Consistently generating enough mortgage leads every month to keep a pipeline full is one of the most difficult aspects of the mortgage industry for loan officers. The reality of the matter is that the vast majority of LOs would tell you they have the capacity to work MANY more quality leads than they are getting.
The most stable way to get consistent high-quality leads is through traditional word-of-mouth referral marketing. LOs develop relationships with real estate agents, business professionals, and former clients in order to have a steady stream of mortgage leads coming your way. That is the dream funnel of career originators.
If there is a problem with this strategy it is that it takes a long time to develop those relationships.
It is also incredibly difficult to win over a referral partner that already has other preferred relationships. To bolster the stream of incoming mortgage leads while working those traditional relationships, loan officers have to employ other modern digital strategies (or spend lots of money purchasing stale lists from potentially unscrupulous sources).
There is a natural order of operations when it comes to digital marketing practices. Before you start to drive traffic towards your website, you have to spend the time making sure your site is ready to do something with those potential prospects. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting energy as your hard-won traffic exits your site without taking any action.
Build Authority and Trust with Expert-Level Content
The absolute key to making your website a high quality leads generator is to establish yourself as an authority. This helps to build trust with potential prospects. If done well, this is also one way to drive organic traffic to your site – which we’ll cover in the next post in this series.
There is a ton of competition in the mortgage industry for LOs. The best way to establish authority is to select a niche and develop content that demonstrates your expertise. You don’t have to focus only on that line of business, but well-developed niche content will become your lead magnet. Is there a loan program in your area that you could become the authority on?
For example, there is a downpayment assistance grant program called Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus right here in Floify’s Colorado backyard. There is very little high-quality content or commentary on this program. When someone interested tries to find out more, they will likely end up gravitating towards the mortgage broker in the area that took the time to write in-depth about the program. We know we did.
If you have great content that demonstrates your expertise, it builds authority and trust. That is the first step in developing a relationship with website visitors. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of written content. Having a mix of text, video, and infographics helps to please a broader audience with the type of content they like to consume.
Optimizing Your Site to Capture Mortgage Leads
Now that you’re establishing your expertise with high-quality content, optimize your site to make it easy for visitors to complete an action that gets them into your pipeline for follow-up. There are a few basic principles to follow in order to set yourself up for more success in converting traffic to mortgage leads:
- Trim the clutter
- Clear and obvious calls-to-action
- Reduce friction
Trim the clutter
The concept of trimming, or altogether eliminating, the clutter is quite self-explanatory. Your site should:
- Be easily scannable
- Not have busy movements
- Not have competing calls-to-action on a single page
Every page should have a purpose and that purpose should be respected. Research has proven that you have a very small window of opportunity (a few seconds) to “not lose” the attention of a new visitor.
If your site inundates someone with disconnected and seemingly random information, they will exit. If your site loads too slowly, people will exit before even seeing the homepage.
Make sure a new visitor can clearly understand who you are and what you do within a couple of seconds of landing on your website.
Clear and obvious calls-to-action
A call-to-action (CTA) is simply something that prompts your visitors to take action. It can be as simple as a line of text, button, form, or otherwise. To bolster the effectiveness of your CTAs, make sure they clearly describe what the action is that someone will be taking. This will eliminate the fear of what’s to come that causes people to leave.
CTAs should be highly visible. Particularly on your homepage, you want your primary CTA to be “above the fold”. This means that a visitor does not need to scroll down the page in order to see the CTA and take the desired action. Don’t let your CTAs get lost by choosing colors, sizes, and placements that are truly unavoidable to the eye.
Reducing the friction of your CTAs is vital to achieving the desired result – mortgage leads in your pipeline. Friction is anything that makes it difficult or slows down the process of completing your desired actions. Make completing your actions as short and quick as possible for prospects so they have less reason to exit. The best example of this is the long form 1003 loan application.
If a prospect that you have no relationship with is presented with a full 1003 to complete, the odds of them actually submitting that information to you will plummet. Ask as few questions as you possibly can to get the person in your pipeline. Once they’re in your pipeline, follow-up to gather the rest of their info.
If you’ve integrated these principles into your website, you’ve got the beginnings of an engine to generate mortgage leads. Now that the base is solid, it’s time to take actions that increase the visibility and traffic to your site.
Driving Highly Qualified Web Traffic to Your Site
The average website converts a small percentage of traffic to qualified mortgage leads, which makes it all the more important to first optimize your website for conversions, as we alluded to above. Once you have taken those steps, it is time to start pulling the levers that bring traffic to your site.
It is important to remember that there is no silver bullet when it comes to directing traffic to your website. No single thing you do will make for an instant and dramatic change; however, the cumulative effect of nailing these details, mixed with some time, will result in an increase in qualified traffic.
Organic Traffic Generating Channels
When we’re talking about generating traffic to your website, we categorize the sources in which that traffic comes from into channels. You may choose to employ different tactics or strategies within a channel, but that doesn’t change the source – social media will always be social media no matter how you go about leveraging it.
The following channels are those that show the best results with the lowest outlay. In most cases, the only cost is your time.
