1999: The best of the best
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1999: The best of the best

December 28, 2004

Internet marketing essentials, Part one: building trustAeron StedmannInternet, marketing, online
The competition is fierce, the playing field is new and
unfamiliar, and your star quarterback is playing without a coach.
Is it football, or the Internet mortgage market? If you are the
quarterback for your team, everyone is counting on you to lead them
to victory. What you need are a few dynamite strategies that will
give your team the winning edge.
In this article, we will touch on a few Internet marketing
essentials, and then focus on strategies for developing a business
relationship once the potential customer has found your Web
site.
The four most important aspects of an effective online business
market plan are:
1. Branding your site: creating name recognition for your Web
site
2. Building a path to your door: making it as easy as possible for
potential customers to find you on the Internet
3. Meeting your customers: capturing as much information as
possible about everyone who visits your site, and then following up
with those leads
4. Encouraging commitment: creating security to win new
customers
Branding
Because there is so much competition, branding is even more
important for your Internet mortgage business than it is for a
local business. Without name recognition, or better yet, your exact
URL in hand, potential customers may end up on a competitors Web
site. Branding is important to get your name and URL in front of
the public. Banner ads on related sites can boost name awareness.
Offer to trade banner ads with all of your business partners. You
can also purchase banner ads on Web sites popular with your target
audience on a "per exposure" basis. There are now many companies
handling banner ad placement. Use your favorite search engine to
search the Internet for "banner marketing."
Don't neglect traditional marketing tools for branding, such as
radio, strategic print media advertising, direct mail, and
voice-mail broadcasting. A well-directed advertising campaign using
a variety of media can be very effective for branding and
generating traffic to your Web site. People tend to put more trust
in that which is familiar, so a well-branded Web site will help
build trust.
Building a path
Driving traffic to your site now requires innovative thinking
because the arteries of the information highway are becoming very
congested. Many of the tricks that Web designers have used in the
past to get good placement on search engines, such as meta-tags and
invisible keywords, no longer work because search engines
constantly change the methods they use to compile searches. While
the big companies have locked in banner ads on the major search
engines, there are still many avenues open for the rest of us.
Internet users are increasingly turning to indexes and directories,
such as Lycos and Excite!, to avoid the cryptic and confusing
results of a search engine. If you want your site to be found on
the indexes and directories, you must submit your site profile.
This may come as a surprise to many. According to a recent study by
NEC Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, only 1/6 of the
Web is indexed. You can submit your site to the directories
yourself, or use a reputable, personalized service. Do not rely on
an automated submission service that promises hundreds of
submissions for $29.95. It must be done correctly and often, or it
will be worse than useless. Take the time, or spend the money to do
it right! Go to www.searchenginewatch.com for more information on
criteria used by various search engines and indices, and for links
to submission services.
The next step in convenient Web searching is the Cybermall,
where consumers can quickly and easily find direct links to the
goods and services they seek. Go to www.DealDesk.com to see an
emerging player offering direct links to a variety of select
premium financial services, all from one location. As an added
bonus for their members, Cybermalls such as DealDesk.com conduct
large-scale advertising campaigns to bring traffic to all of their
affiliated links.
Establishing links with other Web sites is another important
marketing tool that is often overlooked. Consider every kind of
related business in your market area, such as financial managers,
insurance companies, real estate brokers, etc., and offer to trade
Web site links. Not only will this tactic drive more business to
your site, but the links will also improve your search engine
placement! Many search engines evaluate the number of links to your
site in determining your placement.
Meeting your customers
Every book on salesmanship emphasizes the importance of remembering
people's names. In the cyberworld, this translates to capturing
information on visitors to your site, and following up with every
lead. The first step is putting a good tracking device on your site
so you will be able to capture information on every visitor, how
they found you, what they are looking for, and where they go on
your site. This information will enable you to optimize your site
and be better able to respond to the needs of potential clients. Go
to http://www.3ts.org/3tscount/?strontium for a free,
