The strategies and payoffs of marketing are clear-cut for B2C operations, but how do you build your brand if your industry is more nuanced? When you answer to your clients but interact daily with their consumers, what messages should you send? Which audience should you appeal to?
Answering these questions will help you form your brand identity, putting you on the path to a more cohesive public image.
What is a brand identity?
Even those new to marketing know basics like the need for a logo, font or brand colors. While these traits help clients and consumers identify your company, brand identity goes much further. The marketing experts at Hubspot explain:
"A brand identity is made up of what your brand says, what your values are, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when they interact it. Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business and a promise to your customers."
Why should agencies care about brand building?
In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR). Debt collectors are excited about the clarity the NPR offers but the rule implementation will have consequences some agencies haven’t considered.
Joann Needleman, credit and collection attorney at Clark Hill Law, recently explained the Bureau’s motives behind the proposed rule during a webinar on enhancing the consumer experience. “What I think the NPR is trying to do is standardize processes.”
Standardization isn’t bad but it creates a challenge. If everyone runs the same way, how will you make your agency stand out? You need to differentiate yourself from the competition, and building a strong brand identity can help.
New communication channels are becoming the norm
Reaching consumers by phone is becoming less effective. With the increase in call blocking and the Bureau’s green light to use new communication technologies, telephone communication will no longer be a staple of debt collection within the next few years.
How will your consumers reach you when this happens? How will you communicate with them?
Use these questions to guide your brand building strategies right now. If you do, you can begin to establish your agency’s reputation before the CFPB’s final rule goes into effect – giving you a jump on your competition.
Trust is a precious commodity
New digital communication channels like text and email will become more popular through the NPR. As spam calls continue to flood consumer’s cell phones and bad actors create new scams to defraud consumers, a trustworthy reputation will become invaluable to your agency.
Your organization will need a strong, established brand identity to foster this trust with new consumers as you begin to collect debts through innovative technologies.
“If a consumer doesn’t feel comfortable, if they think you’re a scammer, if they don’t think you’re legitimate, that “opt-out” button is going to end the relationship,” says Needleman.
How can agencies create a stronger brand identity?
After acknowledging that your agency needs to hone your brand identity, you have to start planning. Consider what you already do well, and where your agency should pivot to keep up with the coming changes to the industry.
Company mission statement
The first step to a cohesive brand identity is deciding what message you want your company to send. Company leadership must be involved in this conversation, deciding what you want your clients, prospects, employees and consumers to know about your company’s values.
Keep in mind, as the CFPB begins to standardize practices within each agency, this message will be your agency’s main differentiating factor.
Website structure and design
Consumers are becoming more aware of online and telephone scams, which is making debt collection more difficult. Consumers are now wary of anyone asking them for money (especially if they don’t have a good recollection of the debt they owe).
Having a well-designed, modern website to direct consumers to will ease worries about the legitimacy of your agency. Your website should:
- Provide specific language about your what your agency does. If language is confusing or generic, consumers may not trust you.
- Include brand identity messaging you want consumers and clients to see.
- Maintain the same logo, branding, font and voice throughout every page.
Collection agencies have been hesitant to dive into using social media in an attempt to avoid negative comments from disgruntled consumers. But social channels are a great way to build up your identity and show more about your company values and mission.
Does your agency do motivational contests or participate in community service? Show the human side of your agency. Showcase what makes your company a great place to work. This can attract prospective employees, appeal to clients who with like-minded values, and build trust with the consumers you interact with.
If you use social channels to build your brand, appoint an employee to monitor them. Have a protocol in place for properly responding to negative feedback without violating disclosures. Your social media manager should be capable of delivering the same company message that you are promoting on your website and through communication with consumers.
The goal is to create a consistent tone and message everywhere your company is present.
Online reviews and customer surveys
Are you asking consumers for reviews? Debt collection isn’t a traditional business to customer operation. However, positive interactions with customers are still the best way to keep your agency top-of-mind. After a successful account resolution, ask satisfied consumers if you can post a testimonial on your website, or direct them to review you on your preferred channel. Keep in mind:
- Publicly available reviews build trust in consumers who wish to confirm they aren’t being scammed.
- Reviews can also be used as a differentiating factor in marketing to new clients.
- Surveys also help to pinpoint areas of improvement. Listen to this feedback to continue to hone your customer service.
Conduct an internet search of your company. Monitor reviews that are filed through Google, the Better Business Bureau and the CFPB. If nothing comes up in a search, or all mentions are complaints, make a plan.
Appoint someone within your business to monitor your agency’s online presence. Identify areas in which you can improve, and make a plan with your staff. Be sure to address how you plan to respond to consumer complaints without violating third party disclosure.
Adding all these pieces together will help your agency build a solid brand identity.
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