Top Originators

This year we have highlighted 10 originators whose exceptional and diverse accomplishments have helped them achieve a place on the Top 200 list. Whether they have shined in the top volume category, the FHA/VA arena, purchase business, or elsewhere, these LOs have created systems to maximize their success in the industry–and here they share some of their stories–and their secrets.

Perennial Top Performers

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage * Loan Originator * Aspen, Colo. * $175,229,109 * 470 loans * Purchase: 64% * Refinance: 36% * Assistants: 3 * Years Originating: 19

American Home Mortgage * Senior Vice President * Mt. Prospect, Ill. * $205,000,000 * 870 loans * Purchase: 50 % * Refinance: 50% * Assistants: 2 * Years Originating: 20

Jody Cooper and Jeff Lake have several things in common: both SuperStars have been originating for about 20 years; they’re well respected by their peers as being customer-focused, hard working professionals; and, they are among a small group of LOs who have appeared on the Top Originators List for each of the 10 years it’s been in existence.

They also have been proactive in their marketing efforts to maintain visibility with past customers and generate new business, although their respective methods have changed in recent years. “We give a lot more attention to our old clients,” said Lake. “We still use our monthly newsletter and have holiday presents for clients.  However, we also use e-mail more now than we did before, including holiday e-mails and rate alert e-mails.”

In addition, Lake spends less time working with Realtors than he has over the last decade. “Realtors only represent 20 percent of our total production,” he said. “We are trying to add more attorneys and financial advisors to the mix.”

Cooper’s marketing approach has also evolved. “I market to my current customers more than I ever have before,” she said. “This includes making periodic phone calls, distributing various mailings, and even running local newspaper ads. Also, we are refinancing more second mortgages, since those are typically floating rates and the majority of my business now is purchase transactions.”

Of course, one thing that hasn’t changed is their reliance on support. “The team approach is the heart of my success,” emphasized Lake. “My assistant, junior loan officer, and two processors have total knowledge of the business and understand the importance of our clients.”

Cooper concurs that assistance is essential to her success. “The key for me to continue being a top producer is the team of people I have working with me,” she said. “I have three associates and they each have their own expertise in a specific area. For example, one of my associates is the best at putting first mortgage deals together while another is best at coordinating second mortgages, and the third assistant keeps my database current.”

Their secrets for success are basic, yet have been proven over time. “A big part of our success is giving people more than what they expect,” explained Lake. “Even if the client is wrong, we will take the blame for everything. We always put the client’s needs before our own. Always do what’s in their best interests.”

“My key is that I am passionate about what I do and I want to be the best,” added Cooper. “I want people in town to talk about how I helped them get into a home and that they knew exactly what was going on and they were treated professionally.”

Will they continue to produce and appear on M.O.M.’s list in 2016? They both still enjoy the business, and aren’t desperately seeking retirement. “I am starting to enjoy giving back more to the other loan officers in our company by sharing some of my knowledge with them,” Lake said. “Every year my team is taking on a much larger part of the originating. Sometime in the future, I hope to have my team take over the originating business so I can spend my full time mentoring.”

Likewise, Cooper isn’t planning to retire anytime soon. “I still like the business,” she said. “It is always changing with new guidelines, programs, and products. If I get to the point that I don’t enjoy it, then I will think about retiring, but for the time being I am very happy.”

Highest Dollar/Unit

Countrywide Home Loans * Sales Manager * Glendale, Calif. * $1,080,554,199 * 3,444 loans * Purchase: 65% * Refinance: 35% *Assistants: 10 * Years Originating: 14

Alan Pezeshkian knows that a great team can make all the difference when you’re shooting for SuperStar numbers. In fact, in 2005 his team of 10 assistants and loan “bookers” helped him get to number one on this year’s lists (both dollar and loans), with $1,080,554,199 and 3,444 units. “From the very beginning days of my business, I’ve believed in offering a highly competitive incentive plan,” Pezeshkian explains. “This has resulted in virtually zero turnover in my staff and has enabled me to surround myself with a highly motivated sales team.” His team handles all of the actual applications, leaving Pezeshkian with the time to remain visible with his referral partners and to focus his efforts on generating business.

Pezeshkian’s commitment to the team concept has extended to the Realtors he works with, and landed him the position of “preferred lender” for over 20 condominium projects in his Los Angeles, Calif. market—another factor in his substantial production, he notes. “In 2005, we implemented new strategies to help our partners grow their business, and as a result, our capture rates within these offices improved significantly compared to prior years.” In addition to his condo deals—which are often first-time buyers—Pezeshkian enjoys a diverse customer base. He plans to expand his business in 2006 by replicating his successful model in other nearby communities. “I also plan to grow my business through recruiting quality loan officers, penetrating new markets and new territories, and implementing programs aimed at increasing capture rates in our relationships with real estate offices,” he shares. “I want to make sure that I deploy systems to ensure I can always deliver the highest service standards.”

Pezeshkian attributes stellar results to a supportive, growing company (“I can’t imagine realizing my accomplishments in any other organization,” he said), and ambitious personal goals. “I’ve always been a man of my words, believing that I must possess the absolute best reputation for dependability, reliability, and expertise. Like any other business, it is imperative to have the highest level of integrity and honesty, to a degree that customers trust you implicitly.”

Top FHA/VA Producer

The Rivera Group at Resource Bank * Vice President, Retail Division * Rockville, Md. * $ 83,810,143 * 326 Loans * Purchase: 65% * Refinance: 35% * Assistants: 2 * Years Originating: 8

Daniel Rivera says that the misconception about FHA/VA loans—that they are fundamentally more difficult than traditional loans—is a common fallacy among many originators. In fact, he explains, the loans simply require attention to detail. Rivera should know. He is this year’s top FHA/VA producer, with 261 loans closed and $67,048,114 in volume (80 percent of his total origination).

The vice president of the retail division with The Rivera Group at Resource Bank, Rivera attributes his decision to specialize in FHA/VA to his affinity for the programs and his customers, and not “shrinking away” from his work. His obvious passion for government loans has helped him create a strong niche in his Rockville, Md. community, and his ability to tailor his service to each individual borrower has afforded him a loyal customer base.  “Attention makes the difference because each loan is singular, there’s not a fixed pattern or layout to follow,” he says. “On the contrary, each borrower is a complete new world, completely different from the previous one.”

After eight years in the industry, his customer base has grown substantially, mostly by word of mouth. He also enjoys a robust repeat-borrower business, as his original first-time buyers become move-up clients. The level of success he has experienced is all about the service, he says. “Who doesn’t want to receive attention to detail and personal service?” Rivera’s marketing is largely based on home visits, as well as a monthly newsletter.  He has focused much of his marketing on the local Hispanic community and has found the targeted efforts successful in establishing a solid niche.  “I keep in touch with my database every month through my personal newsletter, and my customers know I care because of the timely advice they get through it,” he notes. “In-person appearances are also important, and I use that as a significant part of my marketing technique.” Rivera says aspiring FHA/VA originators must be “committed to serve” adding, “A satisfied client is truly a source of endless referrals.”

