Unlocking the secrets of online marketing can either be a challenging and exciting journey, or the most frustrating experience of your marketing life. If you’re new to online mortgage marketing, my goal here is to share my own mistakes and learning curve to hopefully make your path to online lead generation a little less bumpy. If you’re a seasoned online mortgage marketer and you get just one good idea to build on your current success, we’ll call that a win.
Web sites do not generate leads
Web site vendors do not want to you to know the truth about the actual role this tool plays in your online marketing strategy. Simply having a Web site will not generate leads. An effectively designed Web site organizes information so that it is easily consumed by your visitor.
The opportunity for lead generation occurs when the information on your site earns the trust of the visitor. Lead generation is then accomplished, after trust is earned, and when you ask the visitor to either contact you directly for more information, or you ask the visitor for permission to contact them.
It all starts with empowering the consumer.
The very first thing that has to happen before you will ever convert your first online lead is to drive traffic to your site. There are many ways to drive traffic to your site that range from free, to paid services like pay-per-click. Once the consumer reaches your site, that’s where your conversion strategy begins.
Understanding the motivation and mindset of an online consumer is the very first step to designing conversion points on your website that will result in your opportunity to close loans.
When it comes to making decisions about homebuying or refinancing, you must take into consideration that consumer trust has been shaped by the years our industry was vilified by the mainstream media as the cause of housing crisis that many are still struggling to recover from. Mortgage lenders have been accused of misinforming consumers at the very least, straight up lying and purposely misleading homeowners at the very worst. Needless to say, the collapse of the real estate and mortgage markets have put consumers on high alert and has forever shaped the landscape of how we need to communicate with online consumers to earn their trust and their business. Empathy is the greatest tool you have when designing your lead generation machine. The ability to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes is your key to success.
Think about your own online habits. Take a moment to examine how you yourself use the Internet. How often do you type questions into Google? If you are like most online consumers, you’re doing research and trying to educate yourself so you don’t make a bad decision. Now amplify that motivation by about a hundred and you’re on your way to standing in an online mortgage consumer’s shoes.
Delivering relevant, accurate and easy to read answers to the questions that consumers are asking online will empower them to make more informed decisions. When you empower a consumer, they trust the source, which in turn gives you the opportunity to earn their business—If you ask for it, and make it easy and safe for them to engage with you.
Lead capture strategies
You’ve heard the saying that there’s more than one way to skin a cat? While maybe not as politically correct as some may like, it is an accurate description of the numerous ways and opportunities you have to capture the attention and information of your site’s visitors for the eventual conversion into a commission check.
The first step to maximizing conversion from your lead capture efforts is to understand that there is an opportunity to earn a visitor’s trust even if they are not ready to buy or refinance right now.
There are three levels of commitment that any site visitor is prepared to make if they feel they have received value, or have been empowered by the information on your site:
1. Get notified of new updates
Asking a Web site visitor if they would like to be notified of updates or breaking news as it occurs is a low commitment, long-term strategy for lead conversion. Sometimes this visitor will make a more motivated commitment, but for the most part, this is your long-term list building strategy that will pay off for months and years to come. You will need a strategy for delivering these updates to this lead
You can ask a visitor if they would like to be notified every time new information is posted on your site three different ways.
►In post updates: Include an e-mail update option at the bottom of every post or page on your site.
►Sidebar updates: Include a newsletter/update sign up from in your site’s sidebar.
►Pop-up updates: Strategically timed pop-up asks reader if they would like updates. While this method makes many marketers coil in disgust (I know I don’t like pop-ups), it is by far the most effective of all lead capture mechanisms if times properly.
2. Get more information
There are a number of different strategies for offering to provide the reader with more information about the topic of interest that led them to your site. This visitor may or may not be ready to buy or refinance right now, all we know at this point is that they trust you enough to ask for more information before making a decision.
Here are just a few ideas for encouraging the visitor to get more information about a specific topic.
