The mortgage landscape has changed. The needs of clients have been shifted. Rules and regulations are constantly being revised. Professionals in the industry now look for ways to establish stability and distinguish their business from others in the crowd. The successful players have realized that the best approach is the one rooted in traditional foundations that utilizes modern tools. The challenge Each potential client and stakeholder has individual needs, but one extremely common concern is that they want the job done right the first time, and done in a timely matter. An originator can demonstrate credibility if they can show that they have the service model and the experience to streamline the process. For many professionals in the real estate field today, there is legitimate skepticism that loans will not be created in a predictable time frame, which impacts all aspects of their business. Five years ago, many of the processes mandated today would be considered insane. Lenders now do in-depth research to ensure that they limit their liability in creating and approving loans. Throughout each step of the process, there are multiple reports filed and databases cross-referenced. Unfortunately, these systems are not perfect and there are times when there is incongruity in the findings. When this occurs, more time is spent researching the applicant and vetting their information than building the relationship. These “mismatches” consume energy and precious time, and hinder the ability for all parties involved to meet necessary deadlines. This can leave the agent, client and loan officer feeling like they have been beat up, and many are exhausted by the time they finish. The opportunity In the past, banking giants like Bank of America, Citi, Chase, Wells Fargo and others have had great origination strength on the regional level. These mega banks have become massive loan aggregators. Between providing services to the depositors who walk into branches and the work required to maintain massive portfolios ($1-2 trillion in servicing rights), their hands are quite full. As a result, there is an opportunity for regional, mid-sized retail mortgage companies to carve out their market share. This can be accomplished through developing relationships with real estate professionals, brokers, CPAs and other real estate and financial professionals. Historically, these relationships have been the most productive referral partners for mortgage professionals. If a business or a mortgage professional can prove that they have the experience and the knowledge to usher a loan through the origination process without issue, the company will have a tremendous competitive advantage. Clients will be more likely to want to work with them. Many mortgage companies now realize this and have shifted their marketing resources into outreach in the business community versus marketing directly to consumers. Modern marketing Many new marketing tactics involving technology have emerged in the last few years. While the tools available do help streamline and measure communication, the key is to remember that they should be fully integrated into a marketing plan that is focused on relationships. The best way to develop these relationships is through a real sales interview. Sales professionals need to do research before they prospect and set up meetings. Once the initial research is done, mortgage professionals can set up face-to-face meetings with the stakeholder (a CPA, real estate professional or broker, for example). These meetings can take place at the stakeholder’s office—or with the recent ubiquity of items like the iPad, at a local coffee shop or over a casual lunch. Giving a dynamic presentation to a client and showing how the mortgage professional can fulfill each need helps build credibility and shows that both parties will work together to get loans approved in a timely, predictable manner. The presentation is important to a meeting, but so is listening. A stakeholder will often share ways in which their current mortgage professional is failing them. Listening to these concerns allows a mortgage professional to show how they are better able to meet the stakeholder’s needs. One way to build credibility is to take notes during these meetings and follow up afterward with a personal note or e-mail to address the stakeholder’s key concerns. This note allows a mortgage professional to provide specifics on how they will meet the stakeholder’s needs. Refocusing It might seem odd to focus so much attention on the marketing and sales tactics of 20 years ago, but they have proven success and can separate a true mortgage professional from their competition. Prospecting, identifying the right person to meet and conducting a real sales interview (for the exchange of thoughtful questions and diligent listening) are all extremely important to the traditional art lost by many. Leveraging technology is not just a gimmick. It is a way to meet your customers where they are. For example, bringing an iPad to a coffee shop or restaurant is much more effective than lugging a laptop and projector to a conference room for another “boring” presentation that does not differentiate one mortgage professional from another. New technologies also provide a great opportunity to act as a business coach. Teaching clients how to utilize platforms like Facebook or Craigslist to drive traffic to their listings will help clients and continue to build a mutually beneficial business relationship. Marketing in today’s digital age is different, but the same principles still apply and service is king. The personal relationships built in today’s world can start anywhere. Some will still start at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, while others will start on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. No matter where the relationship starts or where a particular professional focuses their marketing dollars, they must know their customers. Where are they spending their time online? What are they reading? How can you, as a mortgage professional, meet their needs to help your business grow, and how can you ask current clients for more referrals? As compensation reform becomes a reality, clearly mortgage professionals will have to sell and close more loans than they did just a few years ago to maintain the same compensation level. Closing more loans often involves two variables: Up-selling current clients and finding new clients. It is much more cost-effective to up-sell to current clients, which requires listening to their needs, offering superior service and ensuring that each of their needs is met in a timely manner. Marketing is what a business or individual makes it, but many who have succeeded will say that successful marketing is based on research, relationships and retention. Direct mail, social media tools and search engine marketing are all great methods of marketing, depending on the target stakeholder. But without the proper follow-through and quality service, even the best marketing efforts will fail over time. Focus on knowing the potential client and what will help them achieve their goals, not just how they can contribute to a sales quota. Kurt Reisig is the founder and chief executive officer of American Pacific Mortgage Corporation. He may be reached by phone at (916) 960-1325 or e-mail [email protected].