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Mortgage Blogging 101 Webinar Promoted By NAMB

July 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Mortgage Blogging: What’s In It for Me Anyhow?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT

With the launch of the new blog that Mark Green and I are rolling out shortly for the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, we wanted to start a short series of webinars on mortgage blogging to help bring everyone up to speed.

Basically, the options for creating a web presence are so overwhelming that most industry professionals become paralyzed and unable to execute an effective online action plan.

NAMB is hosting a webinar for us today that will help address some of the basic questions loan officers have regarding the “WHY?” of mortgage blogging.

If you’re unable to make the call, please register anyway so we can send you a link to the recording.

__________

In the “Web 2.0” world, your clients and referral sources are checking you out online. What they’re finding (or not finding) could be the difference between winning and losing business.

If you’ve been curious to learn whether or not “mortgage blogging” is right for you…

Please join NAMB volunteers and mortgage bloggers Mark Madsen and Mark Green on Wednesday July 22nd at 4pm EST (1pm PST).

This free class will teach you the basics of “mortgage blogging” including:

1) The biggest benefit of mortgage blogging: Googleability.

2) How mortgage bloggers come up with topics to write about – and how often they write new articles.

3) How mortgage blogging translates into originating more loans. Hint: You’ll need to avoid the “shiny objects” that distract so many novice bloggers.

namb_webinar_-_mortgage_blogging_101_-_mark_madsen_mark_green

Three Sites Where You Can Get Free and Legal Photos for Your Blog

July 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

digital-world“A picture is worth a thousand words” right? We all know how a well placed image can motivate a prospect to take action.  While a well placed image can certainly help boost your conversions as well as the readability of the page, there’s a right way, and a wrong way to go about finding compelling imagery for your site.

Many loan officers will grab any picture they see on the web and place it on their website. While this may seem to be the easiest way to dress your site up, it is often the illegal way as well. Just as you’d never swipe a photo or painting from someone else and hang it on your wall, web imagery is often protected by copyright, licensing laws, etc – unless otherwise noted.

So what’s a budding web  mortgage marketer to do when it comes time to dress up a blog post or page? Here are some free resources for you:

http://www.sxc.hu

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

http://www.freefoto.com

Each of the above sites allows you to browse through tens, and even hundreds of thousands of images to find something that will fit your site or blog. (Yep, the image I posted came from one of the above sites)

Bookmark or save links to the sites above and use them as needed. Won’t cost you a dime! Make it a great week!

Confessions of a Contract Processor: USDA is the WAY I SAY for ZERO DOWN PAY!!

July 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

As the owner of a contract processing company, one of my responsibilities is to not only make sure my processors pipelines are full, but to also keep my eyes and ears open for trends in the marketplace to help our broker customers get more loans.

The buzz that keeps popping up in conversation over the last couple of weeks has been the opportunities with USDA. Not that it hasn’t always been around-it’s just that now it is one of the only non-downpayment programs left!

You may be well aware of its benefits, but to bullet point the key points for your reference, here are the highlights:

– NO DOWN PAYMENT! No Cash Contribution from Borrower
– Loan up to 102% of appraisal Value
– No MI
– 30 year fixed rate loan-conforming rates!
– NO RESERVES REQUIRED!
– NOT Limited to First time Homebuyers!
– NO limit on CLTV
– No minimum credit score!

And more……………….
More lenders are getting on board as te need for a wider scope of options becomes necessary to help consumers.

Check it out for yourself! USDA website is easy to navigate and to the point: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/fl/guarrhs.htm

    TIPS FROM OUR PROCESSOR:

Here are some valuable tips from a processor on our staff who has been working USDA loans:

1. Income and property eligibility needs to be checked for each file to make sure it doesn’t exceed the guidelines (Income eligibility is for total household members over the age of 18….be careful on that one!)

2. 2% guarantee fee can be financed in

3. RD forms need to be complete….specifically RD 1980-21. The RD forms are found on the lender’s website. The broker needs to have the borrower sign the 1980-21 but the lender fills out the rest.