As marketers say, “content is king”. In part one of our mortgage leads series we talked about utilizing niche content that is of high-value to your potential customers to establish authority and build trust. That same content acts as a magnet for you in search engines. You also share it on social media to generate traffic.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enabling search engines, like Google or Bing, to know exactly what your content is about so that it can be appropriately delivered to individuals who are seeking related content. Traffic may be your end goal, but for Google, etc., their goal is to help people find the best content for the topic they’re looking for.
The intersection of those two goals is where your content needs to live. Provide value on the subjects your potential prospects are interested in, then optimize it so prospects can find it in search engines. SEO can be intimidating, but by nailing a few of the on-page basics you should be able to position your content to rank well in search results.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s a good article on some basic SEO by the folks at Moz.
This is most likely the easiest recommendation to implement if you haven’t already. Make sure you’re listed on relevant local directories and that your profile has accurate information.
If you don’t have a Google My Business account yet, sign up for one ASAP. Not only is it free, but it allows the listing of your business in Google Maps. Your business will also show up in local search results. Furthermore, it allows you to collect unbiased reviews that build credibility. To see the power of a Google My Business listing, check out the website local SEO section below.
Other local listing sites to consider include Zillow, Yelp!, AngiesList, and any hyper-local listings in your community.
Website Local SEO
Another low-hanging-fruit recommendation is to ensure that your website’s metadata is appropriately set up for local search. Every website has a title and description that display in search results. Dial yours into leverage keywords appropriate in your local market. For example, when we search our backyard for “Boulder Colorado Mortgage Broker,” which one would think might be a popular search among people not native to the area, we get these results:
As you can see in the screenshot above, our search first returns a few of the major listing websites because those sites have a TON of authority (i.e. brand recognition). Immediately after, Google lists a local business whose site title is close to an exact match to our search terms. Google rewards that local site by displaying their Google My Business listing in the first position on the map. And bonus: their 5-star rating is also prominently displayed.
Interestingly, even if the prospect’s search doesn’t contain the desired location, Google uses their IP address to determine their physical proximity to local businesses. When we repeated our search for just “mortgage brokers” we got similar local results.
There are countless other Boulder, Colorado mortgage brokers with many positive reviews; however, they all failed to overtake First American Mortgage, PLLC for the No. 1 spot because they used this easy-to-implement search term tactic.
In a recent Bright Local survey, 90% of consumers reported that they “regularly” or “occasionally” read online reviews for local businesses. The ease at which business experiences are shared now has taken the concept of social proof, expanding it ten-fold to become “reputation marketing”.
Positive reviews are important to winning the 2-second battle for attention in search results, as well as via review-centric services like Yelp!. Having a review “star rating” of 4 or 5 stars is proven to be associated with trust, whereas people will skip over your website if it has 3 stars or below. How often do you eat at a poorly reviewed restaurant?
After a successful closing with a satisfied customer, ask them to share their experience with you by writing a review. Remove the friction and make it as easy as possible by sending them the direct link to write the review. Have a plan, and rotate the services in which reviews are being posted (Google, Zillow, Yelp!, Facebook). To generate even more reviews, consider rewarding reviewers with a discount or other incentive.
We’ve written on social media marketing for loan officers before, and the major points still ring true. 72% of all adult internet users are on Facebook, and they are spending more and more time on the platform than ever.
Social media is an interconnected network of social circles. Each person has their “friends” or “connections” in a closely-knit network. Many times, these people are connected to their own special network. This phenomenon creates a powerful opportunity for word-of-mouth marketing via your satisfied clients and their circles.
To be effective when using social media, you have to have a strategy and execute it consistently and repeatedly. Velocity is a major key to social media, so you need to post often.
In your social media posts, you can include links to your content, re-post the content of your partners (or people you’d like to be partners with), post pictures of your clients’ successful closings (make sure to tag them), or record and post short videos of yourself explaining something current and topical. The branding and networking opportunities are endless.
Facebook has become the social media network of record for B2C prospecting. However, it’s important to remember that people don’t go to Facebook to have boring ad-type content thrown in their face. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a more serious network based on professional relationships. Often, this network offers opportunities for niche marketing to professional groups in your area as well.
One rule to remember: always provide value. If you’re looking to network within a LinkedIn group of local real estate agents, for example, add value in the form of content they’re typically interested in. Don’t come across as self-serving.
What Gets Measured, Gets Managed
Once you’ve put in place strategies that generate traffic from these channels, you’ll need to start measuring the effectiveness of your efforts. Google Analytics is the best free resource for understanding where your traffic comes from, and how people are interacting with your website and related content.
With this user-data in hand, you can double-down on activities that promote the channels that are driving the highest quality traffic to your business.
Referrals and Competitive Differentiation
Having a diverse web of sources to generate new mortgage leads is critical to growing business for all but the most accomplished of MLOs.
Yes, the most consistently profitable way for a loan officer to fill their pipeline is to develop partnerships with the top real estate agents and builders in their area that consistently refer new business. Combined with a database of satisfied past customers to prospect, these sources encompass the main trio of referral-based mortgage leads.
This is no secret, nor is it surprising when a high producing LO says their business is “100% referral-based”.
