NMP Mortgage Professional of the Month: Raymond Bartreau, Founder and CEO of Best Rate Referrals and HARPMortgageLeads.com – NMP Skip to main content

NMP Mortgage Professional of the Month: Raymond Bartreau, Founder and CEO of Best Rate Referrals and HARPMortgageLeads.com

Apr 10, 2012

Each month, National Mortgage Professional Magazine will focus on one of the industry's top players in our "Mortgage Professional of the Month" feature. Our readers are encouraged to contact us by e-mail at [email protected] to be considered for a future "Mortgage Professional of the Month" feature article. This month, we had a chance to chat with Raymond Bartreau, current president and chief executive officer of Best Rate Referrals. A resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, the 30-year-old Bartreau’s Best Rate Referrals has been in business for more than seven years, specializing in direct marketing services, ranging from mortgage leads, loan modification leads, mailing lists, mortgage mailers, and much more. Best Rate's team of marketing professionals has more than 30 years experience in creating profitable marketing campaigns for brokerages nationwide. Raymond is also the chief executive officer of HARPMortgageLeads.com. Raymond has made the Inc. 500 list on two separate occasions with Best Rate Referrals and has also been named to National Mortgage Professional Magazine's 40 Under 40 list on two occasions. How did you first get involved in the mortgage business? I got started in the industry in 2002 as a call center manager. While attending Northern Arizona University, I managed a large outbound call center for Direct TV. It was there where I gained a great deal of experience and was recruited by a mortgage company in Vegas to run a small call center. When I first started, I barely knew what an “interest rate” was. During that time, were you seeing any great opportunities that others may have been overlooking? Not really. The broker that we had at that time ran a chop shop of loan officers. They were using an old school approach. They weren't using any media, just their outbound call center. It wasn't that I saw what everyone else was missing, I saw what they were missing. They were paying loan officers well under what I thought they should be paid, and I wasn't allowed to grow within the company and become a loan officer. That is what catapulted me to look and see what else was out there. How valuable do you think your time spent on the frontlines is to your clients? I started initially by seeing what it took to get a client in the market. I really know what it's like to reach out to the consumer and know how to have a long-standing relationship. Once I left the call center gig, I took what I learned and began originating loans for a local bank. I was able to hire my own telemarketers to originate leads for me. That's really what I learned there, and of course, doing loans for the next three years thereafter. From the middle to the end of the recent refi boom, I was able to really connect with homeowners. When I transformed into marketing, loan officers were marketing themselves, and I really could connect to what they were doing. I think it helped a tremendous amount. How important is a first impression? Very important. Any time you are going to market your brand or service to a consumer or buyer, depending on what that product is, you often only get one impression. There is competition out there and you have to strike quickly, and do everything professionally and what is right for the client. I think if you do that, not only do you stand a better chance of landing that targeted client, but you're also going to get a long-term relationship and referrals from that client as well. For me, it's all about long-term relationships and they don't start long term—they start with the first impression. You don't get a long-term relationship without making a good first impression. What do you think is an acceptable response time for Web leads and direct mail leads? There are many factors to consider when discussing Web leads and direct mail leads, and there are many options when you are looking at both verticals. With direct mail, you have standard versus first-class postage. You've got different types of databases, different types of response methods, whether it's driving them through the phone or through the Internet. There are a lot of different options on the mail side. I suggest they send first-class on a Friday so their phones will be ringing on Monday. Monday-Wednesday is when your mail is going to be hitting within two to five business days. That's a good response time with mail. On the Web side, the only factors you have to consider are if the lead was exclusive or if it is from a shared source. And then, above and beyond that, how high is the quality of the lead so when you are considering response ratios from the Internet, they can vary. If it's your own organic traffic or if it's from leads coming from an organic place, you can expect the response time immediately because there are people doing work to get them. You have to act on those leads right away. As you move into more of a shared platform, and a lower type of lead quality, you typically see a lower response and less revenue per loan as well. There are choices in the Internet space, when you find a good provider, stick with them even if they have a rough period (quality can dip for a number of reasons), give them feedback often (which helps them catch any issues that can drive that quality dip) and never put all of your eggs in one basket (try multiple sources). How do you inspire your employees to deliver such great customer service? Since day one, I have wanted to make every single client happy. I think as I brought in people and trained them, they took that philosophy on and they really care. It's really a fun time in our office when we get re-orders. Our perimeters are set around our client retention percentages. Revenue is number two. Client retention percentages remain first and foremost for us. Lastly, my crew does not get paid unless they retain clients. If you are a marketing agent on a very small base and you are paid primarily on your performance, client retention determines how much you will be paid. If you just pay large salaries, those