Superstar of the Month – Mark Taylor

M.O.M.— How did you get started in the lending business?

Taylor—After college in Southampton, England, I worked as a business consultant, advising companies on management, marketing and related issues. I came to the United States in 1992 on behalf of a client. A friend said he thought I would be good as an originator and in 1996 I went to work for PNC Bank in Scottsdale. I proved I could do the job, but didn’t feel there was enough product at the time, so I went to work for a brokerage. I eventually opened my own firm, but it grew to the point where I was spending too much time managing and not enough producing. I joined Security Mortgage in 2002.

M.O.M.—What was your first marketing activity?

Taylor—I called on Realtors, same as today. The key was making a point to ask them what they wanted. The responses were similar—they want docs to title early, want you to be available, ask that you do what you promise, and take care of their client. I guaranteed I would do all of that. I got my first deals based on my commitment and the business grew.

M.O.M.—How did your Realtor business evolve?

Taylor— I’ve developed a number of other strategies to benefit Realtors. For instance, every week I prepare a flier on loan program that is distributed to approximately 5,000 real estate agents throughout the valley. I determine the topic, we have it designed and printed, and a service delivers it for distribution to agents’ mailboxes.

I also send agents weekly e-mails that highlight new loan programs, which helps demonstrate that I’m the “go to” guy. This has been very successful; we recently got 19 new loans within two weeks of sending an announcement regarding a specific loan program (2/1 buydown). In addition, we send them e-mail updates at every stage of the loan process.

I also started helping Realtors refine their databases, to show how their customers could move up in properties through various ways (such as 401k analysis). This often involves me talking to their clients about options, which ultimately drives more business to agents’ pipelines.

I’ve held classes for agents on how to use Palm Pilots and Blackberries; generally how to stay abreast of technology. All of this is non-traditional marketing aimed at staying in front of agents.

We always try to provide agents with a high level of service. We continually ask what is being done (or not done) to help the Realtor. For instance, if they have to call us for an update on an appraisal or closing, we’re not doing our job.

M.O.M.—Any other advice regarding marketing to Realtors?

Taylor—I’ve learned the importance of not creating a reputation for only doing the tough loans. I recently had a conversation with a regular Realtor client who said that he typically sends me the tough deals. I asked if he was sending me the “vanilla” loans as well and he responded that “anyone can do those.” It made me realize that I might have positioned myself too much as a specialist and as a result I’m not getting all of this (and possibly other) agent’s deals. I’m planning to change my focus slightly so that they see I’m good at both the basic as well as the more challenging loans.

M.O.M.—What about advertising?

Taylor—I’ve tried lots of different types of advertising, from Yellow Pages to high quality city magazines and others. I’ve concluded that advertising doesn’t work (for me). You spend a lot of money on an ad and get someone interested in your service and then their Realtor often convinces the borrower to go with their originator. I don’t believe the ultimate response justifies the cost.

M.O.M—How do you stay in contact with past customers?

Taylor—Twenty percent of my business is generated from past customers. After meeting with a client, we send them a thank-you card and a testimonial from a current client. This usually stops the new customer from rate shopping. This is probably my most effective marketing technique.

Upon closing, we give new customers a book that contains a variety of value-added material, including copies of the application, credit and title reports; along with a home repair manual and postcards (with photos of their new house) that they can send to family and friends.

Past customers receive two mailers a month—a postcard and a newsletter. The postcards are often humorous and are sent on such non-traditional holidays as Ground Hog Day and St. Patrick’s Day. The newsletter is a two-sided legal paper format that highlights mortgage news, recipes and other helpful information. We get a great response from these items.

M.O.M.—Do you have a specific niche market?

Taylor—The main one would be corporations, including relocating employees. Our Workplace Mortgage Program starts when we survey new customers regarding their place of employment. We will send a survey to the benefits manager explaining that we did a good job with one of their employee’s loans and try to set an appointment. When we meet, we’ll show the support materials we can provide, such as posters for their lunchroom and payroll stuffers regarding refinancing and purchasing discounts. When a new employee moves into the area we’ll send them a welcome e-mail to introduce our service and that of our Realtor partner for that client.