Veteran Originator

SunTrust Mortgage * Assistant Vice President/Originator * Maitland, Fla. * $97,757,063 * 158 loans * Purchase: 96% * Refinance: 4% * Assistants: 1 * Years Originating: 32

After over 30 years in the mortgage industry, Karen Miller-Lozicki has her origination business down to a science. She has created a strong niche within the custom builder community in four surrounding counties, specializing in construction-to-permanent loans. She has also discovered a way to strike a balance between her professional and personal lives. “I make my family a priority and my business secondary,” she says. “But I still maintain a productive environment around me at all times.” As an originator with one of the longest tenures in the industry, Miller-Lozicki appears as number 135 on the Top 200 list, with 158 loans closed and $97,757,063 in volume.

Beginning her career as a processor and branch manager, Miller-Lozicki quickly blossomed in the business; an opportunity to close a loan from start to finish allowed her to expand her role. “The client raved and I become a referral source to several Realtors. At that time I made the move to full-time originating.” Miller-Lozicki took that experience to heart, stating, “I never let an opportunity pass me by.” She is now an assistant vice president at SunTrust Mortgage in Maitland, Fla., where she has worked for 10 years. Although her business is 80 percent construction, she also markets to Realtors and relies on referrals from past borrowers. “I always value my clients and the referrals I receive,” she says. “I try to find a common bond between the client and myself, and treat each one, whether a large business transaction or a small one, like I would want to be treated.”

Miller-Lozicki realizes the value of a simple thank you to her borrowers for their business. She feels that this small gesture, along with first-rate service and follow-up, makes a big impact, emphasizing, “The key to my success is integrity, professionalism, and constant communication to all involved in the mortgage transaction.”

High Purchase Volume

Coldwell Banker Mortgage * Mount Laurel, N.J. * Senior Mortgage Loan Consultant * $97,529,919 * 651 Loans * Purchase: 98% * Refinance: 2% * Assistants: 0 * Years Originating: 2

Dana Gounaris saw the signs of a changing market and wanted to be prepared for the inevitable decrease in refinance business—and he was lucky to work for a company that was proactive in their preparation. “The lender I work for recognized that the industry was destined to shift from a refinance to a purchase market,” he said. “They have implemented strategic initiatives to put us in a position where we can thrive through the change.” As a result, Gounaris’ 2005 production was 98 percent purchase business.

A key reason for the recently expanded purchase business was Gounaris’ solid association with Realtors. “The division of our business I am a part of is the mortgage solution for multiple real estate brands,” he said. “The leads that come from these brands are referred to us by agents and therefore, are primarily purchasers. Recently, we have added more field representatives who act as liaisons between each real estate brokerage and our company. This initiative has helped loan originators like myself better serve the purchase market and increase our conversion rate.”

While Gounaris didn’t do much traditional marketing in 2005, he has benefited from the company’s overall visibility. “Coldwell Banker provides most of the marketing for our mortgage company as a whole. I market myself through contacting Realtors over the phone and having the field reps promote me in the real estate offices.”

Gounaris works with a diverse customer base, including first-timers and experienced buyers.  “However, in 2005 a high percentage of my business was from investors, as well as second-home buyers,” he said. While he is licensed in all 50 states, the majority of his business is derived from/comes from the Southeast region.

Gounaris attributes some of his production success to demonstrating a sincere interest in his customers’ goals and their financial futures. “One key has been finding out what people need and giving it to them,” he said. “Asking the right questions and listening is so important in providing a good experience and uncovering the customer’s needs. I try to do this on every call and believe it is one of the reasons I have been successful.”

Rookie Success Story

Great Southwest Mortgage * Mortgage Consultant * Mesa, Ariz. * $60,140,672 * 443 Loans * Purchase: 80% * Refinance: 20% *Assistants: 1 *Years Originating: 1

Chad Melin managed to do what few others have accomplished in their first year as an originator—earn a place on M.O.M.’s Top 200 originator list (as well as the rookie list).

In his rookie year, Melin closed an impressive $ 60,140,672 and 443 loans for Great Southwest Mortgage. Of course, he would readily stress that his prior experience as a general manager for a nationwide homebuilder and the invaluable guidance of his mentor helped prepare him to have a banner year. “Ryan Nelson showed me the ropes and how to do business the right way,” he said. “He taught me the systems of being a top originator and how to market to Realtors.”

Melin’s first-year marketing also included mailing postcards and co-hosting a local real estate finance radio show. “I [later] received a lot of calls from people who were looking to improve their current mortgage or credit situation,” he said.  He strives to be selective in his overall approach. “I don’t market just to say I am,” he said. “It has to make the phone ring and make money or I don’t do it.”

In a brief time as an originator, Melin has already established a healthy mix of business. “Arizona is one of the fastest growing markets in the country. With the amount of appreciation at record levels, people have been refinancing and purchasing new homes at a record pace. I have a good mix of first-time buyers, move-up buyers, and investors.”

Throughout the loan process, Melin takes an educational approach with his customers, which is appropriate considering he has a Masters degree in educational administration. “Educating clients regarding the mortgage process, along with agents, is my top secret,” he said. “If I educate people about their credit and planning for the future, instead of focusing on selling, they usually refer friends and family to me. And, when I teach agents a new way of doing something, they’re excited and share it with others.”

Melin believes his support staff also plays a critical role in his success. “I have one of the best support engines for closing loans,” he said. “Our support staff is the best in the industry.”

He is primed for an even greater production in 2006. “My goal is to originate one loan a day,” he said. “I continue to market to past clients and grow my referral sources. Most people complain when the phone rings too much. I say bring it on!”

Superstar Fast Track

First Security Lending * President * Los Angeles, Calif. * $ 289,322,063 * 558 Loans * Purchase: 39% * Refinance: 61% *Assistants: 5 * Years Originating: 5

Jack Soussana was working as a door-to-door life insurance salesman when he clicked with an originator at a seminar.  “The company I was introduced to was run by two guys who weren’t much older than I was at the time,” he recalls. “They took me under their wings and taught me the business. The support that I got early-on gave me the confidence to leave insurance—I never considered taking a step back or failing.” This attitude has served Soussana well. He made the biggest jump on the Top 200 list, skyrocketing to number 15 on the dollar list in only his fifth year of originating. “I take my business seriously,” he said. “The clients’ largest investment is in my hands, and I take pride in what I do.”

Soussana has also been able to apply his life-insurance background over the years. “One thing I picked up from my insurance days is making sure I get a minimum of two referrals per client,” he says. “I ask throughout the loan process. Every time I have any news to tell the client is another opportunity to ask for a referral—of course, the easiest time to ask is when you give the client good news. The key is to ask as if it was second nature,” he suggests. “I aim for coworkers, children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors.”

Soussana’s “Tell-a-Friend” campaign has been one of his most successful marketing tools, along with informing his past borrowers of “new trends” on a quarterly basis. “The selling point I use most is the fact that we are a direct lender. I promote our turnaround times and our ability to think outside the box to structure the clients’ loans,” Soussana says.

In the future, he plans to expand his licensing to other states and continue to look for challenging new markets. “Taking a customer from a first-time buyer to a multi-home owner is a rush for me,” he explains. “More happy clients means more referred new clients, which equals means loans closed. It’s that simple.”

Unique Previous Profession

Cornerstone Home Lending * Senior Loan Officer * Las Vegas, N.V. * $ 72,538,885 * 511 Loans * Purchase: 79% * Refinance: 21% *Assistants: 1 * Years Originating: 6

Vicky Frontiere agrees that taking a career path from racehorse jockey to stuntwoman to loan originator may seem out of the ordinary, but she has definitely benefited from her previous work experiences. “Being a professional race horse jockey and a stuntwoman taught me a lot, including dedication, perseverance, responsibility and a focused work ethic,” she said. “My competitive side truly comes out in this business too.” Frontiere was definitely a winner last year, having posted 2005 numbers of $ 72,538,885 and 511 loans. “This is a company of top industry professionals, so the race was a tough one!”

