RAMS Managing Director Jake Bromwich and his team responded to the COVID pandemic by continuing to support their customers, staff and their valued franchise network in the face of lockdowns, sticking to their
business growth strategy – including recruiting new franchisees – and adapting to new ways of working.
For home loan provider RAMS, which prides itself on human connection and face to face interactions with its customers, the pandemic has provided a new set of challenges. Managing Director, Jake Bromwich, said this
led to the business seeking ways to ensure RAMS could continue to connect with Franchisees, the means to maintain and grow their operations while also strengthening its back-end operations like Credit, Risk, Marketing and other associated functions.
“We take our role in the community very seriously. We also strongly believe that by remaining available for our customers, and demonstrating that we are open for business, it represents an important message of stability within the communities in which we operate. So it’s critical to ensure we remain visible and that our Franchisees are set up to continue to attract new business and also assist our customers who require support during COVID,” says Jake.
In terms of remaining visible, Jake says RAMS Marketing continued with delivering their National Media Plan. This included leveraging traditional channels like free to air TV and investing more into online video and digital channels with a view to maintaining and building the awareness and consideration of their brand and keeping RAMS top of mind.
“Our local area marketing also shifted towards localised, targeted strategies such as Facebook consideration and lead generation activity, LinkedIn content series, Spotify and Radio advertising, as well as up-skilling for Franchise Principals and Home Loan Managers. We also improved digital lead generation, launching “in-App” lead generation in Facebook, so customers can complete the enquiry within the App. The approach means we generate more RAMS leads now than prior to COVID lockdowns, and they are better quality, converting to applications at a higher rate.” RAMS also took it a step further and forged ahead with the development and launch of their new brand campaign – Home loans are what we do.
“We actually saw this as an opportunity to really create a difference, and as different marketing channels became congested, we realised we needed to invest in a campaign that would have fresh cut through and really own the home loans space,” says Jake.
Jake says while marketing aims to keep RAMS top of mind to attract prospective home buyers, a strong brand needs equally strong propositions that cater to market needs – propositions that are carefully considered, rather than just being a reactive response to a changing environment. For example, while RAMS’ key focus and expertise is with First Home Buyers and Self-Employed, the business identified and acted on an opportunity with
Even prior to COVID RAMS invested heavily in innovating its construction lending proposition. This is an area that is accelerated in an economic recovery, and the HomeBuilder grants did just that. As a result, the enhanced construction proposition won the Excellence in Franchise Innovation category at the 2020 Excellence in Franchising Awards.
But as Jake explains, attracting business with effective marketing and competitive propositions is just the first step. Once customers make that first contact, it’s then a matter of engaging to meet their needs. This is RAMS strength and fuels the service proposition on which the business thrives – the all-important in-person contact RAMS franchisees have with their customers every day.
“It’s what makes us unique in this digital world. We use digital to support our vision to make the dream of home ownership possible for more Australians, but it’s not the key channel we prefer to engage with our customers.”
“Many prospective customers feel like a small lamb in a big paddock when it comes to buying a home, and digital channels provide an overload of information, but they struggle to cater to the first home buyer who can often feel out of their depth, especially with complex lending needs like construction. We want our customers to know we are here for them, and we want to attract them to our RAMS Home Loan Centres (RHLC) to have a discussion
on how we can help them achieve their home ownership dreams.”
As COVID hit, Jake and his leadership team also quickly thought through what would be required to get them through this, and in Jake’s words be ‘future fit’. “We were determined to keep to our strategy because were confident we had the resilience, and the fundamentals of a very strong business to weather the storm. We remained focused on investing across a range of areas to get through it and be stronger on the other side. One of those investment decisions was bringing in external support to build and roll out a new training program to up-skill franchisees and their staff to generate business whilst in lockdown, and importantly hone their skills for when the economic recovery started. So the ‘RAMS way’ virtual support plan and training programs were rolled out with current results indicating this has been a success.”
And while COVID has had an impact on RAMS’ preferred in-person approach to helping customers, Jake says RAMS continues to offer personalised service, having rolled out video conferencing and a range of policy changes to adapt to this way of communicating and gathering information, which the business has had a greater focus on since the pandemic began.
“This way, our home loan specialists in our RHLCs can conduct customer conversations and identification remotely and securely, whether they are isolated themselves, or if our customers can’t reach them for any reason. It’s the next best thing to being physically together. It enables you to still connect with a local specialist who understands your local market, and provides that reassurance and specialist skills set in helping customers buy or build a home or investment property.”
While video conferencing isn’t new technology, Jake says its use across the RAMS Franchise Network opened up many new opportunities to connect with more people, often and in a more personalised manner. “This has helped our staff connect directly their teams and connect at a deeper level with our Franchise Network. For example, it enabled credit managers to virtually join franchise team meetings to talk through how they could help them, something that was much harder pre-COVID when it was limited to infrequent visits. We just hadn’t tested how much we could leverage VC before COVID.”
Indeed, not knowing what the external environment will offer from one day to the next, Jake says the business has embraced technology as an enabler, opening up a number of new pathways for RAMS Head Office teams and Franchise network staff to stay connected with each other and engaged. “Last year we held our Franchise Network awards virtually so we could still recognise our top performers in front of their peers. While this usually takes place at our annual national conference, it just wasn’t possible with travel restrictions in place. We still arranged the trophies, had party packs and champagne glasses sent out to each franchise
and encouraged everyone to join in while wearing formal attire, with live crosses to some of the franchise offices. The difference to previous years was that we invited everyone to participate, the whole of head office and network, not just our Franchise Principals who are usually the prime audience at conference. The feedback was so positive that we are now looking to incorporate a virtual element in the awards at future conferences.”
From regular Monday Huddles with Head Office teams, and Managing Director updates rather than email, through to increasing the volume of training webinars for frontline teams – including sessions on how to cope during COVID – Jake says the business will continue to seek ways to support all members of the RAMS family through what is considered a ‘new normal’.
“When circumstances have permitted i.e. eased restrictions, we have pivoted quickly to take advantage of the situation and pull Franchise teams together to engage in a COVID-safe manner. And likewise with tightened restrictions, we have the ways and means to continue doing business. So while we can’t control our external environment, we can control how we respond. I feel it must be working. With the latest July lockdowns
across many states, we haven’t missed a beat with our new sales application volumes continuing to improve compared to last year. Key to this is being there for our current and prospective customers by supporting our
RAMS Head Office staff, who in turn support our Franchisees and their teams.”
And RAMS wants to support even more Franchisees. That’s right, despite COVID, Jake says RAMS is determined to make RAMS even more accessible for prospective home buyers by committing to its growth strategy, which includes doubling the size of its franchise network over the next five years. “Since the start of the year we’ve welcomed five new franchisees to the RAMS family, with many more nearing day one of officially becoming their own small business owner. We’re well progressed towards achieving our goals, and based on our forward view of new franchise approvals, expect 2021 to be a record year for on-boarding new franchisees.
For RAMS, people are our greatest asset, and we’re still recruiting franchisees, and with only a few vacancies left in NSW our focus is on VIC, SA, WA and Brisbane. So we’d love to hear from anyone who wants to be
their own boss, has the desire to succeed, is passionate about helping customers and is highly motivated and prepared to work hard to generate the rewards.”
Are you ready to become Greater Together as a RAMS Franchisee?
If you’re ready to apply to join the RAMS family, get in touch and we’ll take you through the steps. 1800 616 082 firstname.lastname@example.org
RAMS Financial Group Pty Limited ABN 30 105 207 538 Australian credit licence 388065. Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 Australian credit licence 233714 is credit provider for RAMS home loans.