Taking the lead

It doesn’t get much simpler than this: If you have no customers, you have no business. And if you have no leads, you have no new customers.

If you want to grow your business and keep new customers coming through the door, you’ve got to have a rock-solid lead-generation strategy. But the lead-generation game is changing.

Originators used to be able to rely on direct mail, radio advertisements and the like. But as technology takes a bigger and bigger role in the industry, originators are adding websites and social media to their lead-gen efforts.

Keeping up with the industry’s tech trends is vital – but, according to Lead Gen Concepts co-founder Paul Johnston, that doesn’t mean the tried-and-true strategies don’t work, too.
Pounding the pavement
“Leads come in from you doing something. You have to pick up the phone. You have to create some kind of worth for yourself so people want to work with you,” Johnston says. “You really just need to ask. You need to get out there and do it.”
There are a lot of lead-generation strategies, ranging from low- to high-tech. And yes, an online presence is important. But the way to start, Johnston says, is to get out there and do some good old fashioned pavement pounding.
“If you want to generate your own leads, you need to start with marketing to local realtors, marketing to specific demographics in various forms,” he says. “Networking to title companies and doing presentations for their realtors – even offering some kind of strategy session on how they can generate their own leads. I could go on and on, but that would be a couple of good places to start.”
Trust the pros
 Social media can be a powerful tool, Johnston says. And it seems simple enough – but unless you’re an expert, you might want to consider farming out your Facebook presence.
“(You get leads from) realtors, insurance brokers, financial planners, title companies, and anyone you’ve worked with in the past,” Johnston says. “Those would be your top five. And you can throw in Facebook – if you know what you’re doing. It takes practice. If you’re going to go out and use social media to try and generate their leads, you need to find someone specific who knows what they’re doing. That can be a company, an individual – somebody who specializes in that.
“If you’re going to specialize in mortgage, that’s what you need to specialize in just that – mortgage,” he adds. “It’s very complicated. I would say delegate the lead-generation part of your social media.”
Buyer beware

 What about buying leads? Well, the biggest buyers of leads are large companies like Quicken Loans in the US – but they have the manpower to follow them up. Johnston warns that while buying leads may seem like a timesaver, it’s really no substitute for generating them yourself.
“There’s a lot of companies out there that advertise their leads, their databases, that kind of thing. But one, most of them aren’t worth anything,” he says. “And two, it takes a very specific kind of loan officer – really, a pushy salesperson – when you’re buying leads. You really want (your customers) coming to you on a recommendation instead of you trying to chase them down.
“I know people do well buying leads – not everyone – but unless you’re a pushy salesperson, you’re probably not into buying leads,” he adds. “Learn to generate your own leads, and people will come to you. You’ll do a lot better.”
If you do think purchased leads are the way to go, Johnston says, don’t just hand your credit card over to the first company you find online. Not all lead companies are created equal, and a wise originator will do plenty of research before purchasing a single lead.
“If you’re looking to buy leads, you need to speak to the company that’s trying to sell them,” Johnston says. “Ask them for three current clients who are doing so well with their leads that you can call and get an honest opinion. If someone is generating business with company leads, they should be more than happy to tell somebody else that it’s working.”
Ultimately, Johnston says, you have to evolve a strategy that works for you, and keep at it. “You would have no business otherwise,” he says. “It’s pretty simple.”

This article is from our sister site Mortgage Professional America.