Top of Mind Networks

Revisiting Gary Keller's 33 Touch Strategy

November 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I wrote an article over the weekend at my favorite real estate blog:  Bloodhound Blog.  In Gary Keller’s masterpiece, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, he recommends a “33 Touch” per year frequency for database follow-up.

Millionaire RE AgentBack in 2004, when the book was published, the idea of 33 quality touches seemed aggressive to me.  But with the advent of social media, it’s become a very achievable goal.  I’d be flattered if you’d head over to BHB and read my article, and browse around their site a little while you’re at it.  I guarantee you, the deeper you dig into Bloodhound Blog, the more you’ll laugh & learn.

By the way, I always thought it was funny how Keller named his book The Millionaire Real Estate Agent but prefaced the book title with:  “It’s Not About the Money…”.  When people say “it’s not about the money”, rest assured… it’s all about the money!

What's Your Take on Email Frequency?

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Email is cheap, right?  Email is also easy.  Cheap and easy. 

When something is cheap and easy, it’s easily duplicated.  Rinse and repeat this cycle a few billion times a day and you end up with a CRM nightmare…


Clutter is every marketer’s primary opponent.  Our challenge is to reach that reader with the right message at the right time.  But that alone doesn’t ensure success.  The variable we often take for granted is readership.  When I used to sell newspaper advertising, I often quoted ”circulation” figures as if they were the gospel.  For example, the Miami Herald used to deliver 400,000 copies of the paper every morning.  Does that mean an advertiser’s message was seen 400,000 times?  Of course not.  Variables include:

1)  Ad position (an ad on page 3A certainly yields more impressions than one on page 14 of the Food section)
2)  Ad size (a full-page ad yields higher readership than a one-inch classified ad)
3)  Creative (the headline in your print advertising is its most critical creative element)
4) That day’s events (did the hometown team win the big game or was it just a blah news day?)

These are just a few variables – there are many others.  With email marketing, we walk a very fine line.  Too much frequency fatigues your database and damages relationships.  Too little frequency punches holes in our overall database marketing approach.

Our Methodology for Long Term Email Marketing

… is one email per month.  And your creative had better come strong and add value every single time out the box.  Otherwise, you’ll see open and clickthrough rates plummet over time – never to return.  I recently debated monthly vs. weekly frequency with a fellow mortgage marketer.  He has yet to articulate why he feels weekly frequency is more effective.  So I’m wondering… is anyone out there in the weekly frequency camp?  If so, why?  What’s your creative approach?

What better place to debate the issue than the Top of Mind CRM Blog?  Look forward to your comments. And now ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Rick Astley…

When Mortgage CRM Doesn't Work

October 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

We at Top of Mind have been at the mortgage crm game for about 6 1/2 years, and while we’ve never conducted any formal research I’d like to talk candidly about when CRM doesn’t work:

If you mistreat your clients in any way, shape or form.

Yes, believe it or not, we’ve seen clients who gouge their clients on the front end and hire us to try and salvage the relationship once they’ve trashed it.  It doesn’t work folks.  When you add water to dirt all you get is mud.  Personally, I’ve become more selective of who we’re targeting for clients over the years because these types of clients never stick with us.

If you don’t commit philosophically and stay the course.

Did you know that a 5% increase in client loyalty can double your bottom-line profitability?

But it doesn’t happen overnight.  If Top of Mind mails a birthday card to your client, are you willing to follow up with a phone call?  If we notify you that a past client has put their home for sale, how do you tackle the opportunity?  (There’s a bad way, a good way and an awesome way.)  By now, nobody is disputing the fact that database marketing is best practice.  Now we’re at a point in the game where that extra baby step makes all the difference in the world.

When your communications are about yourself and not the client.

This is one of the most common mistakes mortgage professionals make.  They leverage email marketing too frequently because it’s “cheap and easy”.  They don’t think through their message properly and fail to add value.  I’m going to cover these points in more detail some other time, but it all boils down to one tenet:  Everyone’s Favorite Subject In a Conversation is Themselves, Not You.

