David Miles Interview | Predictable Pipeline Programme & PPC Machine

On the MLC Show for Property Professionals we had the privilege of interviewing David Miles.

David Miles is the Founder of The PPC Machine and the Predictable Pipeline Programme.

David was previously the Finance Director of a company with a £26m turnover, around 200 staff, and previously owned a firm of IFAs and mortgage brokers. David understands the financial services sector and combines this with his digital marketing skills having helped businesses with their online marketing since 2003.

Combining digital marketing skills with mortgage industry sector knowledge is a great combination.

You can learn more about how David and the Predictable Pipeline Programme by clicking here.

We interviewed David in late 2020.

Scroll down to read the transcript of the interview, or you can listen via our podcast, or watch the interview via our YouTube channel.

Click on the buttons below to listen to the interview on our podcast or watch via YouTube

David Miles Interview | Predictable Pipeline Programme & PPC Machine

David, how are you, how has your 2020 been for you?

Hi Sean, I am good, thank you yeah. 2020, for a year where no one’s gone anywhere, it has gone very quickly, I think. Overall, I think it has been a good year for me on the whole, despite how it maybe looked like it was going to turn out in March. It is turned out, okay.

Please tell us a bit about your career before you founded the PPC machine. What were your career and your experiences up to that point?

I started my career in IT consultancy, doing infrastructure projects for big companies like Shell and Diageo and those kinds of people. Then I sort of getting fed up with doing all that. My IFA of the time convinced me it would be a really good idea to buy half his business and go into business with him. So, I ended up spending a couple of years in financial services, never actually as a qualified broker or advisor, but running the operational side of things and the marketing.

That is where I first learned, through necessity basically, how to market a business online. This is the early 2000’s, the Internet’s just starting to become a widely adopted thing.

Then when I came out of that, I have moved into, well first of all, into doing lead generation, selling leads to financial services businesses, and then developed that into a more general-purpose digital marketing agency.

Grew that over the years and went in with a couple of other guys to expand it further, and about five or six years ago, sold my shares in that.

Since then, I founded The PPC Machine, to be just me. A one-man band consultant.

I decided obviously because it is just me, I can’t work with everyone, that I would niche into a particular area and it kind of made sense that the area would be financial services because that’s where my digital marketing experience has started off. It is where I knew I could generate good results.

I understand the industry a reasonable amount, having been immersed in it for those first couple of years. I have also done a couple of non-exec director roles, over the last few years as well, including on the board of an insurance brokerage. It all kind of tied together like that.

And what have you made of the property sector and the market in 2020, any surprises?

Yeah, a few surprises. I think it’s maybe naively, surprised me quite how much things ground to a halt, as a result of well, not of lockdown itself, but once we came out of the initial lockdown and the property market reopened, it surprised me how that showed up so much inefficiency in the way that the lending process works, the conveyancing process, and the fact that most small businesses I know, obviously have adapted quite well to suddenly working from home, but those larger organisations like lenders, local councils, whatever, seem to have been really hit by actually not being in the same office and being able to talk to each other, but it just slowed everything down massively.

So that was quite surprising. I was quite surprised by the stamp duty holiday as well, and I would be interested in how that pans out over the next couple of months. Obviously, everyone is panicking to get in before this deadline that has been put in place.

I think it is interesting that the bigger businesses, you look at lenders, you look at solicitors, in particular, it is interesting that they will not innovate or even keep up with other sectors or look at what other people are doing, unless they’re absolutely forced to.

I have a tonne of sympathy for them because a lot of them, especially at board level, they are only there for a short time. So, they are not that bothered about what this looks like five years down the line.

As far as they are concerned, they are out. It does not surprise me that they have struggled in the way that they have struggled. I know myself, I have been David and I have been Goliath, and it is a lot more fun I think being David, to be fair and you can move a lot quicker and slicker.

When you are Goliath so to speak, the problem you get, is a minute becomes an hour, an hour becomes a day, a day becomes a week. You are just in firefighting mode constantly. You never take that step back to look at a blank piece of paper and go, right actually, what would make a massive change to business? Then you never make the changes. If you think about big banks and big law firms, you think, well why wouldn’t you be digitally ready when the technology’s there? Why wouldn’t you be able to give people flexible working hours and work from home?

I think the thing with it is, a lot of the time, a lot of the barriers with those kinds of things have been people have just assumed it would not work. I mean look at all the people who’ve been told for years, “Oh no, you can’t possibly work from home. You can’t do your job without being in the office nine to five every day.” And then suddenly, Oh actually yeah, you can do your job at home perfectly well. Without that catalyst of people being forced into it, no one would have had the foresight to even countenance trying it.

Has there been any significant increase in clients looking for online solutions for a mortgage or remortgage?

