As reverse mortgage professionals, our readers are always looking for better business practices. This month in Spotlight, we ask several marketing leaders from companies across the board what they’re doing to promote the product.
AMERICAN ADVISORS GROUP
It’s no surprise that reverse mortgage leads are in high demand right now. Favorable secondary pricing and potential market-share opportunities create a positive reverse mortgage environment, and leads become a vital cog in the originating machine. But for many originators the bigger questions are: Where to get them? How good are they? How much should they pay?
There are a variety of lead generators available, yet most of them can be categorized as Web, mailer or TV. There is a subset of generators that also originate loans themselves, which creates a different kind of lead.
Web lead generators use pay-per-click campaigns and other online tactics to convince a “surfing” senior to find out more by clicking on the ad, then filling out the lead form. In many cases, the lead generator then attempts to call the qualified lead to create a live transfer to the appropriate lead buyer in order to increase both the quality and the value. The price for this kind of service varies drastically from $40 to $250 depending on exclusivity, live transfers and the homeowner’s state. There’s a lot to consider. In addition, the marketing methods employed by many online lead practitioners are far from ethical and sometimes downright noncompliant. If your business values longevity and customer experience, it is in your interest to fully understand the message and marketing tactics your lead source uses to make your phone ring.
In years past, direct mail was a common form of lead generation for many industry participants. Unfortunately, the mail volume increased in many markets to the point of saturation, which in turn impacted the response rate. When that occurs, aggressive marketing techniques are employed and all sense of suitability and compliance go out the window. At their worst, mailers included false checks and government stimulus promises that give the industry a bad name. In many respects, the decline of direct mail was a net benefit to the reverse space, yet it doesn’t solve the ongoing problem for originators: where to find the best quality lead for the right price.
The best advice is to do your homework on your lead source and ask the right questions of your lead provider. Here are some questions that I would recommend:
-How do you generate your leads? What messaging and marketing practices do you use? Can I see some examples?
-Are they exclusive? Do they include transfers or appointments?
-What is your qualifying criteria?
-Who are your biggest lead buyers?
-Are you compliant? (For example, some ads may state, “No mortgage payments.” But indeed there is a mortgage payment at the end of the loan period.)
-What conversion metrics do your clients get for the same lead?
These are important questions to truly evaluate and understand your lead source. In many respects, we are all in this together and promoting the business practices of those who are only in the reverse space while the going is good will only undermine us in the long term. So, it cannot be emphasized enough: Be diligent in your lead selection process and determine if it’s the right source for you.
The goal of any good marketing plan is to generate leads. There are many traditional lead generation methods that have served reverse mortgage professionals well for years. These methods include advertising, hosting seminars and mailing prospect letters. However, as technology becomes more interactive, new lead generation tools are changing. In addition to the standard lead generation methods, reverse mortgage professionals are adopting online and social media strategies to enhance their lead generation capabilities.
WHEN ADVERTISING, THINK BEYOND PRINT
When considering an online marketing strategy for lead generation, there are several places to start. The most basic strategy includes a website (hopefully you already have this part) and banner ads. A banner ad is basically a print ad for a website. Since virtually every organization, community group and business has a website, a good place to start may be the websites of the groups currently printing senior-focused newsletters or brochures. Banner ads are usually pretty small, but can be a great way to grab someone’s attention. The most effective banner ads usually give visitors a good reason to click on the ad. Once the ad is clicked, the individual can be redirected to your website, or better yet, a special landing page with text and graphics created specifically for your campaign. One of the many advantages of banner ads is that they can usually be modified whenever you want. You don’t have to wait for the next print issue to change something.
SEARCH ENGINES CAN BE YOUR BEST FRIEND
In addition to banner ads, online lead generation strategies can also include pay-per-click campaigns on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. With pay-per-click campaigns, you bid on certain keywords that someone might use when researching reverse mortgages online. Depending on your bid, your ad will appear on the top or to the right of the search results, increasing the chances of someone clicking on your ad. Just like a banner ad, the visitor will be redirected to the website or landing page of your choice. Pay-per-click campaigns can be effective, especially on the local level. However, because you pay every time someone clicks on your ad, whether they are qualified or not, the campaigns can become very expensive if you are not careful with your bidding and keyword selection.
If pay-per-click campaigns seem like too much risk for the reward, search engine optimization
DON’T FORGET TO BE SOCIAL
Even though social media is relatively new in the grand scheme of things, its effect on the way individuals and businesses interact with others is undeniable. Social media is quickly becoming a viable lead generation solution for reverse mortgage lenders and brokers. According to an August 31, 2010, article on usnews.com, nearly half of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 are using social media sites. That number was up from 22 percent the year before. Facebook is ready to help capture the leads you need. The first step is to create a fan page. Once the fan page is set up, you can begin generating leads. Custom tabs can be created on fan pages to capture these leads. The custom tab will be designed like a special landing page on a website and should give the lead a reason to enter their information, such as a coupon, free quote or a research paper. A quick Facebook search for custom tabs will provide numerous options. These tabs can be very simple or quite complex, depending on your needs. If creating a custom tab is not a good fit, Facebook offers advertising as well. These ads work like a banner ad and you can use them to direct people to your website, but the standard is to direct people to a fan page rather than an external site. (Plus you can leverage the additional power of the Like button and show users how many of their friends also Like your page.) Facebook advertisements can be directed to very specific individuals if you wish. The targeting options include age, sex, location, likes and interests, relationship status, workplace, education and many others.
