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1999: The best of the best

National Mortgage Professional
Dec 29, 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 [email protected]), 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.
Published
Dec 29, 2004
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