Over the past year or so, many mortgage brokers have doubled or tripled their efforts to market to real estate agents and new homebuyers. This is a very different environment than the one in which many brokers started, where refinance business was plentiful and agent partnerships weren’t necessary to earn a good living.
Those days are over and anyone who is trying to compete with large mortgage banks is at a severe disadvantage. The playing field was never level, but brokers didn’t need as much business to operate at or near capacity. For many, it was just a matter of picking up the phone when you wanted more business.
“If the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders could deliver on everything their advertising promised, there would be a lot fewer companies operating in the industry today.”
Today, brokers are having to hustle to find new business. No matter what they do or where they go to promote themselves, they’ll find a larger lender already there, either in person or spending millions of dollars on advertising.
Trying to be the first to offer a mortgage to a new homebuyer is almost impossible in today’s market. Fortunately, there is a strategy that brokers can use which doesn’t require them to be the first lender to talk to a prospective borrower.
If the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders could deliver on everything their advertising promised, there would be a lot fewer companies operating in the industry today. Instead, virtually every consumer who responds to an advertisement for an “easy” loan is shunted into a call center.
Instead of listening to and diagnosing the consumer’s financing problems, these call-center workers are trained to gather as much information as possible about the caller as quickly as they can. In cases where a borrower’s information suggests an easy loan to close, the applicant is passed up the line. But that’s not what happens to many borrowers.
Many who call into large call centers are given a stack of homework and told where they can upload the documentation when they are finished. They are not offered a promise of financing and they often leave the interaction with more questions than answers.
This strategy works for the large mortgage banks because they can cast a very large net, scoop the best borrowers off the top and leave the rest to begin processing their mortgage on their own. This is an incredible opportunity for other lenders, especially independent brokers.
The one-and-done prospecting used by many large mortgage lenders typically involves a junior loan officer giving the applicant’s file a glance and filtering out the easy loans. This limits consumer options and results in only a small percentage of all prospects reaching a satisfying lending process. The rest are basically on their own.
When borrowers have questions — and they always have questions — they don’t contact the call center again. They know they’ll get a different operator and will have to retell their story again to get help. Instead, they go online.
When the consumer goes online after visiting with a call-center representative, their questions are more specific. They likely have to do with the specific requests for information made by the lender. They are looking for answers and there are two places they are most likely to find them.
Today, Google is the No. 1 search engine in the world and YouTube is No. 2. This is why smart mortgage brokers are relaunching their blogs, recording podcasts and getting comfortable with video cameras.
Brokers who have already written blogs or recorded videos that answer these questions are going to come up in these prospective borrowers’ search results. When the answers and the expert providing them seem trustworthy, the consumer will call. This gives the broker the opportunity to offer them a second opinion.
Good real estate agents don’t send consumers online to fill out forms so they can get pounded by telemarketers for days before finding out whether they qualify for a home loan. No consumer goes in search of a mortgage with the goal of filling out another online lead-gathering form. And yet this continues to happen.
Large lenders are spending millions of dollars on advertising to drive prospects to these online forms or into their call centers, with the vast majority falling out. Less than 3% of online consumers close with the lender that paid for that lead, according to marketing and technology company Empower Funnels. And there are literally tens of thousands of leads being generated every month.
What consumers want is a trusted financial adviser who can explain to them how they can get financing for a new home and what it will mean for their future when they get it. These answers are not coming from the call centers, so when borrowers go online for a second opinion, they aren’t just looking for facts. They’re looking for guidance.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science of getting found when consumers use search engines. It isn’t part of the continuing education curriculum for loan originators, but maybe it should be.
The good news is that there isn’t currently a great deal of competition for the specific search terms that prospective borrowers use to get clarification after leaving an unsatisfying call-center encounter. To be found when consumers search online, mortgage brokers should take the following steps:
Spend the bulk of your marketing time and budget in the areas where you are most likely to find prospects. Right now, that’s in content marketing.
Become adept at providing concise, meaningful answers to the very specific questions that prospects are asking today.
Put these answers in as many places as you can and in a variety of formats (print, audio, video, slides, etc.).
The playing field is not level and larger mortgage companies will always have an advantage over smaller ones. Even so, nimble brokers who can use the larger lender’s size against them have a chance to offer consumers the information they need to build trust and win more business. ●