(TheNicheReport.com) -- In this economy, mortgage professionals have to work a lot harder for a smaller book of business. Individuals and companies have had to cut their marketing budgets at a time when they need it most.
Here are five cost-effective ways that loan originators can generate more leads.
TIP #1: USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Cast the widest net at the lowest cost.
While Social Media has been an effective way for businesses to market to consumers, B2B marketers can benefit by figuring out how to use these platforms to their advantage.
Maintaining a Social Media presence takes time. Tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, should be used consistently to be effective. If you have the time and/or staff to manage multiple Social Media platforms, go for it. If not, consider focusing on one or two and doing that well.
Facebook is becoming the first choice of many businesses because of its size (more than 500 million users), the SEO benefits of a business Facebook page, and the "wall" where they can converse with customers. (Facebook is very popular with real estate agents.)
A Facebook business page can be used effectively with your personal profile to grow your sphere and establish yourself as a trusted expert on mortgage matters.
Assuming you already have a Facebook personal profile with a number of “friends,” consider adding a business page. To do that, type “Facebook Pages” in the search field on your Facebook Home Page. There you will find a tutorial including how to set up a business page, build a presence, engage your audience and spread your message.
After creating your business page, write a few interesting wall posts, add a relevant tab (like the free Real Estate tab provided in the Roost Social Media Toolkit, located in the left-hand column of your Home Page), post a photo, and add links to your Web site and professional blog if you have one.
It’s important to engage your audience with insightful, topical content. Posts that get “Liked” and “Shared” (Facebook terms) end up in more feeds, which means greater exposure. It’s also important to maintain a regular cadence by posting at least once a day.
The next step is to build a base of “fans” by inviting your Facebook friends to “Like” your page for regular local market insights and updates. To do this, from your business page click the “Suggest to Friends” link in the left–hand column. The Roost Publisher will also help you get friends to your page.
Continue to update the page with fresh content. Topical ideas can come from many sources. For example, go to Google News (www.news.google.com) and search for a topic that would appeal to your readers, for example, “Mortgage Rates.” You will find links to the most recent news items for that term. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Create an E-mail Alert for Mortgage Rates.” You will then receive daily or weekly updates of fresh news items that you can post on your page or add with your own comments.
Other sources for content:
- Industry trade association Web sites
- Industry publications
- Real estate publications
- National newspapers
- Local newspapers in your area
- Chamber of commerce newsletters
- Real estate blogs
TIP #2: BLOG. Learn to do it effectively
Be yourself. Read blogs you like and find a tone that you are comfortable with. Write as if you are having a conversation with a client or colleague. If you are producing content for your Facebook page, it shouldn’t be too difficult to expand that into blog posts. If you are already blogging, make sure you are doing it consistently, at least once a week.
Focus on trends, statistics, local market information, new products and services, and anything else you think would be of interest to your readers. Talk about real life situations that have occurred in your business. Provide your opinions on the housing market nationally and/or locally. Comment on related news articles you’ve read. What’s going on with lending? What new products are out there? What’s happening with loan modifications?
Be sure to link your blogs to your Facebook page and your Web site (plus additional Social Media or other sites you use such as Twitter). Include your e-mail address and invite people to ask questions. Publish questions and answers in future blogs.
TIP #3: GET ENDORSED
Leverage your satisfied customers.
Turn satisfied customers into boosters. Here are some of the tactics you can use with your customers:
- Invite them to become a “fan” on your Facebook page so you can keep them up to date.
- Ask them to “Like” your Facebook page, thereby recommending it to others.
- Ask them to write a two- or three-sentence testimonial and post it on your Web site and Facebook page (with their permission).
TIP #4: GET PERSONAL
Build more face-to-face relationships.
Enough about Social Media. Don’t lose touch with people face-to-face. Much of your business can come from people who know you.
Get involved by joining your local Realtor® organization as an affiliate or associate member. Attend the events and functions. Volunteer to serve on committees that are allowed for your membership category. Get to know people. Attend real estate caravans and open houses. Establish your credibility by becoming familiar with your local market, such as inventory, trends, what’s selling for how much.
Reach consumers by becoming involved in community groups like the chamber of commerce, Rotary, Boys and Girls Club, etc.
Remember, relationship building takes time. Get to know people and build their trust in you. They may seek you out for advice and, eventually for business.
Tip #5: LOOK SMART
Position yourself as an expert in your community.
Look for other avenues to gain exposure in your local market and position yourself as an expert.
Contact your local newspaper and offer to write a bylined article on a topic related to your field that educates consumers. (Weeklies are more receptive than major metropolitan dailies.) Don’t advertise yourself—your exposure comes in the form of your byline and bio at the end of the article.
Once you establish yourself with your local newspaper, offer to write a regular column or Q&A where readers are encouraged to send questions.
Connect with people on real estate and consumer Web sites that post consumer questions. Focus on those pertaining to your area of expertise in your community (don’t waste time advising someone who lives on the other side of the country). Offer your expertise where appropriate. Some examples:
Active Rain: An active social network that helps real estate agents create business relationships both within the industry and with consumers. After registering, click your state at the top of the page, and then click on your city or county from the list on the left-hand column.
Review the blogs and posts. You can post a link to your blogs, updates on new services you provide that are helpful for your customers, or your opinion about something happening in your community that pertains to housing. Registering and using many of the features are free, with more advanced tools and benefits available on a paid subscription basis. (Note: You do not have to write new blogs for every site. With a few tweaks, blogs can be used on several sites, getting a bigger bang for your buck. Just be sure your content matches your audience.)
YELP: A consumer-oriented site that helps people find customer ratings for local businesses. After registering, navigate to your local city or county, then to the Real Estate tab, and the Mortgage Broker category. Ask former clients to post a review about your services. Monitor questions/posts related to mortgages and respond to those where you can be helpful.
Zillow: Respond to consumer questions under the “Advice” section at the top of the page. Once you are in that section, type “Mortgage” in the “Questions, Keywords or Topics” search box, followed by your city in the next search box. There you will see a list of questions and the dates they were posted so that you can respond to those you feel are appropriate based on relevancy and how recently the question was posted.
With the proliferation of Social Media and informational Web sites there is a deluge of information competing for attention. But there are also more ways to reach your customers if you rise above the “noise” by providing content that is relevant, informative, and topical. Be concise and keep blogs short (300-400 words should do it). Don’t force people to wade through a long post to get to the heart of your message. Build your Web presence and expand your personal relationships. Offer to help people as opposed to promoting yourself. Building relationships and establishing yourself happens over time. Be patient, consistent and persistent.
Cathy Blaszyk, CMPS, RMA, is Vice President of Lender Services for ClosingCorp, a real estate information and data services company based in La Jolla, CA. ClosingCorp develops Web products to serve the needs of real estate professionals and consumers, including the SmartClosing Mortgage Calculator, the SmartGFE Service for loan originators and Closing.com. Blaszyk has spent two decades in the mortgage banking industry, representing direct lenders such as Bank of America and CitiMortgage, as well as serving as a mortgage broker.