The sales force at our 20-person, two-branch mortgage company has an unusual resourcea centralized marketing department, or, in other words, me. Small companies normally do not centralize marketing, yet the benefits of doing so can be tremendous when you consider the need for advertising compliance, consistency and overall quality. Still, these essential items can be present when marketing is left to individual loan officers since the same principles apply.
To get the job done, I find tools that enable me to work quickly, easily and cost-effectively. The mortgage industry reaches a broad segment, cutting across culture, income and lifestyle. With a dozen loan officers, we hit upon a pretty broad audience.
For loan officers who do their own marketing, the biggest challenge is staying consistent, regardless of business flow. Peaks and valleys often become the normwhen business is good and you're busy closing loans, marketing efforts drop; when business slows, marketing efforts increase. This only perpetuates the cycle. With some of the tools and techniques described in this article, you may be able to smooth out those peaks and valleys, provide for a steadier stream of business, and still have some time (and money!) to enjoy yourself! Let's get something straight before we go on: Working with a limited budget does not mean that you have to sacrifice quality or impact. Period. There are many ways to present a professional, polished image without blowing your budget. Trust me, I do it every day.
Data is king
Do you have a database of your past, present and future clients? No, not a pile of sticky notes or scraps of paper stuffed into your desk drawer (you know who you are); I mean a searchable, able to merge, expandable, living, breathing database. While it may be an initial time investment to build it, maintenance is easy and it will result in a significant savings of time in the future. And time is money.
Those who utilize a database know how effective and essential it is. Do you want to send a letter to clients who closed their loans eight-12 months ago with an LTV of 80-85 percent? A database can query the records meeting those criteria and merge them to print a set of personalized letters and envelopes in minutes. The database does most of the thinking for you. If the data is in there, you can sort and pull information out. It's that simple. Just remember, your end result is only as good as the quality of data youve compiled.
Do your printed materials need an extreme makeover? Even on a budget with limited design resources, you can present a neat, clear, consistent image that looks professional. Letterheads, brochures, note cards, postcards, giveaways, and even return address labels should be consistent and make a strong impression.
Let's start with the basics: Keep it neat. Have you ever received a copy of a copy of a copy that wasn't properly lined up with the paper, had a fax imprint across the top of the page and copier battle scars? Put it next to a clear, professional-looking piece and it doesn't take a sleuth to figure out which will get noticed.
Consistencyhaving a "look" and a messagecan be achieved without hiring an agency. Do you send a clear and consistent message about your company and its services? Can people look at something and instantly know that it's you? Is there something distinctive about your company that you can tout? Consistently incorporating your look and message will create clear "branding" for your company. Put your logo on everything. Often, it's the first thing someone sees. Do you have company colors? How about a slogan or tagline? Use them all to create a cohesive look across all of your materials. What's more, you can actually implement color and design on a budget without being a designer.
Low-cost, high-impact, little effort
Postcards. Brochures. Sales sheets. They can be colorful and have a high impact, yet still be low-cost and easy to produce. They also work. Postcards, for instance, are eye-catching. Postage is low, there is nothing to fold or stuff, and you don't have to rely on someone to open an envelope. Furthermore, they are economical enough to customize a short print run for a specific event, product, person or office. Use a brochure or sales sheet to get more detailed information into your clients' hands.
Use the Internet to find a company that can help you design a variety of materials with a cohesive look. If you don't have a creative bone in your body, some companies offer free custom design services and hundreds of professional templates (try an Internet search for "business cards" or "postcards"). To make it even easier, you may be able to build and maintain an online portfolio of images, your logo and fully designed pieces, allowing you to mix, match and customize, with the end result being a high-quality, high-impact, glossy, full-color piece all done with a few clicks of the mouse. A few days later, they're at your doorstep. Once your marketing materials are designed, you simply point and click to reorder.
Clients need to see youconsistency is
Consistency again! This time, I'm referring to communication. Do you have a plan, regardless of your workflow, for consistent communications throughout the year? Whether it's e-mail, letters, postcards or greeting cards, grab your calendar, create a plan and stick with it.
As your efforts expand, build different plans and campaigns for different groups. Pre-approval candidates may receive one set of communications, while past customers may receive another. Your database makes all of this a snap!
Your strategy doesn't need to be complex. Stand out from the crowd by sending a card for a holiday when they wouldn't typically receive one. Partner with businesses to send coupons to your clients for their services. Your clients appreciate it, and the other businesses will appreciate the additional exposure and do the same for you.
They're right under your nose
A mortgage isn't tangible; much of the transaction is based on trust and teamwork. More than 70 percent of my company's business comes from referrals and repeat business from clients and colleagues who liked working with us. Your client and colleague base should be filled with these people. Use them to grow.
To start, you must provide clients with a trustworthy and exceptional experience or you won't hear from them again. People who have worked directly with you are your best marketing tool. They will refer others to you, but you have to ask them for these referrals. If you need a soft sell, start by thanking them for their business and let them know that you will be thrilled to provide the same experience to anyone they refer. Stay in front of them throughout the year so they always have you in mind. And for heaven's sake, if they do refer a client, write a thank you note!
Be sure that your colleagues and other referral sources have a supply of your business cards handy. Boxes of business cards do you no good if theyre sitting in your officeget them out there!
There is no substitute for networking when it comes to expanding your customer base, and it doesn't have to be formal or contrived. Always tell people what you do for a living; someday, they or someone they know will need a mortgage. Have your business cards handy at all times, but don't lead with your card. Let it happen naturally in the course of a conversation. For a more structured setting, getting involved with industry associations offers the opportunity to meet people with whom you share a common interest. The most structured setting is a networking group. Find one that offers exclusivity of industry so that you will be the only mortgage rep involved.
You can find an abundance of cost-effective tools and methods to streamline your efforts and improve your results. Success comes from consistency, clear branding, and finding ways to stay in front of your audience, combined with common sense and good planning. Developing your database will streamline your processes and your efforts will begin to take less work. You don't have to be a marketing pro to act like one. Now, go out and do it!
Sharon Marie Katz is marketing director for the Mount Vernon Mortgage Corporation. She may be reached at (800) 869-5882 or visit www.mtvernonmortgage.com.