Top of Mind Networks

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)
envelope-standard-no10

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?

Why Survey Your Borrowers After Closing?

July 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

mortgagesurveyOne of our clients is an LO here in Atlanta. Let’s call him Bob. Bob is what I consider to be a “low cost provider”. He gives his borrowers very aggressive pricing. He’s not the greatest customer service guy I’ve ever met. But if you’re looking for a deal – Bob’s your guy.

Bob’s doing a loan for a doctor – large purchase price & large commission. They get to the closing table and the doctor reviews the settlement statement. Keep in mind that Bob’s given him a great deal…

“What’s this courier fee for $28?” asks the doctor.

“That fee covers the cost of shipping the documentation for your loan to the lender.” says Bob.

“Well I don’t think I should have to pay for that. That’s your cost of doing business!”

“Not a problem.” replies Bob. “I’ll be happy to send you a check for the $28 once I get back to the office”.

The doctor is agreeable to this solution. The loan closes. Everyone’s happy. The doctor moves into his new house and Bob heads back to the office to work on new loans in process… and of course Bob forgets to send the doctor the $28 check.

As I mentioned, Bob is a Top of Mind Networks client – so Bob enrolls the doctor into our 5-Year, 24-Touch Follow Up program.

30-days after closing, we send the doctor the Customer Satisfaction Survey. This correspondence includes a self-addressed, stamped envelope and is returned directly to Bob.

Well wasn’t Bob surprised when he hears the doctor’s feedback about how he viewed the transaction? I won’t get into details, but let’s just say that “scathing” is a word that comes to mind. He never got his $28 check and that’s all he could remember. Not the great deal, not the smooth transaction, it was all about 28 bucks.

If Bob didn’t have the mechanism to elicit this feedback, he would have lost this client forever. Fortunately, upon receiving the doctor’s survey, Bob was able to rectify the situation and save the relationship.

In summary, if you don’t survey your clients after every closing, the same thing has probably happened to you at some point. It’s critical to elicit feedback from your clients – whether positive or negative.

Top of Mind Announcement: We're Building a New Customer Acquisition Direct Mail Division

July 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Happy Monday everyone.

I read a recent thread on the Loan Tool Box forum that really disturbed me.  An Atlanta-based broker was looking for a firm specializing in direct mail marketing.  I actually replied to that thread to learn more about what this fellow wanted in his vendor.  This was about 6 months ago, I’m guessing.

Last week, this same mortgage broker posted about a nightmarish experience with the vendor he’d selected.  I won’t go into details here, but suffice it to say – he got ripped off.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot of that going on in the direct mail space.  It’s a shame.  So we figure there’s an opportunity for a trusted vendor to fill a need…

Therefore, I’d like to formally announce that we are building a Customer Acquisition Direct Mail division at Top of Mind Networks.  Our objective will be to redefine the space through:

1)  Honesty:  Your direct mail vendor ought to supply you with proof that the job went out  on time and with 100% accuracy.  You ought to know who received the direct mail piece.  These are “givens” that most vendors seem to screw up with alarming consistency.

2)  Transparency:  There’s an earned distrust in the land of direct mail vendors, so we’ll set out to change that by showing our clients what the campaign costs, how much we’re marking it up, etc.  No, we don’t plan to work for free.  But we’re not afraid to show our clients the components of a successful direct mail campaign – and how we’re earning our keep.  That’s a pretty novel idea for this business – and who better to step up and implement than Top of Mind?

3)  Training:  We’re known in the mortgage business as a turn-key operation.  In other words, our clients entrust us to execute without fail while they’re focusing on the core business of helping borrowers.  We’ll bring that same methodology to our direct marketing division.  Perhaps as important:  we’ll train our clients on best practices to ensure they’re turning inquiries into applications – and closed loans.

Is your firm using direct mail to generate mortgage leads?  If so, I’d love to interview you so I can learn how best to serve our clients in this new space.  Would you please call me at 404-943-9910?

Also, if you’ve been thinking of testing direct mail for customer acquisition purposes, don’t hesitate to give me a shout.  We’re committed to bringing our clients an honest service at a fair price.

Quite frankly, we’re pretty excited about it too.

Using Surveys in Your Mortgage CRM Approach

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

SurveyCRM in and of itself is not a complicated concept.  We deepen relationships with our clients and sphere of influence over time, identifying selling opportunities in the process.

Ask any sales trainer and they’ll tell you that the key to closing the deal is listening more than you’re talking.  The same tenets hold true in CRM, although they’re somewhat more difficult to implement.  That’s why one of our favorite tools here at Top of Mind is our good old Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire.

