In today's ever-changing market, developing a strong referral network has become increasingly important to the success of a loan originator. Given the many obstacles you must overcome in developing this network, a broad and consistent plan should be implemented.
Building a list
First, you must identify your potential referral partners. Anyone who can vouch for your professional capabilities, character or knowledge of the industry should be considered. You should also research the top real estate agents in the area, active participants in business organizations and any other “movers and shakers” in your local community.
After you have created a list containing all of your potential partners, narrow it down to a top 10 or 20. Your priority partners should encompass sources in various spheres of influence, considering the potential volume of referrals based on their profession and the number of contacts at their disposal.
Once you have finalized your list, you need to work on building relationships. Since the days of open access to offices are gone, and without the ability to stuff rate sheets, program updates and marketing material in mailboxes of referral agents, you must develop new methods of communication.
Judicious use of blast e-mails and active participation in social media will keep your name on the tip of their tongues until they need your services. Send out simple and consistent messages highlighting your services, capabilities and differentiation from your competitors. In addition to promoting your brand, you should also try to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
E-mail newsletters can also be used to provide interesting material using the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your content should be informative and vendor neutral, and only 20 percent should be purely promotional. Sending a newsletter every other month can keep you in mind until an opportunity arises.
Top 10 list
Your top 10 or 20 individuals require a more focused and high-touch approach. Use lunch-and-learns, as well as joint advertising and marketing ventures, to emphasis your commitment and mutual attitude to your top referral partners. Your willingness to go beyond exceptional service and help them develop their business in a meaningful way will set you apart from the competition and strengthen the bond between you and your key referral partners.
In addition to direct communications, you should identify associations attended by your best referral partners and consider becoming a member so you can get to know them on a whole other level. In doing so, you will transform your relationships from just business to a blend of business and friendship. This transformation can prove critical in building a long-term referral partner.
In conclusion, when building a referral network, you must patiently nurture key relationships and understand it takes time to build your reputation. And that the entire process starts with just one referral, so when that referral comes, you should treat it as such!
James Citrone is Mid-Atlantic regional director for Guaranteed Home Mortgage Company. Founded in 1992, Guaranteed is a licensed mortgage investment and banking firm comprised of more than 300 mortgage professionals lending in 28 states. He may be reached by phone at (914) 696-3400 or e-mail [email protected]