Well obviously my knowledge of the issue’s kind of second hand because honestly I hear it from the brokers, but the impression I am getting from what I’m being told by clients of mine and by other brokers that I talk to, is yes definitely again, people who previously would have thought, that you can’t possibly apply for a mortgage or get mortgage advice without sitting down and eyeballing someone, are now quite happy to do everything remotely.

Not necessarily do the whole thing online but they are far happier to do all the meetings with the broker over the phone or on Zoom or whatever.

I think that is changed the unique selling point, for quite a lot of mortgage brokers, because traditionally, I think a lot of them have sold themselves on the basis of, well, I’m your local broker. My USP is you can come and see me easily ……, well of course now, if people do not actually want to come and see you, or they cannot or they are not that fussed because they have got used to not seeing people, then suddenly their unique selling point goes out the window. So, I think that has had an impact on quite a few people.

Have you seen any significant changes during the course of the year, to the cost of online advertising? Specifically, things like Google pay-per-click as an example?

What have you seen over the course of the last 12 months? Is it steady, has it increased, has it decreased?

From what I have seen, and it is always difficult to judge things over, a relatively short period like that, but I have not seen significant changes. I think if I were to look at the average cost per click that clients of mine were paying on Google ads, for example, this time last year compared to now, It is there or thereabouts the same. I suppose the reason I guess is Google ads and all those other sorts of PPC systems, it is an auction system. The price is set ultimately, through supply and demand and through what people are willing to bid. The cost per click only goes up if the advertisers are pushing their bids up and up.

They are not doing that because they are busy enough as it is, then that means the prices are not going to be pushed up.

The way to sum up the mortgage market, certainly in the last, where are we now, the last sort of four or five months is that there is actually no shortage of demand, brought on partly by the stamp duty holiday, and I think partly by the pent-up demand that was created when the market was shut for that period of time. So, there is no shortage of demand.

What there is, is the shortage of supply. I know the lenders have got a bit better now if you think back a few months when if you wanted a mortgage from like HSBC or whatever, your broker had to be on the phone or on the laptop at eight the morning in a queue and if I did not get it within half an hour, that was it until the next day. There is a shortage of supply, not demand, so I think because of that, the amounts people are bidding has not rushed up hugely and therefore the costs have stayed fairly steady.

In your business, what is the most common problem or query that you have to solve when clients first contact you?

Interesting one, obviously they come to me at different stages, like some of them are just literally starting out, either just starting out in the industry or have just taken that leap from working from someone else to being self-employed.

Others have been going a bit longer and they may be, tried out running some Google ads and it is not working, but I think the thing they all have in common probably, is they do not have a clear marketing message and they do not have a clear idea of exactly who they are targeting as potential clients.

They do not have a clear idea, what their value proposition is. The thing I always ended up saying to mortgage brokers, and the same with financial advisors as well and insurance brokers, at the end of the day as a mortgage broker, I know obviously there’s restricted panel, and there is whole of market, but essentially, you are all selling the same products from the same lenders.

So, I can get exactly the same mortgage from you, broker X, as I can from broker Y. So why should I choose one broker over the other?

If you ask most mortgage brokers that, they do not really have an answer, other than sometimes they think well I am the local guy to this area, but as we just talked about, that is becoming less significant.

Normally the first thing I have to do with the clients I work with, is even if they want to start advertising on Google, for example right away, I often find myself having to reign them back from that and saying right before you do that, we need to be very clear on exactly who you are targeting. What your niche is?

Do not try and sell any mortgage to anybody, have a clear niche because then that sets you out as a specialist and gives you a differentiation straight away. If you are a mortgage broker who specialises in mortgages for people that work in the NHS for example, that immediately sets you apart from most of the other 40 odd thousand brokers out there.

Also, make sure you have a clear value proposition, that states why you are the right broker to go to, for that ideal target client.

Then once you are clear on that, then you can do things like making sure that comes across clearly on your website and your landing pages. You can also then run your Google ads or any other marketing, far more effectively because you know exactly who it is you are trying to get to. You have got a clearer idea and also going back to what we said about costs of online advertising, generally, if you find a niche and go after a specific audience, your cost per click on things like Google, will be lower than if you try and appear top of Google for a general term, like “mortgage broker” or something like that.

I think my biggest challenge normally, is helping them actually work out what they’re trying to achieve and what their marketing message should be, and then we move on to the mechanics of things like, how do we find those people?

Often, how we find them is the easier bit than working out who we want and what the offering is.

Over the last couple of years, have you had to change strategy at all? I know a lot of this is about timing. People who, maybe go back 15 years, will be looking at email newsletters with incredibly high open rates. You then go through a time where Google pay-per-click, not many people would have been using it. So, prices will be on the absolute floor, for even the main keyword search terms. Then over time human behaviour, where attention goes, all this kind of thing changes. In this particular sector, has it been quite stable, in terms of your analysing of strategies and keeping up with the trends and consumer behaviour? Have there been changes that you have had to change strategy on, or have things been fairly stable over the last couple of years and what worked for you and your teams is still working now?