When you try cherry-picking in order to save a few bucks.

This is a classic situation.  A Top of Mind client closes 10 loans in the previous month.  They fell in love with six of the borrowers but weren’t too crazy about three of them.  And the other one was just a tiny loan where they didn’t make enough money to justify an investment into our mortgage follow-up program.  So our client enrolls six of the 10 loans they closed instead of all ten.

Fact: some of the highest value clients we have at Top of Mind came to us via referral from some of the smallest.  All Top of Mind clients feel the love, without exception.  By the way, this can happen for you in the mortgage business too.  Every single client represents an extremely valuable asset.  Most every borrower will need another mortgage someday.  Most every borrower has the ability to refer and/or endorse you.  If you execute properly, your client base will become a passionate sales force.  You’ve just gotta trust me here – make the investment in every single client.


CRM is just a fancy acronym for good old-fashioned customer service.  The concept itself is not rocket science.  But make no mistake – there is a right way and a wrong way to execute.

Interesting Marketing Survey Results from LOs

October 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


Recently a client of mine conducted a survey with 32 Loan Officers regarding the effectiveness of various marketing efforts they had been engaged in over time. The survey revealed that the top four marketing activities (those that actually brought in business) were:

  1. Past Client Marketing-Phone Calls (helpful info, touching base, etc.)
  2. Past Client Marketing-Mail (newsletters, etc.)
  3. Past Client Marketing-Email Blasts
  4. Referral Partner-Educational Presentations

And the marketing efforts that gained the least returns were:

  1. Lead Generation-Apartment Complex Campaigns (FTHB)
  2. Lead Generation-Purchase Leads
  3. Lead Generation-Newspaper/Magazine Ads
  4. Lead Generation-Direct Mail

This was a small survey sample and of course there are always outliers, but I believe this is a good micro view that does accurately reflect what the majority of Loan Officers have found to be true with regard to their own marketing experiences.

The further away from the target you are, the further away from a sale you are…period!  Something to chew on.

Our Real Estate Closing Gift Was Featured in REALTOR Magazine Today!

September 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Realtor Magazine

We’re extremely proud to announce we’ve been recognized by the editors of REALTOR Magazine for our Address Stamper Closing Gift in their annual Buyer’s Guide!

Our recommended closing gift is one of the least expensive options they featured - yet, it remains in the client’s home for as long as they own it.  And of course, it helps keep you “Top of Mind” at the same time.Closing Gift

Some interesting statistics shared in the REALTOR Magazine article:

  1. Real Estate Professionals spend an average of $51.80 on each closing gift.
  2. Most popular closing gifts:  Gift Certificates (65%) and Gift Baskets (36%)
  3. Some states limit the permissible value of a closing gift to $25 (You can check with your local REALTOR association to learn your state’s guidelines.

The magazine also published a great article that debates whether closing gifts are necessary.

My take:  your clients entrust you with the largest purchase decision most people ever make.  It’s certainly appropriate to say “thank you” for the business.  That being said, we also want folks to remember the great service they received.  The address stamper closing gift accomplishes this for you because the gift enjoys high utility – and it features your “ad image” on the top of the handle.

If you’d like to receive a free sample of our Address Stamper Closing Gift, please fill out the form below the fold.  Thank you REALTOR Magazine for featuring us!

Customer Contact System HELL-Tips to get you through it

September 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

fiery-hell“I should have a system. I’ve got to simplify my system. My system isn’t robust enough. What system will be most effective?” These are all common brain-drainers in the life of a solo entrepreneur.

The persistent challenge of keeping in touch with one’s customers, whether at the wooing stage, the in-process stage or after the close, seems to be a fiery purgatory for many Mortgage Professionals.