employees will not care about their clients. We've lost salespeople with great potential because they wanted salary and lower commissions, but we really believe that people can make a lot of money in the marketing industry by retaining relationships. I have people doing that right now on low to no salaries. So you just offer incentives by not paying them salaries and pay them based upon client retention. It's a pretty smooth running engine over here now, and I'm pretty happy about it. How are you helping your clients prepare to market with the advent of HARP 2.0? There is a lot of education we're trying to put out. In addition, there is a lot of research that we're doing, including data analysis and trying figuring out the best ways for these guys to market themselves. There are various channels and a lot of options. We really have a solid platform put together on the direct mail side for the HARP program, whereas, we have several pieces in place that are compliant that we feel from our past has gotten great responses from other products the way they're laid out. We feel we can get a great response now where the current mortgage rates are. Educating our clients about direct mail and all of direct mail’s pros and cons is the best way to do it. We are primarily handling their job from A to Z to keep things flawless. Along with data analytics, there is the callable side for everybody in the universe that fits the HARP 2.0 criteria. Approximately 10 to 12 percent of those people have phone numbers after a Do-Not-Call scrub, and you can actually reach out to those folks by phone. We have a dialer company that we can get to our clients, and then we train them on how to make the call. We utilize scripting, dispositions and rebuttals … just different things that can help them to be successful with a HARP-related call because a lot of people like direct mail, but never call the list they're mailing to as they don't realize they can call. We try to train our clients to get over that hurdle of the "un-fun" factor and realize that there is money to be made there. There is a big audience that has yet to realize this program. We in the mortgage industry know it's coming, but the consumers don't and it will start being talked about and it will get hot. We train our clients on how to filter their databases and train them on how to hit their current and referral client bases and referral partners with educational pieces. We do it quickly because this is going to spread fast and the first person who gets referred to a homeowner as a professional is probably going to be the one who gets the loan. If you want to get the market share you desire, get out to your clients and referral partners, and provide your referral partners with information that they can get out to their people. If you get materials out there and send these materials to your circle of contacts, you will get business back from it. You must also create a Web presence. There are a lot of lender-direct companies marketing for HARP 2.0 candidates that can help you. In fact, we have a couple of Web property directories that will be ranking very high on Google. Lender directories are a good place to be. They are cheap to be on, and are limited in terms of how many people are let on per state. Get aggressive and get your name out there. There are many channels to explore: Direct mail, social media, free networking, outbound call centers, the media, your own circle of friends, TV and radio … there are so many apples across the board that you kind of have to do a combination of things. I believe your current past client database is the most important. Hit them first, and educate them with materials that they can share with their friends. Don't make your goal just to educate them one on one. Make it your goal to educate them so that they can pass that knowledge along to the people they know. Don't work twice—let them work for you and then combine that with some additional marketing if you can stand doing more loans every month, whether it's direct mail or Internet traffic. How has direct response changed over the past 10 years? The landscape has changed drastically. From the time I got into it, things were hectic. There was a lot of call center action. There were some TV and radio spots, and direct mail was predominant. Ten years ago, the Internet was really just getting going in terms of serious traffic and volume, and people were just starting to figure out how to generate leads online. Things have changed quite a bit, with technology leading the way. There are still some old-fashioned ways of marketing, such as putting ads in newspapers, cold calling and utilizing direct mail that are still in play. But technology has partnered with these old-fashioned ways and has allowed for a better response ratio with a targeted accurate marketing campaign so that your dollars are spent more wisely. Ten years ago, lead management systems were not too well-known. Now, if you are generating leads to a group of loan officers or branches on whatever level you're on, it's almost unheard of to not have a lead management system to make sure that your agents are staying in front of those leads repeatedly. Not only does it let you keep all of your agents in front of you, but it also tracks what your agents are doing as well. Everything has become more efficient with technology. Outbound call options are more limited now. Ten years ago, you could pretty much call anybody, but now you are limited to 10 to 12 percent of anybody good for the criteria for your product. Your approach "back in the day" of mailing to entire neighborhoods, and things of that nature, is pretty ineffective these days. For example, in California, Arizona and Nevada, there are too many people in neighborhoods riddled with foreclosures. You are wasting a lot of money just marketing to entire neighborhoods. Targeted marketing has become more predominant and more updated. When you look back at your career, what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment? I have been very fortunate to reach a lot of the milestones I've set. Overall, I guess just taking my company from a start-up and within three years, making the Inc. 500, and then duplicating that feat again a year later is a big accomplishment. The fact that we continue