Frontiere maintains a diverse client-base. “Much of my business comes from past customers on move-up transactions, referrals of family and friends, preferred relationships with Realtors and builders, and a network of investors,” she said.

She noted that while the Las Vegas market continues to expand, she also is comfortable developing new areas. “As a federal-chartered mortgage banker, I am also closing in six to eight different markets each month. We have a great Internet application process that is so efficient, customers and Realtors in several states like working with us.”

In addition to the Internet presence, she maintains visibility with her past customers with several different strategies. “At Cornerstone we have our own marketing department which is a huge plus. I can come up with an idea and they create wonderful materials for me to use. They create all my magazine ads, joint marketing pieces, and other items. I’m on a quarterly plan where pieces go out to my database, without me having to worry about it.”

The champion producer shows no signs of slowing down. “I set goals every year and work towards them,” she stressed. “I plan to put another production assistant in place to help me do things that take up time, like pulling credit and inputting information into our software system. Then I can spend more of my time prospecting for business.”

SuperStar of the Month – Gina Jackson

Primary Marketing: “We have a very disciplined approach to marketing to my database,” said Jackson. “I send a quarterly newsletter to everyone, a client appreciation letter (based on a Brian Buffini program) to my top 200 clients every other month, and an item of value once or twice a year. We take a gift to closings and send a small token gift after closing, along with our customer survey.” The follow-up campaign also includes a reminder to customers to file for their Homestead exemption (first January they are in their home) and an anniversary card. “I also do a lot of advertising with my local elementary school (which my kids attend) and in the neighborhood paper.” In addition, she has an affiliation with a local “boutique” Realtor, attending weekly meetings, giving them appreciation parties, and new agent training.

Most Effective Marketing: Marketing to the database. “We do not let them forget us. It’s top-of-the-mind awareness.  Our tag line on e-mails is ‘It is our goal to be worthy of your trust and deserving of your referrals.’ About 75 percent of our business is from repeat and client referrals. We keep marketing to them; they’re more likely to come back or refer us to others if we ‘wow’ them (at initial loan) and then stay in touch.”

Niche: Financial planners (and Realtors). “Working with planners started as a result of having a large percentage of high net-worth clients, many of whom used the same financial planning group. I met the primary planners, did many of their own loans, and then they began referring loans to me. They started a professional networking group and I’m the mortgage person. Also, I joined the Dallas chapter of the Financial Planners Association as an affiliate members/sponsor and attend their regular events.”

Teamwork: A production partner (junior originator), a senior processor, and transaction coordinator. “We market ourselves as a team of four. After the application, we e-mail a photo of the team, noting the various responsibilities so the customer knows whom to call. My production partner is licensed, but she works on my business, including taking applications, qualifying borrowers, and related areas.”

Key Ingredient for Success: High-touch approach to customer service. “We have mastered customer service at the highest professional level. We do a post-closing survey and many of our borrowers tell us that ‘this is the easiest loan transaction I’ve ever done.’ We make the process easy for customers. A lot of our success has to do with our confidence level and the way it’s conveyed to customers. For example, when I tell customers that they’ll be approved, they know there’s nothing to worry about. It’s a ‘can do’ attitude.”

Achieving Work/Personal Balance: “Achieved by my Christian faith first, my husband and children second, and my business career last. After 15 years in the business and (experiencing) many of life’s fortunate and unfortunate events, I have learned that there is a specific order to my priorities. I love what I do, but I am not willing to sacrifice my life or my family to do it.”

Superstar of the month – Ed Currie

Primary Marketing: “Most of my business is generated from repeat and client referrals,” said Currie. “I send a monthly postcard, as well as an e-mailed newsletter that focuses on issues such as mortgage rates, mortgage rate outlook, credit and credit scores, financial planning, and tax planning issues.” His newsletter includes a contest that awards tickets to a sporting event or concert. “After a loan closes, I set up (through ACT!) a post-closing follow-up schedule that reminds me to touch base with clients at certain intervals.”

Most Effective Marketing:  “Weekly status updates, quick return phone calls, and easy access allow me to develop a relationship with clients that hopefully ensures me of their repeat business (or at least the first shot) and allows me to continually ask for referrals and communicate the importance of referrals.”

Niche: Corporate program developed with a local Realtor. “Our first account is a local hospital with 5,000 employees. We have monthly access to them through an employee newsletter they produce. We are also on-site every two months.”

Teamwork: Processor and assistant (whose time he shares with other LOs). “I originate the loans and take the apps, and my assistant will package it (for processing). She also does marketing and some client contact.” The majority of his loans are handled over the phone and via e-mail and regular mail. “For most of my clients, the convenience of doing it that way is more important than actually meeting.”

Key Ingredient for Success: “The ability to communicate with all types of people and personalities. I’m able to talk about things of interest to people with different backgrounds.” In addition, he is aggressive about reaching production goals. “I have a minimum number of loans I want to reach each day. I’m tenacious—trying to get every possible loan each day.”

Achieving Work/Personal Balance: “We win or lose (the sale) on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis. So the desire to constantly get more loans to catch up from a bad month or get ahead in a good market usually means spending more time at work. I have an incredibly patient wife who takes care of all the house stuff so I can concentrate on the work aspect. I never work on weekends except for the occasional phone call.”

Rookie SuperStar – Alec Hanson

Advice to New Originators
“Go after the top agents. Why start anywhere else?  Don’t be afraid of being rejected.” 

During his junior year at UC Berkley in Northern California, Alec Hanson realized the direction of his rapidly approaching leap into the “real world” was undefined.  “I had no true ambition at that point to follow a certain occupation,” said Hanson, who was studying Business Management and Urban Development.  He took a one-day a week job at the Countrywide Home Loans’ office in nearby downtown Oakland to determine if what he really wanted to do was follow in his father’s footsteps; Hanson’s father, Dan is a 30-veteran of the mortgage industry.  While he admits he was merely just a “go-for” then, it gave him a sense of the business and a desire to learn more.

Over the summer, he began working at a housing tract, which required taking applications from potential buyers and helped improve his abilities in working directly with people—and solidified that he wanted to pursue a career in mortgages.  “It was unexpected,” said Hanson, “but I took to it and saw that as an originator, I could take on a consultant role and really help people.”

After graduating, Hanson moved back to his native Southern California and took a job as a production assistant with one of the local Countrywide branches.  He worked under branch manager and mentor Kevin Budde and eventually began sitting in on client phone calls and absorbing successful sales strategies, of which he concedes, he was very much in need.  “College did nothing to prepare me for any sales-based job,” said Hanson.  “We focused almost entirely on theory, which with a business degree doesn’t make sense—everything you do involves selling something, even if it’s just yourself.”

He did learn something in college though—how to study.  “I made it a point to research and learn every product and understand how each one worked, including the basic guidelines,” he said.  “There are so many, so I did try to keep my focus on A-paper products.  I knew I didn’t want to be the type of originator who relied on making one product fit for every customer.”

