The Broker Banker Roundtable
Broker Banker asked three successful loan originators to discuss effective marketing, challenges and other issues. Sharing their insights are: Michael Kent, Sovereign Bank, Villanova, PA; Beata Bukowski, Ultimate Rate Mortgage, Chicago, Ill.; and Mike Meena, Augusta Financial, Newhall, Calif.
Broker Banker: What was your secret to success for 2011?
Michael Kent: I do not consider 2011 a (complete) success, as I feel it could have been so much more; but due to operational issues at my company it was not. However, I was more successful than many out there and the reason for that is pretty simple. I never let clients forget who to contact if they are in need of a mortgage and use subtle ways to ask for their business.
Beata Bukowski: My staff and I (personal processor and part-time assistant) have been putting in very long hours. In fact, right now it’s a Friday evening at 9 p.m. and I am still at the office. In addition, I am trying to utilize social media more (Tweets, Facebook, linked-In) to stay in touch with my client database and my referral sources. I still market myself at local chamber of commerce events and social gatherings.
Mike Meena: Consistency in marketing, staying in touch with past clients, working until everything was done and not leaving early or after eight or 10 hours. Entertaining the right customers (with lunches and dinners) and just working hard and understanding the business was important.
BB: What are you doing differently to maintain your volume in 2012?
Kent: I am looking to increase my business in 2012 not just maintain it. I feel our operation is on the right track to be able to handle my volume. I have invested in five marketing campaigns already this year to increase volume, which it has. For example, I found a very effective post card and sent it on five different occasions. Every time it resulted in about 30 deals. The funny thing was that even the 5th time I sent it; some people noticed it for the first time.
Bukowski: I will additionally advertise (in a form of a studio interview) on Polish radio, which has very high ethnic traffic. I have been involved with a few chamber of commerce events and also go to community meetings where I introduce my services and expertise. I am also trying to organize seminars on mortgage-related subjects.
Meena: It will be more of the same. I have improved in a few areas I felt I lacked in (last year), such as maintaining constant communication, providing updates and keeping agents in the loop regarding what their clients are doing. I am picking up the phone more often to get new business. Overall, I am just making small tweaks.
BB: What is your most effective marketing strategy?
Kent: Staying in front of closed clients. If you always do a great job for them you have an army of salespeople working for you–referring business constantly. This year, I am mainly using (snail) mail, which I have always found to be the best way to market to closed clients. I have used other forms but have always enjoyed the most success with the good old USPS.
Bukowski: Staying in touch with past clients and not being afraid of asking for business. There is almost a direct correlation. When I ask (for referrals, etc.), people almost always remember someone who might need mortgage expertise.
Meena: Thirty-six touches a year to my past clients and 24 touches a year to referral sources. This includes holiday cards, e-mail updates, real estate news and other information.
BB: What do you consider the biggest challenge to remaining competitive?
Kent: A key issue is avoiding time wasters. I can count on two hands the number of nights I stay in the office past 6:30. I get to the office, put my head down and work. I avoid social interactions that take up my day as well as time wasters, including some clients. Getting fat, happy and thinking you no longer need to wow your client is a daily fight you must overcome. If this was easy, everyone would be great at it and you can look around and see that others are not. When I started out, I studied the unsuccessful people as well as the most successful to figure out why each of them was the way they were. It was pretty easy to spot the differences. Now I look introspectively at myself and ask questions like “How can I do things better, faster and easier? What are you doing wasting time by doing this or that? What have you done today to make yourself better?”
Bukowski: Having to (as a broker) deal with lenders, their turn times and how they handle closings, and keeping all the parties in the transaction informed. Also, in the refi world– competing with servicing lenders that don’t follow any qualifying rules (that they impose on us and the wholesale world). What I do is try to make good relationships with underwriters and account reps to be able to utilize their help in expediting loans.
Meena: Time! The business is so detailed that getting out of here at a decent hour has been difficult. I now have four assistants and they have assistants. The details of the files are very difficult so a key way to handle the time challenge/workload is by delegating. I am an originator and my team is filled with people who help keep me away from the paperwork and on the phones.
BB: What is your advice for loan originators trying to break through a certain “production ceiling?”
Kent: (See my response to the previous question.) I have a sign on the back of my office door that says “what have you done today to bring in new business?” I find most people are busy being busy; doing things that are not their job, trying to help lost causes. Like Nancy Reagan used to stress, “Just say no.” I only have so much time in a day and it isn’t the hours you put in but what you put into the hours that matters. Start every day with a clear plan of what you want to accomplish and accomplish it.
Bukowski: Think out of the box. Become more of a resource to listing agents who in turn can refer some business to you.
Meena: Keep in front of your sphere of influence. Stay in contact with your database. I am amazed that loan officers don’t do this and I have instituted this for all of my reps. I hired a marketing person to make sure that my reps touch their clients 24-36 times per year. Some loan officers think you can avoid advertising or marketing yourself. That is 100 percent wrong. They need to continue to market no matter what.
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