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A snapshot of Acorn Mortgage

Sep 11, 2005

Create new customers while you sleep: a step-by-step guideChip Cummings, CMCe-marketing, strategy, target market, auto-responders The phone isn't ringing off the hook anymore. Pipelines are shrinking, and the deals you do have seem to be getting tougher. Are the good times really over? In short, noat least not for those who planned ahead, and not for those who understand relational versus transactional marketing. Even with interest rates up by more than a full percent from a year ago, deals are still being done and it promises to be another near-record year for the mortgage industry, with an estimated loan volume of more than $2.5 trillion. But face it with thousands of originators being eliminated per month, it's time to get smart. With your future on the line and pressure mounting, let's talk about some basic e-marketing strategies to get some new customers in the door today, tomorrow and for years to come. Step 1. Get Focused They say that to get business, you have to talk to people. That's only partially true: You also need to talk to the right people. Most of us do not have the time, energy, money or patience to simply start talking and marketing to everyone. So first, clearly define your target demographic so that you can focus your marketing strategies on the right group: first-time homebuyers, new construction, self-employed, sub-prime loans, healthcare workers, women, minority groups or any number of target audiences. Since people will only do business with someone they trust, and they only trust people they like, you need the opportunity to quickly build a trusting relationship. This is easier to accomplish if the customer feels that you are dedicated to their group and understand their specific needs and situation. Becoming a specialist within a target market will give you a head start on building that relationship. Step 2. Create Value Since everyone provides "great service" and "low rates," you need to identify and establish at least three specific ways that you can bring personal value directly to your target group I call this the "Chip Value." The CV items should include at least one detailed personal benefit from the following categories: free informational reports, concierge service and professional affiliations. For example, if my target market is the first-time homebuyer, then maybe my CV items will include reports on understanding credit reports, getting into a home with no down payment or how to prepare for homeownership. Then, for concierge service, I would have a program in place to provide pre-approval shopping certificates, real estate agent partner referral programs or to take care of transferring utilities after closing. As for my professional affiliation category, I would provide access to a 30-minute consultation with an accountant for developing new tax strategies, or discounts/certificates/consultations with interior decorators, landscape companies, snow removal and cleaning services, or a handyman from Home Depot. Hundreds of combinations exist just focus on the ones that provide great value to your target market. Step 3. Market Your Value People want information and they want it on demand. The beauty of technology is that we can do just that and start developing a trusting customer relationship without donating personal time to the cause. Start by creating the free informational report for your target group in electronic format. Using first-time homebuyers as an example, it could be a report called, "How to Avoid the Seven Most Common Mistakes When Buying Your First Home." To make it easier, develop these reports in conjunction with affiliates that are related to your target group (real estate agents, accountants, builders, etc.). Set up a special e-mail address or one-page Web site that will capture a prospect's name and e-mail address, and can automatically send out the report through an auto-responder or e-mail address that automatically sends a predetermined e-mail message back to the sender who requested it. This is simple and very inexpensive. Remember to sell your "Chip Value" through the informational report. Next, you need to drive people to request the report. Start by offering it via e-mail to your existing client base, and then have your affiliate partners, such as real estate agents who specialize in first-time homebuyers, e-mail the offer to their clients. Place small strategic classified ads in online newspapers, periodicals or specialized bulletin boards. Go to to develop strategic localized ads for your report using narrow search engine keywords (such as California First-Time Homebuyer), and you can have leads in less than 30 minutes for only a couple of bucks. Use small banner ads, internal Web links from other Web sites and cross-links from affiliate partners to lead interested people to request your report. Offer the reports via e-mail through flyers, direct mail, radio, postcards and on the back of your business cards. Just remember to focus your energy on the target market. This system will allow you to automatically filter the "suspects" from the "prospects." Step 4. Sleep-Working Anyone who requests a copy of your informational report is now a "prospect." Like any other prospect, you need to follow up with them in order to turn them into a true lead. Technology will allow you to do this while you sleep or what I call "sleep-working." Auto-responders were developed to instantly provide a receipt to a customer via e-mail immediately upon purchase of an item through the Internet. You can use this same concept to automatically follow up with your prospects and let them turn themselves into "leads." A simple follow-up system might look like this: *When a person requests the report, a "Thank You" e-mail is immediately sent to the prospect with the free report attached; *Two days later, another e-mail is sent with related information and a contact number; *Three days later, a follow-up e-mail is generated that educates them about another related item; and so on. It is important to set the system up to contact prospects a minimum of seven times for this to be effective, and messages must be kept simple but full of important content. If done correctly, your conversion rate for people who contact you directly (now "hot leads") should be between seven and 10 percent. Not bad for not having spoken to anyone yet! Step 5. Build the Nest Be sure to structure your "value offers" throughout your free reports and automated e-mails. Process and qualify the leads that come to you and turn them into customers (either short-term or long-term) through offering pre-approvals, transferable discount certificates, professional consultations, etc. To build a long-term supply of steady leads, continue to communicate with them by providing information through e-zines (electronic newsletters), financial physicals and affiliate partner resources to bring them into your "family" of customers. The database list that is compiled through this process becomes your "golden egg". Build a strong nest to support that egg by mining the database and providing consistent follow-up communication at least once a monthautomatically. The technology is there, it's inexpensive and waiting for you to creatively attract, capture and convert your new customers. Chip Cummings, CMC is president of Northwind Financial Corporation, a loan originator, national speaker, trainer and consultant to the mortgage industry. He can be reached at (866) 977-7900 or e-mail [email protected].
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