Technology has always been at the forefront of society’s resources. But now, more than ever before, we—on an individual level—are being forced to rely on it, not only as a mode of progression, but in many instances, just to maintain the status quo.
Due to the current state of pandemic, and to promote safety, many companies are directing their employees to the virtual office—instructing them to work from home and/or a secure remote environment. So, whether managing employees or communicating with customers daily, it has become mission critical that we take advantage of software available at our fingertips to stay engaged with our teams and our audiences.
But Is Remote All That New?
Certainly, there is more pressure now to work from home due to the strict COVID-19 quarantine regulations. But, according to CNBC, in 2018, more than 70% of professionals reported they worked remotely or from home at least once a week. In fact, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Home Office Computing Magazine championed the very idea of “The Home Office,” which played well into the growing entrepreneurial spirit—embodied by desktop publishers, copywriters, graphic designers, advertisers, marketers, and many more—by glamorizing the idea of leveraging technology to achieve complete independence.
Many companies, especially in the mortgage industry, support and promote the idea of ops employees working from home to maximize efficiency by decentralizing fulfillment. But how does this apply to entire departments whose daily functions are complexly integrated into the company’s larger mission?
It Boils Down To Communication
Most people today own smartphones, and most smartphones are kept within an arm’s reach. People are continuously checking their e-mail, text messages, staying engaged on newsfeeds, and often indulging in social media—regardless of what they may be doing. As a society, we have become multitaskers of multimedia, integrated into the digital stratosphere—the proverbial well of information where everyone drinks from around the clock. This is the “new norm.”
We are in it. But that’s not enough. Instead, we must learn to navigate it, build and uphold an effective presence, and most of all, not lose our footing. Whether it’s fostering a company culture, making a brand footprint or building our own “personal brand,” we live in a time where maintaining a presence through a constant stream of content and communication is vital to both our business and our existence.
Communication software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, Webinars or Slack has been—until recently—another tool at the industry’s disposal. But it has quickly become our lifeline. Most companies have already been taking advantage of this technology and are currently honing their skills, but those that have yet to hop on the bandwagon will need to soon, or they’ll be left in the dust.
In an April 2019 National Mortgage Professional
magazine article “Living on Video
,” I discussed the reality that many of us now live our lives through a lens. We are subscribing to the ideology of embracing modern technology and communicating more effectively in a business environment that has evolved into something much more powerful and pervasive; one might say, an environment that is moving at the speed of business.
How Do We Effectively Mine For New Customers?
When it comes to divisions that are well-adapted to virtual, multi-media operations, marketing is unmatched, as many of its operations have already migrated to the digital space and existing customers, borrowers and referral partners have grown accustomed to it—if not embraced it.
To effectively mine for new customers begin by leveraging your customer database.
►Know your audience: While prospecting for new business is unavoidable, mining your existing database can prove to be just as valuable! Sometimes, it’s not about purchasing another cow, but rather milking the cows you already have. Scrub your referral database and reach out to your contacts while they are working from home. If you can’t be physically present with them, stay mentally present by sharing relevant content that will reinforce your connection and help to build or re-establish a level of trust.
►Content is king: Creating a content strategy is key, but where do you start? It might help to conceive of marketing as “educating.” Start with the basics of your practice, product or service, and approach your audience with the intent to raise awareness—to attract them simply by sharing the facts. As Ginger Bell, author of The Edumarketer, advises, “Always pass on what you’ve learned” and “Be the marketer of your expertise.” Whether quick static posts, articles, blog material, white papers, videos or podcasts—it’s important to create and disseminate content! Don’t worry about what you don’t know—rather, focus on what you do know.
Applying Soft Skills/Emotional Intelligence
Though often overlooked, in a landscape of exponential growth and evolving technology, success in the marketing field greatly depends on your level of irreplaceable soft skills, including creativity and emotional intelligence. Emotional Quotient, or “EQ” as it is commonly referred to in the field of psychology, was a term coined by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. The duo offered the first formulation of a concept they called “Emotional Intelligence,” measured by the “EQ,” much like standard intelligence is measured by the Intelligence Quotient (IQ). According to a Cengage survey conducted in 2019, more than 70% of employers are primarily looking for soft skills when vetting entry-level employees. The study also reports that some of the most valued soft skills are related to listening and communication.
