Retail mortgage lenders, especially in a purchase environment, rely on a continued stream of business from Realtor® referrals, other business referrers and past clients coming back to them to either refinance or purchase a new property. Other industry companies must also rely on repeat clients and referrals. But, there are times when you may discover that your past clients are not as committed to doing business with your company as you thought. Or, if you’re a retail lender, the real estate agents you thought were “in your back pocket” don’t always refer you…or their referrals fall off over time.
With the refinance spigot closing, mortgage lenders are going to be competing fiercely for the relationships that yield purchase transactions. This means that you must learn how to nurture current and new relationships so that you and your company are top of mind for the right transactions.
Assuming that you’re competitive in the market and you understand exactly what your brand is, it then comes down to focusing on and understanding the primacy and power of the individual. This means recognizing that individuals with strong social skills that likely have vast networks, a.k.a. “socially desirable,” can be very strong brand ambassadors and they have the power to “recruit” others to either do business with your company or even become great new additions to your team.
Think about this…your hair dresser or barber is an expert at focusing on the primacy and power of individuals…whether they know it or not! Their livelihood, like yours, depends on building a following. While you sit in their chair, they discover things about you that you may not even admit to your significant other. They engage you in conversation to form that bond. They become a part of your life… even an influencing factor in decisions you make. They make you feel like you’re their favorite client…and you believe it. They don’t criticize you, they shower you with acceptance and all the rest. They make you feel good, happy, accepted. They actually have a lot in common with companies like Apple, JetBlue, Harley Davidson, Mary Kay Cosmetics…and the list goes on. All of these brands have a devoted following that is unparalleled. What do all these examples have in common? They understand the power of finding and engaging well-socialized people that can help them move to the next level. These brands know how to attract the right customers and employees, and then take hold of a piece of your subconscious and conscious mind…turning you into a devoted “follower” and also an active brand ambassador. So, how can you as a retail mortgage banker, title company, appraisal firm, LOS provider or any other type of company accomplish the very same thing that these great brands and even your hair dresser/barber has managed to accomplish? How do you develop a following that is so loyal that working with another would not even be in their purview?
Here are 4 aspects to achieving unparalleled brand devotion…
1) Focus your company on the individual. Develop a strategy for hiring and training with a near fanatical belief that good, devoted employees that believe in your brand bring good clients that can be potentially great brand ambassadors. With the right formula in place, you can count on your clients to be as committed as your employees to inform others of your company and people who make up your company.
Take Apple for example. Their passion for the product and demonization for years of PC’s has driven their company to build such a loyal following that many users will buy direct from the company “so they get all the money.” That’s a real quote. Not kidding! Great example of how good, passionate employees bring good, passionate clients.
2) Obtain the right recruits for your brand. Successful brands recruit the right people. These people are considered “socially attractive” in that they know how to engage people and people have a desire to engage with them. These people typically have a network of friends, family and acquaintances that can be leveraged as avenues of recruitment both as clients and also as employees.
Think Harley Davidson for a moment…about their culture, the “inner bad-boy” or rebel that they’ve built their brand upon. Do you think Harley would ever hire someone that isn’t “into” the bike and would rather drive a crotch rocket? JetBlue is another example of a great company that has employed this methodology. It’s known as “peer recruiting.” JetBlue employees are all given business cards…pilots can find and interview new pilots, flight attendants keep an eye out for those they come across in their daily lives that they feel could excel working for JetBlue.
How about recruiting the right clients? If clients are recruited by the same standards as employees…this leads to exponential growth as they are “qualified,” in a way, to be your clients. eBay is a great example of this. The eBay business model works through a code of trust among all community members. Buyers and sellers alike all place a high value on their individual ratings. If as a buyer or seller you violate transactional rules or trust, your rating lowers quickly, eventually to the point where you lose the ability to buy or sell on eBay. There’s a high moral code associated with doing business on eBay designed to encourage only the right kind of membership.
3) Create opportunities for interaction. People, through their interactions with whom they are networked, drive sustainability and growth for companies as advocates. Therefore, it only makes sense to create venues within which they can interact…whether that be online in social communities or in person at gatherings.
Setting up interactive opportunities allows brand ambassadors to invite those with whom
they’re networked to join in. By doing so, the community can extend the welcome and encourage their becoming a “user” of your product or service as a byproduct of the interaction they experience.
So how can this play out for you as a lender? Here’s an easy one…how about a “family day” at a local park where your current and past clients can bring not only their families, but their friends and neighbors as well…and maybe even be rewarded in some way for doing so. If you’re creative, many opportunities exist both on and off-line. The key is inviting current clients, past clients and business referrers and encouraging them to bring others with them that have not yet done business with your company.
4) Keep the venue focused. Not only should venues be provided for interaction, but that interaction needs to be controlled so that participants are clearly there under your brand. If the venues are such that people can freely move from one to another group that may be completely disassociated with your brand and engage with others, then you’ve lost control. These venues must carry your brand colors, verbiage and personality and encourage free interaction. Don’t put your employees in a position where they need to “sell,” rather let them just interact. People have a natural need to interact with others of like mind.
For example, JetBlue does a remarkable job of this. If you notice, their flight attendants are not there to deliver meals throughout the flight and then hide in the front or back of the plane. They hand out simple snacks and spend the balance of the time interacting with their passengers and assisting them in any way they can…with a much friendlier attitude than their rivals. At the end of the flight, they also ask that their passengers chip in and clean the area around them to make it quicker and easier to bring in the next set of passengers. What a great sense of community they’ve developed!
I encourage you to think deeply about each one of these four points and how they might apply to your company. The key is to think beyond the transaction and think about the individual and how you can keep his/her attention in an engaging way. Simply pummeling them with emails, post cards and what have you can’t be your only methodologies. Rather, create a sense of “belonging” and “community” for them.