Why is a marketing strategy the most powerful tool for growing mortgage business? The straight-forward answer is that a solid marketing strategy will address current challenges and map out paths by which a loan officer can grow in the future. It will audit a business's brand and message, but isn't limited to branding alone. Rather, a marketing strategy is a combination of big picture and detail analysis that incorporates a wide range of marketing channels tailored for the mortgage industry. The majority of marketing strategies include a high number of items that can be performed for free by loan officers, resulting in a plan that won't lead to a fortune spent. In fact, a good marketing strategy is an investment in saving money because it targets a business's efforts and helps avoid waste.
It's important to keep in mind that while a smart mortgage marketing strategy won't force a loan officer beyond its means, it will present a mix of opportunities that meet immediate goals and show paths for growth. A marketing strategy's advantage is that it paints a picture of a business, highlights who that business is targeting, focuses its marketing budget, and develops a schedule for reaching out to clients. It accomplishes this in 7 key ways:
A brand is simply a loan officer’s public look and message. Businesses all have the beginning of a brand - an official name - and some have taken steps to identify a logo, tagline, and possibly a general color scheme or style guide. For an individual loan officer, these are often a reflection of the LO’s personal taste rather than an evaluation of the market and targeted clients or sellers. They may be a result of a family brainstorming effort or an LO’s flash of inspiration. Sometimes they are geographically influenced or an attempt at gimmickry. The point is that while it's rare to find a loan officer business that developed its name, logo, and message as the result of true market research, it's a universal rule that, for good or bad, small businesses will refer to these items as their business's brand.
And this is where a marketing strategy steps in. A smart mortgage marketing strategy will thoroughly evaluate a LO’s brand through experienced and unbiased eyes. The marketer is not (hopefully) a member of the family and most likely hasn't seen the kitchen's walls. Instead, an experienced marketer will audit the brand as both a client and a seller, and evaluate its ability to quickly convey the Loan Officer’s story, whether or not it targets the appropriate client or seller, and if it is unique enough within the marketplace to set the business apart from the competition. The mortgage marketing strategy will highlight any brand challenges, inconsistencies, or weaknesses before suggesting modifications and improvements.
Unfortunately, 'brand' seems to be a point at which many loan officers abandon their strategic efforts. A LO’s brand is essential and well worth a hefty effort, but 'branding' isn't enough of an action item to grow a business and isn't where a smart strategy ends...
Which segues nicely into the next stage of a strategy: auditing the current marketing plan. This stage goes beyond branding to review all of the LO’s marketing efforts and is an essential component to any smart strategy. It's at this stage that wasted money or effort is discovered, missed opportunities highlighted, or where I find that an LO had started down a positive path in the past but either abandoned it too early or was off in its message. Has the LO’s marketing program been well thought out or has it been a shotgun approach through a series of one-off efforts spread over time? This is where we find out.
Your audits look for strengths as well as holes and weaknesses in a LO’s marketing program by dissecting the marketing channel mix, promotional locations (both online and traditional), frequency, and more, then matching the entire program to the targeted client profile. Spend quite a bit of time looking through your marketing tools such as website, brochures, newsletters, and social media and evaluate the resources, factoring any strengths into the final evaluation.
It may be hard to fathom but there are Loan Officers that face each year without knowing much about their own marketplace and the very client upon which their livelihoods depend. As a mortgage marketing company, it baffles us how any Loan Officer can hang his/her shingle without taking the time to first evaluate who it will sell to and from whom it will grab market share. Questions such as, "how many clients are out there?", "how do they like to be reached?" and, "who am I competing against?" are all fundamental to Loan Officer success because it's only through this knowledge that a company can adapt and grow. The only way to create this profile is through research!
Start by pulling information directly from my your clients through a combination of interviews and surveys filled with carefully crafted questions. Ask, then re-ask until you’ve developed a complete profile from your client's perspective. Your work then turns to generating a client profile from a marketing perspective. Dig and research until your profile is complete, then compare your profile with that of other loan officers’s. Hopefully we're in synch, but if not, point out where we differ and evaluate where my client can hone his or her efforts.
"Who is my competition and how do we differ?" That's a question every Loan Officer should be able to answer at any given time! Loan Officers should be aware of who is snagging market share from them and how each competitor compares in services, quality, customer service, messaging, and overall marketing efforts. It's wonderful to be the best service provider available, but that won't mean anything if the competition is signing more clients!
This stage of a mortgage marketing strategy is a game of, 'find clients'. After all, what is marketing if it isn't an effort to communicate with clients and lure them to a business? This is the truly strategic stage of a strategy, but one that could not exist without all the previous steps. It is at this point that the strategy should answer questions such as, "should a business adopt the latest trends or stick to more traditional methods?" or, "what will provide the biggest bang for a limited budget?"
It's also the stage where experience really pays off as there are many, many ways to spend money in marketing and only so many options that will reach the right clients. I enjoy this stage the most and spend time looking under rocks to discover new options and find cost effective solutions. No two strategies should be ever be the same at this stage, making this the most custom portion of the entire process. A good strategy will look beyond paid search and Facebook ads and find new ways to present the business - within budget.
This is also the most flexible portion of a smart marketing strategy. I like to include a variety of options that range from 'incorporate immediately' to more longer term efforts that make sense once the business has grown or has put other marketing tools in place. A good mix will pull in multiple marketing channels and allow a business to reach clients on many levels.
Many Loan Officers have low cost and free marketing options already at their disposal and may not realize it. A good mortgage marketing strategy reviews a business's internal options, evaluates the business as a whole, and discover resources that can be used in the marketing plan. I like to empower my clients and give them the chance to save their budget for bigger ticket items down the road.
Every marketing strategy should have a 1 year, month by month, marketing plan. This marketing plan lists carefully selected marketing efforts determined in the strategy and provide a schedule for when they should be launched and evaluated. For Loan Officers, try to stick to the low cost options that can be maintained internally with optional efforts that may cost more money or should happen after an early goal has been achieved. More expensive or involved opportunities are generally reserved for a 2-5 year plan and are contingent upon achieving goals.
By incorporating the above 7 stages into a thoroughly researched and carefully crafted strategy, a Loan Officers will have a map by which he/she can achieve their goals and grow their business.
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