Creating “Affiliate Value” To Win Referrals

Yes, the market has gotten tougher. Yes, loans are still being done, and yes, top originators still have healthy pipelines. So why does it seem like you have to fight for every deal? Part of the answer may lie in where you’re looking.

While the battle for new customers rages in the streets, many originators are forgetting about value—providing tangible value to their clients. Provide more value, and you’ll win more customers. Although not a panacea guaranteed to fill your pipeline overnight, the system of delivering “Affiliate Value” will create a steady stream of referrals, bringing you a few extra deals per month. And more importantly, the system’s immune to the swing of the market!

What is Affiliate Value?
Take a close look at your target market. There are things that they want and need on a daily basis that you can help them with. Unlike the “Personal Value” that you deliver directly to your clients, “Affiliate Value” comes from other forms of resources around you – and you simply become the delivery vehicle.

First, examine the specific needs of your target market. For example, a large percentage of first-time homebuyers are looking at new cars, bridal shows, baby clothes or the local nightlife. Low credit score borrowers are researching bankruptcy laws, payday loans, credit counseling, discount stores and various forms of debt relief. But with a little thought behind it, you can get even more specific.

During the spring, people want information on landscaping, flowers and cleaning tips. At tax time, people want to know about little known deductions, loopholes and asset protection. High-end borrowers in the south want to know about pool maintenance, golf tips and vacation planning. Medical workers want to know about time management, stress relief and community events. All our prospects want to know about moving tips, insurance strategies, simple home repair tips and building equity. You can come up with thousands of variations. Affiliate Value, or AV, is simply the process of tapping into various resources to satisfy the appetite of your prospects.

Creating the Value
Start by defining your target market, and determining the value they want. What specific groups can you cater to? What types of personal experience and expertise do you have? What are your hobbies and interests? Where do you travel and spend you free time? These are all places to find your market niche.

Next, start asking questions. What are their challenges, fears or concerns? What are their interests? What do they want to know more about? Call some past clients and ask them about their profession, or read magazines and Web sites that talk about current issues. Very quickly, you will be able to identify five to seven specific items of interest, and know which direction to go.

Distributing the Value
Once you have asked the questions, the next part is pretty simple—document the answers. Locate the experts and various resources that can provide you with the “affiliate value” that your target market is looking for. These could include attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents, real estate agents, architects, medical professionals, moving companies, home improvement specialists, travel consultants or any affiliated industry resource!

Tap into these resources to create and provide the value to your market through a variety of methods. Typical choices could include free reports, CDs, downloadable recordings, streaming audio or video, podcasting, on-site demonstrations, workshops and seminars, articles or e-books, newsletters and e-zines, e-mails, audio postcards, blogs and RSS (media) feeds, radio or TV shows, press releases, community events—and that’s just a start. Use pictures, graphics, music, or gimmics to make them interesting, attractive and memorable. Make sure to credit the affiliate value source, and include your complete contact information (name, address, phone, website and e-mail).

One of the most important components of implementing this type of long-term marketing system is creating the list of recipients inside the target market. If it’s one that’s familiar to you, it makes it easy, but work to build a high quality, highly targeted, responsive list of prospects.

How It Works
Let’s take a look at a specific example of how the creation of “affiliate value” works on the streets. One of my direct target markets has been attorneys, a market which has specific challenges and very little spare time. Delivering AV to this market has been pretty easy. Through regular contact with this attorney market niche, I realized that there was a recent change in a federal law that directly impacted many of their business clients. They were scrambling for ways to help these clients adjust, and having a hard time coming up with the answers and resources they needed.

Spending a couple hours on the Internet, I soon learned of an attorney in California who was a noted “expert” on the impact of the federal law. He was an author and had written many articles on the subject. While reviewing his Web site, I located an article that directly addressed the concerns of my attorney market and those of their clients. I contacted his office through the number listed on the Web site, and spoke with his personal administrative assistant. In less than five minutes, I was given permission to reprint the article, and distribute it to my attorney market. The only conditions were that the article was left completely in tact, and that it included his name and contact information.

I sent this informative article via e-mail and direct mail to my attorney prospects. About 10 days later, I got a call directly from the attorney who had written the article. He wanted to thank me for passing it on, and excitedly exclaimed that he had landed seven new consulting clients as a result. He asked if there was anything he could do for me in return, and I quickly responded that I would like to conduct a 30-minute phone interview with him about the article.

He agreed, and after scheduling the interview and setting up a teleconference line, I invited all my attorneys to call and listen in. I recorded the interview, downloaded it onto a CD, duplicated it and made labels, then mailed them out as a bonus gift. I also took the recording and made it available online, and created a downloadable MP3 file for podcasting. Total cost: about $120. The results: priceless.

While the original intent and material had absolutely nothing to do with mortgages, by providing “affiliate value” to my target market, I established strong credibility, became a trusted resource, gained new relationships and a boatload of long-term referrals. I have since done several of these types of teleconferences and coached hundreds more on implementing variations of the same theme. You can do the same thing for your target market.

No, it’s not a quick fix for your pipeline overnight, but it will put you at a higher level than your competition, and provide for a steady stream of referrals that no market swing can touch.

By Chip Cummings, CMC