4. Loans have to be underwritten through GUS(USDA version of DO) or whatever the lender uses (the lenders I deal with do this for us)

5. Need to determine if closing costs and prepaids will be financed in

6. Make sure to inform appraiser that it is a USDA loan

7. I have used Primary and Guaranty Trust for lenders

8. Loans are about the same level as an FHA.

After the lender issues approval then the loan has to go to RD for approval…..plan accordingly! It depends on how busy RD is as to how long they give approval.

There it is a nutshell! Hopefully this can help add to your stable of options to help your customers, marketing efforts and pipeline replenishment!

Meeting Realtors the Google Reader Way

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I stayed a little late after work to record a quick video I hope you’ll enjoy.  By the way, I used Camtasia Studio 6 to record my screen motions along with the Microsoft Life Cam to record the voiceover.  It was pretty easy.

Until recently, we used Viddler to embed the videos into our blog, but like most “free” sites, there’s a catch:  advertising begins to be integrated once your videos reach a certain point of popularity.  Therefore, David moved our videos over to a service called Screencast.  Not sure what it costs, I’ll let David answer that in the comments.

Hollaback if you dig the video.  Oh, and if you think it sucks, go ahead and hollaback anyways.  I can take the heat!

"I'll Hold Myself Accountable" – The Beginning of the End.

June 23, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

We have all said it, and for short snippets of time, we may have even done it.  My question – how’s  that workin’ for ya now!?  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t even have this nailed down myself.  In fact – disclaimer herethis post… yeah, I am writing for me

If the reader gets something out of this, uh, that is good too.

It is a noble and glorious thought that the mere love of our families, addictions [like living indoors, eating daily, etc.] and desire to grow are enough to take us where we want to go in our careers.  You would think – wouldn’t you?  I would!  What would being accountable to 2-3 other guys in the mortgage business bring to the table that my deep affection for my family would not?  The short answer is – I don’t know!  The slightly longer answer [with no greater insight, mind you] is that I DON’T KNOW BUT IT WORKS.

2009-06-23_fear_puppyFor some reason,accountability with people you respect, like, and trust can be the ‘magic bullet’ that many are searching for.  So why don’t more of us step up to the plate and become accountable to one another?

Simple.

               Fear.

Whether it is fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being vulnerable [i.e. being “found out” that you are human] or something few of us would admit to – fear of success, fear can be the biggest stumbling block to any action.  My advice? [Remember, this post is for me, not the reader] GET OVER YOURSELF!  You are not that big of a deal.  Suck it up punk!

The key to a successful accountability relationship, as I touched on earlier, is for it to be with people that you respect, like, and trust.  Without that – your results  may be less than you desire.  Why?  Because there needs to be internal pain for not performing or pulling your weight and that will ONLY work if you have to report lack-luster efforts to someone you care about.  This also leads in to why they must be people you trust.  Not only must you care about them – but they must care about you as well… meaning they will be firm but still support you.  [Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to turn in your “man-card” – quite the contrary, actually.]  I am reminded of a segment out of a very popular book – you may have hear of it - the Bible, that I understand as applying to accountability.  It goes something like this;

“Put me on trial, Lord, Cross-examine me.  Test my motives and affections for I am constantly aware of your unfailing Love and I have lived according to Your Truth.”

This kind of vulnerability and accountability only works when you know those you are entrusting your ‘humanness’ to, have your best interest at heart.  Now there are two ways to do this – you can either throw money at it, or throw time at it… just pick one.

Coaching

This is the ‘throw money at the need’ solution.  I personally have never really been coached, in the sense that I have paid someone to2009-06-23_accountability_chickens keep my feet to the fire.  The one exception is that I participated in a joint weekly call with Tim Davis and about 30 LOs.  This was a great thing to participate in and may be an inexpensive way for folks that have never been “coached” to see what it can be like.  Typically, however, due to mere numbers of participants, the personally attention is diminished and you won’t get the full impact of coaching. [The other side is you don’t have to pay the full freight either.]  Two coaches that I trust are Tim Davis and Victoria del Frate.

