Written by Otto Kumbar, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

The Extreme Summit is designed to get all industry participants to help more seniors. In other words, it’s designed to grow volume. As 2014 gets rolling, this article can serve as an outline to help you decide how to take advantage of this opportunity.

With education and outreach, 20 million or more senior households will take a fresh look at reverse mortgages. The HECM program has changed dramatically to be more consumer-friendly and new products that can fit more seniors are rolling out. It’s time to get everyone to take a fresh look.

Although the Extreme Summit is intended to be a five-year program, it’s also designed to demonstrate success in the first year. One key to that is getting everyone involved in one of the pilot programs. This article will lay out how you can take advantage of these industry-wide efforts in your pursuit of growth.

The Extreme Summit has three major elements in 2014. The 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative press is designed to turn around product reputation and dispel myths that have plagued the industry for years. Geo-targeting is designed to help everyone in the industry target the greatest areas of opportunity. And finally, our rebranding efforts are a focused experiment to drive community understanding of the product.

3:1 Positive Press An effort to generate three positive impressions for every negative impression is already underway. You’ve likely seen the positive stories in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other major outlets. These impressions accumulate like water in a bathtub, and they’re needed to overcome years of negative, sometimes inaccurate impressions.

You can contribute to the effort by sending positive stories and testimonials to NRMLA. Local papers often appreciate help picking up on a local angle to these national stories. That local angle is one from your customers. Local stories that pick up on these national themes will strengthen positive impressions.

You can benefit from this by getting reprints of the major positive stories to share with consumers. Where there are objections from consumers, family members or other critics, you’ll have a wealth of facts and circumstances that can help seniors make a more informed decision.

Geo-Targeting My next article will focus on the opportunity to maximize return on investment. In short, Reverse Mortgage Insights has done detailed analysis that shows which areas have the greatest opportunity for future sales. It will demonstrate where your marketing and sales efforts can pay off the most. In addition, the research found that as penetration increases in an area, it becomes easier to penetrate.

You can contribute to this effort by targeting resources on the focused geographies. This should lower your costs and increase close rates. All six major industry firms (AAG, Generation, Liberty, OneReverse, RMS and Urban) support the Extreme Summit financially. They may offer special programs in the target areas. We’ll be monitoring success and fine-tuning the research, but the initial pilot program will run March through July.

Rebranding Shifting the industry by creating a new impression of the product is the trickiest of the initiatives. While there’s a strong desire to get away from the “reverse mortgage” or “HECM” name, it would be too expensive to start from scratch. The project team here is balancing how to lean toward the industry we want to create, while keeping grounded in the reality of today’s consumers.

We’d like to shift from a “need” product to one that is a part of everyone’s financial plan. We also need to start thinking about the younger demographic. The project team’s best crack at striking this “old vs. new” balance should roll out in three pilot markets from May through September.

If you’re in one of these markets, you can contribute by helping us get the story out. The main campaign will be substantial TV advertising, local influencer outreach, local press and seminars. Your local contacts and presence in the community will make a big difference.

The Extreme Summit marketing team is planning a formal “launch session” in the pilot markets sometime in March to explain the campaign elements and timing to local reverse mortgage lenders, so stay tuned.

You can take advantage of the marketing materials that will be produced for the effort. You’ll be able to co-brand with the main messages being delivered on TV. This should also substantially raise awareness and education, making the sales process easier.

Learn and Adjust We all want to help more seniors. The Extreme Summit is designed to run pilot programs, study them and adjust. Some of these ideas will likely fail, while others will point the way to a bigger industry. If you’re looking for more information, please contact your representative at one of the sponsoring firms: Urban, RMS, OneReverse, Liberty, Generation or AAG.

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