're
frequently seeking brokers and lenders who can quickly and
successfully service small-balance commercial loans. When they
learn of your expertise in small-commercial lending, they'll
immediately see opportunities to expand their own sales and
marketing efforts to commercial owners and investors that banks
would turn down.
•Accountants: Target a number of smaller
certified public accountants in your community and arrange meetings
with them. They'll almost certainly have numerous small-business
owners as clients; if those businesses have expansion plans, the
accountants are likely to be aware of them. Their knowledge of the
business owner's tax returns also allows them to know which clients
may need non-traditional financing sources to grow.
Again, these are but a few of the plentiful referral
opportunities that you can pursue. Beyond these, investigate the
potential to form relationships that are tightly focused on
commercial property needs, such as real estate investors, financial
advisors, commercial property developers, banks and credit
For example, loan officers at traditional banking institutions
obviously cannot serve every commercial financing request that
comes their way. Just as obviously, they face a potential loss of
loyalty—not to mention business—if they're unable to
serve an existing small-commercial customer who does not qualify
within their terms. Making these lenders aware of your ability to
provide non-traditional commercial financing gives them an
alternate funding source to recommend to their customers.
As you develop your networking approaches with professional
service providers, it's important to constantly tout the benefits
that you'll bring to your referral sources. As your
small-commercial lending portfolio grows, you'll be helping those
borrowers to grow and expand their businesses. Consequently, the
accountants, insurance agents and financial advisors who provide
you referrals should see more profit-making opportunities for
themselves from these same growing businesses.
Earlier, I mentioned tenacity. When it comes to working with
referral sources, you'll need plenty of it. You may need to follow
up with your referral sources several times after your initial
contact to continue educating them about the benefits you can bring
their clients. Diligently send business to referrers whenever
possible, and you should begin to see a steady stream of referral
business come back to you.
Obviously, you won't be able to reach or meet every suitable
prospect or referrer in person. As your one-to-one networking
efforts begin opening doors to new leads, you'll benefit even
further from a solid plan to more broadly communicate and market
your small-commercial financing expertise.
It's obvious that a productive small-commercial lead generation
strategy requires tenacity and diversity. Employing a variety of
lead-producing techniques—all emphasizing your personal
touch—enables you to build and sustain both awareness and
consideration of your products and services. By testing and
learning (a process that must include multiple contacts and regular
follow-ups), you'll identify which methods offer the greatest
opportunities for identifying and securing profitable
Tom Brubaker is vice president of marketing for InterBay Funding LLC, a
commercial mortgage lender providing capital to small business
owners and commercial property investors throughout the United
States, Canada and the United Kingdom. With over two decades of
experience in financial services marketing, Tom assists brokers in
developing effective marketing strategies. He may be reached at [email protected]