feature-packed Web site tracker.
The second step is an information-gathering tool, such as a
short customer ID form, which will capture demographics such as
name, mailing address, and phone number. Consider offering some
kind of incentive to encourage people to take the time to fill in
the form. Offering a free credit report is a win-win possibility as
it gives you valuable information up-front about what kinds of loan
programs this lead might be eligible for, while giving the customer
something they will need to continue the loan application
process.
Establishing the relationship
The fourth step is the most difficult. Creating a welcoming and
safe atmosphere, conducive to opening an intimate business
relationship with someone you have never met, takes skill, finesse
and attention to detail. Recent studies have showed that concerns
about privacy are increasingly influencing people's Internet buying
activity. A study on InternetDay.com explained that 64% of online
orders are abandoned at some point before being processed.
Reluctance to provide all of the personal information requested is
thought to be a major factor. A study by ATT Laboratories
(http://www.research.att.com/projects/privacystudy) found that
people are willing to provide simple information, such as their
names and E-mail address, but when it comes to unique identifying
information, such as social security numbers, a majority will balk.
A comparable study by Georgia Tech found that 62% of respondents
valued privacy over convenience when conducting business
online.
These findings are especially relevant for online Mortgage
Brokers because our business requires that a great deal of personal
financial information be provided very early in the relationship.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to create a feeling of trust
and security with your potential clients from the very beginning of
the relationship. Here are suggestions for ways to build trust on a
Web site, along with resources for the services that you will
need.
1. Post a privacy statement on your site. This statement should
clearly state what the information being requested will be used
for, what security measures are in place to ensure it remains
private, and that it will not be sold or traded to any other
businesses. Go to http://www.etrust.com/wizard/ for a free wizard
to help you write your privacy policy.
2. Provide a concise overview of the loan process, with estimated
time frames for each phase so the customer will know what to expect
and when.
3. Disclose an estimate of the closing costs and payment
options.
4. Provide a 24-hour 800 number on your Web site, linked to an
answering service that will let you know immediately when someone
calls for more information about your products and services. (Go to
www.800service.com for an example.) This gives a clear message that
there are real people behind the Web site who will handle any
issues that may arise in a timely manner.
5. Use an E-mail auto responder (or mailbot) for all E-mail
inquiries. People like to know that their E-mail has reached its
intended destination and that someone will read it. An
auto-responder will let them know their inquiry has been received
and that it has been forwarded to the appropriate individual for
handling. An auto-responder can also be programmed to E-mail
various kinds of information automatically without human
intervention. There are several sources for this valuable tool-some
are free, so shop around:
*http://www.listbot.com/
*http://www.responders.net/
*http://www.netfronts.com/host/autoresponder.htm
6. Include a company profile on your site. While it is not
necessary to have a full company history, it is a good idea to have
a short profile or mission statement. You may want to include
information on how long you have been in business, what states you
serve, your specialties, etc.
7. Display your local address and phone number and a picture of
your office building or staff to demonstrate that you are a real
company with real people handling their loan application.
8. Provide testimonials from satisfied customers. These should
mention that their loan was handled in a timely and professional
manner, that they were always kept informed about the progress of
their loan application, and how their lives are better as a result
of having done business with you.
Keep up with the market
A wonderful array of services is now available on the Internet to
help your business grow and survive in this emerging marketplace.
To be successful, you should keep up with the latest trends and
innovative ideas. Subscribe to E-commerce newsletters such as "The
E-Commerce Advisor"(to subscribe, send an E-mail to
join-eca@sotkin.com), pick up E-commerce magazines at your
newsstand or bookstore, and look for Internet-related articles in
business magazines. In the rapidly evolving world of Internet
commerce, current information, innovative ideas, and the ability to
act quickly will be your strongest assets.
Aeron Stedmann is a Marketing Consultant for the mortgage
banking industry, and a principal of Green Lizard LLC, based in
Napa Valley, Calif. For more information on DealDesk.com or other
services available from Mr. Stedmann, go to www.stedmann.com, or
call (707) 942-1469.

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