The social broker

By Nick Gardner

Jason Thomson is a relatively rare beast in the world of mortgage broking. While many still struggle to grasp social media, he has embraced the medium with a passion, regularly sharing blogs and news articles with his followers and contacts on LinkedIn and Google+, in addition to videos on YouTube and targeted marketing on Facebook.

As a result, he says he is set to double his business revenues this year compared to last.

“It’s a fantastic way to get your name out there and this business is all about who knows you and who trusts you,” says the 45-year-old from his office in Cairns.

“The more people you can reach, the better. And while I try to put regular updates out on most channels, Facebook’s targeted demographic advertising is just fantastic.”

Facebook allows businesses (for a fee) to choose the exact profile of the audience they want to target.

“The so-called geo-targeting works so well,” he says. “I generally pick a 25-mile radius around Cairns, looking for people aged 35-55, with interests in home and gardens and real estate investment. It has really paid off and I get a lot of new leads this way.”

He aims to make all his posts interesting, such as writing about new developments of new properties in the area which may be of interest to investors, or about the local economy.

“It’s a good way of keeping your finger on the pulse so you are informed when it comes to client meetings,” he adds.

It’s a smart move from the Smartline broker who started his franchise 11 years ago after a classic career starting at the bottom and working his way up in banking.

“I left school a year early and started at CBA, working my way through the ranks, first as a clerk, then a teller, then examiner. But then when I got into residential lending I never moved into another field. I became a mobile lender – I wasn’t based at a branch, I had a car and a laptop and was on call seven days and seven nights a week. We got some leads from the bank, but we had to drum up most ourselves through relationships with real estate agents and so forth.”

Life on the road lasted six years before he decided to jump into a franchise with a CBA colleague and set up a Smartline franchise.

Eleven years later the pair still share the same offices and admin staff but technically have their own independent franchises.

Thomson says innovative marketing is essential especially in a tough market like they are facing today.

“You may be seeing price growth of 20% in Sydney and Melbourne but in Cairns, it’s been more like 3% and it’s getting tougher for people to find finance,” he says.

“Moves by APRA to increase deposits for investors, plus stricter affordability assessments to comply with responsible lending rules, means it’s harder for people to get into property investing. Remember we could get 97% loans a few years ago compared to needing deposits of 10-20% today in most cases,” he explains.

“The regulators are trying to solve a problem that affects two of our biggest cities but in Cairns and many other smaller towns, it’s an entirely different market, yet we all get sucked in by the new rules. However, we can normally find solutions by sourcing deals from the right lenders or structuring the deal correctly.”

Thomson says the biggest growth market at the moment is refinancing, as rates have come down and many owners have not reviewed their mortgage for many years.

“I try to conduct annual reviews with my clients because it’s a good way to stay in touch and obviously it generates good levels of business. It also allows that personal relationship to build up which is so essential to success in broking; it’s not about your sales skills, its about being able to relate to people’s issues and provide solutions while demonstrating you understand their situation and ambitions.”

His great personal service leads to many word-of-mouth referrals, which accounts for much of his new business.

“It’s crucial that we take the stress out of the process,” he says. “I have a system called ‘Call Control’ where we say we will call the client at a certain time on a certain day whether or not we have any news. That way we don’t have to react and investigate when they call us. It saves so much time but is such a simple process, and people are genuinely grateful for that peace of mind.”

As for Thomson's advice for aspiring brokers, he keeps it short and sweet. “It would be communicate well, empathise and exceed expectations.”


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