Most loan originators expand their business by developing mutually beneficial relationships with Realtors, financial planners, builders, CPAs, attorneys and other strategic partners.
A key step is developing an organized network of professionals and then helping them improve their business. Loan originators can assist their strategic partners by sharing marketing ideas, sending articles that relate to their business or outside interests, introducing them to other potential strategic partners, co-hosting events and supporting their charitable programs.
To expand her network, Linda Davidson joined the Women’s Council of Realtors and local MLS groups. “This was critical because I didn’t have many relationships at that point,” said Davidson, Service First Mortgage in Garland, Texas. “I gradually got to know the Realtors and received my first referrals. It was a basic but effective strategy.”
Davidson further enhanced her marketing by holding homebuyer seminars for agents; sharing information about first-time homebuyer programs, Finance 101 and Giving Back to Veterans.
She later created a weekly Market Update that covers a variety of topics of interest to real estate agents and other strategic partners. “We started with a 100 person distribution and now e-mail it to over 5,000 of our combined contacts.”
In addition, Davidson started publishing another weekly e-mail bulletin—Ask The Expert— which highlights a single topic such as FHA updates, calculating closing costs, new USDA programs and Converting an Existing Home to Rental. “Both of these pieces help to brand us as the expert. I’ve heard agents say ‘we get canned stuff from other originators but I always read your material,’” she noted.
Agents and others also appreciate her offer of Six Ways to Reach Us, which includes Facebook, office and cell phone, e-mail, Website, and a special phone app. “We include the message that agents can always reach us one way or another on all of our major contacts. We don’t want them to wonder if we’re going to be available.”
The MSA Arrangement—“The most popular marketing in play right now involves establishing a Marketing Services Agreement (MSA) with real estate broker-owners,” said Craig Brown, Rancho Financial, San Diego, Calif. “With the MSA, the mortgage company pays a flat monthly fee to reimburse the real estate company for promoting, sharing in advertising and directing customers to the mortgage company. Buying a position in the realty office is very in vogue and we are (recently) doing some of this; at least until the CFPB tells our industry not to.”
Providing Leads–One of the most essential, often ignored ways to add to your network is to provide agents with a lead, rather than only asking for referrals. “I’ve found that one of the most effective things you can do is to give an agent a good lead of a borrower who needs help finding or selling their home,” said Sam Rosenblatt, Academy Mortgage, Baltimore, Md.
Rosenblatt looks for opportunities to share leads with agents he would like to work with as well as those with whom he’s already done business. “Of course, when a client asks me for a referral, I’ll give them the name of an agent in their area and then let the agent know I’ve done so. In other instances, I’ll ask the borrower if they’re happy with their current agent and if they express dissatisfaction, I’ll offer them a few referrals. This has worked very well for me.”
Growing Their Business—Jack Lieberman, Guaranteed Rate, Austin, Texas, developed a simple and effective method to expand his network of contacts. “Once I got a deal, I would have two real estate agents to work with, along with an insurance agent,” he said. “I also would ask the borrower for the names of their CPA and moving company. With every transaction I added new people to my database.” As he developed his roster of choice strategic partners, Lieberman created a “win-win” formula to help ensure their interest and cooperation. “We give value to our partners, helping them learn how they can grow their business,” he said.
While some of that involves sharing referrals, Lieberman has also offered more “hands on” support. “We help them identify where they’re getting business—at open houses and their database for example—and what else they can do to stay in touch,” he explained. “We show where they might be missing opportunities and explain how we can help. This may involve us sending their prospects a letter or telemarketing. For example, we’ll send letters to an agent’s customers stating that their Realtor suggested we provide the client with a mortgage review as a special service. We also mention how good the Realtor is, reinforcing the customer’s decision to use that agent.”
Value Add—S. John Murray, Mortgage Financial, Tewksbury, Mass., makes a point to provide his Realtors, financial planners, stockbrokers, and insurance advisors with helpful resource material. “I’m constantly updating them on new opportunities,” he explained. Murray supports his network members by sending them the Mortgage Market Guide and e-mailing information of interest to their profession.
Amanda Sessa’s “State of Affairs” meetings for Realtors are another proven partnership support tactic. These quarterly lunches or receptions have provided agents with insights regarding lending industry changes and cover timely issues relating to FHA, conventional and jumbo loans. “They also showcase our knowledge and ability as loan originators; how we can help them and their customers,” said Sessa, SCBW Mortgage, Boulder, Colo.
John Weller often shares the concepts featured in the 7 Minute Difference (book focusing on values and goals) with Realtors. “I realized that many of my real estate partners could benefit from the specific business planning and priority management,” said Weller, Megastar Financial, Denver, Colo. “At my business planning lunches, I explain how the planner helped me and how it might help them. I even share copies of the book.”
Your strategic partnership strategies will partially depend on your operational style and what works best in the market. The key is to develop a formal system that includes regular contact with Realtors, builders, financial planners, builders and others.
By David Robinson
David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.