Without question, this correspondence elicits the highest response rate of any of our 24-touches.  Further, the data we’re able to collect in the process provides invaluable insight into the client experience:

1)  When surveying your client – ask for permission to use as a testimonial. It’s one thing for you to tell a prospect or referral source how great you are.  It’s completely another for an actual client to provide this message.  Make this a standard practice and you’ll have 50 or more testimonials before you know it.  Some of our clients save these surveys in a binder and leave them on the coffee table in their office.  Others scan and post them to their websites.

2)  Keep your survey short and simple. Like anything else, put yourself in the shoes of the respondent before executing on any campaign.  If you’re unlikely to answer a 4-page, 50-question survey, chances are excellent your client will react the same way.  We prefer to keep our surveys to one page.

3)  Ask a few open-ended questions. Check boxes certainly make surveys easier to complete, but they don’t get you the type of “sound bites” you’re really looking for.  If your question can be answered with a “yes” or “no”, try to also include a follow-up question asking “If so, why…” or “If not, what could we do to …”.

4)  Pay for return postage and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for easy return. This alone will dramatically improve your response rates.  Quite frankly, your client is doing you a favor so I think it’s schlocky to ask them to pay for postage.  Hey, that’s what you pay us for, right?

If you’re interested in integrating surveys into your CRM approach, there are several excellent tools out there to help make it easier:

1)  Survey Monkey:  This is a website where you can craft surveys online.  They have a free service that will get the job done.  For more complex functionality, their monthly charge is $19.95/month.  There are a few other online providers, one of them being Zoomerang.

2)  Top of Mind is also here to help you.  Case in point, one of our clients asked us to craft a new survey over the weekend that’s going to help them generate more referrals to give to their referral sources.  If you have a vision, or a marketing challenge you’d like to implement, try giving us a call to see if we can help.  After all, that’s what we’re here for.

Make it a fantastic week everyone.

Postal Rate Increase – Again

May 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

stampFirst Class Stamps went up another $.02 to $.44 effective today.  This is of course not great news for companies like Top of Mind Networks that send a few pieces of mail here and there.  The good news to our clients is that for this increase (as well as last 3 consecutive postage rate increases) we will not be raising our prices at all.  USPS has also made mention of eliminating mail delivery for Saturdays in an effort to cut costs.

If you build it…they will come

April 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

fieldofdreams

Of the numerous seminars I have given on managing a database and database marketing, I am still amazed at how few mortgage professionals truly profit from it. I think it is partially because database marketing is misunderstood, but mainly I think it is because few people ever truly establish a database that amounts to much more than an outlook contact folder. To many, managing a database seems like a separate full time job and they do not see the ROI. To others, they may think their past clients do not want to hear from them again (which may be true in some cases) while others consider it an intrusion to constantly mail to the same group of people. The fact is, managing and marketing to your database can have a tremendous impact on your longevity in the mortgage industry.

I live off my database. I cherish every person in there. My kids eat because of my database. My database bought my house, cars, virtually everything I own. While many of my own staff are out chasing new business, I am talking on the phone with old friends. When I meet with them, we rarely talk about rates and fees. When I ask them for referrals, they can’t wait to send them. Last week one of my past clients came in to refinance his loan. By the end of the day I had also helped his son and daughter in law.

There has never been a better time to be considered a trusted advisor in this business. People are full of anxiety and the last thing they want to do is talk to someone they don’t know. The true professionals in this business (those of us who didn’t make our living putting unqualified borrowers into pay option ARM’s) should thrive during this economic downturn. The bottom-feeders have left the business and people are looking for guidance and expertise. Your past clients and sphere of influence need to hear from you. Here are a few strategies that will help you build and maintain a working database that will yield consistent results:

1.       Make sure you’ll use it. I am often asked what the best database software is. The answer? Whichever one you will use consistently. I have toyed with many programs and have found that the more complicated they are, the less likely I will use it. Some experts argue that you should gather your client’s entire life story and enter it into your database. I disagree. Keep it simple.

2.       Regular Contact. You must contact your database regularly. Monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, it doesn’t matter as long as they are getting it regularly. All you want them to do is think of you when they think mortgage.

3.       Provide Value. Newsletters get thrown away. So do fliers with those round stickers you have to rip open to read the insidtrashe. Recipes get thrown away too, along with business cards. You must provide value. Fridge magnets, calendars, sports schedules, grocery lists, and bottle openers will have a use in your client’s home- just remember to put your contact info on it.

4.       Fire your bad clients. It may sound crazy, but there are some people I have worked with that I would not care to work with again. They don’t go in the database. While I will lose the potential income of working with them in the future, I stand to lose far more from having to deal with a client who does not appreciate and respect what I do for them. While these clients may potentially send me referrals, they are likely to be just like them! Birds of a feather…

5.       Keep it up to date. The last thing you want to do is send out something to 500 people and have 200 returned. Update your database regularly and you will save big money on postage.