Are you talking about from the point of view of the strategy for the clients I am helping, or my strategy to market my business?

I suppose both really, but in the main for your clients. So, for financial services professionals, as an example, have you seen changes in consumer behaviour, which have meant you have had to change? Maybe whether it be the kind of keywords that you are using, have you seen dramatic increases in certain keywords? So, you have got to get more creative if you like, or have you had to make changes to how you actually then convert the clients? So, the first bit of actually getting the click worked, but actually just consumer behaviour meant you needed to change and give different advice. Have you seen any changes in that at all or are things fairly steady?

I think the big changes are perhaps over a slightly longer period than just the last 12 months. You mentioned email there actually, and email marketing actually is still really, really powerful, there are stats from within the last year or so, that shows that for every pound you spend on email marketing, you get £32 something back, so it still does work, but that ties in with one of the things I have seen change.

If I go back to when I was first doing this kind of thing, advertising online for people wanting mortgages and stuff in the 2000’s, you could be relatively basic with it.

You could run the ad, you could get the click and someone who came to your site would basically fill in an inquiry form, without you having to make too much effort.

I think the thing that is changed over the years, is people have become far more savvy, far more cautious about giving away their details, they will look around more before they fill in an inquiry.

Even something free, like you know, fill in this form for free mortgage quotes. They will not just do that. You have got to actually sell yourself a lot more beforehand.

So, one of the big things I have found has changed, is it is increasingly important for mortgage brokers and others to start building relationships with people online before they go for the sale or go for the consultation.

Increasingly I find you need to be driving people to a website and not expecting them necessarily, to make an inquiry straight away, but having something else they can do.

Maybe, download some kind of free guide or something like that, which will get them onto a mailing list, where you can then start nurturing them through email and building that relationship with them.

So, at the point when they are then ready to do something, they automatically come back to you, They start to feel they got to know you a bit already. I suppose that has been accelerated a bit over the last 12 months because the brokers are out and about less. They are not meeting people at face-to-face networking events and things, so the opportunities for that kind of nurture are happening less in the physical world.

I think that has made it increasingly important, that you have nurture systems in place, in your online presence. There is a quote from someone that I have put in the inside cover of my book about mortgage lead generation, which says, I am paraphrasing, but it basically says that instead of viewing lead generation as a one-night stand, we need to view it as a long-term relationship. I think that is the shift that a lot of brokers are still struggling to get their heads around.

Tell us a bit about how you help financial services professionals, but mortgage brokers specifically, how do you help them? What are their needs that you meet?

What I am focused on, is helping them to develop a predictable pipeline of new business or new leads. As they get off that feast and famine cycle and they can stop stressing about where the next client’s coming from and I do that in two ways, either working one-to-one with clients, only a small number at a time, because there is only me in the business, but I also have a membership programme that brokers can join, where we do group coaching calls and there are lots of online resources, to help do all this stuff themselves.

But the process is the same with both.

It is about, first of all, working, getting your marketing fundamentals in place. So, I helped them work out, most things we just talked about, like what area they are going to niche into, what the value proposition is, etc.

Then the other big thing that I ended up doing, although my specialism is in Google ads, there is quite a lot of stuff you have to do before you get to that point.

So those fundamentals are the first bit, the second phase is normally around helping them create landing pages on their website, which are actually going to convert visitors into leads, because most mortgage broker’s websites, as is common with most professional services websites, are okay as kind of sales brochures that you might refer someone to after they’ve met you, but they’re not designed for turning cold traffic into warm leads. I help them create those kinds of pages.

There is a lot of psychology behind that, things you can do on a page to make it more persuasive and get people to take the action that you want them to take. I help them create those kinds of downloadable guides and email nurture systems that we just talked about.

Then once all that is in place, then I set up and run Google ads campaigns for them. Sometimes we couple that with advertising on Bing as well, because that is often an untapped source of good quality traffic, or back it up with advertising on Facebook as well.

Really, for the clients, I am working one to one with, I describe it as, I am their outsourced digital marketing manager, basically. I handle all that stuff, either doing some bits of it myself and other bits on working with external suppliers to project manage the whole thing and bring it together.

And of course, for those who do not want to work one-to-one, or cannot afford to, then I would provide all the same kind of support, through the group coaching programme.

So, for mortgage brokers wanting to reach out, what is the journey like? What can they expect? What can you advise them in terms of their expectations, both in terms of the practical journey from first engagement, what are conversations like?

Also, what should that expectations be in terms of not just results, but in terms of what you think the relationship looks like in the short and long term?

Well, I mean the first thing I will say, there is no requirement for any mortgage broker to give me any money, to get advice from me initially.

