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Opinion: How marketing automation saved an LO’s business

Mortgage automation helped one loan officer increase production from his hospital bed.

People who invest in technology often ask the question: is this a “nice to have,” or a “need to have?” Few have the resources to invest in technologies they don’t need. Often, this analysis comes down to the worst case scenario. “What’s the worst that can happen if we don’t invest in this technology?”

When mortgage lenders are talking about compliance in loan origination or mortgage servicing, the worst case can be pretty bad, so we often see companies investing heavily in the best tools. But when it comes to marketing a real estate or mortgage lending business, people who have made a sale in the past often consider marketing automation a “nice to have.”

Mike Jameson doesn’t think this, however. Not anymore.

Mike is an experienced mortgage loan officer. He was so good at his job that a few years back his company gave him a spot on its annual, all-expenses-paid trip around the Caribbean. Sadly, Mike never got the chance to enjoy the cruise; two days after setting sail, he slipped while walking by the pool.

Instead of a relaxing vacation, he ended up in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage and the bills for an expensive, year-long recovery plan, which took him out of the mortgage origination game for a year.

He knew it would be really tough to maintain the relationships with his partners and clients from a hospital bed. He was afraid he would lose everything. Without marketing automation, he probably would have been right.

How marketing automation saved Mike’s business

In 2000, Mike’s company used a CRM capable of automating the marketing for its loan officers. We’re not talking about a typical CRM, which is basically nothing more than a prospect database, but rather a marketing automation and customer engagement platform that offers intelligent workflow to keep professional salespeople on track. Thanks to this technology, most of his customers and business partners didn’t even know he was sick.

The company’s smart CRM became his voice while he recovered, keeping his relationships alive and evolving while he recuperated, which was very good because his brain injury had made it temporarily impossible for him to speak.

This new technology gave him the time to teach his injured brain to talk again. Customers received regular business updates, custom newsletters, congratulations on loan anniversaries, and all kinds of additional content automatically.

Astoundingly, Mike didn’t lose his business – his production actually increased by 33% during the year he was recuperating.

I’m not suggesting you run your business from a hospital bed, but growing a mortgage operation in a purchase money market will require some focused attention on effective marketing. And should disaster strike, effective marketing might just save your business, too.

That makes a smart CRM a “need to have” tool.

How marketing saved my business

This was a lesson I learned back in the early 80s. I was selling houses like crazy in Denver. Like Houston, and Southern California, Denver was experiencing an oil bubble that was making everyone in the real estate business a great deal of money. Mercedes and Rolls Royces were everywhere. Everyone wore a Rolex.

And then, like all bubbles, it burst.

The crash happened unbelievably fast. In a matter of months, those high-dollar cars were sitting on the side of the road with “For Sale” signs in the windshields. Everything was for sale, and people were going broke left and right. It was crushing to live through, and I was caught right in the middle of it.

Nobody wanted to own a home. It seemed like the worst financial decision that one could make. But I was only really good at one thing, selling houses. So, I went door to door in apartment complexes, trying to convince renters to buy a home.

It wasn’t easy, but I made a living. I lived in limbo much of the time because potential buyers would often change their minds or fail to qualify at the last minute, leaving me with weeks of work without pay. The numbers were scary. I had to sell five houses to get one to close so I could get paid. But I got that job done for three years.

Those were tough years, but that time was well-spent in many ways. I spent countless hours learning how to sell. I learned was that success most always came down to building trust with my clients.

If I approached each interaction simply as a transaction, it was hard to make a connection. If I shared my knowledge, my expertise in the industry, people would listen and I could build trust. I was learning in those early days that the relationship was the key to success.

And relationships, once formed, can be maintained in part with good content marketing.

Making a good thing great with automation

Effective, even relentless, selling saved my business when the Denver market crashed. But no one can keep up that pace for long. Effective sales is essential, but if I had to keep knocking on doors to make a living, any crisis would have wiped me out. I needed a better way and marketing automation was the key.

It was clear to me early on in my career that technology for marketing automation wasn’t just a “nice to have.” It was something I needed.

For many, investing in new technology isn’t the final answer, it’s the beginning of a long, painful selection and implementation process that, according to experts, is very likely to fail. Every year, companies in our industry spend millions on new technologies, but have no guarantee things will work out the way they did for Mike Jameson.

Why? Readers of this publication know exactly why. Here are the big reasons:

Technology buyers don’t know what their LOs really need.

Your front-line originators often confuse what they want with what they need and by the time those wants get filtered up to management and the company’s priorities get mixed in, the right solution is no longer clear.

Developers don’t understand sales in our industry.

A generic CRM is not likely to meet the needs of professional salespeople selling a product as complicated as a mortgage loan. Their tools may work great for selling t-shirts online, but that won’t help here.

Implementation is difficult.

Unless the software was designed to be delivered as a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering with an extremely easy and intuitive interface, implementation will be a challenge. Every reader on this page has seen this happen.

The software is too complex.

Complexity can be an alluring trap. It’s human nature to be drawn to shiny new things, preferably things with lots of buttons and switches to fidget with. But if we can step away from buying based on newness, building based on complexity, and wanting based on novelty, we can ask ourselves this, what do our salespeople need?

The software doesn’t achieve the right goal.

Modern technology is often written to help power users get more out of the tools. Just look at modern graphic arts software. What good CRM software should do is empower the bottom 80% of a company’s salespeople to achieve what the top 20% do. What would that do to your bottom line?

Fortunately for all of us, Smart CRM technology with sales automation is available today. Using it can significantly extend our crucial customer relationships. And, in the event of a disaster, it can literally save our businesses.

Just ask Mike Jamison. He is alive and well and still originating loans in Seattle.

Dan Harrington is the co-founder and CEO of Usherpa. His upcoming book “Automate to Great” is due to be published in 2023.

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