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)

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.

Social Media Revealed

August 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

This is an awesome video someone shared with me over at Broker Outpost. If you don’t have a good website, a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook page, or a blog; YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS VIDEO. I am obviously a big proponent of social media and the statistics shared in this video even shocked me. Enjoy!

Real Estate is Local, So Is Google

July 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I was reading this article on Duct Tape Marketing this morning and got to thinking how realtors and mortgage professionals could put this strategy to use for them. This article describes how local business owners can use the Google Local Business Center to add their business to a directory within Google.

google-mortgageI am sure you have all seen search results from Google that look like this image, where they list out certain businesses that match your criteria and show them on a Google Map. This directory is how that comes to be. So the old saying goes, “Real Estate Is Local”, so why not use the tools Google is giving us to make our business more easily found by local people who are searching for it?

And if anyone is utilizing Google AdWords you can now link these to your Google Local Business Profile and have your physical address show up in the Ad based on the address of the person doing the searching. Check out Local Extensions for more information.

Based on your profile, Google will also show you some cool analytics. Within the dashboard you can view how many people clicked on your profile, what keywords they searched for to get them there, and you can even see their physical location if they searched for driving directions.

This profile also allows you to add more than just your company name, phone, and address. This is also another great spot where you can add a back-link to your website or blog and embed some additional keywords. I have not attempted to measure the SEO benefits of this, but I can assure you it will not hurt. All things considered, this is just one more tool you can use to help people find you. It takes about 5 minutes to setup and you are done. Other than checking your analytics from time to time you really never have to touch it again.

Another Web 2.0 Strategy: Tweet Grid

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

How powerful would it be if as a mortgage professional, you could tell when someone looking to refinance their home was unsatisfied with their current mortgage broker? Or if another person is questioning something about the rate they got from the broker they are currently with? Or what if you could tell when someone was interested in buying a home in your city? All of this type of information is invaluable to any mortgage professional. These are hot hot hot leads, people that need your help right now! Well these same people are putting this information right out there on the internet for anyone to see; you just have to know where to look.

I will be the first to admit; at first I thought Twitter was stupid. In fact, I am still not 100% sold on it. I have found ways to make it work for me for my business, but why hundreds of thousands of regular people use it every day to announce to the world what they are doing at that particular moment in time really does not make sense to me. That being said, if people want to tell the world they need the service I provide and I know how to find them telling the world that, then that is a positive thing for my business. So without much further adieu; I introduce to you Tweet Grid.

There are multiple social search engines designed to search your various social networking sites that can in some form or another yield similar results as Tweet Grid. However, Tweet Grid does not function like a normal search engine, other than the fact that you don’t need to setup any kind of an account to use it and it is free. It is (as the name suggests) a grid where you can type in multiple search phrases and the results are fed in to the grid in real time. In other words, you don’t search for one thing, see your results, and then search for another thing (refreshing the page), see your results, and so on. With Tweet Grid you can have up to 9 searches happening simultaneously and in real time. So as someone tweets (I really hate saying that word, and hate typing it worse) the question “am I being taken by my broker?“, you can be one of the very first people to see it. Take a look at the grid image below. Ahh, who am I kidding? The image is way too small to see all of the text. Click on the image to see it full size. I have blurred out the screen names of the twits (users of Twitter?) to protect the innocent; but you can see what they are typing that match my search criteria.


You can see above that at the time I was writing this blog post, there was:

  1. Someone thinking about buying another house as a rental – maybe they need financing.
  2. 3 people are house hunting in my home town of Atlanta – maybe they need financing as well.
  3. 11 days before the scheduled closing someone is getting some bad vibes from their mortgage company – maybe they could use a second opinion, you may not win the business this time since it is so close to closing, but you could use this opportunity to earn their trust, then maybe add them to your marketing campaign and be there to earn their business next time.
  4. someone who thinks they are being taken by their broker because they were quoted a .5 higher interest rate because of the county they live in – come in with an honest quote and educate this prospect and I bet the business is yours.

And all of these examples are just from right now as I type this blog. I may not be a big fan of the concept of Twitter; but as a business owner I know that if people want to talk about needing my services then I certainly need to listen.

The Proper Way To Add A Hyperlinked Picture To Your Outlook Email Signature

June 22, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

This brief video will walk you through, soup to nuts, the best way (at least the best way in my humble opinion, feel free to chime in if you have any better ways of doing this) to embed a hyperlinked image into your Outlook Email signature. It seems silly that something that appears so trivial on the surface would require a video tutorial; but there are a lot of ins, a lot of outs, and a lot of what-have-you’s involved in this. By the way, this demo is accurate as of Outlook 2003.

If for whatever reason you are having problems viewing this video or you want to see a larger version (so you can read everything) you can also see it here.

