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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   April 2013

The Business of Branding

Building your brand can help you corral more loans

The term “personal branding” may be a phrase you’ve heard a lot in recent years, sometimes being heralded as an indispensable marketing tool. But what exactly is a “personal brand” and what makes it important for mortgage brokers and originators?

Simply put, a personal brand is the perception that people have of you. Your goal is to win the hearts, minds and business of your colleagues and clients. You want to be the mortgage originator who stands out at the top of the list when a buyer is shopping for a loan, and when your real estate colleagues are ready to point prospective buyers in the direction of an originator, you want to be the one who comes to mind.

Consider a few of the benefits of creating your own brand.

  • Familiarity: There aren’t many drawbacks to being a “household name.” The more people who know about you, the better. Getting your message across will increase your recognition in the industry.
  • Credibility: Buyers want a name that they can trust when it comes to securing financing for what may be the most important purchase of their lives. If your reputation precedes you, you’ll project the sense of trustworthiness that almost every buyer is looking for.
  • Public image: Building a positive image that the public recognizes is all part of the branding package. Personalizing your brand will make you more memorable in the public eye.
  • Expertise: You can use your brand to establish yourself as an expert in your field, playing up your unique assets. This will help differentiate you from the competition.
  • Increased business: Increased recognition and visibility breed business. The more people who associate your brand with their needs, the more business you’ll attract.

Much of creating a personal brand hinges on how you market yourself and how people perceive your marketing message. Obviously, you want that message to be received positively, but you also want it to be memorable. How does a mortgage professional set about doing that?

Building a brand is a multifaceted endeavor. If you’re going to succeed in personalizing your brand, you’ll want to explore all the pathways to doing so. More specifically, you’ll want to capitalize on five approaches:

  1. Exposure: Getting your name and message out there is essential, and traditional advertising is just the tip of the iceberg in this regard. Take the opportunity to speak publicly whenever possible. Likewise, don’t underestimate how significant an asset the media can be. Try becoming an acknowledged media source; dispensing your expertise via interviews will get your name in print and out in the public eye.
  2. Online presence: Beyond creating a website that showcases your business, using social media to your advantage is a critical component of propelling your brand. You’ll need to become conversant in the options that are out there: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging, to name a few. With its low cost and its potential to access a wide audience at the click of a button, social media has become an indispensable tool for establishing your brand.
  3. Partnerships: Perhaps you’re a mortgage broker who has extensive experience with certain well-known lenders — or vice versa. Creating partnerships with more recognized brands will only boost your own. By leveraging your other partnerships in the industry (with real estate agents, for example), you will further increase the scope of your brand among buyers.
  4. Networking: Industry conferences and events can help you forge relationships and create associations that will help you improve your production. Make sure to carry your business cards with you and that these cards include your logo. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to network, even if it means organizing an event yourself.
  5. Coaching: Branding coaches and mentors can help you identify who you are and how to get the word out about your business. Consider attending a seminar aimed at helping you build your brand. Going one step further, enlisting a coach can help you find the tools to personalize your brand based on your message, personality and communication style. Coaches also can provide you with self-assessment methods designed to hone in on your unique message and determine how to best get it out there.

Now that you know a little more about the benefits of personalizing your brand and the tools that help you do so, consider exactly what you want your brand to project to your prospective clients. Think about the qualities that buyers look for in a mortgage professional and how you can position your brand around those customer needs. In particular, consider focusing on the following qualities:

  • Knowledge: Buyers want you to be an expert. After all, you’re their conduit to the best mortgage that they can find, and they should depend on your expertise. Your command of the industry must include not only the financial aspects of securing a mortgage, but also the ins and outs of the market in your area.
  • Integrity: There’s not enough that can be said about the importance of integrity in any industry, but when you consider the enormity of the investment that homeowners make, a reputation of integrity is absolutely vital in the mortgage industry. Integrity encompasses all of your business relationships and associations. If there is a whiff of suspicion that you might not be trustworthy or reliable, then your brand, your image and your business will suffer.
  • Empathy: Your clients want a partner who is mindful of the fact that this is an exciting — and potentially anxiety-inducing — time of their lives. Showing that you understand how momentous it is to secure a mortgage will increase your appeal.
  • Communication: Being able to communicate on a level that a buyer can understand is invaluable. You should be able to explain qualifications and policies without relying on financial jargon that may be difficult for clients to understand. Beyond effectively conveying information, remember that your customers will appreciate a good listener who hears their needs and effectively acts on them.
  • Efficiency: The process of getting a mortgage can be arduous. The last thing a buyer wants is to be waiting on pins and needles to hear from you. When clients contact you, get back to them quickly, even if it’s only to say that you’re working on their file. A speedy delivery on inquiries always will work in your favor; promise a little but deliver a lot.
  • Credentials: It can never hurt to have good standing with professional industry organizations like NAMB — The Association of Mortgage Professionals or your local chamber of commerce. Some buyers will choose a broker based in part on industry credentials, so you should keep in mind that these associations carry weight with prospective clients. 
  • Connections: The scope of your associations with multiple lenders and your knowledge of their terms and policies will eliminate any unfortunate surprises for the buyer. Also important are your connections with real estate agents. The broader the base of agents who are aware of your brand, the more business you can expect to come your way.
  • Experience: In any industry, your experience lends you greater credibility. Being able to point to a long history of successful transactions will gain you customers. If you have specific experience that singles you out from the crowd, make sure that’s part of your message.

Once you’ve created a brand that identifies you and makes you stand out from others in the industry, your focus should be on maintaining that brand. Stay on top of your reviews on sites such as Google Places and Yelp. Keeping your message consistent is important, so follow these four steps closely and carefully:

  1. Keep current. To maintain the brand you’ve built, you’ll want to make sure that your online and personal presence reflects it. Update online profiles regularly with your most recent experience and connections. 
  2. Adapt. As the industry changes, evolve with it so that your message continues to be relevant. As the world advances electronically, you’re going to have to adjust accordingly to keep up.
  3. Investigate. Keep up with the image you’re projecting by regularly using online alerts and other tools that monitor content on blogs, discussion boards and social media. Don’t forget to keep your ear to the ground with your industry contacts to ensure that you are still broadcasting the message that you want to send.
  4. Engage. You should keep up your brand image by actively perpetuating it. Participate in personal and online discussions to reinforce what makes your brand special. Keep building the relationships on which your brand relies.

Creating and maintaining a personal brand has never been more important than it is today. With the digital age driving the way people work and communicate, your clear and unique message — and your ability to deliver on that message — is the foundation for your success in the mortgage industry. With an abundance of online resources at your fingertips, it has never been easier to find the guidance you need to create your personal brand and the tools you need to deliver it.


 


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