Category: Marketing and advertising (general)

There are some good numbers flowing forth from associations like MBA, ALTA and NAR these days.  Numbers that suggest origination volume (and demand) is increasing.  Numbers that mean more orders are coming in for the title industry.  Numbers we don’t usually see this early on in the dead of winter.

Is it over?  Is it finally over?  Years of market volatility; seismic change and regulatory scrutiny amounting to a business foundation as sturdy as quicksand….really over?

Well, probably not.  But a lot of folks believe we are (finally) grinding our way to a better and newer “normal.”

It may be decades before we see the breathtaking and historic volume we saw earlier this century.  It may never happen again.  So, right now, your battle is for market share.  Yes, we’re likely to see some contraction across the industry as some exhausted owners give up under the burden of increasingly active regulatory changes.  But not so much as to counter the “new normal” we’re likely to see in overall origination volume.

So my question to you is, do you have a plan?  How will you gain market share?  There have been enough changes in our industry to suggest the old ways may not work as well.  This is where I make the obligatory “box of donuts” reference.  But there’s truth to it.  Flyers, phone calls and postcards simply ain’t gonna cut it.

We can all agree that, to keep a client’s business, we need to “provide value.”  Yes, the term is a little cliche.  Ok…a LOT cliche.  But I use it to demonstrate that “providing value” is no longer enough after we’ve won new business.  In fact, you probably need to be providing value long before a prospect becomes a client.

Now, believe me, I’m not advocating that we give our products and services away until someone agrees to pay us. But the days of interuption-based marketing; self-promotional communication and counting on the “numbers game” to predict new sales are over.  Content marketing is no longer a fad, a trend or a theory.  It’s reality, and it’s far more effective (done well) than virtually any of the old tools in the marketing tool kit.

If your marketing isn’t content based today, I’m pretty sure it’s not working.  The fact is that your prospects expect something from you long before they start paying for it. And if you haven’t made that correction yet, the market may well correct it for you…

So it took, of all things, the hyperbolic media coverage of Snowmageddonpocalypse along the East Coast recently to drag me back to my blog.  No promises, but let’s see if we can’t keep this going.

Unless you are living off the grid in a national park somewhere, you couldn’t help but be battered by a 24/7 informational assault to the senses earlier this week.  TV.  Radio.  Social media.  Internet.  All caps headlines. Flashing lights and sirens.  Warnings using words like “worst ever,” “life-threatening” and more.

All over a reasonably significant but hardly historic snowstorm.  In the Northeast.  In January.  (Jon Stewart has a great take on this.)

In fact, it seems like each new weather “event” is heralded by increasingly poignant language and dire warnings. Reporters standing in floodwaters.  Government officials urging citizens to buy powdered milk and D batteries.  That sort of thing.  And the result is that the target audience grows increasingly deaf and indifferent to their cries.   I wonder when (not if) one of the 24/7 infotainment channels will forecast that the sky is, indeed, about to fall.

This catastrophe, brought to you by...

This catastrophe, brought to you by…

So what does this have to do with your mortgage or title focused marketing or PR program?  Why, everything!

You see, for years, our choice of adjectives for our products or services–be it on our websites; in our news releases or in our ads–has been similarly hyperbolic.  As a result, once-powerful words like “revolutionary,” “game-changing,” “cutting-edge” or even, er…”powerful,” have become cliches.  In fact, some have taken on almost opposite meanings to the cynical ear.  It appears that each and every similar new technology lives on the bleeding, leading, cutting edge (must actually be a lot of room on that edge).  Pricing is “competitive?”  Uh oh…it’s pricey then.

Once upon a time, this was refered to as “puffery.” In selling one’s goods or services, one was actually expected to accomopany his/her pitch with trumpets and dancing bears.  But we live in a different world now.  The louder you yell, the less you’ll be heard…and even less you’ll be believed.

Stick to authenticity.  You don’t have to promote your weak points, of course, but be objective enough to understand that very, very few products or services in our world are truly “game changing.”  So choose your words carefully as you promote your brand…or you might as well tell them the sky is falling.