I have loads and loads of free resources on my website. There are loads of articles on there around marketing a mortgage business. There is lots of free guides people can download.

I have got a member-only Facebook group, for mortgage brokers and financial advisors, who want to improve their marketing and lead generation. They can join that, and I do fortnightly Facebook “lives” in there, where I do little training sessions on all the kinds of things we have just talked about.

So, there are lots of ways that people can tap into all of that, totally free of charge via the website theppcmachine.co.uk.

The Facebook group is you can get to that just by going to mortgagebrokermarketing.co.uk.

Then if they want to go further than that, I will have a conversation with them and look at actually what they’re doing now, and first of all, work out where do I think I can help them?

I mean, in most cases I can, but I am at the stage of my business life where I am very definite that I only want to take on projects where I know I can make a difference and be successful. I only take on those and the results from previous ones kind of reflect that.

Playing devil’s advocate for a second. there has been this conveyancing log jam like we referenced before, the market’s been absolutely booming, because you have got this perfect storm of the work being stuck with the lenders and with searches and conveyancers, but then more work’s coming in. So, a lot of people have either been frantically growing and taking advantage of the opportunity or across various sectors, they have almost been shutting the doors potentially. So, ahead of the 31st of March, a lot of people will be saying, ah well, that is something that I might look at in the future. I do not need that now.

Why should I consider giving away time or money or both looking to either expand what I am already doing online or take that leap because you know what, I know I should probably do that, but I do not? So, what would your response be, in terms of why people should potentially take action now and maybe put that a bit higher up the priority list?

It’s that old expression is not it, make hay while the sun shines.

The time to focus on your marketing, is actually when you’re busy. Partly because when you are busy, is when you have probably got a bit of spare money to invest in your marketing.

If you wait until things have gone quiet, you are either not going to have any money to invest in marketing, or if you have, you are going to be frightened to use it for that because you are sitting around twiddling your thumbs with no clients coming through the door.

Again, it is about avoiding that kind of feast and famine cycle that we referenced earlier on. What I am trying to do is help brokers create consistency.

So, they have always got that pipeline of people. So yes you might be really busy now, what you should be doing now, is doing the marketing that will create the clients you’ll be talking to in six months from now.

Because as I said before, people do not these days always just want to come straight onto a website and make an inquiry, they need to be nurtured first of all. I know for example in my own business, that next week I will talk to probably two or three mortgage brokers who are good quality inquiries who potentially want to work with me.

I cannot tell you yet who they will be, but I know they will be people who probably first came to my website, three to six months ago and have downloaded some free resources, have joined my email list, have been getting stuff from me since then.

Then something that I send them in an email next week, will make them think, yeah, I need to take action. I need to talk to David now.

It is the same with brokers. You should be doing stuff now to create that pipeline of people who in three to six months, will get one of your emails or see one of your YouTube videos or whatever it is and say, yeah, I really must sort that remortgage or you know what, I am fed up with living in this house, it is time that we moved, I need to start talking to a broker.

And at that point you do not want them going off and searching on Google, you want them coming to you because they have already got to know you, through the nurturing that you have been doing.

So yes, it is busy at the moment, but we know that is an artificial demand, that’s been created by things like the stamp duty holiday and that will end, and when it does, you want to be the broker, who’s already got a pipeline of people waiting to speak to them, rather than the broker who suddenly goes from being really busy to nothing overnight, because you’ll be massively on the back foot then.

Have you got anything new and exciting you are releasing or anything you have just recently released in the business? And where would you like to see your business go in 2021?

Well, my newest thing is the membership programme I mentioned just now.

So, this is where mortgage brokers can join my programme.

They pay a low monthly subscription, and they get in return for that, a group coaching call with me and other brokers every fortnight, where we cover all aspects of working on digital marketing and look at different challenges. They get advice, not just from me obviously, but from other members of the group.

That is quite nice because obviously, I can bring the digital marketing expertise to it, but other members of the group can bring the financial services expertise.

As an example, we had quite an in-depth discussion about, how to market equity release and stuff like that. I was coming at it from the point of view of this is the nuts and bolts of how you would advertise on Google, but then other brokers were talking about the different kinds of people who need equity release and different reasons behind it, and how you tap into those to get your marketing message right.

They get a whole library of online training courses. They get a support forum, where they can ask questions of me and other members, and if they want one-to-one training with me, they get discounted rates on that.

So, I only launched that at the beginning of November, and that is going really well so far. It has actually got far more people in it already than I was targeting. So, my big push for 2021, I want to carry on working one-to-one with a small number of clients all the time, but I really want to push the membership programme and basically get what I am doing out there to a larger number of people.

I think it is useful for mortgage brokers, but I cannot work with them all one-to-one, so this is my way of scaling it basically via The predictable pipeline programme.

You can learn more about how David and the Predictable Pipeline Programme by clicking here.