Residential Magazine

Compelling, Creative Marketing Drives Business

Content that lacks emotional connection is at risk of gathering dust

By Sherwood Lawrence

At first glance, a book may seem like an unremarkable object. In reality, it’s a technological marvel. Imagine all the innovation and automation that goes into printing, binding and distributing a book to put it into the hands of the reader. Most people never think about that. What they care about and want to experience is the content — the story inside.

Mortgage marketing is no different. An entire ecosystem of technologies has evolved to help carry messages to leads, prospects and consumers, and the better these technologies work together, the more efficiently the messages are delivered. 

As soon as a message is delivered, the technological innovations behind it — rules engines, marketing automation, artificial intelligence, multilayered intuitive workflows, etc. — get set aside. The consumer doesn’t think about that and marketing professionals actually don’t want them to. What leaves an impression in the consumer’s mind is not how the message got there but the story itself. Everyone knows some stories are better than others.

How mortgage originators attract and speak to their audience is everything. Have you ever failed to make it past the first chapter of a book because the writing was subpar and the story didn’t inspire you? In the mortgage industry, that’s lost business. On the other hand, have you ever been so drawn in by the experience created within the first few paragraphs of a story that you knew you were hooked and couldn’t wait to finish? That’s new business. 

Ever enjoyed a story so much you went back and read it multiple times? That’s repeat business. Ever been so inspired by a story that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends about it the moment you finished? That’s referral business. None of these actions are inspired by the book as a medium; they are inspired by the story that is experienced.

Immediate impression

The question, then, is what makes one company’s marketing content better than another’s? Practically speaking, the best content is whatever produces the best results. For lenders, this means content that cuts through the noise — and the competition — to gain consumer mindshare and help win new business, earn repeat business and attract referral business. 

Emotional marketing is the most effective way to reach mortgage consumers. What makes emotional marketing so powerful? Everyone has experienced creative content that affects us in surprising ways. It doesn’t happen every day, but a well-crafted piece of marketing — even a 30-second Super Bowl ad — can make us cry, laugh, hum along to the music or even pick up the phone and call mom. Marketers that take this approach are tapping into powerful truths about human behavior.

When it comes to making an impression, is it more important for creative content to inform or to tell a story? Counterintuitive though it may seem, there’s a strong argument that how something is said — what the message looks like and the tone it conveys — is just as important as what is said. That’s because first impressions are formed in a matter of seconds, or sometimes in less than one second, according to researchers from Princeton University. 

In such a short time span, borrowers cannot meaningfully differentiate between your rate sheet and that of your competitor. They can and will decide if they like the impression you make, feel a connection to you and trust you enough to keep reading

Layered messaging

A home purchase is often the largest financial transaction a consumer will encounter, affecting not only their pocketbook but also their daily routine and dreams for the future. Yet even when it comes to major purchases, it is emotions, not information, that have the greatest influence on consumer decisions. This phenomenon is well-documented across years of research into consumer behavior and helps explain why ads with purely emotional content can outperform ads with purely rational content.

Financial number crunching is difficult for most consumers, and that complexity only adds to the anxiety and stress associated with buying a home. Few consumers really care about understanding the nuance of the deal — they just want someone they trust to make it happen. Emotional marketing that empathizes with the consumer experience and emphasizes the originator’s role in making a complex transaction easy helps the consumer move past their decision paralysis. 

In short, it’s the human experience, layered and invoked through a message, that makes content so powerful and effective. It’s no easy task to create that connection week after week, month after month, year after year. Today’s mortgage marketing manager is under assault to be more competitive, drive more leads, fill the funnel, create new victories and satisfy demanding schedules. 

They must simultaneously be the coordinator, the industry expert, the flyer magician and the creative genius. Confronted with fire drills and pressing demands every day, the truth is that few have the bandwidth, energy and creative inspiration to keep a powerful, emotional human connection alive with clients over time.  

Despite what some vendors may claim, there is no marketing automation platform — no matter how sophisticated — that can forge meaningful connections and create human experiences without timely, creative, emotionally inspired content. To believe that is to confuse the vehicle for the message, the technology for the story. That would be like believing that a Madison Avenue printing press can churn out best-selling novels without an author’s creative storytelling.

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Unless lenders and originators are lucky enough to have an in-house marketing team capable of creating timely, award-winning creative content every week, they should consider engaging a marketing-automation provider with a keen focus on not only their tech stack but their creative capabilities as well. How deep is the provider’s library of content? How often is it expanded and refreshed? Is content easy to customize and co-brand? Is it beautiful, dynamic and engaging? 

Most importantly, you should ask whether the content exhibits an understanding of emotional marketing and human connection that will help you win new business, earn repeat business and attract referral business. Unless the answer is an emphatic “yes,” your marketing campaigns risk being ineffectively average and getting lost in the noise — like so many books collecting dust on a shelf. 


  • Sherwood Lawrence

    Sherwood Lawrence is chief creative officer and chief marketing officer at Top of Mind Networks. One of Top of Mind’s original founders, he leads the company’s content and marketing strategies with a focus on innovative execution and engaging content that helps lenders generate revenue and awareness. His contributions have helped Surefire CRM become the mortgage industry’s most-used marketing-automation platform. Lawrence holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida.

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