For those who have not finally surrendered to or fully implemented a “system,” the scale attempting to balance such competing activities as: keeping in touch with and in front of one’s customers vs. generating new ones, tips dramatically up and down from week to week. This teeter-totter motion affects our pipelines, our reputations and our peace of mind.

So why then do the majority of Mortgage Professionals continue to operate without one?

Some of the same old excuses rear their ugly heads…

I don’t have the money. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the support. I don’t know how. Money-Time-Support-Knowledge. The fears really never change.

But do you really need A LOT of any of the above to create a system that works for YOU? Heck no! So what DO you need?

  1. Email
  2. Phone
  3. Content
  4. Reminders

Don’t wrinkle up your noses at me…it really IS that simple.

Think about the “Why” behind creating systems.  Generally, we create systems to keep in touch with our customers so that…

We consistently fill their brain-slot for “Mortgage Professional” in an attempt to retain their future business and referrals.

-We separate ourselves from the competition in an attempt to keep our newly found customer from being woo’d or won over by someone else.

-We can focus our attentions on other money-generating activities in an attempt to keep our pipelines filled.

Now let’s fill in the “What” part of the equation.

elephantWhat do you want to do? Do you want to create a system for staying in touch with leads, past customers, in-process customers, business referral partners or some other group? I know, I know, all of the above, right? Wrong!

Tip#1-Pick one group and see it through to completion. You may feel like eating that elephant in one enormous gulp because it has been sitting on your plate for years, but BEWARE…the indigestion will keep you crippled for months and you still won’t have a system in place!

Tip #2-Never fix what isn’t broke. If you find yourself whiling away the hours perfecting email templates, videos or scripts…STOP NOW! If what you have includes your photo/logo, is relevant information, is devoid of editing errors and goes out like clock-work-you’re done. Move on to what you haven’t created.


Once you have pin-pointed what group you will focus on, it then becomes a matter of what type of materials you will send.

Will it be industry news via your blog? Will it be a hard mail newsletter? Will you send video updates via email? Does the group you are concentrating on warrant a regularly scheduled phone call, text message or LinkedIn update?

Tip #1-Don’t attempt to figure this out in your head. Look at the resources you already have, pull up a blank Word doc or a note pad and start writing down what you do have at your disposal.

Tip #2-If you have absolutely no collateral materials to work with, nor a marketing department, start researching the web. Of course, there’s always the plethora of information you can tap into by being a member of organizations such as, Top of Mind Networks, Loan Toolbox, Mortgage Girlfriends, Mortgage Coach, Mortgage Quest, etc. All of these companies offer ready-made customer service systems and collateral materials that you can plug into and utilize.

After you have identified the pieces, you can then determine the frequency. When will these items be delivered, dispersed, mailed or communicated?

Tip #1-If working on a touch-point system for your past customers, map out a year’s worth of deliverables. For leads, clients in process & referral partners, map out at least three month’s worth of deliverables.

noteNote from experience: If you attempt to determine what to send from one month to the next or one week from the next, the likelihood is that you won’t make contact at all.

Tip #2-There is always the debate as to what is too much and what is not enough when trying to determine the frequency of one’s touch-point systems. Here is my suggestion, which is based on what the majority of my own coaching clients have followed as a rule of thumb:

  • Past customers=1 x per month
  • Leads=every 2 days until they commit to sending in their application and docs.
  • Customers in process= 1 x per week
  • New business referral partnerships=2 x per month
  • Current business referral partnerships=1 x per month

Finally, and most importantly, how, how, how will you implement the system that you ducks-in-a-rowhave created?

Let’s look at what you have thus far:

  1. You have identified the group that you will focus on.
  2. You have identified your deliverables
  3. You have created a visual map of your deliverables, the vehicle (phone, email, blog, text, video, snail mail, etc.) and the frequency.

Your current capacity must dictate the “how.”

