The mortgage industry is evolving quickly. A mortgage originator’s business no longer depends on real estate agent and builder relationships alone.
Those referral relationships must be backed up with a strategic marketing plan that increases the transaction pipeline and leads to more closed loans. That marketing plan, when crafted well, can help originators climb mountains of adversity to reach the summit of success.
Within an effective strategic marketing approach, there are two main things to keep top of mind. You must identify a brand message that resonates with target audiences, including employees, clients, real estate agents, builders and recruits.
In addition, you should implement national and market-specific plans to drive lead generation. The goal of those plans should be to drive more leads to mortgage originators.
A changing buyer
The makeup of today’s homebuyer market is changing dramatically as millennials enter the homebuying arena, the Hispanic population continues to grow, and baby boomers and the succeeding Generation X continue to buy new or second homes. With these changes in demographics, it’s important to look at each of the target audiences and how they relate to a company’s brand.
The median age of first-time homebuyers last year, 32, was at the upper range of the millennial generation, according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Millennials are the generation following Gen X and are also known as Generation Y. Millennials have represented the largest share of homebuyers for the last several years, the association’s 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study found.
Following millennials is Generation Z, defined as anyone born between 1995 and 2010. Generation Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in our history, and its members are beginning to enter the housing market as renters. Fifty-seven percent of Generation Z considered buying a home while searching for their last rental, according to the Zillow Group Report on Consumer and Housing Trends 2017.
Mortgage company brands need to resonate with these younger growing homebuyer segments while also reaching Generation X and baby boomers. It starts with the company’s brand and how that brand connects with today’s homebuyers.
A company’s brand, brand identity and value proposition — what makes the company appeal to clients — help position the business as trustworthy and able to provide guidance and information that keep homebuyers informed and engaged through the homebuying process.
According to Fiserv Inc.’s 2017 Expectations & Experiences: Borrowing and Wealth Management survey, 70 percent of respondents said the lender’s reputation is an important factor. It will determine whether people will buy a product, invest in a company or consider employment.
Define the brand
Brand identity is a vital part of the strategic framework for a successful marketing campaign. First, evaluate the landscape to identify the competitive set, opportunities and strengths as well as the gaps in the market.
By using this information, mortgage companies can identify their core strengths, their value proposition and how their business delivers on their promise. It is helpful to bring in outside experts to help with defining the brand. There are some key elements in all branding exercises, however.
Starting with data from past customers can provide a snapshot of the current buyer attracted to a brand. This data also provides an excellent source to ask questions about their connection with the brand through post-closing surveys.
“ It is important for everyone, from the CEO to loan originators, to speak from the same messaging to create a strong brand from the inside out. ”
Companies also can run a promotion to survey past customers and gain insight into the brand strengths and opportunities. A great question to pose is to ask for a word that best describes the brand. Following the identification of brand strengths and opportunities, companies can establish their brand positioning, which will lay the foundation for the overall brand and tagline.
Armed with this information, companies should review and revise as needed their mission statement (or purpose), vision statement (where they want to go in the future) and messaging strategy (how to communicate the brand) to ensure that all audiences are receiving the same message about the brand.
It is important for everyone, from the CEO to loan originators, to speak from the same messaging to create a strong brand from the inside out. Once the brand exercises are completed, it is time to think about how to communicate the brand to target audiences. The message needs to resonate with them at the critical time when they are looking to buy a home, refinance a home, refer a homebuyer who needs home financing or seek employment with a mortgage company.
Reach the audience
Investing the time to map out a strategic marketing plan, including digital and traditional marketing tactics at the local, regional and national level, will provide a competitive advantage for mortgage companies and their loan originators. In today’s media-rich culture and with the proliferation of mobile devices, leveraging technology to efficiently deliver content to the different audiences in the format that connects with them is imperative.
Buyers of all ages are starting their home searches online with millennials and Generation X buyers most likely to begin their search online. To ensure the target audience finds the company’s digital content (web and social), utilize keywords with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind to improve search results.
Digital campaigns are a cost-effective option and deliver marketing specific campaigns to a variety of audiences. Digital messaging can include website banners on industry-leading sites both nationally and locally, paid social media posts and e-mail engagement with audiences. Digital campaigns also provide a data-driven platform to engage with homebuyers.
The NAR’s Real Estate in a Digital Age study found that 58 percent of millennials, 46 percent of Gen Xers and 33 percent of younger boomers discovered the homes they purchased on their mobile devices. It is imperative to think “mobile first” when optimizing the company’s website and social media sites.
They are a critical part of the marketing plan and can be a great asset or a source of missed opportunities. Websites should be viewed as community hubs that serve as ongoing resources and the center of online and owned media. Well-conceived websites provide a variety of engagement opportunities with homebuyers that result in action, such as subscribing to a newsletter, researching homebuyer tips, calculating a loan payment or completing a pre-application.
Websites should be built to serve as a type of online community where homeowners are informed on the topics essential to them while engaging with a mortgage company’s brand. Adding a weekly blog to the website with fresh content each week can help drive SEO by keeping the website timely and relevant. Also, consider personalization technology to deliver relevant content to the various segments of the customer base.
In addition, social media continues to drive engagement in the homebuying process. According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Use in 2018 survey, 68 percent of Americans use Facebook followed by Instagram (38 percent), Pinterest (29 percent), Snapchat (27 percent), LinkedIn (25 percent) and Twitter (24 percent). Social media provides a variety of planning tools that help focus social media efforts by demographics, geography and behavior. A solid social media strategy allows mortgage companies to connect with current, past and potential homebuyers on an ongoing basis.
An easy-to-execute example of engaging audiences at the corporate and local level is a picture campaign, showing the happy new homeowner, real estate agent and loan officer at closing. When posting on social media, remember to tag everyone to increase views. Engagement can be further expanded by overlaying a social media campaign with a hashtag sweepstakes to maximize the audience reach.
Value of testimonials
Loan originators with positive customer testimonials and reviews, professional websites, and creative social profiles (backed by a solid social media plan) will lead an organization. Those without will likely fall behind in bringing in new business.
The best way to get an outstanding testimonial or review is for the loan originator to ask for it at the closing table. A review request also can be included in the customer-relationship management e-mail post-close or survey campaign. In addition to digital marketing, there are multiple other options to consider, including digital-display advertising, behavioral targeting, look-alike modeling, SEO and search-engine marketing.
In this digitally focused world, however, there is still power in highly targeted direct-mail and e-mail campaigns, as well as traditional public relations. Thought leadership driven by public relations will greatly enhance paid-media efforts.
Public-relations efforts leverage the power of relationships with reporters, industry organizations and events to position leaders of a company as industry experts. A strong public-relations program can increase awareness and business, help in recruiting high-performing employees, enhance SEO for the company website and boost community sentiment. The majority of people place greater trust in a news story than a paid advertisement.
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A mortgage company with a strong brand identity and relevant and consistent messaging from employees, partners and customers — backed by a robust, strategic marketing plan — has a competitive advantage in today’s changing industry. While developing and successfully executing each of these areas comes with challenges, the mortgage companies who spend the time, talent and resources to develop a strong brand and execute against the brand will come out on top with homebuyers, employers and partners.