When Hanson officially began originating in the Newport Beach branch, he “did what every rookie loan officer does, I mailed out marketing pieces like crazy and didn’t receive any responses,” he said.  Although perhaps not like every rookie originator, he made an effort to be creative, sending out $5 bills asking for five minutes of a Realtor’s time or foam stress balls printed with his name and number.  “But in the end,” said Hanson, “I got off my seat and went out into the marketplace and began to form relationships.”

Despite an aversion to “face time,” he started devoting three or four days a week to meeting people out in the field.  “It really got me out of my ‘comfort zone,'” he said.  “Cold walk-ins are so hard—it’s not like a phone that you can hang up, you can’t just run away.  I think sometimes my manager made me visit these offices just to feel the pain of rejection,” he continued.  It forced him to figure out an alternate way of approaching Realtors.  “I began researching agents online and familiarizing myself with them,” Hanson said.  “I would read the ‘about me’ section and visit open houses or the broker previews knowing something about the agent.  I started bringing food and financial fliers.  I realized it had to be about me trying to help them sell the house.”

In the beginning, he hired an assistant and took on the financial risk as an added incentive to jump-start his motivation.  He also began drawing from all the “mavens” in his life and creating the image of himself as the “loan guy” within his social groups.  “I wanted everyone in my life to be my advocate,” said Hanson.  “It took time to build trust, but it is essential to rely on ‘connectors’ in your life to put you in front of other people.”  To expand his social network, Hanson joined the Newport Association of Realtors, attended local meetings, and assisted with sponsoring and organizing events, a decision, he said, made approaching other agents much easier.

To keep in touch with clients in his database, Hanson sends quarterly newsletters about property values and other information relevant to their homes or the community.  He also continues to mail to many of the top Realtors in the area, but has found that to be relatively ineffective in creating relationships.  Instead, he focuses on being conscientious of other people’s time and establishing a connection at the right time.  “If I am visiting an agent in their office, I don’t stop another Realtor in the hallway and try to solicit their business,” he said.  “I don’t like being unexpectedly distracted, so I try to take it from my perspective.”

Hanson emphasizes his specialty of accommodation.  “I work in an affluent coastal market and many of these buyers come in with all cash and it’s likely they’re buying their third or tenth property,” he said.  “I have to specialize in accommodating every loan that comes in, which includes being extremely well versed in most of our products and being able to handle large loans, small loans, and equity lines.”  He also makes himself available at all times, specifically the times when Realtors and homebuyers are ready to do business—on nights and weekends.  “I answer my phone at all times, but I do it with boundaries,” said Hanson.  “I will take a call even if I’m in the middle of something and make sure to tell them we will reconnect tomorrow.  I think the most important thing is that they don’t get my voicemail.”

At 24, he takes his appearance and presentation seriously so that other people will, too.  “I am very cautious of my knowledge and appearance; I am almost always in a suit and tie,” Hanson said.  “I don’t look like a veteran of the industry, so someone might be quick to judge me.  If I present myself well and I have the knowledge of a product that’s a better fit for someone, my age won’t even become an issue.”

With aspirations of closing $200 million in his second year, Hanson believes the secret to success is clear: “Hard work, integrity, and accountability,” he said.  “This is a business who tests who you are.  Surround yourself with support, learn your products, and dedicate 100 percent—being an originator gives you a chance to see what you can create.”

                                                    –Gretchen Lees

Mailing With a Purpose

Utilizing the mail to generate referrals has been a primary tool for as long as there has been marketing in our business. Unfortunately, the majority of money spent on this marketing strategy tends to give little-to-no return on investment. In talking with originators around the country, I hear over and over again that mailing for the primary goal of obtaining mortgage applications results in very few leads.

The key to direct mail is simply this: mail with a purpose. Very few people go through their mail each day hoping for a new offer from a mortgage originator. Most are looking to throw away as much junk mail as possible. In any mailing, the goal is to send a marketing piece that will be kept or passed along to someone who needs your services. Can you remember the last time you kept an advertisement for any length of time? Keep that in mind as you decide on your course of action. Here are a few ideas to get you started on a new mailing campaign.

Sports Calendar
Becoming well-known within your community is vitally important to your networking success. One originator has found an inexpensive way to help his local high school while increasing name recognition and production. Sterling Campbell with Citiline Mortgage in Colorado Springs, Colo. sent a sports schedule postcard to high school students’ parents. This was mailed at the beginning of the school year featuring the fall sports, and again in January with the winter/spring schedule.

The front of the fall postcard has Compliments of Sterling Campbell above the contact information with the football schedule listed on the left. The back of the postcard is used for the other fall sports’ schedules and again repeats the originator’s contact information and picture. The postcard for the winter/spring sports features boy’s basketball on the front with other sports listed on the back.

The school provided the mailing labels and use of their bulk-mail permit and Campbell paid for the postcard and postage. (The school secretary was especially grateful, as she is the one who usually fields the many calls before a game asking for schedule information.) The response was very positive with two applications taken immediately after the first mailing. Consider the long-term benefits of this type of mailing. Name recognition and familiarity are essential to becoming known as a trusted advisor in mortgage finance. Season after season this originator will certainly become recognized as the “Hometown Lender.”

Sending an item of a different size, texture, and color within a mailing is another way to deliver something that will hopefully be set aside for future reference or be given to family or friends. A coupon can be like a second business card, and may be kept a bit longer than your business card if it stands out from other things received in the mail.

To get your coupon noticed, make it the size of your business envelope and print it on cardstock in a bright color (cobalt blue works great). Include your picture on the coupon; people want to feel a connection with the person who will be helping them. Your job is to make sure they have a reason to choose you, and a personal connection is one of your biggest selling points as an originator. Plus, with today’s technology, you may not see the client face-to-face until closing. Next, make it personal. Leave a place for your signature on the coupon. This gives the consumer a sense that this is more than just a mass mailing.

Be creative in distributing your coupons. Put coupons in letters to potential clients and give them out in past client mailings so they can pass them along to friends and family. You can also share coupons with Realtors for them to distribute to their buyers.

Center of Influence
Utilizing a “center of influence” mailing list will direct your mailings to people who know you, increasing the likelihood of your mailing piece being read and kept. This list should include past clients, referral sources, friends, family, business associates, and anyone else you know. It has been said that the average person knows 250-300 people. (Remember, the plumber and dog groomer will need a loan someday too.)

Once or twice a year, send something of value to this group of recipients. If your company is sponsoring an event, such as a home and garden show or Parade of Homes, you may have access to tickets. Our company had received complimentary tickets for sponsoring a local home and garden show, so I sent a letter to my center of influence group expressing my appreciation for their business along with two tickets for them to enjoy this local event. I was amazed at the positive response I received from such a mailing.

Another mailing of value to this group is a coupon for a local business. This might be a “buy one get one free” ice cream at the beginning of summer or a bowling pass for Christmas vacation. This type of mailing will also benefit the business willing to participate. Your mailing can help to increase recognition and traffic to their business. Within your center of influence mailing list, see if you have a local business owner who would appreciate your help in expanding their client base. If not, approach a local business with this idea. This win-win situation gives you the opportunity to deliver something tangible as well as increasing the partnering business’ profits. These efforts at networking will also help brand you as a trusted mortgage professional.

These are just a few ideas to help your mailing campaigns be as successful as possible. Marketing funds are precious, and your goal should be to utilize each dollar to the best of your ability. Your goal is to get as many referrals as possible from each piece. As you analyze your current marketing efforts, look for areas where you can mail with a purpose, giving the recipient a reason to open, keep, and share your information, thus helping you with your goal of having a referral-based business.

