Where does a person who is homeless get a Sharpie? Not just a pen but a Sharpie. There’s a trend as plain as it is unfortunate that the number of people experiencing homelessness in this country has risen in recent years.With this increase, there’s a rising number of panhandlers standing on street corners with cardboard signs. They write a message, almost always with a Sharpie, to motivate passersby to spare some change.
These messages present a lesson. An increase in the number of people who are without housing means an increase in the number of people asking for spare change. This leads to a burden to stand out. So, signs are written with messages that trigger empathy or appeal to people’s greater sense of good. The personality of the sign maker often emerges through stories or jokes, or maybe even with a sign cut into an interesting shape.
At every level, people are working to separate themselves from one another. Every corporation, enterprise and mom-and-pop store is working to create some sort of distance with its competitors. This holds just as true for mortgage originators as it does for the people standing on street corners with cardboard signs.
Although it is easy to feel different or feel like you are offering different products, originators tend to blend in. More or less, originators are peddling the same products. Some have done a better job than others of branding themselves to bring a little pizzazz into the mix, but mortgages are mortgages. You are the only thing that can get a consumer to choose to do business with you.
People in the mortgage industry are generally armed with the same resources: marketing departments, graphic designers, social media, websites, advertising dollars, custom clothes and networking events. Originators still need to understand exactly how to use these vehicles of outreach to separate themselves from their competitors.
There are ways to increase your visibility and differentiate yourself from the competition while driving attention to your personal brand. These suggestions are merely the foundation, but their success is completely contingent on your effort to apply them consistently. Marketing is challenging. It takes time. It takes failure. In this world of social media, it takes audacity.
Know the community
Have you given consideration to the actual location where you are doing business? Is it optimal? You should know whether you are one of a few or one of many originators in the market.
Look at the value of your deals and whether they are directly tied to where your office is. To do this, you should frequently research the average median price of homes located near your office.
Mastering these details about your city, county, ZIP code and neighborhood is vitally important. Even if the area is relatively small, it can make you an authority on this location. This, in turn, can provide you an advantage over your competition. It allows you to offer valuable, nuanced insights that immediately make consumers relate to you and your understanding of where they want to be.
More often, you are seeing the “Walmartization” of mortgage professionals and real estate agents. In other words, they are the professionals who promise to deliver anything and everything that you need. If you want it, they can originate it.
Obviously, Walmart has done all right, but if everybody can do everything, why does a borrower need to speak to you? A client simply wants to find the best rate and fees. To stand out, it has never been more important to be great at what you do.
Be an expert in something specific. Talk about it. Make it front and center. Your experience and ability to conquer certain problems should ring through the ears of your audience and prospects. Being an expert is another mark of authority. It creates consumer advocacy, and when experts solve challenging problems, people are more likely look to them.
Stop selling mortgage products. To clarify, what’s important about the multiple variations of mortgage products isn’t the name, acronym or how proprietary it is to your bank or mortgage company. What’s important about the mortgage product is that it appeals to a specific circumstance that the consumer is experiencing. That is what you sell.
If you market or advertise the circumstance, it again positions you as an authority. It also creates empathy and it will become the most legally conforming advertising you ever submit to your compliance officer. They will love you.
Mortgage originators don’t need people to understand the complexities of mortgage products. They need the borrower to understand how it relates to their current lives. If you learn to talk about a circumstance, you will be vastly different than the loan officer down the street slinging low-downpayment programs.
Let people in. Tell your secrets. Watch these stories resonate with your referral partners and prospects.
With a nod to the 1990s band Oasis, what’s the story, morning glory? You’ve been in the mortgage industry for 20-plus years. You mention this a lot. Every veteran originator has a way of slipping it into industry-related conversations. Again, not unique. The average age of a mortgage originator is 47, according to survey results from the Stratmor Group. There are a lot of veterans in the game.
Simply put, tell your story. Put together a collection of stories. Put pen to paper and write them out if it helps. Then, tell them in written form, on video and through podcasts. Talk about your experiences with borrowers, co-workers, former employers, current employers and family.
Let people in. Tell your secrets. Watch these stories resonate with your referral partners and prospects. Let’s start here: Tell everyone a story about something that happened when you first started in the mortgage industry. Put it on Twitter (or the social media of your choice) with the hashtag #WhenIFirstStarted.
Last but not least — and probably most important — is to be creative. All of the previous suggestions and considerations can be amplified with a touch of creativity. Get help if you need it. Try a new approach. Leave your comfort zone. Find the audacity you relied on when you first started going to networking events but is now just a part of your job.
It takes some doing, but everyone in the mortgage industry has some unique, quirky thing that motivates them. That makes them who they are. Creativity, in this sense, isn’t being artistic or musical. It’s being uniquely yourself. The status quo is up in the air. Dress code, communication standards and the rules of business are shifting. Individuality is important. It makes you different, memorable and sets you apart.
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Work to be different in your business, your community and your backyard. Find your niche and shine bright among the same old, same old. Doing so will be imperative for continued success in the mortgage industry. It is a challenging endeavor, but hopefully these insights will trigger a new way of thinking, rekindle some forgotten knowledge and help you find your Sharpie. ●