How do you create a brand that drives Realtor® referrals?
The tides have turned and the shores are awash with those who have lost their jobs due to the rising rates and the resulting falloff of refinance business. Mortgage companies from coast to coast are working hard to campaign their way into the Realtor® community, hoping to build the necessary trust that will drive purchase transactions through their doors.
In this environment, mortgage company marketing strategies need to tackle the issue of developing much-needed Realtor relationships head-on.
So, let’s suppose that you’re a company that was built primarily on refinance transactions or that you’ve just become disengaged from the purchase market. In either case, you may or may not have a reasonable level of brand awareness with realtors who already have other relationships in place. So, the question becomes…how do you penetrate this market?
For those who have knowledge of a certain level of positive awareness with Realtors, then a good marketing strategy to further that awareness, paving the way for your LOs to garner purchase transactions may do the trick! See #3 below.
For others who may lack a foundation to build upon, feel that their brand is not understood among real estate agents or feel their messaging or brand needs work…the challenge is a bit broader.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to get you started at creating a brand that drives Realtor referrals:
1) Is your brand understood internally and by external audiences including the real estate community? If you have your doubts, then this is the perfect time to find out. What you don’t want in a fiercely competitive purchase environment is brand confusion internally which is a precursor to brand confusion with Realtors as well as you spend good money developing campaigns and putting “boots on the ground.”
To start, I recommend conducting a Brand Insight Assessment (BIA). This exercise can be completed in fairly quick fashion by developing a few key questions, multiple choice and open ended, and then sent off through SurveyMonkey to enable quick response time. The questions should be designed to assess overall awareness of your brand, what it stands for and where you stand competitively.
From this assessment, you can discover gaps in understanding. You can learn how well internal and external audience perceptions of your brand are aligned with each other and your intentions. If the results show gaps exist, you can now take action to close those gaps.
2) Are your brand’s unique selling points (USP’s) clear? Be able to articulate clearly and confidently why realtors should do business with you. If you feel your USPs lack strength, are too commonplace or not backed up by any real proof that they’re true, now is a good time to reevaluate them.
If you find yourself struggling with this piece as many do, you may need to enlist a brand consultant. A good mortgage industry brand consultant will walk you through the necessary steps to help you develop your USPs and ensure they are strong and impactful so that they pass the “who cares” test in the market place.
3) Do you have a marketing strategy in place that targets realtors? Mortgage marketing strategies for driving referral business are much different from those which you use to drive refinance business.
Many mortgage companies are used to marketing by the numbers through mail, broadcast and the Internet. Models have been honed to drive predictable levels of response from each for refinance transactions.
However, your strategy for driving Realtor referral business must be more comprehensive and leverage seminars, speaking engagements, networking events, Realtor-specific sales materials, a blog, social media, testimonials (Realtor and home buyer), media relations and much more. Your goal needs to be expert positioning of your brand with real estate agents.
All activities should be organized into a schedule that identifies what you will do month by month over the next year. As your exposure begins to increase, beware of publications you’ve never heard of trying to tap into your marketing budget; video production companies that get you TV spots on airlines or at obscure times on cable channels…and other vendors that will come out of the woodwork. They will try to convince you that if only you spent some of your budget on their service, your exposure would shoot through the roof and business will beat a path to your door. Evaluate them very carefully. Many can’t keep the lofty promises they make and have great sales materials that make your exposure to your target audience seem greater that it really is. There’s no magic bullet.
4) Does your way of doing business accommodate the needs of Realtors and homebuyers on deadline to get deals closed? You may want to assess your business communications and processes to make sure they’re effective in a purchase environment. For example, how easy is it for referrers and home buyers to get status updates? Can they get them via the web or an app, or do they have to call and leave a voice mail message and wait for a call back? Is your company “set up” to close loans within a reasonable time frame?
If you don’t feel like you’re quite ready from a communications and process standpoint, this should be an initial area of focus. If you mess up here, word spreads far and fast as many are affected when closing is thrown off by a day.
5) Are your employees true brand ambassadors? It’s a fact that not everyone who works for you today should still be a part of your team tomorrow. Some of your employees may not have what it takes to move forward with your company in a purchase environment for a variety of reasons…attitude, skill set, inability or unwillingness to change, etc. This is especially true for LOs who’ve built their careers over the recent past based on a flurry of refinance activity…they just may not have the skill or desire to work in a purchase market where it’s all about building relationships.
These pointers should help put your thought process for winning in a purchase market in the right direction.
Your brand and mortgage marketing strategies must clearly state and provide ongoing proof of your desire, ability and focus on Realtors.