If you're a broker looking to build a loyal client base of small business owners, there are some key things to keep in mind when goal-setting. In the same way that you'd review a client's business plan when they're applying for finance, you can use a business plan to formalise your approach to your own business as a broker.
To kickstart the process, brainstorm your answers to these questions:
- What do your clients appreciate most about your service?
- Which clients do you most enjoy helping?
- Do you have deep knowledge of a particular industry?
Once you're clear on where your existing skill set lies, you can start to explore areas that are within reach. For example, could you up-sell some of your existing clients who are currently going to other brokers for particular things? Perhaps you have clients who come to you for personal or property-related finance, but they're visiting another broker to discuss a line of credit for their business. What would it take to deepen your networks and align yourself with lenders who can service those needs? Would it make a significant difference to your bottom line? Weighing up the potential cash inflows and outflows can help you decide whether to invest the time and resources required to service those clients.
Perhaps your aggregator already has agreements with the lenders you'd like to target, or perhaps you already have a contact at your aggregator that you can discuss your aspirations with. It's unlikely to be the first time your aggregator has been approached with these questions, so make sure you ask. If you don't already have a key contact person within your aggregator, this is a great opportunity to get in touch and note down their details because it won't be the last time you've got a question about expanding your broker business!
While individual case studies can help you put yourself in your client's shoes, it's important not to make general (and potentially costly) business decisions based on isolated cases. A cohort analysis can help you get a clearer picture of what's happening across the board. Ask yourself: “what's the lay of the land?”
When you understand the industry your clients are working in, you'll start to get a sense of the seasonal changes they experience. You can use this knowledge to proactively offer support before the client recognises that they need it. For example, in the retail sector, your clients may have strong returns during the Christmas season but have a cash flow gap heading into winter.
Putting some structure around these insights can help you improve your broker business, and ensure that you see the year-on-year-growth that you like to see in your clients' businesses.
Think about these questions:
- Are there any noticeable trends?
- Do particular financial needs arise at a particular time of year?
- Which lenders specialise in those particular financial needs?
Don't spend too much time labouring these questions. Jot down some quick notes and set yourself a reminder to check-in in a month. Now that you're conscious of the value they could add to your business, you'll be surprised how much more obvious these insights are!
Your Skill Set
Regardless of the profit potential, it's not worth investing your time and resources into something you're not passionate about. If there's a particular type of finance that you absolutely dread, don't make it part of your plan. It won't be long before it's difficult to motivate yourself, which doesn't get you any closer to your goal.
Once you're clear on which clients you enjoy working with and the type of work that brings you the most satisfaction, think about what's stopping you being the best broker in your industry. Is it deep knowledge and expertise, or years in business? Is it tough competition for a small client pool?
Once you've listed the challenges, identify one aspect that you can start tackling tomorrow. You read that right: just one aspect (very achievable, right?!). Hint: educating yourself and deepening your specialist knowledge is a great goal, and you're completely in control of the outcome.
Your Value Proposition
Knowing where you add value comes down to one thing: how do you differentiate yourself from other brokers?
It can be easy to get carried away with complex offerings. Our clients are accustomed to being offered a wide variety of services, and being marketed to every minute of the day. However, it's important to take a step back and state your value proposition in simple terms. At the end of the day, where do you add the most value for clients? If you can squeeze it into one sentence that can be easily repeated and remembered, that's ideal.
To help you narrow it down (because it's harder than it sounds), think about these questions:
- How do you directly support your customers tackle problems they face in the course of business?
- What game-changing solutions do you offer?
- What can you outsource? Could another service provider, such as Valiant, improve your offering to clients?
- Are there areas where you could improve your efficiency?
Remember, you don't have to play the hero; sometimes connecting to other service providers and having the right network to make a real difference is better than getting burnt out because you're trying to do too many things at once.
Marketing and advertising
Marketing can come at a significant cost to your business. Of course it's a necessary cost (because you can't have a business without customers), but it's important to review your marketing spend and make sure it's strategic.
How accurately can you predict your marketing costs at the start of the year, or at the beginning of the financial year? Do you have a set budget? Is it normally distributed evenly across the year, or focused on particular periods when you know customer activity is higher?
Are you able to attribute marketing spend to leads in the pipeline, or is effective lead-tracking on the to-do list?
Part of this process might be looking at the existing team you have in place? Are you a one-man-band trying to do everything? Perhaps you don't have the funds to hire support, but you can always outsource particular tasks very affordable using services like Fivver and Upwork. Why not get an expert to check your Marketing Plan? Why not pay for a second pair of eyes to take a look at your Business Model? At the very least, you'll get another perspective on what you're doing, which might help you think about things a different way.
If you've got the means, perhaps it's worth expanding the team. Have you a trusted accountant, bookkeeper and salesperson? What about a part-time marketing specialist? Would the growth those people generate for your business justify the expenditure on sales, superannuation and training?
Before you make any key decisions, make sure you seek professional advice, whether that be a trusted accountant, business advisor or financial advisor.
You're well on the way to having a stellar Business Plan to ground your broker business and maximise growth in the new year. By starting to think about your business in a different light, you'll be able to test ideas and strategies in a way you've never done before. Keeping an eye on risks and challenges that you might come across will also reduce stress when the time comes to deal with them. The Valiant Team wishes you the best of luck, and don't forget to let us know how you go!
With the help of Valiant's small business lending experts, you'll be able to reduce your research time and get back to your clients sooner. That means more time in your diary, better outcomes and happier clients. Give us a call on 1300 780 568 and help us learn more about your broker business.
Andrew is the Head of Third Party Distribution at Valiant Finance. He has vast experience in finance, working with brokers, accountants and referral partners.