By Bliss Sawyer

Success Tips From Sharks

We sure don’t seem to have much downtime in the mortgage industry today. We are either struggling to get loans processed, closed, and underwritten due to spikes in volume or working overtime to strategize on growing our application numbers. In the meantime, we hold sales meetings, send memorandums, and personally coach our originators on the value of investing in themselves by reading sales-related publications and books to improve themselves personally and professionally. As sales leaders, we need to practice what we preach. The problem is, who has the time? Well, you need to find the time, or, I guarantee your originators will not find the time either. You are their example. If it isn’t important to you, it sure isn’t important to them.

I recently re-read one of my favorite books, Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, by Harvey Mackay. Whether you are a 100 percent outside-sourced originator, inside originator, mortgage sales leader, or homemaker, this book is packed with exceptional sales ideas and lessons for life. I first read the book back in the late eighties and have revisited it every few years since. A co-worker with our bank noticed my copy of Sharks when we were flying recently and we spent a good portion of the flight discussing how each of us has used Mackay’s lessons. I have put many of these lessons into practice and find their application to our industry is highly effective. I have pulled out just five Mackay lessons that can have a significant impact if implemented by mortgage sales leaders.

Lesson 4: The 66 Question Customer Profile
The obvious interpretation of this lesson is knowing your Realtor, builder, and affinity referral sources so you can be more effective when making sales calls and supporting the relationship. I suggest we take it further to include other “customers,” as mortgage sales leaders have both internal and external customers. As leaders of our respective organizations, we should consider our originators, originator prospects, sales support team members, and vendors as customers. Mackay writes, “All of us gather data about other people—especially people we want to influence. The only question is how well we understand it and what we do with it.” Some suggestions and observations on using the Mackay 66 (TM) with your originators and prospects:

  • Originators: Utilization of the list of questions. You know what motivates your originator and how best to manage to achieve maximum results for you and maximum benefits and job satisfaction for originators. Use this list to continue supporting (and continue recruiting) your originators after they have joined you.
  • Originator Prospects: The collection of knowledge and the capacity to effectively use it is what makes a great recruiter. Lets face it, mortgage sales leaders should always be recruiting. The Mackay 66 is not a tool to be completed in front of a prospect at one sitting, but a vehicle by which you can collect and store information on candidates over a period of weeks, months, or years. It sometimes takes years to hire top candidates. The more information you have about the candidate, the more effective you will be in the recruiting process. If a candidate likes to fish, then charter a boat and go fishing. When the candidate’s college football or basketball team is in town, invite them to go to the game with you. Does their spouse or partner like the opera? Send them two tickets. The object is to get to know the recruit personally and your success rate will increase.

Lesson 10: Short Notes Yield Long Results
I remember when I first put this lesson into practice. I started writing a note to each selling and listing agent on every application I took. I included my card and my processor’s card and I know they contributed to my success. Personalized notes are not only great sales tools, but they can be significant tools when recruiting originators and leading your team members. When was the last time you received an e-mail from someone, a minute ago? Maybe you received 10 since you started reading this article. Now, when was the last time you received a handwritten note from anyone? Was it this week, last week, last month? With the onset of instant e-mail communication, handwritten notes have become a dying communication tool. But I suggest it is an extremely effective communication and sales tool for our industry. Do you remember the airline commercial a few years ago, which featured a manager handing out plane tickets to his salespeople so they could go spend face-to-face time with their customers? I still think that was a tremendous commercial. Sending a personal note is the same thing just on a smaller and less expensive scale. Some practical suggestions for implementing and using personal notes:

  • Send one to each recruit you meet with. You may not be interested in the candidate, but they will remember being treated with respect even after you inform them of your decision. The candidate may have the opportunity to give someone their opinion of you in the future, or they may turn into a SuperStar who you may want to approach in the future.
  • Send a note to vendors thanking them for their support, referrals, and extra special attention to the relationship. Vendors can be your unpaid sales and recruiting force if you treat them with respect and show some appreciation.
  • Send to your top producers, rookies who had a good month, sales leaders who hired a top recruit, bankers who referred a big deal to you, joint-venture partners, and sales support team members such as processors, closers, and underwriters.
  • Take Mackay’s lesson one step further and create customized notecards personalized with your photo. Customers, referral sources, and originator prospects will remember your face more quickly than your name so take advantage of an opportunity to put your “face” in front of the reader.

Lesson 14: If You Don’t Have A Destination, You Will Never Get There
“One of my good friends gave me her definition of a goal, and it’s the best one I’ve ever heard,” wrote Mackay. “‘A goal is a dream with a deadline.’ Write yours down-because that’s the only way you’ll give them the substance they need to force you to carry them out.”

Yes, this is another great sales leader telling us to have a business plan. You can’t pick up any leadership or sales strategy book without at least one chapter devoted to business planning. There is a simple reason…they work. What do you do the night before the last day at work prior to a weeklong vacation? You plan everything you are going to do that day. On the last day, you come in early, you don’t participate in idle chitchat, you manage each minute, and accomplish a few days work into one day. We always say the day before a vacation is our most productive day. Why? Because we developed a plan, implemented it, avoided being sidetracked, and reviewed it periodically throughout the day to ensure we were doing everything on our list. It sure works perfectly the day before a vacation, so, why do so few mortgage sales leaders and originators have a written plan? I imagine many of our originators feel it is a one-time exercise each fourth or early first quarter and the plans are rarely referred to again. The “day before vacation plan” is easy to monitor and track results. A yearly plan is not if it’s completed in December or January and seldom reviewed again. Do you, the leader, have a plan you refer to on a continuous basis? Is it is living document you update and manage to, or is it completed and shelved? Many mortgage sales leaders have the greatest intentions but we get busy with our day to day business of meetings, fire drills, operational flow issues, pricing problems, guideline changes, program roll-outs, personnel issues, and the like. However, if we are not leading by example and also periodically reviewing individual plans with our originators, why put much effort into the process? Well, we must get away from the completion of the plan being a task to it being a part of our formal sales process. The plan needs to be a living document referred to monthly and updated consistently. This starts with sales leaders leading by example and dedication to review plans on a monthly basis with our originators.

Lesson 49: It Isn’t The People You Fire That Make Your Life Miserable, It’s The People You Don’t
This is one of Mackay’s shortest chapters because most agree this is the one of the most obvious management lessons. Why do we as mortgage sales leaders continue to believe that originators who consistently produce below expectations will finally “see the light” and become contributors? Why do we accept poor service levels from originators whose customers call us to complain about unreturned phone calls, improper expectation setting, expired locks, and poor service? I believe we do so because we naturally hate confrontation and don’t want to give up on someone we may have personally hired. Think about your headaches day-to-day. I bet they are caused by a handful of weaker producers and maybe a high producing/low-scoring originator.

High maintenance I can live with, but when you add low customer service scores, that is a recipe for disaster. While we may move slowly, we will eventually ask our weaker producers to leave if they don’t respond to coaching. However, our track record in dealing with the “high/low LO” is not good. It happened to me the other day. There are red light blinking on my phone, I check the message and listen to a frantic customer complain about an originator’s poor execution. I think back to how many times I asked this originator’s sales manager to get the service levels up or get him out. You no doubt have experienced the same scenarios, but then the originator has a few great months, makes you some money, and you move on. The resulting problem is not only the impact to your company’s reputation on the street, but you have lowered the “service bar” for your office. If left unchecked, you will see a slow decline in your overall service level.

