The Niche Report interviews Raymond Bartreau of Best Rate Referrals, a highly successful and respected lead-generation company servicing the mortgage and real estate industries.
I see that Best Rate Referrals has made the Inc. Magazine 500 fastest growing companies list for 2 years in a row now. What do you attribute your substantial growth to?
The last few years have been pretty amazing and a lot of fun. Our growth can really be attributed to a combination of things. First and foremost it's our staff. My business partner and President of BRR, Zach South, and I have assembled a dream team of marketing specialists consisting of 20+ professionals between our sales, operations, IT, call center, media and production centers. These people are my second family and we couldn’t do it without them. I think in business you need a few things for success; a good staff, great products, stable and scalable platforms, innovation, and a little good luck. Lastly, we have grown our company by helping others grow their companies; with strong in-house capabilities, positive ROI campaigns, amazing vendor and affiliate relationships and our goal to make sure every client succeeds in their marketing efforts.
Tell us about the mortgage marketing landscape during the last 6 months?
As you know, we have been providing profitable marketing campaigns and consultation for over six years now. We have been through the ups and downs in the Mortgage & Real Estate industry and the last few years have been tough for many mortgage professionals. The fact of the matter is, a year ago, you had to spend even more money on marketing to generate the amount of business most mortgage professionals are used to. However, during the last six months, with rates dropping to all time lows, we have seen considerable increases in closing ratios and a decrease in cost per acquisition. This means our clients are closing more deals with less money than a year or even two years ago.
So response rates are up on all forms of marketing?
Yes, response ratios are up on all forms of marketing. In fact, I was recently reviewing the tracking reports from a recent FHA direct mail campaign that received a 5% response with a 25% closing rate. Albeit, it is rare to receive responses this high, the last six month average response on a refinance direct mail campaign is near 2%, more than double what response rates were one year ago.
It's pretty typical that when rates drop, consumer confidence goes up, along with the possible benefit of a refinance. If you target your audience correctly, any form of marketing will bring you better responses. Even in the purchase market, response rates are up. To give you an idea on an overall scale, online searches for homes has increased 400% over the past four months.
What has BRR done to take advantage of these increased responses?
We have acquired new web properties, some we have launched already and some are still in development. HomesForSaleNow.net is one of our newest properties targeted at generating new home buyer leads and purchase financing through SEO. We also recently released ShortSaleFaster.com. But at the end of the day, we have really just done what we have always believed in...strong targeted mail and calling campaigns to pre-qualified homeowners to take advantage of the lower rates in todays limited lending environments. Along with the traditional marketing we have done for years, we have moved into the internet lead generation arena. Currently we are generating about 1500 purchase loan leads per day nationwide among all web properties as well as a few hundred refinance candidates. On the real estate side, it is over 2500 buyer leads a day and around 200 seller leads. We are currently looking to leverage this traffic by building strong relationships between aggressive mortgage and real estate professionals to gain market share in their respective communities. BRR creates the traffic, the Mortgage and Real Estate professionals share and work that traffic to create the lowest cost per acquisition and gain a higher market share for both.
How has niche marketing campaigns compared with broad, nationwide campaigns?
Everything is niche right now! On the Refinance side of the fence we all deal with limited lending controlled by stringent but necessary guidelines. Your best bet is to target your audience for the few loans that are available then be very aggressive in spending your time and money targeting that audience. The old school "spray and pray" approach is gone with the wind. Whether you are targeting FHA, VA, Jumbo, Fannie, Freddie, Purchase, 203k, or Reverse....it’s all about targeting your audience first and then hitting them in every way possible, mail, phone, internet, mobile, etc. Niche marketing doesn't mean that you cannot market on a national level. Many can still have tremendous success on a national level, if they are hitting a niche and hitting it correctly. We work with you to create a marketing campaign that tends to your strengths and goals.
What do you recommend the small broker shops and single loan officers do to increase their marketing?
I would advise any small to midsized shop to use the 50/50 rule. Split your time evenly between refinance and purchase work. The refi side is obviously immediate revenue where as the purchase market takes more time to bring you that return. However, if you position yourself correctly by leveraging your marketing ability, you should have a real estate firm or two sending you business consistently every day. There are a lot of ways to get realtors to give you business and one of the easiest ways is to give them business. I am not just talking about actual pre-approvals; I am talking about business in the form of real time leads to keep that agent or group of agents busy. My advice would be to take a portion of your refinance marketing budget and put that into purchase marketing, then take that traffic to the agent in real time. That consistent activity is much appreciated by aggressive agents, which is who you want to be working with anyways. Whether your marketing budget is $200 per month or $2,000 per month, that budget can go a long way by using it to create real time traffic for a Realtor, especially when that same traffic needs financing by you. It’s a win-win, if you leverage your marketing dollars effectively.
Every time I turn around BRR has an innovative new marketing tool or product. What is BRR working on for 2012?
We have a few tricks up our sleeves I cannot mention quite yet, but to give a couple insights; we will be launching our mobile marketing platform as well as purchase loan internet leads on a national level to be sold to retail mortgage shops. We will be also be enhancing our PURL and QR technologies as well as our hosted predictive dialer and online lead cherry picking system. The goal is to use our direct marketing background, technology, training modules, and web properties to bring loan officers into the purchase world and create long term relationships for them and their real estate partners. One of our company goals, which I strongly believe in, is to create profitable long term business opportunities for you, and in turn, we will create a long-term client.
With all the different marketing options available to drive new prospects, how can a loan officer determine what is best for them?
The first thing I ask any new client looking to start a marketing campaign is if they are more comfortable calling the prospect or if they would prefer having the prospect call them. The answer to that question usually tells me what will suit the loan officer best. If you do not mind cold calling, there are many options available to you, especially low cost options. If you would rather the prospect call you, a direct mail campaign or mobile campaign may suit you best. To maximize any marketing campaign, a combination of both should be used to create the best ROI. My team and I are available Monday through Friday to consult you on the form of marketing that will work best for you. If you would like a free consultation on what will work best for you, contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will make sure you are put in touch with an experienced marketing consultant.