It’s no secret that the debt collection industry gets a lot of attention from countless places–consumers, legislators, regulators, attorneys, and the mainstream media (just to name a few). Unfortunately, much of that interest in the ARM industry isn’t exactly the kind of warm and fuzzy consideration that collection agencies want, nor of a variety that makes their current or potential creditor clients giddy with joy.
So how can collection agencies get noticed in the right way, in a manner that will strengthen their own brand reputations and those of their clients?
In a few weeks I’ll be co-hosting a pre-conference teaching workshop at the Debt Connection Symposium & Expo in Las Vegas entitled “Essential Marketing Tools for Collection Agencies.” If you’ll be at DCS2012 this year, I hope you’ll join us for the workshop. But for those who can’t attend, I’d like to share a handful of straightforward ways you can beef up your company’s stature.
Before I dive into the tips themselves, allow me to dispense with one all-too-pervasive falsehood that some in the ARM industry still seem to cling to: promoting your brand does not “paint a target on your company’s back.” (Why? Because it’s already tattooed there, permanently.) Remember all those sources of undesirable scrutiny I mentioned above? Do you think your detractors are going to break camp and go home simply because you choose not to publicize the importance of the collection industry to the U.S. credit markets, or the Walk to Fight Cancer your company participated in last month, or the fact that there are 5 more people employed in Cleveland or 50 more in Phoenix because your agency added staffing in one of those cities?
Trust me: they won’t stop complaining, or legislating, or enforcing, or suing, or writing. So what can you do? The answer is alarmingly simple: Play an active role in the conversation about the collection industry. Here are a few ideas for how to do that.
1. Create content. You and your employees work hard every day. Doing good work is your job, but it doesn’t magically benefit your company if you don’t also do the work of telling that story. Do you have a website? What does it say about your firm? Do you use LinkedIn? When is the last time you shared an achievement or commented intelligently in a discussion group? Write your own history, or someone else will write it for you.
2. Get online. Bonfires are great for roasting weenies, but sending up smoke signals (and other forms of antiquated marketing) are both inefficient and not necessarily cost effective. The daily work of a collection agency might happen in the brick and mortar world, but reputation management, branding, and positive publicity must have an online component in order to be relevant and recognized in the world of business today.
3. Be frugal. Does your agency still utilize glossy brochures or send out fancy post cards through the USPS prior to a conference? So be it. But how much did you pay to produce those materials that, like it or not, begin losing value like a new Cadillac the minute they hit the mailbox. And how much did you pay to pass all that paper through the hands of decision makers en route to hundreds of trash cans under their desks? Instead, perhaps consider broadcasting that same message in a targeted email, or a series of Twitter posts, or a well-timed press release via any number of free PR sites on the Internet.
4. Call on your friends. Many ARM industry professionals are active social media users. Pay attention to them. Good information in a B2B context is addictive. Direct competition aside, most collection agencies face the same challenges and are untied by the same business interests. Share on behalf of others in the industry and they’ll soon do the same thing for you.
5. Leverage available resources. In addition to social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+, numerous organizations–from industry associations to corporate or individual blogs to media companies like insideARM–publish content about the ARM industry every day. And in many cases they reach a lot more people than your corporate website or company Twitter account (this, by the way, is nothing to feel bad about). Take advantage of these resources by sharing content and information with them. Yesterday, for example, I published an article written by a rookie collection manager at a Canadian agency. In it she described her astonishment at how great working for a debt collection agency has been in her first month of employment. Guess what? Over the course of just 24 hours almost 2,200 people read that post, and scores of readers clicked on the link to the collection agency’s website after reading what a fantastic place it is to work there.
6. Start today. You don’t have to be a professional writer to jot down a few sentences about how many cans of vegetables your employees donated to a local food pantry this summer. And it only takes about a half hour to set up a basic Google+ page for your company, regardless of how big or small you are. Already using LinkedIn? After clicking “Like” on someone’s post later today or accepting an invitation to connect, why not take 5 minutes and share an update about something good happening at your company. You never know… the agency manager at a blue chip credit card company who could care less about what you “Like” on LinkedIn just might be interested to know that you recognized an Employee of the Month in July who posted the largest month over month increase in dollars collected for the year.
Michael Klozotsky is the Chief Content Officer at insideARM.com and insidePatientFinance.com. On September 10 he will be presenting, along with president & publisher Stephanie Eidelman and Client Marketing Specialist Jennifer Szumiesz, ‘Essential Marketing Tools for Collection Agencies’ at DCS2012 in sunny Las Vegas. RSVP to join the free workshop.