How do branches hit the next level?

by Ryan Smith11 Sep 2014
It’s obvious that a strong branch network will have many high-performing branches. But how do top-performing companies help individual branches to excel? That’s a question with more than one answer, but all those answers can be boiled down to a single word: support.

“Especially if a new branch is coming on, we feel like our role is not to just bring them aboard and take on their volume,” says Silverton Mortgage Services President Josh Moffitt. “It’s, ‘How can we grow your volume?’”

“While we’re busy taking care of our daily business, we also realize that a strong company – a good company – is always looking to make its branches better,” says Paul Buege, chief operating officer of Inlanta Mortgage. “We’re very, very active on proactively working with our management teams in the field so they can develop new production sources not just for today, but for the next quarter or the next six months.”

That support can take the form of marketing assistance, education, technology – or preferably a combination of all of the above – but it should be consistent and never stop evolving. Whether it’s coaching branch managers in old-fashioned, feet-on-the-street marketing or setting up collaboration between branches, support is a continuous process.

Plan for the next year, not the next loan

One way to push branches to shoot for excellence, says Buege, is to help branch managers take a long-term view rather than focus just on the next loan.

“Regardless of what’s happening transactionally in the company, we’ve always got that forward lean toward the future, which we think is going to reward our employees and our company very well,” he says. “If you talk to a lot of companies a few months ago, they were kind of licking their wounds and saying, ‘We’re hurting, refis are gone. … They’re just transactional institutions – they’re just focused on finishing the next transactions and not planning for how they’re going to have a really good 2015 or 2016.

“At the high level, what’s great about this industry is that it’s really pretty darn simple,” Buege adds. “The companies that will be successful are the ones that are sales forward. And the ones that won’t be successful are the ones that get bogged down in transactions.”

Tailor the approach to the branch

Branch development isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all affair, Moffitt says.

“We try to look at the branch’s needs,” he says. “For instance, our largest branch – we started a radio show for them. That was a neat way to help them grow their purchase business. What’s really kind of neat about it is not just having a show and providing the consumer information, but deepening the relationships with realtors.

“We also have a full-time PR company that we work with that reaches out to the branches about positioning them as experts in their local market,” he says. “We ask things like, ‘Can we get a column in their local paper?’ Really use PR to position them in the local market.”

Combine the old and the new

Scott Gordon, founder and president of Open Mortgage, is an enthusiastic proponent of social media marketing to boost branches’ profiles – but only in combination with good old-fashioned pavement-pounding.

“My view is that there’s a hybrid of using social media and old-school networking,” Gordon says. “Social media is great, but you have to combine it with being out and meeting with real humans. The balance that we try to strike is we provide loan officers their own personal web pages – blogs with syndicated content, the kind of thing that Google likes. So when somebody in your town searches for mortgages, they’re likely to find you. But then they need to get out and meet with realtors and builders. When they get back home, it’s time to tie it back into the social media network. So the tools that you have online connect back with the humans you’ve met on the street.”

Diane Creasy, vice president of marketing for Open Mortgage, also recommends training loan officers to focus their marketing.

“We have some marketing specials where we go out and change behaviors for the branches,” Creasy says. “We teach them to go after certain groups of people. We have a marketing special for first time home buyers, for instance.”

Open Mortgage has recently introduced a feature that allows clients to post reviews about their experiences with the branches – another tactic that increases a branch’s exposure and drives more business, Creasy says.

“We’re really teaching (branch managers) to go out into the community. It’s all about problem-solving, networking, and then being able to prove through client reviews that they really did solve problems for their clients,” she says. “Google loves when clients talk about them rather than them just talking about themselves.”

Is your branch network proactive in helping your business grow? What innovative strategies does it implement? Let us know in the comments below.



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