Accountability Teams

This is the ‘throw time at the need’ solution.  A team can consist of 2-5 players – anymore and I think you are diluting the impact.  Five is an absolute maximum.  Here is why it takes time for this solution to unfold.  First, YOU – cowboy – have to be the kind of person that people respect, like and trust.  Building that awareness with people that are worthy of being accountable with is not easy and is an investment that can only mature over time [Law of Incubation].  For the record, I have attempted being accountable to folks that fell completely flat.  You will too.  Expect it.  You first accountability group will not likely be the final one you end up with.  So what – start anyway.  The second reason this takes time… chemistry and likemindedness are difficult to find and even harder to maintain.  Once you find it – you will know – and will be forever better.

In conclusion, here is a small exercise.

“I, [insert name here], commit to myself to seek out those that I respect, like, and trust.  I am doing this [not I will do this]  in order to begin identifying those that can help hold me accountable for the things I should be doing anyway for Pete’s sake. [Yes, you have to say, “for Pete’s sake” or it won’t work.]  I have made it this far in a battered industry – and dog-gone-it I owe it to my peers, my family, and myself to be better than I am today.”

Go get ’em Tiger!

[Batteries not included]

Becoming Nordstrom

June 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

For the past year, the mortgage industry has experienced unprecedented change with regard to regulation and underwriting guidelines. Gone are many products that were made available to consumers that created and then finally burst the housing bubble. To be honest, however, did anyone really expect the no-doc mortgage and pay-option ARM to fund their retirement? Now that mortgage lending has again become a profession that requires skill and intelligence (as well as integrity) the majority of the bottom-feeders have left the industry. Those of us that are left, however, are faced with the challenge of the new regulations and the difficulty of integrating them into our business plan while continuing to provide top notch service to our clients. The new HVCC guidelines as well as increased documentation requirements have indeed made it difficult for mortgage lenders to provide the level of service they have been accustomed to providing.dan4g

 So the question is how to proceed in this new market environment. Do we need to make changes to how we do business? Do we need to be delivering a different message to our clients? Do we need to educate our clients and Realtors with regard to these changes? Indeed you will have to do all three to thrive in the new market environment. While it may seem like a daunting task, the fact of the matter is that there has never been a better time to truly separate yourself from your competition and provide an experience that will set you apart from and allow you to become a trusted advisor to your clients and Realtors. Now more than ever, you need to ask yourself the simple yet powerful question “What do I do that UNIQUELY differentiates me from my competition?” I’m not talking about a unique selling proposition (USP). While a USP is truly an important part of anyone’s business, let’s remove the “selling” for the time being as “salesman” carries such a negative connotation. What’s unique about you? How does it positively differentiate you? If you can’t answer this question, then you are doomed to battling rate-shoppers and high-maintenance Realtors indefinitely. Look beyond the company you work for. Your company, regardless of how great their infrastructure might be, does not make YOU unique. No one company employs the majority of top originators in the country. Look beyond how competitive your rates are. No company is lending money a point less than everyone else in the country. If they were, they wouldn’t need you as they would simply pay order takers minimum wage to answer the phone. Look beyond your resume. Few clients do business with people based on how long they have been in the industry. You could have been in the industry for 30 years and still not be very good at it! I believe the answer lies in one simple word: VALUE. 

If you consistently provide a tangible VALUE to your clients, they will not shop you, they will not nickel and dime you, and they will not become the high maintenance client we have all come to dread. What they will do is return to you again and again as well as share their experience with their sphere of influence. In the current market climate, VALUE is what everyone is looking for.

I was recently in Las Vegas at a huge shopping mall with my wife. As we walked through the mall, we passed Dillard’s, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Lord and Taylor. dan22At the very end of the mall was Nordstrom. While I could have easily found what I was looking for at any of these stores, I proceeded directly to Nordstrom. Why? VALUE. Despite the fact that their prices may be a little higher, the experience you have shopping at Nordstrom is unrivaled in retail. How do they consistently outperform their competition while often charging a higher price? VALUE. Employees at Nordstrom are trained to provide VALUE rather than simply sell their merchandise. The EXPERIENCE of shopping at Nordstrom is why I come back again and again. That experience has VALUE. 