6.       Don’t overdo it! I have come across some people who mail to their database so often that they are receiving calls asking to be dropped from their mailing list. Think about how much mail you get. Unless it requires action (such as a bill) most items become less interesting the more often we see them. Keep in touch, but don’t harass.

7.       Track your leads. This is the most important step and biggest reason people stop mailing to their database. Since response to a mailer can often take a bit of time, people often fail to realize what generated the lead in the first place. You should track every lead and know exactly how it was acquired. This is how to measure your success in each area of your business. If you don’t know your numbers, you will forever be an amateur. Ask anyone in your office who plays on their church softball team what their batting average is and they won’t be able to tell you. They’ll probably give you a rough estimate (which will also be totally wrong). But ask a professional baseball player his batting average, and he will know it down to 1/1000th of a percent. Why? Because he’s a professional.

"Kathy and I have now put you on the top of our list to refer you for future business"

February 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

That’s a direct quote from an email Top of Mind Networks client Rusty Maddox of Home America Mortgage received at 2:23pm this afternoon.

Why?  Because while Rusty was at home with his family on Sunday afternoon, Top of Mind had sent out a Settlement Statement Reminder Letter to all Rusty’s clients.

Even better – this informative letter also branded the referring agent who sent Rusty each deal.

So, when Rusty got back into the office from a late lunch Monday afternoon, he received an email from an agent who sends the occasional borrower his way.

The agent was so impressed by Rusty’s follow through and commitment to customer service, he moved Rusty to the top of his lender list.

It’s just another inspiring success story for us to share with you.  Rusty, thanks for your business and keep up the great work!

This Stuff Really Works

February 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I had a very flattering experience yesterday at my Super Bowl party and thought it would be worth sharing with everyone. I showed up at a friends house for the party and one of my other good friends Matt was also there who happens to be a local Loan Officer and client of ours. A little while later another one of our mutual friends showed up who recently purchased a home and did his loan with my friend Matt. Right when he walked in the door he says, “Hey Matt, I just got your letter… what do I need to do to file for my Homestead Exemption?” You see, Matt had enrolled our buddy in the 5 Year Follow Up Campaign so as part of that we had sent out a reminder to file for your Homestead Exemption on his behalf. He couldn’t believe that Matt hadn’t actually sent that letter and personally signed it when we told him that it actually came from me. So that was very rewarding for me; the correspondences that we send out for our clients really do look and feel like the Loan Officer sat down and took the 5 minutes to personally write their borrower a letter.

Using Permission Marketing in your Mortgage CRM

January 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Your CRM efforts should always bolster two top-line objectives:

  1. Facilitation of Repeat Business
  2. Facilitation of Referral Business

Here’s an execution strategy you can implement tomorrow, followed by a brief ROI analysis.

Give a Free Credit Report 1x/year, Complete with FICO Score Analysis

Execution:  Send a letter to your sphere of influence DB promoting a Free Credit Report. 

Call to action:  “Call Me To Ensure Your Credit Score is Maximized At All Times.”  I’ve written a draft (below).

Sample Letter

ROI Analysis: 

Expect a 10% response rate on this mailing.  Easily lift rate to 25% or better if you can discipline yourself to call behind the letters.

100 letters to your DB signed, sealed and delivered by Top of Mind costs $1/letter = $100

10% response rate = 10 inquiries so you’ll spend another $100 to $150 on credit reports.
Thus, your approximate cost should be $250 for every 100 letters sent.

Broken down further, your approximate cost per FICO Analysis conducted will be $25.

Greg Frost teaches us that approximately 15% of our database will be in the market for a mortgage sometime in the next 12 months.  David Orsini covers this concept nicely in our Surefire Video.  Therefore, our expectation should be that 10 FICO Analyses (ie:  meetings with potential clients!) should yield 1.5 transactions.

Assuming you earn $1,000 for each loan transaction, that’s $1,500 in revenue for the 1.5 people you financed directly from the campaign.  In other words, your direct ROI was $1,250 on a $250 investment (5x). 

Goodwill:

What about the 8.5 people you consulted with and didn’t do an immediate loan for?
You’ve just deepened that relationship, fostered future reciprocity and created a potential referral machine.

The Bottom Line:

The immediate 5x ROI is nice.  And the ancillary benefits (increased goodwill and Top of Mind Awareness) are even better.  Using a valuable giveaway in your CRM will lift response rates and drive ROI.  This technique is commonly referred to as Permission Marketing and as we all know in this business - the more you give the more you get!

Execute Without Fail.