Shout Out: Genuine Chris Finds A Sweet Twitter Angle

June 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

You Can Search Twitter Using Hash-Tags Too

Twitter Hash Tag

I’m not down with Twitter yet.

But as y’all know I’m a religious Bloodhound Blog reader, and “Genuine” Chris Johnson gave some Twitter goodies too tasty for me not to share.  Here’s the article:

The Case For Twitter, Really Fast

This just goes to show a few things:

1)  You don’t have to write an encyclopedia to author a great article.  If you can get your point across in 150 words – fantastic.

2)   If you haven’t hooked up your Google Reader yet, you’re missing the boat.  I won’t always be able to pass these nuggets along on the Top of Mind Blog.

3)  Givers get.  Chris Johnson is a guy I continue to respect more and more every time I read him.  Ultimately, I know that I’ll find a way to do business with him.  If you don’t think your work is getting noticed online, don’t give up.  Trust me – people are noticing.

Help Me Help NAMB Help You

June 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Confused by the headline of this article?

I wrote an article on Lenderama this morning.  Please take a moment to read now:

An Unofficial NAMB Regulatory Update on HVCC – Oh, And A Call To Action For All Of Us NAMB Bashers.

In this article, I’m trying to show NAMB President Marc Savitt that if he’ll talk to us we’ll listen.  More so, we’ll get involved.  I don’t need to tell you what impact HVCC and HR 1728 will have on our industry.  The question becomes:  What can each of us do to help?

Would you please take a moment to add a comment on my Lenderama article?  I think Marc Savitt would love to hear that the time and energy he’s dedicating to our cause is being appreciated.

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!

Newspaper is a Dead Mortgage Marketing Vehicle

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

It literally hurts writing this article having worked at two fine newspapers during my career:  The Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.  Nonetheless, you need to know where to spend your time and marketing dollars as mortgage marketers.

Tom Royce at The Real Estate Bloggers posted a revealing chart this morning (link below):

1 in 3 Buyers Now Come From The Internet

According to NAR research, in 1997 the Internet played a role in only 2% of real estate purchase decisions.  In 2008, 37% of home buyers used the Internet (and I’d be willing to bet the number will be over 50% by 2010 as sites like Trulia and Zillow evolve).

Here’s my ulterior motive in sharing Tom’s article on the Top of Mind Blog:  We’re in the late stages of a lovely refinance market, perhaps the last we’ll see in the next 5+ years.  Very soon, we’re going to see the men separate from the boys.  How many Realtors value you more than you value them?  What above and beyond “service” and “rates” can you truly use to differentiate yourself from your competition?

If you’re hedging on the importance of Web 2.0 (like a certain Maryland-based originator I know!), Tom’s article ought to create a sense of urgency to embrace the Internet as a powerful marketing vehicle.  There are a bunch of us here to help show you the way, and it’s not as hard as it might appear.  Two hours a week will get you started.

For the beginners: What is SEO?

May 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I imagine most of the readers we have here at the Top of Mind Networks Blog have some degree of understanding of online marketing, social networking, and web 2.0 strategies. However, I know many people in the mortgage industry do not, and in case you are one of those folks and have happened upon our blog I would like start at the beginning for you. The primary motivation behind all of these concepts is Search Engine Optimization.

SEOSo what is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? The best way to answer this question is with another question. How do I get found online? The number of consumers shopping online has steadily increased over the past few years. And the mortgage and real estate industries are no exception. If you think your client base is not doing their due diligence online then you are mistaken. Everyone in our industry needs a web presence, and everyone needs to able to be found online. And how do you expect your clients and prospects to find you online? The answer to this is simple, they use Google, MSN, Yahoo!, etc. And when using these tools to research mortgage rates or local real estate, if they don’t find you they will find your competitors.

Search Engine Optimization is a strategy to make your web presence easier to find. There are a plethora of resources out there (simply Google the term SEO and you will see what I mean) and varying opinions on the absolute best ways to get your web site or blog higher up on the search results page, but there are a few basic, universally accepted ways to help increase your “Googleability“:

  1. Content Is Key: This is the number 1 piece of advice I can give anyone who is trying to up their online presence. It may not be the number 1 factor is SEO but if someone happens to find your site and there is nothing good there then they will simply hit the back button and move on to the next site. Make sure your site provides valuable content. This will not only have a positive effect on your SEO but will also provide your audience with more value once they have found you… and that is what keeps them coming back.
  2. Link Building: Get websites from either in your industry or in relevant industries to link to your site. Outside links have a positive impact for your SEO.
  3. Keywords: Try to find out which search phrases get the most attention from the search engines. There are many tools out there one can use to find out what search phrases are popular based on what your company does. Once you know what search phrases you want to compete for, try to incorporate them in your website; both in the content and in the META tags of your site.

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