Lesson 63: I Have Never Seen A Bad Resume
I don’t know about you, but I have made my fair share of hiring mistakes. There are two critical hiring mistakes sales leaders tend to make: hiring flash without substance and hiring originators who may not fit your business model. I am guilty of hiring an originator because of attire, gift of gab in the interview, and talking a “big game.” Mackay Envelope Company is extremely selective in hiring and the process is long and arduous. He also warns against hiring based on a great resume. Mortgage sales leaders should take this lesson to heart and implement immediately. I have seen “guarantee jumpers” move from lender to lender. I wonder how they keep finding employment and the answer is simple. They are sharp, dress well, say all the right things about database management, investing in themselves, etc. Then they talk about lack of processing support, changes in leadership, poor management, bad underwriting, can’t close deals…on and on. And we believe them.

While I still make some mistakes, I have learned over the years to use probing questions during interviews to determine if the candidate has the motivation, drive, sales skills, intellect, work ethic, and industry knowledge to be a successful originator with our organization. Don’t just ask about percentages of volume from different referral sources; ask the candidate to name these sources and tell you about each one. You will quickly know if these sources are “referral partners.” I have been in this industry a number of years and I have had only one other sales leader call me to get a reference on a former employee—only one. We shy away from calling our sales leader peers in fear that they may try to hire the originator back to their company because, if we like them why shouldn’t they?

By A. Blair Glenn

Optimizing Your Search-Engine Success

In this article, I’m going to focus on how to maximize the visibility of this site once you have it up by implementing search engine optimization (SEO).  Simply put, SEO is a method of enhancing your Web site’s visibility in search engines. If a user types “reverse mortgage” in Google and you specialize in that product, where will you show up? You need to be at least in the top 30 or 40 sites to expect any success. The typical web surfer will not read past the first page and the most tenacious will probably not go past four or five screens.

The search engines use algorithms to rank the Web sites. The engines do not all use the same criteria, but there are similarities that you can focus on. There are only six or eight engines that your target audience will use. Google is number one and quickly becoming a generic term for web search. Yahoo, Look Smart, Alta Vista, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves and MSN are other big ones. If you can get a high ranking with these, then you can expect volume traffic to your site.

So, what determines how the engines will rank your site? Keyword relevance is always an important factor. This means selecting words that people will most likely enter into search engines to find you. When doing this, bear in mind that they should not be too generic. If you use keywords like “mortgage banker,” the likelihood of being listed in the top 100 would be unlikely. But the phrase “mortgage banker specializing in reverse mortgage lending” is more specific and gives you a better chance of hitting the top 10.

While the search engines grab keywords from the body of Web sites with most emphasis given to the index or home page, the most weight is typically given to the title tag found in the HTML code of that page. The title tag does not have to match anything on the screen. In fact, it can be left blank, but this would be a big mistake. Title tags are not only important for scoring by the engines, but it is also likely that they will display this tag as the description to your site. So, it is also important for the wording in your title tag to entice the Web surfer to go to your site.

To see the HTML of a Web site, right click on the screen and select View Source. Using our example, it would look like this in the header section: <title> Mortgage banker specializing in reverse mortgage lending</title>. An easy and effective way to view a model of a top ranked site is to do your own search, guessing at the keywords your potential customer would use. See who comes out on top. Then go to their site see what is working for them.

Google also employs “stemming” technology. When it looks for words that match the search word, it also looks for similar terms. For example if the search is for “sub-prime lender,” Google could also look for variations of lender, like lend or lending. So, if you include the phrases “We lend…” or “…leader in sub-prime lending,” you might increase the odds that Google will find the match.

Keyword prominence is another factor in scoring. Prominence refers to where the keywords are located. The higher up on the page, or the closer to the start of your title tag, the better the score. There is a delicate balance between making your site attractive with images and also including enough text to get exposure for the keywords. There is even a game of “cat and mouse” between the Web designers and search engines. One trick to manipulate the system is to flood the top of the page with keywords, using the same font color as the background color. Usually nobody would see them, and they do not clutter up the screen. However, to combat this, the engines check for the color match and punish the “offender.”  A technique that does work is to have a splash page with nothing but text, and an “enter here” hyperlink. This generates keyword prominence on the index page and then you get to see the glitter when you link to the next screen.

Another important SEO criterion is links from other sites. When I did a Google search for “mortgage broker” the results totaled 7,980,000. Out of nearly ten million possible matches, NAMB was the number one result. Why? Google gives a lot of weight to links—and not simply the number of links, but how active the linked sites are. NAMB surely has links to 50 state mortgage broker sites as well as numerous affiliate sites. While most organizations do not have the luxury of that many built-in links, you can constantly pursue “link swapping” with other related companies. Therefore, it is important to have an area in your site where you can trade links with “trusted affiliates.”

What about the “sponsored links” that you see displayed in prominent positions on the search screens? These are commercial spots that are sold by the search engine companies. It is the way they make money. How well they work for you would depend on how much you are willing to spend. You can pay as little as a nickel a hit, but some companies have to pay several hundred dollars per hit to get the results they are looking for. Paying the big bucks for the top spot is not only expensive, but it’s possible for your competition to repetitively click on your sponsored link, making you spend extra money for nothing.

An important factor in search engine optimization is to make sure that the pages in your site are accessible to the search engines. While the home page is heavily weighted, the internal pages will likely contain potential keyword matches. If the internal pages are buried in multiple levels, the engines may not find them. A good way to ensure that they are accessible is to include a site map. This is a page in your Web site that lists all the links of all the pages within the site. It is also a tool for navigating through the site.

Although the search engines will eventually find you, it is best to submit your site to them. There are companies that will offer to do this for you. Avoid ads that offer to submit your site to 400 search engines for $39.95. The first thing wrong with this is that you do not want to list your site on 400 engines spread around the globe. Would you want to be listed in a search engine that specializes in European folk music or medical textbooks? Either way, save your money and do it yourself.  You can do this manually, by going into the sites and finding their “submit” button. Should you do this every day or week? No, it does not do any good and could even be viewed as spamming. The best time to submit your site to the engines is when you have changed or added something.

You can also buy software that not only submits for you, but it can also help analyze your pages and rate the relevance of your keywords. A good one is Web Position 4. Another one that looks interesting is Trend Metrix, which offers a free SEO analysis on their site.

There are many firms that offer to handle SEO for you. As is typical in life, you get what you pay for. If you are willing to pay thousands of dollars to enhance your web visibility, then you will probably get results. On the other hand, it is fun to learn a new skill and save money at the same time. There are many ways to trim down the budget. DcDAR, Internet Marketing Consultants offers a free SEO tool kit that includes keyword analysis and position tracking.

There are several books that cover this subject. “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies” by Peter Kent has to be a good reference. Another interesting title is “Don’t Get Banned by the Search Engines!” by David Leonhardt. His claim is that Google is getting tough on search engine cheaters, and that some could get banned because web site owners may not even know they’re doing anything wrong.

Another totally free way to expand on your expertise is to visit SEO Web sites. One is This is a Web site that hosts free articles and has links to related sites. Another source of information is SEO Inc.

Whether you employ a web master or manage your own site, understanding SEO becomes increasingly important in a world where more business and communication is done on the Internet. SEO could get you exposure to hundreds or even thousands of extra potential customers.

