As mortgage practices have shifted to near-totally online in the past year, the importance of branding has become paramount for each and every mortgage professional. To one mortgage CEO, though, most mortgage pros haven’t done a good job building a brand that actually sets them apart. Howie Jays (pictured), founder and CEO of LoanSmarter.com, explained that too many mortgage operations treat their brand as a second thought, resulting in a drab website with a logo prominently featuring the peaked roof of a house.
Jays, whose company is built around a proprietary lending technology, explained that brand building in this industry is a combination of deep reflection upfront and sustained maintenance over time. Getting both of those pieces right can be a game changer for your business, strengthening your messaging and creating instant recognition. Failing to do so, especially in a moment when it’s harder than ever to get face to face with a prospect, can result in your business simply slouching into anonymity.
Step 1: Do the work upfront
“A brand is not something you can come up with overnight,” Jays said. “It involves a lot of detailed research, to make sure the name you want to use isn’t trademarked or used by someone else. You have to find something that the public can trust and leaves people with a question mark or a call to action.”
Jays cited his own brand, LoanSmarter, as an example of a company name that raises questions and provokes action in an ordinary person. His company bills itself as a tech-driven disruptor in the mortgage space, and the name is meant to evoke that. Mortgage pros looking to build a brand need to get a handle on their own identity as a business and let that inform their brand.
Jays emphasized the importance of front-end work in building a brand. Simple steps, like ensuring nothing is trademarked, are key in ensuring the costly process of rebranding can be avoided.
Read more: Fannie Mae just crossed a $1.5 billion lending milestone
Step 2: Pick the right partners
Jays also isn’t a fan of including a house in the logo. The graphic design trope is everywhere in the mortgage industry, creating uniformity in an area that should showcase uniqueness. While cheap logo designers are everywhere in the gig economy, Jays emphasized the importance of hiring a good designer who will work with you to develop a unique logo. It might cost more upfront, but it’s worth it.
Investing in the right advice and brand-building skills upfront doesn’t mean getting taken in by some of the snake-oil salesmen that existing in the branding space. Jays emphasized that these consultants and designers need to be hired with the same diligence you might apply to a full-time employee. Look through design portfolios and read client reviews to get a sense of how these people might help you and whether they’re a good fit.
Read more: Why are office values so resilient?
Step 3: Reinvest, because a brand is a fragile thing
Once that brand is built, you have to invest in maintaining it. For mortgage professionals, especially broker-owners, Jays emphasized that hiring the right people is crucial to maintaining that brand. For small business owners, the brand is a personal statement about mission and purpose. Jays believes that the people you hire need to align with your personal brand, understand it, and know that their mission is to strengthen it.
Jays stressed that in a market as competitive as mortgage, brands can be broken easily. Thoughtful investment in your team is the best way to safeguard your brand against the forces of vindictiveness and circumstance that can conspire against it.
“When customers are happy, there are other people that are going to come to you and that ripple effect will keep going,” Jays said. “But you can ruin your reputation in a matter of one transaction. If you’re not honest with your clients, people are going to talk about it. One bad review on social media will really drag down the company. You want to ensure that that as you grow, the people that you are growing the company with are the right people, the people that represent your company in the best way possible.”