►Downloads: Offering in-depth research, statistics, education, blueprints, tips and tricks available by download is an effective strategy for capturing contact information. The amount of information you ask for must be relative to the value of the download you are offering. If you find that you have no takers, it could be that your offer is not valuable enough, or you are asking for too much information in exchange for the download.
►Live chat: This is an advanced strategy that requires that someone is available to respond quickly to the visitor’s questions or comments. There are many free and paid methods for installing a chat client on your Web site.
►Contact me: The easier you make it for your website visitors to contact you, the greater chance you’ll have of engaging in a conversation with the visitor. Your phone number and email address should be highly visible anywhere the visitor is on your site. The best placement for your phone number is in the upper right corner of your header or sidebar. I put my email address and cell/text number in the author box on every blog post.
►Leave a comment–or ask a public comment: The comments section on your blog posts is a great opportunity for the visitor to semi-anonymously ask for more information in a safe environment without having to speak to a salesperson.
►Ask a private question: Giving the reader the ability to ask a private question on your site that is e-mailed directly to you is a very effective strategy for starting a conversation with your readers.
3. Apply now/pre-qualification
This is your highly-motivated, empowered consumer that is ready to acquire financing to purchase or refinance a home right now. There are also multiple opportunities for asking your visitor if they are ready to buy now:
►Product/services pages and post: Any mortgage focused site should have pages and posts dedicated to the loan products, downpayment assistance and special refinance programs offered by your company. Inserting links into these pages can be effective, even better is to place a lead capture form directly on the post or page.
►Custom sidebar calls to action: If you have the ability to create different sidebars for different pages and post types, you can modify the call to action to be specifically relevant to the content the visitor is currently reading.
►Generic sidebar calls to action: If you have only one sidebar that never changes, creating multiple calls to action that lead to one lead capture form is a great strategy. For instance, I use “Buyer Assistance” and “Closing Cost Assistance” as two separate calls to action in my sidebar. Both buttons lead to the same lead capture page. I am basically asking the consumer the same question, two different ways—the program they may qualify for can be used for both downpayment or closing cost assistance.
►Navigation bar calls to action: While less convenient and less effective, giving the reader the ability to navigate to your lead capture pages to get more information or apply is always a good idea.
►Home page calls to action: The home page of your site is a great place to put bold, easy to see and use calls to action as part of your graphic navigation launch pad. A clean and easy to navigate home page is a very effective lead capture strategy.
Optimizing your lead conversion strategy
The design and user experience on your site will ultimately be unique to you, your company and the depth of your experience. Different loan originators and companies specialize in different products, niches and approaches to your mortgage business.
Fine-tuning your online lead generation system requires a lot of testing, experimenting, tweaking and time. While you can purchase pre-designed sites, the user experience must be carefully considered and crafted to deliver the highest value to your visitor. If you are not getting the results you desire, carefully examine where your system is failing.
If you are getting traffic to your site and you are not capturing leads, there is a disconnect between your content and your calls to action. You are either not asking for the sale in a way that is convenient to the reader, or you are unable to earn the visitor’s trust once they are on your site.
If you are not happy with the quality of the leads your are generating, you might want to more closely examine the message you are relaying, or the information you are capturing on the lead form.
Mastering online lead generation is a journey, not a goal. It is a constant process of analysis and adjustment. Once you have the ability to put yourself in your Web site visitor’s shoes, and learn to ask the right questions at the right time, you will enjoy a lead generation machine that requires little maintenance and produces unique, exclusive leads for years to come.
Hope this helps! Good luck on your journey.
Scott Schang is a branch manager at Broadview Mortgage’s Katella team in Orange, Calif. His approach to marketing has been to develop niche opportunities within specific demographics of online homebuyers. Schang’s expertise includes WordPress, content marketing and online lead generation and conversion. He may be reached by phone at (714) 336-8286, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.FindMyWayHome.com.