M.O.M.—Any other unique marketing?

Taylor—We also have a “welcome to the neighborhood” party for new customers. During the transaction we send postcards to their neighbors, letting them know that someone bought a house nearby. The next postcard informs them that our customer has moved in and that we will host a welcome party for their new neighbors. We mention that we can provide them with comparable analyses and other services. The clients like this and it also gives the Realtors a chance to meet everyone.

Of course, one of the benefits of this party is that we obtain the customer’s address book so that we can mail the invites and send them future updates. For instance, we may send their friend in Minnesota a card that encourages them to buy a second home in our area.

M.O.M.—Do you develop an annual marketing plan?

Taylor—I develop an annual plan and review it on a quarterly basis to see how I can be more effective with specific messages and strategies. Then every six months I evaluate where the business has come from and make other adjustments. By end of the year I’ve reviewed every client/business source, which helps us fine tune the plan for the next year.

M.O.M.—How did you decide to incorporate your sons in marketing materials?

Taylor—Including my boys in marketing fliers and other material helps show that I’m a family man. It emphasizes that there will be times when I’m with my family and not able to take weekend appointments, for example.

M.O.M.—Who is on your support team?

Taylor—I certainly couldn’t do this without the assistance of Donna Rinaldi, Realtor liaison and Ryan McDonough, processor. They make me the success I am today. They are passionate about what they do and help to make our team successful. I’ve learned that a key to an originator hiring an assistant is having a system, knowing what you want them to do.

M.O.M.—What process do you have to handle the volume?

Taylor—Before I talk to the client, Donna has already taken a complete phone application and we’ve had the credit pulled. We’ll run DU/LP as soon as possible. I’ll then meet with the customer to review the application and the overall loan strategy.

Our goal is to have them come in with just a pay stub and proof of funds to close. The time I spend with them is to build rapport, rather than take an hour to do the loan application.

M.O.M.—What do you do to make the customer welcome?

Taylor—Donna calls customers to find out what beverage they prefer, which is waiting when they arrive at our office. Our reception area has a board with their name on it. These steps help set the tone and make them comfortable. A relaxed atmosphere helps eliminate the anxiety they may be feeling.

M.O.M.—What do you consider key characteristics of superstar originators?

Taylor—I believe that top producers generally have a higher learning skill set than other originators. They have a better grasp of what to ask customers, and make a point to listen to what the customer isn’t saying as well. Being able to see things from the client’s perspective is critical.

It’s also important to be associated with a supportive company that allows the originator’s entrepreneurial skills to develop. Without the infrastructure we have here, I wouldn’t be able to do the volume. My company was founded by and for originators.

M.O.M.—What is your usual work routine?

Taylor—As soon as I’m up I’m working. For example, I’ll check my Blackberry and then return phone calls on my way into work. I may talk with or leave messages for five customers I had taken applications the prior day, or follow-up with agents. I’m starting the day on a positive note. Then I arrive at the office ready to meet with clients.

One thing that I emphasize is close contact with Realtors and others regarding appointments. For example, if I’m meeting with a customer and running late for an appointment with a Realtor, I’ll text message Donna or Ryan who will immediately call the agent to advise that I’ll be there (or return the call) within 15 minutes or a half-hour. Realtors love this kind of response. We make a point to never say I’m busy, which no one likes to hear.

M.O.M.—How do you balance work with your personal life?

Taylor—When I started I was working way too many hours, but soon learned to make the adjustments. Of course, balancing your work with personal life can be a challenge. I let clients know that I have children. I don’t work after 6 p.m. and generally don’t work on the weekends. I try to take four vacations a year, and I spend time with family on weekends and other occasions. One of the best things about a support team is having them eliminate the minutiae when you’re on vacation. For example, if I get a call while on vacation, I know that it’s important (about structuring a deal).