to grow ourselves is probably the biggest accomplishment that I can tell my kids about when they get older. I have been able to grow at a consistent basis and have retained my client base during a very difficult and low time in the industry we service. What are some of the issues that keep you up at night? I don't really have a lot of concerns. The things that keep me up at night are just the thought of growth … our exponential growth. I really enjoy helping other companies grow in addition to my own. That may be why my company is still around … we really care. When we get another client re-order and they say to us, "That last campaign was great … we spent $5,000 and made $40,000 … let's do it again!" There's a big satisfaction when a client keeps coming back to you week after week, month after month. That's what keeps me up … the fear of not having that client retention. We have a system in place that will keep us doing this for a very long time. We are going to continue to grow and acquire more companies and are going to continue to take more real estate in this business because the engine is just set up properly with the right staff in place to run it. Of all the different areas you cover related to marketing, what has the highest return-on-investment (ROI)? If you are just looking at a CPA (Cost Practice Acquisition) basis, it has to be aged Internet leads. From a direct mortgage standpoint, you can buy a set of aged Internet data for under $1 per lead and you can call through 100 leads and get two to five or seven or eight deals out of the new HARP 2.0 program if you targeted the leads properly. Worst-case scenario … if you are paying $1 or $2 per lead, and get one deal our of 100, the cost difference is $100. Aged Internet leads are the cheapest form, but it does require some effort. You must put in the work involved. If you want to look at what is the absolute cheapest way to market yourself, it is simply building relationships. Outside of direct marketing for a second, just building relationships with real estate agents is vital. Real estate agents all have goals. You can help them reach their goals and they can help you reach yours. Financial advisors, CPAs … you have to build relationships with the people who are dealing with current and potential homeowners on a day-to-day basis. The better you treat your referral partners, the more you are going to retain them, the better you are going to be and the more business you are going to get. Just be selective on who you want to work with because your time is valuable and what you give out is valuable … that is always going to be your cheapest acquisition. What we are doing as a company for our clients is building platforms and we have some built that are generating leads for people looking to buy a house or sell a home. Our mortgage partners are buying this traffic for themselves and then work to see if they can qualify anyone from this data to work with their real estate partners. I have some guys sharing their data with three different real estate guys, thus leveraging their marketing dollars to really build relationships all over town. Are you big on setting goals and establishing a business plan? If you are not goal-oriented, you are never going to get to where you want to be. If you don't know where you want to be, you’d better figure it out. It's a dog eat dog world out there, and you're about to see the big gold rush in the mortgage industry, so set yourself some goals to reach. In our company, our goal is client retention, and then revenue. If our client retention ever dips below the 70 percent mark, then we've got big issues! I don't even look at revenue and don't care about revenue until the retention numbers go back up to a comfortable 75 to 85 percent. I do marketing for a living, and building relationships is my bread and butter. You should look at your business no different. Your referral partners should be happy and 70 percent of your referral partners should be sending you business every month. If they are not, something's wrong. Either you have the wrong referral partners, or you're not treating them how they should be treated. Fix it. Make sure that 70 percent of those you associate with are sending you a deal every month—outside of your friends and family. In the business world, 70 percent of the people you are working with should be sending you a deal each month, or whatever percentage you feel comfortable with. Just set a goal because that way, you are eliminating the riff raff and the time wasted. Only focus and spend your time on the people who are going to build your business and help you make money. In terms of a business plan, figure out how many units of business you want to do per month and set minimum goals. Has any book or person had a profound impact on your life? I was never really motivated by books or motivational speakers. I've never been a big "rah rah" guy. There have been a few people whom I've met in working at call centers who have given me the framework for a great work ethic. You don't work if you're not going to give 100 percent. If you're not, you're in the wrong job and you should move on to something else. I don't come from old money and want to retire early to take my daughter around the world, build a family and see all the places I want to see, that's what drives me. That's what influences me … it's the places I want to go. For some, the past motivates them. For me, it’s the future that gets me excited! When you're not working to help mortgage professionals, what do you do in your spare time? I'm a single, full-time dad. When my daughter Lexy is with her mother, I like to just get out and enjoy life. I like to travel, take in sporting events, and am just a normal guy that really likes business, loves life and lives for being a dad. Any closing comments? Don't sell yourself short, the next 12 to 18 months is going to be a lot of fun in this industry, so enjoy it. A lot of you have been waiting for this mini-boom, so take advantage of it. However, also think long-term and make sure that your balance of refi versus purchase sways to purchase when the HARP program has only a few months remaining! If you follow that formula, you will be in business for a long time.
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