So, the answer to the question “What do I do that UNIQUELY differentiates me from my competition?” lies in the VALUE your clients receive from the EXPERIENCE they have doing business with you.dan33 It is up to you to determine what that value will be and provide an experience that positively differentiates you. With all of the negative news about our industry circulating through the media, a valuable experience will be an unexpected surprise to most clients. Focus your effort on providing that valuable experience and your clients will walk past all the other shops offering the same merchandise.

I Was Attacked By A Bird Today!

May 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

That was the title of the email I sent out to realtors a few years back. Why am I telling you this? Because it really happened, and it got me a lot of closed loans. Here’s what happened:

I was headed to the office around noon, and it was a beautiful day out. So I decided, what the heck, I’ll put the convertible top down. I smiled as my favorite song started playing through the speakers, the top was down, I leaned my arm on the door sill and thought about how perfect of a day this was.

That’s when I saw it… This small bird was sitting on top of the traffic light seeming to monitor all the cars approaching this 4 way street crossing. Suddenly, he leaps up and starts flying in an erratic pattern toward my car. No biggie right? WRONG! I was puzzled that he was now only about 30 – 40 feet from my car and was swooping lower and lower as he approached me head on – Almost like a crazy game of “chicken” – never mind the fact that he was moving, and I wasn’t.

20 feet, 15, 10, 5 and “swoosh” he zips by the top of my car at full speed near enough for me to have reached out and brushed him with my fingertips had I wanted to. I figured that he was either suffering from some bizarre bird-hangover or he was just making his point that he wasn’t intimidated by me and my 2,900 pound hunk of metal. Bold bird huh?

But he wasn’t finished… I turned my head forward again to watch for the light to turn. 3 seconds later I’m being assaulted from behind by this crazy Sparrow from hell! (Actually I’m pretty certain it was a mockingbird) He is hovering in the air about 5 feet from my head screeching like some sort of banshee and zipping down in mock dives!

Maybe he thought I was encroaching on his territory, or maybe he just didn’t appreciate the music I had chosen to listen to on such a beautiful day… I will never know. But just as quickly as he appeared, screeched, and dive bombed, he zipped away again. I craned my neck to see where he went, and just as I thought I caught a glimpse of this feathery devil, I felt a rain drop on my forehead.

No big deal, it’s just rai…. Wait a minute. What the heck? Why is this “rain drop” milky white and dripping down my…. OH NO HE DIDN’T! Apparently this was the parting shot from this bold little bird. If he couldn’t chase me away, he was going to show his disdain for me and my bright yellow car the best way he knew how! Sick…And I never carry napkins in my car either…

So what do you think? Interesting story right? It really happened, and yes, I ended up using my tie as a make-shift napkin that day. Better than driving around with bird droppings on your forehead! So how did this email get me 3 loans in about 2 hours?

At the time of this happening, I was quite active on My Space and with a real estate specific blog. I rushed back to the office after what we from this point forward shall refer to as “the incident” partly to blog about this, and partly because I had a sudden urge to dump my tingling head into a 100 gallon bucket of water and soap!

So I get back to the office, and I posted the blog exactly as you see the story recounted above. I posted onto MySpace, posted onto a few other select social networks, and then I wrote a short recap and emailed it to my realtor prospects within my auto responder. (This is a list of about 200 – 210 top producing realtors that had double opted in to my email newsletter)

I sent the email out, linked back to the blog post for the “expanded” story, and placed a quick “oh by the way” note at the end of the email. The results? Normally my emails get opened at a rate of about 40 – 45%. This email showed more than 70% had opened within 1 hour of sending the email.

My blog, MySpace page, and others had more than double the number of comments normally received, and my “oh by the way link” had showed more than 27 clicks in that same hour. What was my “oh by the way?” This was a link to a short 4 page email marketing guide I had customized for the real estate industry. Nothing more than a collection of marketing suggestions, ideas, creativity boosters, etc.

By the next morning, I had plenty of emails from agents laughing at the story, inviting me to lunch, and thanking me for the guide.

3 of the agents ended up in a conversation with me on the phone, and I landed a total of 3 loans referred within a 24 hour period… So the lesson of this story? If you want to get 3 loans in 24 hours, you need to get bird poop on your head… Ooops, wrong moral… Sorry about that.

