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NAMB action alert

April 28, 2005

How to retain customers and build a referral baseGeorge S. Phelpsreferral sources, customer retention, communication schedule
Everyone knows the old adage that it costs more to get a new
customer than keep an existing one. This could not be truer in our
business. You have basically one shot to make your borrower or real
estate agent a customer for life. So, what are some things you can
do to retain your customers and build a strong referral base?
Develop a customer nurture strategy
Whether you are talking to past borrowers or other referral
sources, such as a real estate agent or accountant, they need to
hear from you on a regular basis. They need to know that they are
important to you and your business. So develop a schedule to
communicate regularly with themwhether it is by phone, e-mail,
regular mail or in person. Marketers call this a "nurture
strategy," as you are nurturing the relationship. You are reminding
your borrowers and referral sources of their good decision to do
business with you, and you want them to think of you for future
mortgages.
Carol Lynn Upshaw of Upshaw Lending Professionals LLC in Atlanta
hosts a Christmas tea every year and invites 150 women. She said,
"These people have become my friends. We've developed relationships
where if I need to call my appraiser at 7:00 a.m. for an
appointment at 10:00 a.m., I can do that." She also sends Christmas
cards to all of her past borrowers.
Set up a regular schedule of
communication
In setting up your communications program with your past borrowers
and other referral sources, consider communicating with them
quarterly. Monthly contact can be considered overkill and may begin
to feel like spam to your audience. Most importantly, always
respect a person who no longer wishes to hear from you and remove
their name from your list. By maintaining quarterly contact, you
can stay at the top of their list for mortgage loans.
To stay in touch with her real estate agents on a regular basis,
Upshaw said she hosts a big quarterly dinner. This enables her to
strengthen and build these relationships.
What to send past borrowers
Remember, borrowers want to hear and read things about themselves
and issues that are important to them. Don't send them information
about you; send them information about them. Send articles or
newsletters with tips on homeownership, how to add value to their
home, home repair schedules, etc. Keep them apprised of new
mortgage products and the benefits to borrowers. Give them valuable
information and they, in turn, will value your partnership.
The strength of your referral sources
The key to building a solid business is building solid
relationships with all possible referral sources--from real estate
agents and appraisers, to financial planners and accountants.
Drawing from a variety of referral sources is key.
Mitsu O'Riley of First Coast Mortgage in St. Augustine, Fla.
said her entire business is referrals. She has about five real
estate agents who are responsible for sending her the bulk of her
business. "The one thing I try to do is treat them well. I answer
questions for them and, in turn, ask them to refer me to other real
estate agents. I also work to pull together hard deals and not let
them down."
Reward referrals with a phone call or
note
Any time a borrower or other referral source sends you business,
take the time to pick up the phone or write them a note thanking
them. Doing this will reinforce that you are a good businessperson.
Business is all about relationships, and you want to maintain a
strong relationship with your referral sources.
Upshaw rewards her best referral sources with dinner
certificates. She said, "It's not just about what I am doing; it's
the good people that I have surrounded myself with, and I certainly
recognize that."
Your best retention vehicle--service!
No matter what the process or person, the bottom line is service.
Upshaw answers her phone 24 hours a day and O'Riley makes it a
point to know the inside reps and underwriters so loans close
smoothly. During the mortgage process and even afterwards, by
maintaining a high level of customer service with your past
borrowers and referral sources, you will ensure they truly stay
customers for life.
George S. Phelps is executive managing director of
Atlanta-based Primary Capital Mortgage. He may be reached at (770)
226-8181 or e-mail gphelps@primarycapital.com.

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