Leads are the life-blood for those in the reverse mortgage industry. Finding new sources for leads is key for growth. As technology changes our lives and the lives of the seniors we serve, we must continue to adapt and grow. The traditional lead generation methods will continue to serve us well, but those willing to expand into uncharted territories will have first access to the tech-savvy seniors who are already there.
REVERSE MARKETING, LLC
Thinking ahead is the key for future success. Without putting in the effort to create new, fresh leads, you are probably going to go out of business. But marketing takes money, and what happens if you don’t have much of it?
Marketing as we once knew it has changed. Traditional tools such as direct mail, seminars, TV advertising and print still work, but they can be expensive. The cost can lead one to ask the big question: Is it sustainable? If these tools are working for you now, I am not advocating that you stop. Trust me, there are no silver bullets in our business. But I believe inbound marketing can be an important part of your future success.
WHAT IS INBOUND MARKETING?
Inbound marketing is a concept that focuses on getting consumers’ attention. The idea is to attract highly qualified senior clients to your business like a magnet instead of interrupting people with various forms of outbound marketing, such as direct mail, telemarketing, radio and television. New-age seniors (boomers) are not going to buy into us interrupting their lives and injecting ourselves into their business any longer. Yes, the good ol’ days are gone. You need to become the invited guest, not the unwanted pest!
What is the best approach to capture more leads and have your clients knocking on your door rather than vice versa? One word is the answer: technology. There are many tech-savvy things you can do to attract more clients and leads. These tools include search engine optimization (SEO), blogs, videos, YouTube, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and Google Analytics. The best part is that technology is cost-effective when compared to outbound marketing.
The most logical inbound marketing tool is your website. Do you have one? If not, you need to get onboard. But having a website isn’t the key to great results; getting one up and running is just the beginning. Your website has a hefty goal and it needs to wear many hats. A website needs to do more than just exist; it needs to perform. It needs to attract visitors, educate them and convince them to contact you for more information. I know what you’re thinking: easier said than done. But if you put the effort in, it can be done. Or, if you’re not tech savvy, there are people out there who will do it all for you.
Welcome to a new paradigm. The Web today is social and interactive. If you consider most websites to be just static, “blah” destinations, then you’re missing the boat. You need to consider integrating search, social media, content, blogging and more into your website.
What is the logic behind the thinking that now is the time to consider expanding your inbound marketing?
As we speak, there is a huge shift gaining momentum that is largely due to changing buyer behaviors, coupled with the influx of a new group of senior clients, those who are more apt to adapt to technology (i.e., the Internet). Today’s senior clients wish to consume information when they want it, how they want it and often without the involvement of someone beating on their doors. More importantly, they want to be educated and not sold to. This is an important threshold for you to comprehend in trying to reach today’s senior homeowner.
You may be wondering how the heck you can make the change from totally outbound to inbound marketing. I am not advocating that you drop your outbound marketing completely. But what if you were to take just a part of your marketing budget and start investing in inbound marketing?
If you are a newbie to technology and think you have to do it all, think again. There are tons of resources you can access. Many resources offer free tips to walk you through the most important steps toward inbound marketing (one such site is my blog, remaloblog.com).
Inbound marketing is the key to filling your sales funnel with qualified leads and your website is where education, engagement and conversion can take place.
SECURITY ONE LENDING
One aspect of my job that I really enjoy is meeting with our retail managers, retail loan officers and wholesale brokers to go over what type of marketing is working and what isn’t working for their personal business. One simple suggestion I often make is to focus on a single source of marketing, if possible.
Today’s reverse mortgage environment is much more difficult than it was back in 2005, when my company initially started to focus on the product via our call center. We had built our business on direct mail for many years with a consistent +1 percent response rate thanks to creative pieces and data selects, which created a profitable and scalable marketing cost per funded loan.
But in early 2009, we saw the effectiveness of direct mail start to dwindle as the industry contracted and home values went soft. In recent years, these factors have led to a challenging time for many brokers and retail loan officers who are continually investing capital on marketing to drive loan volume. The high demand for leads has led to an increased price for most lead sources, including Web-generated leads and leads generated from various national TV campaigns. We were forced to diversify our direct mail efforts and began to utilize different marketing avenues, mainly TV, live transfers and several vendors that sell Web-generated leads.
The feedback I hear more often than not from brokers and our branches is that they have a difficult time scaling up their marketing efforts due to a lack of focus on a particular marketing source. Most say that they are forced to prematurely end a campaign before its true potential can be measured because cash is tight or because they have a difficult time getting quality leads over an extended period of time. We stress consistency and focus because we think a longer campaign with steady lead-flow allows you to make the necessary adjustments to reach your profitability goals.
Our most recent success in the call center can be attributed to many things, none more important than the fact that we are focusing primarily on a single form of marketing. Security One Lending is almost a year into its Pat Boone TV campaign, and we are beginning to turn the corner in the call center. Once we were able to focus on our TV leads, we saw our overall conversion rates begin to rise. The efficiencies needed to make a call center profitable these days are easier to recognize and optimize when the loan officers and managers are all working on a single lead source instead of having three different and distinct lead sources that all have their own characteristics and workflows. Although it can be difficult to build from a single lead source because current demand for leads outpaces supply, if you can manage to focus for an extended period of time on whatever lead source you choose, that focus should pay off in higher conversion.