Developing Your Niches
By David Robinson
As many originators have shown, one of the best ways to expand your production is to have a balance of “general” purchase and refi business, along with one or more effective niches.
Here are a few basics suggestions for developing your customer niches.
Analyze your base. See what potential niche audiences you already have; those specific groups of customers you have assisted with a refinance or purchase. Organize into categories.
Research interests and buying patterns. Find out how those within the niche make their homebuying decisions. For example, do they rely on recommendations from friends or a financial advisor? Read specific publications?
Work with Realtors. Talk to agents who may have similar niches and suggest you share referrals and resources.
Get referrals. Ask your niche customers to share recommendations to others in their group. Ask them to provide a testimonial that you can include in your marketing material.
Develop marketing materials. A marketing flier and website notice will demonstrate your expertise and interest in helping these borrowers.
Attend meetings. You may be able to participate in a neighborhood or other association meeting where you could learn more about the niche.
Hold a workshop. It may be appropriate to offer an intro workshop for the niche group. Fire safety and medical professionals and others have been receptive to hosting such programs.
Write articles. See if you can write an article on a real estate finance/related topic for a publication popular with the niche audience.
Here are a few niche success stories:
Medical Professionals—Linda Mister, WR Starkey Mortgage, Ft. Worth, Texas, established a hospital physician niche. She initially met with the administrators at two major hospitals and suggested that she could assist their doctors. “I sold myself by providing customer and Realtor testimonials and highlighting my track record so that they were confident I could deliver on what I promised,” she said. They allowed her to display fliers that announce “I have the Perfect Prescription for You,” and include homeownership details aimed at first-time buyers.
Divorcing Homeowners—Matt Elerding, The Elerding Team, Powered by HomeStreet Bank, Vancouver, Wash., developed a niche with people going through a divorce. ““I have a handful of attorneys with whom I have developed close working relationships. In turn, they have entrusted me with their clientele in need of a divorce type loan. The other loans of this type come from past clients who are returning to me after their marriage has gone awry.”
Elerding sends monthly e-mails to all the attorneys in his database. “I have found that there is a tight network among attorneys and if you stay in regular contact with them, your name will eventually rise to the top of the list as the ‘go to’ loan officer for these types of mortgages.”
The Military—Louise Thaxton, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, with several offices in central Louisiana, developed a military marketing campaign of “Zero to the Hero” (Zero closing cost to military buyers). She provides Realtors with brochures and flyers that have a patriotic theme; incorporating the American flag, eagles, and key words such as serve, freedom, hero and team. “We marketed to the Realtors on both sides of the sale,” she explained. “I was attending all of my closings, meeting agents and title reps, making weekly sales presentations and promoting our ‘Zero for the Hero’ theme.”
Thaxton also began offering VA “lunch and learn” seminars to area Realtors. “It has provided them with the information they need to better understand how to work with the military borrower,” she said. Of course, Thaxton also emphasizes Fairway’s capability to close a VA loan in less than two weeks, a significant benefit to military homebuyers.
Immigrant Population—Beata Bukowski, Forum Mortgage Bancorp (Team Beata Bukowski), Chicago, discovered that the ethnic marketplace offers an ideal opportunity to reach prospective customers. One of her most effective marketing strategies is appearing on an ethnic radio station to speak about news in the mortgage industry. “I appear as an ‘expert guest’ on a weekly program to help educate people,” she explained. “I’m Polish and I talk about the general economy and its trickling effect on the Polish community. I also give the listeners, many of whom aren’t able to read English—and who very religiously listen to the radio—education that they are not able to obtain elsewhere. This includes information about available loan programs, credit scores, bank requirements, and preparation for getting started on loan applications.”
Brides—One loan originator has been successful with a “future bride” niche, by attending bridal shows and handing out first-time buyer tips and other information.
Fire Safety personnel—After arranging mortgages for a few firemen/women, another LO was able to make a presentation at the local station, which helped him further expand this niche.
Athletes—Professional and other athletes can be especially loyal customers. A loan originator assisted an ice hockey player obtain his first home. The professional player then began referring his teammates.
Seniors—A veteran LO found a successful niche with seniors who have a reverse mortgage. He added the “Reverse Refinance?” as a call-to-action headline in a brief letter sent monthly to 300 families. The text begins with “Who knew you could refinance your Reverse Mortgage?” This simple strategy has been highly successful.
College students—Another originator developed an effective niche with parents of college students; by arranging the financing for condos and second homes for their children to live in while attending college.
Additional niche opportunities include first-timers, move-up buyers, college classmates, PTA members/other school groups, millenials, teachers, vacation homeowners and law enforcement officers.
David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.