By Thor Skonnord

SuperStars of the Month: Highlight Marketing Strategies

As most SuperStars will agree, effective marketing is a key element of their overall success. Following is a summary of some of the most notable origination techniques they have implemented:

Realtor Business
Tyler Ford knows that Realtors appreciate value-added services as a way to help grow their business. Ford, an originator with Long Mortgage, Tucson, Ariz., has offered EyeOnMyLoan, a Web-based reporting system for agents and others. “The program provides the status of loans,” he explained. “The agent can log on to the site and see how everything is flowing. They love it because they don’t have to call us and there are no surprises. It is a great accountability tool that frees up more of our time.”

Jim Nusselein, an originator with Mortgage Bancorp Services, Palatine, Ill., provides several value-add benefits to agents (based on recommendations of Angela Valencia of One Stop Referrals). For example, after one of his agents lists or sells a property, an outsource service automatically distributes 100 or more postcards to homeowners in the surrounding area. They include a photo of the house, along with the agent’s picture and a small Mortgage Bancorp logo. “The cards help market the Realtor, enhancing the agent’s image in the eyes of neighbors,” he said. (He and the agent share the costs of the cards). Nusselein also began offering virtual Realtor tours of listed properties for Realtor Web sites, as another co-op venture with agents. The tours include extensive photos of properties and other information.

Sherry Zickert, an originator with U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, Fond du Lac, Wisc., developed a resource book that includes details on loan programs, agency guidelines, and various other subjects. She regularly distributes monthly/quarterly updates to agents. “New Realtors especially like it,” said Zickert. “They’ll often call me and say that they have a client who fits into a certain loan program. I get a lot of referrals from the book.”

Another way to show support is via association involvement. John Madeira, vice president/originator with Cardinal Financial Company, Allentown, Pa., supports Realtor associations as a way to maintain visibility and expand his referral network. His participation includes attending meetings, sponsoring events, and participating in conferences. “It’s additional exposure,” he said. “We all know that the business isn’t just about writing loans today. Some of the other areas are what help you build a following over time.”

Listing Agent Contact
Several originators have stressed the value of reaching out to listing agents. “The biggest reason for my increase in business during the last couple of years was pursuing listing agents involved with the transaction,” said Randy Lund, loan consultant at Silver State Mortgage, Las Vegas, Nev. When he obtains a sales contract, Lund calls the listing agent to introduce himself and his team and advise the agent that everything will run smoothly. He also sends them regular fax or e-mail updates on customers’ loans. “If we do a good job of keeping them current, we won’t receive lots of calls, and we can spend more time on revenue producing activities,” he added.

Lawn Signs
Some LOs have gained visibility and referrals by planting rider signs on for sale properties. They’ve worked well for Jack Lieberman, owner/mortgage advisor of USA Mortgage Funding, Austin, Texas. He explained that the phone numbers for both the listing agent and USA Mortgage are posted on the rider signs of various properties, enabling people to call 24 hours/seven days to obtain pertinent details. Rather than hear a taped message, they can speak to an operator who takes their contact information and then e-mails it to both agent and originator. “We’re getting 200 good leads a month from one Realtor office,” Lieberman said.

Handy Giveaways
Zickert looks for something different when she considers a gift for agents or customers. Foe example, she has provided miniature metal planters that include spring bulbs, with her business card affixed to the front. “That was really fun to deliver,” she said. “I was the talk of the town.”

Robert Moulton provides new customers with a $100 savings off closing costs coupon. The coupon is personalized with the loan officer’s contact information that they can send to customers. “There’s a note that advises the customer, ‘We’re ready when you are,'” said Moulton, president/originator at Americana Mortgage Group, Long Island, N.Y.

Marc Brinitzer, originator at American Pacific Mortgage/Big Valley Mortgage, Sacramento, Calif. provides his new customers with a special post-closing gift— a one-year subscription to Sunset Magazine. “There is a tear-off cover that says ‘compliments of Marc Brinitzer,'” he said. “This is a great monthly reminder and only costs $14 per person.”

The Instructor’s Role
Lieberman has found teaching to be an effective way to expand his agent support. He has taught agents classes on the principles of lending, strategic partnering, and related topics. “We make agents look like heroes because they learn how to close more transactions and in turn, they refer more business to us. Other originators can consider this same technique. Go to the local Realtor board and organize an accredited course for continuing education classes. I believe that teaching agents can provide tremendous short- and long-term benefits.”

Builder Base
Zickert has developed builder referral relationships based on two elementary tactics. “I have joined a builder organization and also host seminars at builder offices on loan products and other topics,” she said. “My builder business is derived from lot loans and construction programs.

Jim Rademann, originator with R&R Mortgage in Orangeville, Calif., also courts builder business. “I initially did some marketing to a few builders and started working with one or two of them and they started to refer me to others,” said Rademann who concentrates on small to mid-size builders. “I’ve found that smaller builders that are doing 10 to 20 spec homes a year generally don’t have a CFO and we can provide financial direction, a very valuable service. This is such a sustainable source of business.”

The Sphere of Influence
When Lieberman started over an as an originator in Texas, he knew a key to his success would be one of the most basic (but often underused) techniques—a sphere of influence database. He taught the concept to new originators there. “I explained that there was a method they needed to adhere to and success would follow,” said Lieberman. “We began a sphere of influence database—cataloging everyone they knew in Texas—and then we called them all.” Based on prior experience, he knew results would follow. “For example, we know that 11 percent of the people we talk to need a loan within 90 days and 14 percent can refer us business during the next 60 days.”

Creating a distinct identity to separate yourself from other originators is an essential long-term strategy. Madeira realized a primarily element for creating effective marketing messages is making sure the spotlight is on the originator. “I’ve found it important to keep my name prominent, because I want borrowers to feel they are my clients,” said Madeira. “Of course, we want to properly promote the company, but individual name recognition is critical. So, when they think of Cardinal Financial, they think of me.”

Jimmy Yerman (branch manager) and Annette Walter march (mortgage consultant) work as a team at SunTrust Mortgage in Timonium, Md. “Annette and I agreed that it’s all about brand recognition,” said Yerman. They hired an ad firm to create the proper image, which included the phrase “Jimmy Yerman and Annette Walter, Your Mortgage Solution,” to be used on their letterhead, Web site, folders, pens, and other material. “We placed ads in two local magazines, one is geared towards the real estate market in our community, and the other caters to our wealthier clientele,” said Yerman. “Next, we sent an introduction of the partnership to the 1,500 customers in our database. All of our marketing material focuses on our team brand, so that all prospects know that we don’t have individual customers, we have team customers.”

Effective Niching
Niches can also make a difference. In addition to CPAs, Lund developed a successful referral relationship with title officers. “Many originators don’t think of the title rep as a logical source of business, but I’ve found them to be very good,” said Lund. “They come in contact with a lot of Realtors and are able to refer us to the agents.” In addition, Lund established a niche with the investment market of high-rise condos. “Las Vegas has experienced tremendous growth and a big part of that is the condo developments. Investors are buying for rental or resale.” Lund has counseled some of his customers to purchase or exchange their Las Vegas property for property in Phoenix.

A former financial planner, Brinitzer uses his background to assist customers, agents, and planners. “I found that I could uncover issues a client hadn’t seen and illuminate options that they would not otherwise have considered,” said Brinitzer. “This puts the discussion on a completely different level and demonstrates my value to them.” He also realized that he could promote his experience with other financial planners. “I initially sent letters and met with them to explain our interest in developing a mutually beneficial referral arrangement. Most planners and CPAs believe they don’t get much business from originators; they’re more concerned with providing their clients with recommendations for other quality professional services.”

