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.”