Tip #1-If you are a “one man band” it’s imperative that you utilize a reminder system such as your Outlook calendar, an “activity series” within ACT, an Excel spreadsheet, or you finally cough up a bit of dough and use the contact systems developed by the companies before-mentioned.

Tip #2-If you happen to have a personal assistant, transaction coordinator, marketing assistant, receptionist or some other dedicated soul, than for heaven’s sake, share the tasks, meet once a week on progress and needed system changes and delegate, delegate, delegate!

Putting a system together only becomes Hell when you continue to neglect the fact that you NEED one.

So for all you perfectionists out there who are still trying to locate those perfectly valuable, perfectly aesthetic, perfectly timed contact pieces or for you techno geeks who keep waiting for the CRM that will have it all/do it all, including dialing your customers and talking to them for you, STOP THE MADNESS. I’m giving you one, “Get out of Hell FREE” card, right now!

How I Use My Contact Management System to Follow Up With Prospects

September 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

We in sales have a tendency to have the same conversation with prospects every day.  Of course, it’s best practice to make sure you send a follow up email after every voicemail you leave.  One-To-One emails are time consuming to craft and therefore tend to have a negative impact on how many quality follow ups you can make in a given day.

I took a few minutes to show how I follow up on prospects using my contact management system (CMS) below.  Hope you find it useful.  We’re developing similar tools for our clients right now and I hope to have something pretty groovy to show you on this front within the next 60 days.

Sometimes 1.0 Is Better

September 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Getting a message to your database is all about one thing, breaking through the clutter. If your client never reads your message then it was a waste. Web 2.0 is, by design, a highly transparent communication tool. Even though you can generate highly personalized communications based on information your prospects, clients, and referral partners make readily available about themselves; the actual communication generated from your social networking sites shares some of the same non-personal flees as email. It is so easy, so cheap, and sometimes so automated that recipients of your communication just don’t give it too much thought; that is one of dozens (if not hundreds) of pieces of communications they will receive in this manner that day. Don’t get me wrong, Web 2.0, social networking, and email drip campaigns should be very important tools in your marketing mix; but what I am saying is that sometimes 1.0 is better.

Now more than ever companies are cutting back on direct mail marketing because of the hard cost associated with it. And even those not cutting back are still using the standard windowed envelopes with bulk mail, which is the cheapest option. Why not be the one sender in that day’s batch of mail to do it the right way and break through the clutter? A very professional looking, ivory colored envelope with the address printed directly on it (no address labels) and an actual first class postage stamp will do just that.

(actual envelope looks better I promise, had to size it down to fit the post)

A professional letter that is the very best looking of the 4-5 envelopes I get in my mailbox on a daily basis has a much higher chance of getting read than one of 70-100 marketing emails I get on a daily basis. In fact, each time Top of Mind Networks sends a letter to a prospect of ours we even ask them, “I bet this was the first letter you opened today wasn’t it?” That is the key to getting your marketing message across, be the first letter opened that day. So while we would never recommend that you not utilize email and social media in your day to day marketing, we do highly recommend that you also attack your database the old fashioned way and break through the clutter.

Fiend or Friend? 5 Tips for Proofreading Your Copy.

August 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

David Orsini and I got a good chuckle today when proofreading a letter we’d written for one of our clients.

1)  David proofed the letter 3x and brought it into my office.

2)  Our client proofed the letter and sent approval back with the green light.

3)  I proofed the letter 3x and didn’t find any glaring mistakes.

However, I proofed the letter at the end of the business day and was a bit fatigued.  So I decided to pick it back up first thing in the morning.  Good thing!  The copy read:

“If you or your fiends and family members ever need someone…”

Since “fiend” is a word, spell check didn’t catch this error!  Here are some tips to ensure you don’t make a gaffe on your next correspondence:

1)  Don’t put too much weight on your spell checker.  Type-o’s pop up in many funny ways, so don’t count on a computer to do the heavy lifting for you.