While technical or “hard” skills relate to one’s ability to complete a more structured task, such as calculating mathematics, coding, or physically assembling products, soft skills rely on subjective and relative factors, such as context, third parties, the mind's ability to adapt to certain situations, and critical thinking based on the analysis and synthesis of confounding external and internal variables. Examples of soft skills include emotional intelligence, adaptability, empathy, public speaking, writing, and other skills related to interpersonal communication, such as team management.
Soft skills have always been an important aspect of marketing, even if not overtly touted—some of us are just better at communicating than others, we say. But now, those “others” won’t be able to rely on Mr. Personality to take the stage while they hide behind the curtain because the stage is now the screen and everyone is behind it. Making a concerted effort to hone these soft skills is becoming increasingly critical as our capacity for face-to-face contact dwindles—running the risk of taking interpersonal communication with it altogether.
No matter how many tricks seasoned marketers may have up their sleeves, applying them will be useless unless they utilize their soft skills to become effective and active listeners, readers, and authors of compelling content. So, you’ve written your content and you’re developing your soft skills. Now you are ready to deploy your strategy!
Leveraging Your Distribution Channels
►E-mail marketing: This is perhaps the most widely used tool to effectively communicate with expansive audiences. Rather than pitch or attempt to sell, put out useful content that can help others learn how to navigate this new territory themselves. Such content can pull from your specific level of expertise, relative to your company (such as facts about how the use of your product or service has evolved in recent times), and how your audience might be able to adapt accordingly.
Or perhaps, it’s something more personal, such as how to work from home, manage your time or maintain productivity. It could even consist of tips on how to successfully leverage e-mail marketing. Whatever it is, it is important to remember that people are looking for answers and guidance right now, and this is a prime opportunity to build trust.
►CRM: As a wise man once told me, “The best CRM is the one you actually use.” If you are going to be a digital marketer, then you need to have a reliable customer relationship management tool to help you create content and deploy it! There are many good platforms out there that can deliver the fundamentals—some even provide workflows with triggers that dispatch directly to your customer via SMS text messaging to create a call-to-action. If used correctly, a good CRM will be the hub of all your digital marketing. An important formula to remember is: Reach x Frequency = Gross Number of Impressions!
It may sound basic, but it’s easy to forget in such challenging times, where your audience seems to have vanished overnight, and reaching out feels harder than ever before.
►Social media: Leveraging social media is a cost-effective, quick and easy way to make a splash and gain traction! Platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube (the number two search engine), are powerful channels that allow you to maintain an online presence and stay connected to many different audiences. Now is a great time to expand your network by joining groups of interest, listening in on educational video/podcasts (or starting your own) and actively engaging with others within and beyond your circle to build your knowledge base and add to your level of expertise.
Leadership Taking An Active Role
As we move into the new way of doing business, it is important that companies demonstrate behaviors that help drive cultural alignment. Companies and heads of corporations need to effectively integrate themselves and harness the power of digital marketing into every facet of their business, starting with leadership. C-suite executives need to see themselves as role models and become actively involved in the digital stratosphere—acting like true ambassadors of a new age, and leading their people by example. These leaders will have a tremendous impact on the overall company culture by demonstrating their ability to readily and willingly adapt to the ever-changing landscape—which will have the positive side effect of positioning themselves as progressive thinkers of the industry, keeping with the times and staying well-ahead of their competition dwelling in the past.
One Final Note
There is an old proverb: “May you live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of uncertainty, but they are also times that will help us unite, adapt and apply the creative energy within all of us to formulate solutions and navigate this ever-changing landscape. Consider it the new frontier, and we are the pioneers.
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 edition of National Mortgage Professional magazine.