Lenders are Late to the Game, But Gaining Steam with Online Marketing

Baby Boomers remain a growing demographic when it comes to online users and social media fanatics, with nearly 60% more 55+ Facebook users just since last year, according to iStrategy Labs. While the reverse mortgage industry is admittedly a little slow to occupy the online space, some companies are beginning to make full use of Internet marketing capabilities, and they’re even starting to “Tweet”, “Friend” and “Follow.”

“Older Boomers are the first generation to prefer the online channel over other mediums,” says Scott Peters, president and CEO of Generation Mortgage Company. “We have both internal and external marketing resources aimed at helping to advance our online marketing efforts.” Peters says Generation has begun to engage clients and potential customers via Twitter, and has launched a Facebook ad campaign aimed at reaching both seniors and the Sandwich Generation.” We are currently evaluating the best way to utilize Facebook to better engage with seniors and their adult children,” he says.

While maintaining a Facebook page takes dedicated resources, Facebook ads are a growing method for businesses to reach potential customers and raise brand awareness. Generation says it has achieved success in connecting with seniors by using the ads. While the company has yet to maintain its own page because of control concerns, “It is certainly in our future,” says Peters.

“We’re continually tweeting,” he says. “Not just news related to our company, but relevant news items about reverse mortgages, home prices, seniors, finances, etc. I believe that this online engagement is critical to helping build our brand, while also helping us to create additional lead generation.”

“The backbone of the Internet is that it allows our clients to get the information we want faster. It’s much more efficient for seniors (and everyone else) to research and compare online than by calling several different companies,” says Bret Gunther, marketing director for Urban Financial Group, Inc. While Urban has yet to dive into the social media realm, it has discussed the possibility with its parent company, Knight Capital, and how social media would play into marketing for Urban’s reverse mortgages. It also just launched a new website following an overhaul, and maintains a separate Reverse it! site for its wholesale channel.

Know Your Audience

Catering to the senior demographic online, however, takes some careful consideration of their preferences, especially as it pertains to sharing personal information that is relevant to obtaining a reverse mortgage. While other age groups may be more comfortable filling out web forms and releasing information via websites, the 62+ group is on board—to a point.

“About half of our search engine leads call us instead of submitting their information online. That tells us that while seniors are actively using the Internet to search, they prefer more personal approaches as they get further along the decision process,” says Peters.

Urban, which launched a new site recently to help streamline the information it offers online, has also find that privacy is paramount. “We know how guarded our customers are about their privacy, so we’ve taken those concerns into serious consideration as we designed a site that asks them to tell us about themselves,” says Gunther. “We know the improvement is working because we started generating leads from our new website literally overnight.”

Generation found that a simple change like boosting the font size showed strong results. Peters says he saw a 10% increase in conversion on Generation’s landing pages, due in part to simply increasing the font size.

Devoting Resources

There’s no doubt the online space is in a constant state of flux, and that as it changes, even more seniors could be using online resources to search for all products, including reverse mortgages. Marketing through these channels, however, is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

“As technology evolves, so too does the way in which our audiences acquire information. It creates a responsibility on our part to stay ahead of the curve, so we can continue to provide elite level customer service. Acquiring quality online leads at an efficient price can be challenging. It is a competitive market and we must continue to think creatively to ensure efficient uses of our marketing budget,” says Peters.

The resources needed to keep up with those changes, and maintain an online presence presents an additional challenge. “Technology is moving at an exponential rate, so while we are investing in some online marketing now, we’re certainly not putting all our eggs in that basket. We will always rely on our staff to provide excellent customer service. That will always top any available form of advertising,” says Gunther.

“By its very nature, social media such as Facebook and Twitter requires constant interaction and updating. If you don’t have a team that can devote time to that, or you don’t truly understand what to offer to those who “friend” or “follow” you on social media, you’re wasting your time and theirs.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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