Networks are vitally important tools of business for everyone, and in the mortgage industry, that boils down to the information in your database. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Whether an originator is just starting out in the business or has been in the business for thirty years, a database is your lifeline to the people that you have the ability to touch, and the people who’ve touched you.
Michael Deery, mortgage planner and president of Citywide Financial Corp., says that you can’t put a price tag on it.
“When you first start out in this business everybody that you talk to and everybody you meet, you’ve got to put them in this database, and You’ve got to touch them frequently, and you’ve got to be nice to them, and keep sending them good material to where they don’t tune you out. Obviously it takes time to build a database, but that’s the first thing I would say right away is to put everybody you know into it. And then just work it. Work that database because it’s your gold mine,” Deery said.
A database can serve different purposes at different stages in an originator’s career. In the beginning, it serves as a centralized location to keep track of who you’re meeting, who you’re talking to, and sort clients into categories such as referral partners, industry peers, and so on. As the years go by, a database is still useful for that purpose, but can also be used to keep track of the last time a contact was touched or contacted.
These days, databases are often integrated with CRMs, or other software that utilize data from your database in order to effectively implement marketing strategies. But Risha Kilaru, vice president of lending at Guaranteed Rate in Fremont, CA, stresses that a good database should be maintained independently of a CRM. An originator’s database belongs to an originator, not a company, and will stay with the originator as they move from one employer to the next.
The database doesn’t have to be complicated, she says, as long as it exists.
“If you’re working with a company that doesn’t have good CRM tools or any marketing, always have a way to communicate with your realtors and your clients. Always, from day one. Whoever you talk to, get their contact [information] and assemble an Excel spreadsheet. Or anything,” she said. “A lot of people don’t do that; [once] they’ve figured it out, they’ve lost a lot of contacts. No matter which company you go to, you have to have a way to communicate with your clients. They come to you for you, not for who you work for.”
If you don’t have a great database, it’s not the end of the world, but as you do continue to add contacts, adding context as well will make life infinitely easier.
Julee Felsman is a vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate in Portland Oregon, and while she is one of the company’s top producers, she often reflects on the fact that her database—which has more than 14,000 contacts—has been “a giant snarled mess of nothing” for most of her career. It was completely unorganized and virtually unusable, and over the past two years she’s been combing through it, figuring out who each person is.
“Keeping your database clean and tight is a challenge for everyone in the industry even today. I started with a giant mess so I hope that before I retire, I will actually have a database where I could just decide I want to invite my clients to something and click a button and send all my clients an email, but I literally couldn’t do that today. If you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t send a marketing email that wasn’t going to be a mess in some way. So [it’s] my biggest regret and my biggest single missed opportunity. I don’t even know what my business would be like if I had consistently stayed in touch with my database and all my old clients.”
A database can be the tool that puts food on your table in times of famine. Deery said that his database has been what’s kept him chugging along during the shift to purchase business.
“Right now when rates are going up and business is slower, my database is feeding me whereas I don’t have to go out and really market anymore,” he said. “If you can build a database and maintain it and touch these people cyclically and give them good content and give them a reason to call you when they’re ready to do a loan. . . . every five to seven years like clockwork everybody will need to do a different deal, and the question is, are you going to be there when they want to do that deal?”
Deery still does a lot of refinances even though they’re down overall throughout the industry. He’s been in the mortgage business for almost 20 years, and over that time, his database has gotten padded with people who are in all stages of their mortgage journeys.
“People always want to fix up their home, remodel their home, borrow cash out because of a divorce or whatever reason. But I believe people who have maintained a good database over the years will always have refinances available just because if they took care of people, they’ll always come back to you,” Deery said.