They’re everywhere!  In my in-box.  In my mail-box.  At trade show booths and in the marketing collateral I get.  They’re content marketing newsletters, and it would appear that the good people of the mortgage and real estate industry have picked up on their value. more

With apologies for the minor hiatus, I’m back to marketing communications this week.  This time, I’d like to talk about something that gets overlooked quite a bit when we talk about all the big buzzy things marketing communications folks like to talk about:  the actual words we’ll use. more

This week, I thought I’d go back to the root of marketing communications.  You see, in my opinion, there’s nothing more important to how a company presents its unique value proposition than the language and message it uses.  If you’ve done that well, it won’t matter (much) if you use skywriting, sandwich boards or even go door-to-door. more

One of the most effective tools in the marketing communications arsenal is The Event.  By The Event, I’m referring to a seminar, open house, roundtable, Webinar or audio seminar.  Few other marketing tools have the potential to brand you as a trusted advisor, generate leads and put you in direct contact with prospects or customers in quite the same way. more

Let’s be honest.  There aren’t a lot of consultants or agencies serving the mortgage and title industry when it comes to public relations or marketing commmunications.  There are many reasons for this.  After all, this is a very “hands-on” industry.  Many simply choose to go it alone–even without an “in-house” marketing department.  Many of the smaller businesses place great value on everything but their own time.  I’ve seen small agency owners eschew a $300 plane ticket to make a 12 hour drive at an odd time, solely in the name of cost savings.  And I’m not necessarily condemning this.  But it helps explain why many of the more established PR agencies out there aren’t hanging out at mortgage and settlement services conferences. more

This one’s directed a bit more to my friends and colleagues in the settlement services industry, although I’m sure it can apply in many places.  And not my clients, of course (since my clients are, by the nature of the relationship, continuing on with their marketing communications efforts!)  I suppose it will be a bit self-serving.  After all, I’m a marketing/PR guy. more

There’s no doubt that the mortgage and especially the settlement services (title, closing, escrow, appraisal, etc.) industry are….ahem, traditional.  Even conservative.  The most popular approach to business development remains, even to this day, hopping on a plane and visiting the prospect.  That’s sales.  The marketing is the flyer brought along as the “leave-behind.”  Really, there’s nothing wrong with either approach.  They’ve worked for decades.

Similarly, it’s hard to argue that the industry will ever return to doing business the way it did  five years ago.  We’ve had some big changes, with more coming.   Many from outside the space.

If there is consensus among the experts and thought leaders tasked with reading the crystal ball, it seems to be that pretty much everyone in the industry, from lender to closer, will need to be more flexible, more efficient, and more attuned to the net than the gross in the future.  That’s just the way it will be.

So, with that in mind, what will the best marketing communications strategies look like five years from now?  Glad you asked….

They’ll emphasize the cost-effective.    If firms won’t have the extra cash to carry large staffs or redundant processes, they sure won’t have much budget for marketing, PR, or social media.  Traditional print flyers will likely give way to PDFs.  Postcards will be e-mails.  Advertising will become a luxury for many.  Social media will be embraced.  Content marketing will replace blanket ad buys. And the “blast and pray” approach, long ineffective anyway, will by necessity give way to much, much more targeted and customized approaches. 

They will dovetail with the sales strategy.        They’ll have to.  Mortgage and title companies won’t be able to afford the luxury of large sales and marketing departments.  Long gone will the days of the marketing guys at odds with the sales guys.  That’s because the sales guy will be the marketing guy.  The good news?  Marketing collateral and marketing messages will be better aligned with the on-site sales pitch.

They’ll allow for two-way communication.     The consultative sales approach tends to be the standard in our industry.  In the old days, you made the flyer, hoped it worked, and dropped it into the mail.  Then you made a call or paid a visit.  If you were lucky, the orders (and the phone calls) came back…eventually. With the advance of technology (social media, e-mail marketing, etc.),  and the growing importance, in general, of being more responsive and adaptive to one’s marketplace, good firms will make sure their marketing materials—from e-newsletters to Webinars—provide ample opportunity for the prospects and customers to express their concerns and needs. Feedback at every turn will be a key ingredient to companies that know they need to somehow have both ears to the ground of the marketplace at all times.

They will emphasize the best of traditional techniques, but use them more efficiently. The fact that this is a relationship-based industry will not go away quickly, if at all.  Who knows whom will still play a big role.  But things already move quickly, and they’ll move more quickly in 2016.  There will be a push from the outside for increased transparency and the complete avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety.  Therefore, marketing communications will mirror the remainder of the new industry.  That said, title insurance, a closing, an appraisal, will never be “impulse buys.”  The trusted advisor approach will remain a key ingredient to closing a deal.  Alliances, partnerships and collaboration, where allowable, will continue.  You’ll just see it in a LinkedIn group  more often.  Travel won’t go away—there may just be less of it as fuel prices and whatever else the airline industry dreams up increase the drain on the travel budgets, eventually shrinking them.  But we’ll reserve travel for key prospects.  We’ll combine visits at trade shows, and attend less of them.  Face to face will never go away.  But we’ll be streamlining that as well.

Admittedly, I could lose my marketing and PR association memberships for that headline (assuming I were a member in the first place).  I most certainly don’t condone or advise a “one-off” approach to public relations or marketing, that’s for sure.  more