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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   October 2012

What’s in Your Toolkit?

Use different technological tools to keep your business running

What’s in Your Toolkit?

For many mortgage brokers and originators, technology has been the driving agent for improving numerous aspects of day-to-day operations. One of the most important tools in the proverbial box is now social media, as this has made a significant improvement for countless originators’ marketing and communication strategies.

Since the burst of the real estate bubble, the mortgage industry has suffered a lengthy period of austerity. Mailers, Internet leads and pay-per-click campaigns have diminished returns on investment and are now much less cost-effective ways to market services on a cost-per-closed deal formula. At the same time, however, blogging, tweeting and using Facebook have allowed mortgage professionals to more narrowly target their audiences and drastically reduce marketing dollars without sacrificing their conversions.

This shift can be characterized as the industry moving from a monetary-based model of marketing to a model that’s more thoroughly based in effort and sweat. For one thing, creating and maintaining a blog with user-friendly platforms such as WordPress and Blogger has become vital for originators who want to be found by potential customers online. When borrowers search through the Internet for local rates and loans, they’ll most likely find the originators who maintain active and insightful industry blogs.

Having said that, it’s more important than ever for mortgage brokers and originators to be vigilant about their brands. Social media allows you to monitor what your relationships are saying about you — and what your competition’s approach to their business looks like.

With that in mind, it’s crucial for brokers and originators to make the most out of the technologies and social media platforms available to them. Consider the following tools and systems for improving your business, taking care to make their most advantageous properties work for you.

Smartphones

It’s hard sometimes to imagine how the mortgage industry ever operated without smartphones. After all, they allow originators to conduct business from any place at any time. Smartphones can provide navigation systems to meet your borrowers at the location of their choice; they allow you to respond to all of your e-mails without missing a beat; they can help you quickly retrieve property evaluations and current rate data; and, perhaps most important, they allow you to stay connected with all of your social media platforms and accounts. Smartphones are indispensible for the mortgage industry, as is taking full advantage of their capabilities.

In addition to smartphones, however, brokers and originators should make sure that they’re making the most of their office’s telephone systems, as well. It’s crucial to choose a system, for instance, that can follow you wherever you go, helping you to never miss an important call. Hosted voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services can enable you to check voicemails via e-mail, as these services forward your messages directly to your smartphone. VoIP services can be affordable and flexible to your needs, helping to seamlessly tie several aspects of your business together.

Management systems

In terms of taking full advantage of the technologies available today, finding a robust customer-relationship- management (CRM) system is absolutely key. Although there are many different systems available, quality CRM systems should be able to track your pipeline, organize your e-mails, set automatic e-mail campaigns for you, provide reminders for important dates and manage your referrals history, in addition to performing other tasks. A CRM system’s features should be plentiful and allow you to communicate via e-mail without flipping back and forth with other software programs. Finally, of course, any good CRM system should be accessible from your smartphone.

Successful brokers and originators also should be sure to use report-building Web-based software that can provide total-cost analyses for their customers. Originators should assume that all of their competitors are sending cost-analysis reports to their prospective customers, so it’s crucial for your report to stand out among the others. A quality report should give the borrower a complete picture of the transaction and remain clear and easy to understand. Amortization tables often can be confusing, so brokers should use these with caution.

Variables on these reports can include differing payments based on different programs, with the usual fluctuations for downpayments, interest rates and so forth. Ideally, originators should use a system that tracks every time a client or prospect logs in to view a report. This creates another level of interaction and can make you assume the role of educator and coach throughout the entire process.

Blogs

As mentioned before, active blogs can serve as the cornerstone for all of your social media efforts. Costs vary, but there are a number of high-quality free blogging sites. With time, your blog can contain a library of self-authored articles, catalogs of self-produced videos and links to third-party industry sites that may be helpful to your readers. Of course, a blog also should specify every possible way that prospective clients can get in touch with you, including your phone number and links to your e-mail address and various social media profiles.

A free platform such as WordPress is easy to learn and subsequently manage, and it boasts easy-to-incorporate design elements and fast loading times — the latter being especially important, as slow loading often is the main reason why a visitor will leave your site. Still, although pleasant design elements are important for grabbing visitors’ attention, the information that you provide to consumers and referral partners is what will keep them reading and coming back for more, which ultimately leads the search engines to find your site when others are searching for information about loans or the mortgage industry.

Additional tools

There are a number of additional tools that no broker or originator should be without, not the least of which is a high-quality scanner. In this era of paperless documents, a dedicated scanner can give you tremendous flexibility when you need to e-mail a 50-page disclosure in a matter of minutes.

Sometimes, however, documents that have been converted into a digital form can create excessively large files, which in turn increases the necessity for another type of technology: cloud computing. In the mortgage industry, cloud computing represents a major breakthrough in the transmission of oversized files that cannot be transmitted via e-mail.

That said, brokers and originators should note one point of caution with regards to exchanging files via cloud computing: Although there are certain free cloud services, in many cases you must sacrifice the security and encryption needed to remain compliant with federal rules and regulations. There are plenty of inexpensive solutions that do, however, offer adequate security to remain compliant.

•  •  •

Although taking advantage of all the aforementioned sites and technologies can be a boon to anyone’s business, mortgage professionals also should make sure that they keep up to date with the latest technologies and social media opportunities. Taking advantage of the tools already available — and staying informed about new tools, as well — can help you increase your number of clients and referral partners alike, while also increasing your credibility, client base and personal branding.


 


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