Madeira has developed a niche of Hispanic borrowers, including many who have relocated from New York and New Jersey. “There’s a relocation push to this area because people have more purchasing power in Eastern Pennsylvania,” he said. He speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese. “I’m one of the few loan originators in the area who is trilingual.”

The corporate account can also be highly profitable added Ed Currie, an originator with Woodfield Planning, Rolling Hills, Ill. He formed a corporate program with a local Realtor. “Our first account is a local hospital with 5,000 employees,” said Currie. “We have monthly access to them through an employee newsletter they produce. We are also on-site every two months.”

Bridget Keator, loan originator with Mortgage Master, Walpole, Mass., has tested the corporate employee niche as well. Her marketing campaign includes fee discount incentives. “It started on a more informal basis where I’d meet with someone at their office and then answer questions from a group of people,” said Keator. “Now I’ve begun to make presentations and have my contact information listed on the company Intranet. This has already been very successful.”

Direct Mail Response
Most originators who use direct mail as a preferred marketing strategy are on the lookout for new elements. Mai Yahn sends her past customers quarterly newsletters on trends and market insights, and includes a follow-up response form that recipients can return to receive free baseball game tickets. “This helps us learn who’s reading the newsletter,” explained Yahn, senior vice president/originator with Nova Home Loans, Phoenix, Ariz.

Currie has also devised a system for increasing the response to his newsletter. “I send an e-mailed newsletter that focuses on issues such as mortgage rates, mortgage rate outlook, credit scores, financial planning, and tax planning issues,” he said. The newsletter includes a contest that awards tickets to a sporting event or concert.

Specialty Advertising
Many originators look beyond the basic advertising vehicles to promote their message. For example, Ford announces his firm on local movie theatre screens. “The movie screen ad is more for basic visibility,” he said. “I’ve had past customers say ‘I saw you at the theater.’ It helps to reinforce their decision to use me as an originator.”

Zickert has also looked for non-traditional ways to advertise, including church newsletters. “I’m currently running a business card ad in 10 local church bulletins, which helps me reach a lot of people,” said Zickert.

Advertising offered Moulton an opportunity to showcase himself and Americana Mortgage Group at a national golf event. “We advertised when a United States Golf Association tournament came to the area,” he said. “We placed a gigantic sign outside our Southampton office, located on the main road to the event, greeting all of the locals and visitors.”

Community Involvement
Many originators use community involvement/charitable activities to give back to worthy causes while subtly strengthening ties with referral partners. “In addition to the recognition factor, it is important to give back to the community,” said Moulton. “For example, last year I coordinated a golf tournament that helped raise $50,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation. I also served as the auctioneer to sell donated items.”

Sophomore SuperStar – Megan Doonan

Advice to New Originators
“Treat others as you would like to be treated and honestly consider the best interest of your customers.”

Like an ambitious amateur athlete, Megan Doonan spent years practicing, training, and absorbing skills from the veterans around her before taking to the field for her first professional “game.”

A second-year originator with Emery Financial in Newport Beach, Calif., Doonan began her career in mortgages as an assistant to James Wand, a top producer. Over the course of five years, Doonan worked for various top producers of Emery, absorbing different originating styles and strategies. This variety led to a diverse and distinct working style of her own. “I realized that you can’t just be one way,” she said. “I worked with people who went purely on personality and organization was not important to them; and others who were focused almost entirely on organization. It was important for me to respect each method of originating and use those styles with clients based on what I felt they would be most comfortable with.”

While initially Doonan, 27, had no plans of establishing a career in mortgages, after working in the industry for a short time, she discovered an unexpected passion for it. “I have always been interested in finance, and fascinated by how people obtain wealth,” she said. When business slowed for the LO she was assisting, Doonan decided to make the leap to originating on her own; a decision based somewhat on necessity. “I didn’t have much choice,” she said of the shift, “but now I am so grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to become an originator.” The circumstances proved beneficial for both she and Emery—Doonan finished her rookie year with a personal volume of over $47 million on 108 loans.

Her originating career got off to a stellar start when a personal friend referred her a $1.9 million purchase loan. With extensive experience in an originating environment, Doonan took the loan with no reservations. “Working as an assistant for so long gave me the confidence I needed to feel completely comfortable selling various products and dealing with customers,” she said.

During the course of her time with Emery, Doonan made several contacts in banking. When she began originating she called all of these contacts, including personal friends who also worked in finance, to let them know of the mortgage services she could provide. One particular contact created a collaboration that would eventually result in generating 50 percent of Doonan’s business. Mahnaz Hashemian, who is now Doonan’s marketing associate, suggested that they should work together in reaching a relatively untapped market—the Persian community in Newport Beach and other surrounding areas of Los Angeles and Orange County. Hashemian, who speaks fluent Farsi, began hosting a finance education hour twice a month on a local Farsi radio station. During the hour, she would recommend Doonan for any mortgage financing needs. Meanwhile, Doonan would be ready at her office to take calls as they came in. “It became an incredible source of business,” said she said of niche. “I instantly became someone they could trust because I was being referred by a person of the Persian community.” The “warm” leads quickly went from promising to profitable, as Doonan converted 25 percent of the calls into closed loans. The niche development built up her database quickly and generated numerous referrals. “The customers I worked with in the Persian community liked the service I offered and referred me to all their friends and family,” said Doonan. “It is an affluent community and many of them are self-employed and have excellent credit. They are wonderful to work with. And obviously, I couldn’t have done any of this without Mahnaz.”

While the radio advertising, which is a shared cost with Hashemian, is the main focus of Doonan’s marketing, she also makes an effort to maintain close contact with the customers in her database. “I make phone calls to my customers to stay in touch and I send quarterly newsletters, as well as holiday cards and thank you cards for referrals,” she said.

Doonan also generates business through the three or four Realtors she works with. “I don’t need 10—at least not at this point,” she said. “I focus on the few that I’m working with so that I can maintain a high-quality level of service. I’m not going to compromise the type of service I want to offer for more work than I can handle.” She maintains that good service is the only way to keep your business strong. “Referral business comes from great service and your ability to keep contact with those sources,” said Doonan. “And if you don’t, well, once you burn a referral source, they’re gone forever.”

Last year, Doonan produced over $58 million in volume on 129 loans and is “so happy to have stayed level and even exceeded my first-year numbers,” she said. Her marketing efforts and service levels were strong enough to drive steady business her way, but she acknowledges things may get a bit tougher in the upcoming year. “I plan on marketing for new business and will continue especially to return to my current database for continued referrals,” she said. Doonan also intends to get her broker’s license to further educate herself and expand her business reach.

Doonan fondly considers herself to have been a sort of “guinea pig” within Emery Financial. Having worked with many of the top producers in the company, she still considers many of them to be essential mentors to her career and her professional development. She meets with Shelly (Talbott) Logemann (a veteran of M.O.M.’s Top 200 List) frequently to review the state of her business and address future plans. “I think about when I started and there were all these people around me making millions and I have to admit it was quite intimidating,” said Doonan. “But the diversity and the knowledge that I was surrounded by made my transition into originating so smooth. I couldn’t be happier with where the experience has taken me.”

–Gretchen Lees