2)  Get a minimum of 3 people to proofread any critical correspondence you write before sending.  Preferably, you’ll select 3 people with high attention to detail.  Feel free to have more than 3 proofread your piece though – the more the better, believe me!

3)  Read the copy backwards at least one time.  This is the best way to identify double double words (more common than you’d think, especially when it happens at a line break).

4)  Proofread the copy when you’re at maximum alertness.  I’m really glad I read the letter again first thing in the morning.

5)  Proofread one sentence at a time – very slowly.  This is not one of those tasks you’re just trying to knock out so you can tackle another job.  It requires patience and diligence, so don’t rush it.

If you have any fiends (or friends) you’re looking to connect with via electronic or postal mail, be sure to put these five tips to work before hitting the ‘send’ button.  It might save you some embarrassment!  By the way, did you catch my double double type-o in this article?

The Risk and Reward of Permission Marketing

August 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

As a devoted permission marketer, my heart’s always telling me to give as much as I can to prospects and clients.  Our credo around here is to ”make it easy to say yes”.  Certainly this business philosophy has served us well over the years.

However, permission marketing comes with challenges.  Namely, when you open up the floodgates with prospects, it’s difficult to distinguish the promising leads from tire kickers.  The tenets of permission marketing require elbow grease and time – both of which are scarce and valuable resources.

We as marketers are forced to choose between two scary situations:

1)  The more you give (value) - the more you get (prospects).

Well that doesn’t seem scary until it’s time to service permission-based leads.  I’ll give you an example.  We give away a free sample of our address stamper closing gift on our website.  Lots of people request these free samples – and we’re happy to send them out.  Win-Win, right?  But in order for us to monetize these prospects, we must be committed to engage in the sales process – not some of the way, but all the way.  Phone calls, emails, letters – the whole nine.

The question becomes:  how hard do you chase somebody that hasn’t demonstrated any true buying signals?  We’ve been testing this permission marketing technique, and I really believe in it.  However, our initial takeaway is critical – if you are not committed to following up with vigor on these permission-based prospects, don’t engage in the campaign.  You’ll be wasting your money.

2)  Without a unique edge… a hook if you will… you’re just another widget.

The world’s full of widgets.  Let’s be honest – loan originators all sell the same money.  On the surface, you’re widgets.  Likewise, we’re not the only mortgage CRM company out there.  So we all have to find our differential advantage.  For Top of Mind, a dedication to permission-based marketing has been a key edge.  I guess you could say permission marketing gets us a lot of  ”at bats” to use a baseball term.

But what if we were like everyone else and we didn’t give away so much value up front?  We wouldn’t have as many “at bats”, that’s for sure.  However, I’d be inclined to say that the “at bats” we did get would result in a higher closing percentage.  There’s something to be said for that too.


We’re going to keep giving the store away around here.  But we also need to better identify interested prospects earlier in the sales cycle than we are today.  I think mortgage professionals should also test permission-based techniques in their marketing approach.  For example, I like the idea of giving away a free credit report – no catch, no questions asked.  This would undoubtedly get you a lot of “at bats”.  I’m inclined to believe that you’d see:

a)  Tire kickers who will waste your time.

b)  Prospects who aren’t ready for a mortgage today.  But what happens when you continue developing these new relationships over time?  Would credit counseling make sense?  Surely these prospects will be in the market for a mortgage at some point in the future.

c)  Prospects who are actively in the market for a mortgage.  And I don’t need to tell you how valuable a lead these are.

I’d love to see a Top of Mind Blog reader integrate the idea into their marketing for 30 days.  Maybe you’d budget for $1,000 in free credit reports.  Market this in your advertising and on your website.  If anyone is willing to step up and test this idea, I’ll even chip in with a free 50-piece mailing – on the house – to any 50 prospects you want to send the offer to.

Let’s learn together.  If you’d like to take me up on the offer, please call the office and ask for me.  We are at 404-943-9910.

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