I got into the mortgage business in 2008, possibly the worst year for the financial markets. I was armed with three people in my sphere of influence and $1,900 in capital.
Five years later, I was named among the top 200 loan officers in the country.
Fast-forward a couple of years, the company I started (Arcus Lending) posted an astronomic three-year growth of 987%. For reference, the national average for private company growth at that time was 6.7%. We were named to Inc. 500’s coveted list of the fastest-growing private companies in America.
While most successes can’t be attributed to just one factor, in my case, personal branding played a huge role. Necessity is the mother of invention.
Maybe it was my limited sphere of influence, maybe it was my poor networking skills, or it could have been my hatred for cold calling (I am convinced in hindsight), but I decided very early on that I wanted the business to come to me and not the other way around.
We are talking “inbound marketing,” a term made popular by HubSpot, or “permission marketing” (read Seth Godin’s book by the same name if you haven’t already).
Here are the top five tips I have learned in my growth from a $2.8 million producer in my first year to a $180 million producer last year.
Tip No. 1: Choose your medium.
It’s important to figure out the medium you are most comfortable with and are most likely to excel in. Don’t seek perfection, that is a Utopian dream. Pursue excellence instead.
Text – blogging
With the attention economy shrinking, blogging is among the most dependable methods of drawing traffic in, creating a reader-writer bond, and turning prospects into customers.
Audio – podcasts
The rule of podcasting is simple. Talk with a lot of love about anything you feel worth talking about and you will definitely penetrate into audience consciousness. End result: They will follow you.
Video – vlogs
With SnapChat, YouTube, and Instagram having become the nucleus of our lives, the viral prospect of vlogging has made it a hot internet property. Everyday people can talk into the camera lens and attract millions of watchers. If you can manipulate multiple platforms, post like an authority and are on the dot with your demographics, vlogging can help you take off into the orbit.
If, at first, you can’t decide, dabble in more than one medium and see which one catches your fancy.
Tip No. 2: Be consistent with your content creation.
Once you’ve figured out which medium best suits your style and personality, it’s time to work on your content. Here are some ways to find dozens, if not hundreds, of content ideas:
- What questions are you frequently asked by your customers?
- Market statistics – Think real estate price reports, mortgage rate changes, etc.
- News that impacts your industry – Fed announcements, job reports, special government incentives, tax laws, housing shortage reports, driverless cars, or something else that will impact the housing or the mortgage market
- Community news – Events happening and trending in the communities you serve
Consistently producing weekly content is a great start. Unless you are really good, you might not get much traction in the first few weeks.
When I started blogging in 2009, I wrote a blog post every week and it took me six months of doing that before I got my first call, confirming that someone had seen me online.
2019 is a way more crowded market than 2009. So, you are even more likely to be disappointed in the initial phase. This said, if you are consistently producing high-quality, value-added content, your audience will eventually notice. After all, there is only so much great content on the internet and contrary to the popular notion. The audience will give you the props for writing something really smart.
Tip No. 3: Content by itself is NOT the king. Amplification of the content is.
Just creating content by itself is not going to do anything for your branding. Only putting up quality content is never going to be enough (it is like winking in the dark), unless you get your content exposed to your targeted audience.
It can’t be emphasized enough that exposure holds all the keys. What can you do for more people to see your content (especially in times when your competitors are just as much or more exposure-centric)?
Here are some ideas:
- Share on all social media platforms you are active on. On Facebook, post it to the relevant groups. Remember the goal is not to be spammy, but to share something the members can derive value from. If you achieve this goal, the members will further share it with their friends.
- Email to your database. Make it easy for them to share with their friends.
Tip No. 4: Use influence to create leverage.
After writing a blog post every week for about 10 months, I got my first media interview request. An editor from Yahoo! Finance reached out to me for a story he was doing on mortgages. Since then, they have kept it coming. I have been featured on dozens of major media platforms.
If you are good and if you are consistent, not just your targeted audience, but reporters and other content creators will pay heed. Note that they are usually on the wrong side of a deadline, so make sure to get back to them quickly. Reporters hate having to find a new source every time, so if you are responsive and share opinions that you think their audience will value, they would like to quote you over and over again. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly either, via Twitter or services like HARO and Qwoted.
The same holds true for podcasters, YouTubers and bloggers. Study the kind of content they are creating and the kind of audience they are catering to. If you think you can bring some new perspective or idea to their demographic, pitch to the creators to feature you in their content. Almost all of them are looking for fresh ideas and faces.
Tip No. 5: Match the experience to the promise.
With a robust content library, strong online presence and consistent media coverage, some customers might treat you like a mini-celebrity when they reach out to you for their real estate or mortgage needs.
Make sure the experience they get from the time they call you, email you or fill out a form on the website to the time of closing the transaction is in line with their expectation. A branding like that comes with an expectation of enhanced customer service.
You don’t walk into Nordstrom expecting Walmart service.
Map your own six-star service, deliver it consistently and watch your business soar.