The downside of this truth is that every LO in the industry wants to accomplish the same thing. This creates a ridiculous amount of competition for those mortgage leads. Most Realtors and builders already have preferred partners they trust, so if you want to increase your lead velocity, it’s important to diversify referral sources, have a competitive differentiator, and think outside-the-box.
Non-Traditional Business Partnerships
Developing relationships with potential referral sources that are outside the Realtor/builder box is a great way to expand your network as well as increase your inbound mortgage leads. What other professionals have the ear of the prospects you seek, particularly where home loans are concerned?
Life Insurance Agents / Financial Planners
Most people buy life insurance to protect their family and their family’s lifestyle in the event of an untimely death. This often takes into consideration debt obligations that they must pay such as a mortgage. While it’s not always the best product for the situation, there is a line of business called mortgage protection insurance for a reason.
Financial Planners and advisors have in-depth knowledge of a person’s financial situation, including the terms of their loan. This puts the trusted advisor in the position to recommend a refinance if payments could be lowered, advice on real estate investments, or a cash-out refi if there’s an investment opportunity requiring additional funding.
There are times when you may need to work with your client’s CPA to obtain tax documentation needed for underwriting. This is a great opportunity to work the relationship backward and introduce your services. CPAs have a unique perspective on their client’s finances. They know the interest rate someone is paying on their mortgage since it’s tax deductible.
Estate Planning / Divorce Attorneys
Compassion is necessary when working with people going through a divorce or who have recently lost a loved one. Furthermore, these people need someone to quickly provide information or guidance surrounding the terms of a loan they weren’t expecting. For example, they might need to refinance for more favorable terms or find out what type of loan they need to be able to keep a family home.
Local Banks or Credit Unions Without Mortgage Services
This is another off-the-beaten-path business partnership possibility. Particularly with smaller local credit unions, there is sometimes no in-house mortgage origination service available for the bank’s customers. This provides a natural referral opportunity for mortgage leads.
Win Trust First, Mortgage Leads Second
LOs struggling to maintain strong connections with new partners always ask, “what do Realtors/builders/partners really want from our relationship?”. A quick Google search will reveal all sorts of Q/A forums with this exact question. Fortunately, referral partners respond to these questions, and their answers mimic those given by high performing LOs when asked how they created their success. These aren’t selling points for a partner (how many times have they heard “I provide excellent service”), but rather how to win lasting and productive partnerships when given the opportunity.
- Speed: Everyone wants a partner that closes loans on time. When a loan isn’t going to close on time, don’t hold out hope that you’ll get it on track, just take the advice below and communicate to your partner what is happening.
- Service: Everyone wants a partner that is professional and is going to respond quickly and take care of their clients. Remember, when you receive a referral you are representing the person who made it.
- Communication: Everyone wants a partner who keeps them informed. They want someone who lets them know how the loan is moving along, or why it isn’t.
Business partners are inundated with advances from LOs who claim to have the best service, the best rates, and the best process for their clients. What truly makes you any different? What would you bring to the relationship that others couldn’t also claim?
Legacy Mutual’s Jennifer Hernandez uses the knowledge she’s gained through her time as a mortgage coach to help her referral partners with tactics to improve upon their own businesses. As she says, “It’s not just about buying them coffee and taking them to a play, that’s the fluffy stuff. But what am I doing to help them grow their business?”
Another way to differentiate is by giving partners a unique way to work with you. When we built the Floify Partner Portal, it was with our customers’ competitive differentiation in mind. We wanted to offer something that would make our customers stand-out from the crowd, while also pleasing their referral partners with more information and self-service pre-approval letters at their fingertips.
Tips for Managing Partnerships
This tip comes from an interview we had with The CORE Training Coach, Linda Rudd. Linda talks about how she uses segmented lists to track her partners and the activities within that segment.
The great part about this tip is that it allows you to stay flexible with your engagement programs. Realtors are interested in different things than builders, and their businesses operate much differently. By targeting segments and delivering value that is specific to the profession or relationship you can be much more effective and organized with your partner marketing campaigns.
The concept and execution of appointment stacking is a tip that we stumbled upon while scavenging the internet for every piece of content we could find from loan officers. Loan officer Michael Mann describes exactly how he lines up face-to-face appointments with his referral partners in order to be as efficient as possible, extracting as much value as he can. If you’re struggling to find the time for these meetings, check out his post.
In part 2 we investigated social media as a viable source of web traffic for your website, but that isn’t the only way to squeeze additional value out of the channel. Social media gives you a quick and free way to engage with your referral partners, celebrate their successes, and share their content with your followers.
Not only does this let your business partners know that you’re thinking about them and care about what they’re doing, but it also keeps you top-of-mind for when they have mortgage leads to refer or reciprocal content that could be shared.
This is the golden rule of all relationship building strategies, whether partners or former clients.
Always, ALWAYS follow-up.
You may turn off some possible partners by being, in their opinion, overly ambitious, but the payoff with everyone else will make the effort worth it. If a small handful of the potential partners you consistently follow-up with begin sending you just one extra mortgage lead each per month, you will be greatly increasing your production.