The true moral is that standing out from the crowd, even in a seemingly unrelated fashion can get you noticed. I wasn’t suddenly a better loan officer for having been attacked by hell-bird. Not at all. But I had a funny enough experience to make the right agents laugh, notice my link, and in turn notice me. I’d been there emailing those agents for months up to that point.

It took a bird crapping on my head story to get their attention, but once I did, I closed plenty of loans because of it. 1 of the agents that referred me a loan that day became a regular, and we went on to do plenty of business together.

This is the power of networking, whether it be in person, or online. My MySpace page, my blog, my email list. All of these tools served as my distribution channel. Whether you have a funny story to tell, or a useful article to share, you need to expand your reach. Be friendly, be helpful, be consistent. Now have a great weekend and watch out for those angry birds!

Where are you coming from?

May 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I believe in the pile theory. The pile theory is simply the idea that whoever achieves the most tangible results in a particular field will usually have the most to teach. With that in mind, if someone has a bigger pile than you, listen. It they have a smaller pile than you, don’t. You wouldn’t take diet advice from an overweight person, would you? Or financial advice from someone who just filed for bankruptcy?

I went to a seminar a short time ago where one of the scheduled speakers was a hugely successful mortgage loan originator. I had heard of him and was looking forward to hearing him speak, as his pile was bigger than mine. About 5 minutes into his presentation, I stopped taking notes. After 10 minutes, I got up and walked out. I was disappointed. While my pile theory held up with regard to the speaker’s results financially, his methods, attitude, and techniques did not. In the mortgage business, success is often measured simply by financial success. Number of loans, closed loan volume, number of leads, etc. While we are all in it to make money, not everyone has the same vision of what success really means. Without this vision, it does not matter how many leads or loans you have, satisfaction and fulfillment will elude you in this business.

I discovered this early in my career. I read the trade magazines and industry publications. I listened to veterans with my company and modeled my business around what appeared to be a sound business plan. It wasn’t long, however, before I discovered what was lacking…ME! My business plan didn’t have “me” in it. It was like I was reading an instruction manual and building something step-by-step; however I wasn’t sure what it would look like when I was finished. That is what a vision is, what it looks like when it is done. As Steven Covey’s first habit states in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, you must “begin with the end in mind”. How true. You must know what it looks like when it’s done. This is not to say your vision will not change over time, but you must have one to begin with. The number one reason I have seen people exit this business is lack of vision. While they might blame it on lack of leads, the market, their company, whatever, in the end it is usually the fact that they simply did not have a vision, nor did they have a plan to get there. They simply tried a few things that appeared to work for other people.

I believe the key to finding that vision starts with where you are coming from. What I mean by this is, when you are conducting business, are you coming from the right place? Your vision must start here. If you are prospecting for new leads, what outcome are you hoping for other than getting them to sign on the dotted line? Are you trying to establish a long-term relationship with the client? Do you want them to refer you business in the future? Are you interested in their success? Have you calculated what their lifetime value might be? The speaker at the seminar I referred to had hugely impressive numbers; however his methods for obtaining those numbers did not fit in with my vision. This is not to say he was not a good mortgage professional, he simply had a different vision. Despite my desire to achieve his results financially, his methods were not compatible with my vision.

When conducting business, I believe coming from the right place is key to long term success. If you truly look out for your clients, they will look out for you. If you provide exceptional service, they will tell others about you. If you stay in touch with them, and continue to provide value for them, they will return to you again and again. While this may sound simple, even rather obvious, why do so few actually do it? Because they are not coming from the right place. They are coming from the desire to make money, achieve recognition, compete with their co-workers, squeeze maximum profits from each transaction, etc.

When constructing your vision, keep the pile theory in mind. Every contact you have with a client should be compatible with your vision- every phone call, email, text message, fax, advertising piece, mailer, etc. By coming from the right place, your career satisfaction will improve and you will notice that you no longer have a lack of leads, market fluctuations will have less impact on you, and there’s probably nothing wrong with the company you work for.

Hey, Lets go Hang Out with Some Homeless People!

