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April 28, 2023

Rewriting the Playbook for Navigating Market Cycles

When facing a tough market—fewer transactions, increased interest rates, and uncertainty abound—many title agencies seek ways to cut costs, such as reducing staff, freezing hiring, and limiting any unessential spend. These tactics fall under the standard executive playbook for handling an economic downturn. Unfortunately, many of these cost-cutting strategies don’t actually benefit a company in the long term. 

As executives navigate today’s market environment and plan for future market cycles, they need to add more moves to their playbook instead of just cutting costs. This is where often-overlooked opportunities come into play. Title agencies that are able to actively use market downturns to grow their top line—instead of just weathering the storm and hoping for volume to return—see the greatest business longevity.

Marketing your services and expertise

One less common strategy for navigating a challenging market is increasing your investment in marketing. Capturing revenue is all about getting out in front of potential customers. If your potential customers don’t know your services exist, how can they engage with your business? 

My team focuses much of our marketing efforts on educating consumers about the title industry. Title can be a confusing process—even for those in real estate. Educating consumers on everything that title agencies do shows them how valuable it is to have a knowledgeable title agent on their side. 

We also work especially closely with real estate agents. As my team fosters these relationships, we walk them through our services and the value of our business. These relationships help make our business more sticky since we’re constantly providing real estate agents with knowledge and advice on the closing process. Focusing on the value you bring to these business relationships can deepen existing relationships. It can also help your business gain a reputation as a trusted leader in your local communities.

For title agencies looking to increase their marketing efforts, just know that impactful marketing does take time. Whether you have a dedicated marketing team or your title agents are incorporating marketing initiatives into their daily tasks, it’s important to have efficient operations across all aspects of your business. This efficiency enables more time for marketing efforts and other revenue-driving initiatives outside of title production. 

Making changes now to prepare for future market cycles

Using a slow market to take a step back and reevaluate your business operations can help your company prepare for future success. It’s the proverbial “dig the well before you need the water” concept. Thinking outside the box now—while volume is still low—gives your team enough time to create a growth plan and properly execute it. Then, when volume does return, your team has the processes to manage any bandwidth challenges successfully. 

Having a growth mindset during a downmarket can help your team add a few new moves that your competitors may not be thinking about. For example, while your competitors are slashing their marketing budget, you can get out in front of potential customers to help grow your business. And while your competitors are counting pennies on their customer service, you can look for new ways to improve your customer experience to foster relationships and retain customers. There’s no better time to advance your business than when your competition is retreating. 

Technology adoption results in greater efficiency 

I have been in the industry for over 20 years. As the President and CEO of Agents National Title Insurance, I have seen many changes in how the title insurance business works. In the past, issuing title insurance was a very manual process. We would rely on physical copies of documents and it could take a long time to gather all the necessary information for a single transaction. This process was time-consuming and resource-intensive. There was a high risk of error due to the reliance on manual processes. However, with more advanced software systems, title agencies can now track and manage all of our information in one place, greatly increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of error.

Modern technology is a powerful source of efficiency gains. Unfortunately, these types of investments are often cut when markets shift. I believe they are mislabeled as “unessential” in today’s world. Businesses that refrain from investing in technology during a downmarket miss out on improvements that benefit their company across multiple market cycles. For example, if investing in new technology enables my team to do their jobs just 1% more efficiently than before, we’ll be able to complete transactions faster and take on more orders each month. These operational improvements can be a force multiplier for growth as they compound over time.

David Townsend Headshot
David Townsend

David is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Law and Drury University and has extensive experience in the areas of real estate and title law. David has taught Title Insurance Practice at the University of Missouri School of Law and is a speaker for the American Land Title Association, Mortgage Bankers Association and October Research Seminars among others. He is a current member of the American Land Title Association’s Board of Governors. He is married to Kerry Townsend, has one daughter, Blair, and one son, Charlie. The family lives in Columbia, Missouri.

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