May 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I recently added a new coaching client.  I sent him my Top 10 Goals form even though I actually believe that goals suck. Anyway, one of his goals was to add x number of A Realtors, x number of B Realtors, and x number of C Realtors to his database for business.

What the hell is a C realtor? You cousins brothers neighbor who just got their license and works part time at the Krispy Kreme? What does a “C” agent actually do? How many deals could they actually send to you that would really close?

We all know that we are who we hang out with, right? So why would we not hang out with the “A” agents? Maybe, just maybe it is because you have a big fat but! I have said for a long time that if you want closable loans, then you need referrals from people who know people who actually qualify! I believe that fear and excuses are what hold us back from going after the best of the best. Have you ever said this…

  • The best agents probably already have a loan officer they work with!
  • The best agents are too hard to get a meeting with!
  • The best agents are too busy to speak with me!
  • What if they give me a deal and I blow it!

Again, I think that you have a really BIG BUT! If we have mentally put a person so high on a pedestal that it is easier to go after people who we consider lesser just to make ourselves feel better, then we have missed the whole point! And while I believe everyone is valuable beyond measure, not everyone lives up to their full potential.

At any rate, I laid the challenge back to my client and here is what it was…

If you want to have “B” and “C” agents that you are going to spend time pursuing, then why don’t we just make some fliers about the $8000 tax credit and pass them out to the homeless. I think we would have just as good of a chance to pick up deals there as we would from a “C” agent.

And if this post wasn’t enough, take a look at this video…

Video: Just Do It!

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

camcorderStatistics show that Americans will spend 4 hours watching television, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines. Hmmm and you were wondering why you were getting such a low open rate on your emails to your database? Facts are facts and here’s another one for you…

The Online Publishers Association published a report on consumer behavior and video advertising. They stated that out of 80% of viewers who watched an online video ad, over half took some type of action.

And then, of course, there’s the YouTube phenomenon, which I know you don’t need me quoting statistics for you to trust, that YouTube proves, video is the way to go!!

But gosh, where does a Mortgage Professional begin? How does one dip their toe into the icy cold water, so to speak, when it comes to implementing video into one’s marketing strategies?

Start simply! And most importantly, forget about trying to be perfect!

webcamNo doubt about it, the majority of folks like to watch, rather than read! Plus, video can save you thousands of marketing dollars and can have a much farther outreach than any postcard mailing or email blast can ever have!

The fun comes in when one starts to consider the endless creative avenues a Mortgage Professional can travel down when using video as a marketing medium.

Here are just a few ideas from video-leveraging-newbies, using varying levels of video technology to reach out to their target audiences:

Database Biz-Dig

Remind your past customers why they did business with you in the first place and why they should refer their friends and family to you now. Sharing how you’ve been able to help your clients in the current market shows you’re still in it to win it, that you’re a reputable, knowledgeable advisor and that you’re still doing what’s right for your borrowers. My client, Jimmy Sgambelluri out of Newport News, VA uses a simple, but direct approach, no fluff, just a webcam perched on his laptop and his “tell it like it is” demeanor…

Meet-n-Greet Wow Factor

Pre-record a quick vid to further solidify your newly formed relationship with your borrowers. After your initial phone conversation, send them a greeting that shows who you are, be transparent, be YOU! Here’s just one example from a client of mine, Joe Gonzalez out of Allentown, PA. He’s using Think Big Work Small’s platform to create a few special effects…

Train to Gain Leads

Take a topic that you know your target audience struggles with, needs assistance on, needs to know for their own good, etc., and put a short training video together to pique interest and spur further inquiries. Here’s one of a series of ten training vids that I developed with the help of a professional, (Brandon Hamilton), green screen, hot lights, the works…

Whichever what you slice it, video advertising, vlogging & vmailing is the marketing wave to catch. There is absolutely no need to take a “Jaws” size wave right out of the gates. C’mon, it’s not like every Mortgage Pro out there is “hanging ten.” It’s like everything else, only a few, only the brave, only the adventurous will take the plunge and those are the few that will continue to grow their business, that everbody else will dub, “lucky.” So, in the words of Clint Eastwood, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”

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