Online Real Estate News

You’re a Squirrel — Start Marketing Like One

Squirrels are always a little skittish, but as winter approaches, they really ramp it up. Why? Squirrels’ food sources — seeds, nuts, fruits, fungi — become extremely scarce in the winter, and so they have to act fast to make sure they have enough nourishment for those challenging months.

There’s a cliche that squirrels tend to forget where they bury their nuts, but in reality, many species of squirrel have highly sophisticated mnemonic systems for remembering where they stored their bounties. Now, you’re likely asking yourself, “Why am I reading about squirrels in a marketing article?”

Glad you asked. Right now, if you’re a lender, LO, broker, tech company…or simply in the mortgage industry, you’ve likely been reveling in the refi, low-rate bounty that has suddenly come your way. 2020 has been a tough time for many, but for people in housing, it’s like all the oak trees in the forest suddenly dropped their acorns at once, and you’ve been madly collecting them as many as you can before they’re gone.

But as history has shown us time and again, the refi market periodically booms, drops and then reliably evens out.

Winter is Coming

When refi settles down, you better hope you’ve developed some sophisticated nut-storage systems, and that you’re prepared for the proverbial winter.

In short, the refi boom is great for business now, but it will end someday. No one knows precisely when, but when it does, the purchase market will reemerge as your bread and butter.

Good times are the perfect time to start generating new marketing strategies. It’s infinitely easier to devise a growth strategy when you’re flush than when you’re desperate. Marketing, in essence, is an insurance policy against lean years, and an investment in the long-term growth of your business.

Create a Valuable Brand Through Marketing

2020 was the year of delivering great value to your clients – incredible, hardly-ever-seen-in-our-lifetime value. A mortgage in the two ticket…Wow. But, let’s be honest. Selling a mortgage at ridiculously low rates isn’t really that hard. It’s a matter of how efficient you can transact and making sure you have the right partners to move those loans through fast. What you need to ask yourself right now is did you deliver valuable? Do your clients or prospects know what you stand for? When you’re a valuable brand, your clients don’t just buy you, they buy-in to you. Think Nike, Apple, Netflix. Valuable brands stand the test of time. Now’s the time to look at your brand and see if you’re well-positioned to sustain and grow your business the minute rates turn a half-point. How do you create a valuable brand?

  1. Stand for something – What is your sweet spot? Do you have a unique culture, service ethos, or target audience? What’s your secret sauce? Define who you are and why someone should work for you or with you.
  2. Make an emotional connection – You are not just selling loans, you are selling homes. Dreams and aspirations come true with you. Don’t just tell the world you have great rates. Anyone and everyone can do that. Find a way to deliver Refi-euphoria. Or explain that a new home represents financial freedom.
  3. Prove it – You can’t just say it. You have to be it.  You say you are great at delivering great service.  How? Is it because you educate first-time homebuyers? You teach your clients how to fix their credit score? You provide home maintenance tips? Prove it every day with real, authentic communication.
  4. Champion a cause – You have to proactively invite your team, clients, prospects, community or partners to join in. People should feel your brand and want to be a part of it.

Your Brand is You

Once you’ve done some serious soul searching, be honest, does your logo and brand identity deliver on who you are? If you have an incredible culture, but your brand looks like a stiff institution, maybe now is a really good time for a brand refresh. The font, colors, imagery and language you use – on the phone, in social, or an email should all line up to what your brand stands for. This is your first impression. Make it meaningful.  If you’re brand is about happiness, then a logo with bright, optimistic colors makes sense.

Millennials and The Treasure Hunt

We all know that Millennials represent the largest home buying cohort. There are 32 million millennials who are ready-to-buy. In July 2020, first-time homebuyers rose to 34% of total home sales. Moreover, as the lifestyle perks afforded by urban centers dwindled in the pandemic, many millennials have transitioned from renters to homebuyers, making them a driving force in the U.S. housing market’s overall recovery.

Are you well-positioned to seize the moment? LUDWIG+ Millennial Homebuyer Survey found that buying a home is the number one goal of this generation – higher than going to college, falling in love, or even saving the world (not sure what this says about the future of our planet).  It’s the ultimate sign of freedom and achievement. 

Most see the process as fun – like a treasure hunt (48%), but equally equate the process as hard…like mountain climbing (48%).  This is where you can provide education and advocacy…and maybe even some entertainment. Make buying a home fun. Eliminate the pain. Be a coach.

What this all means is that it’s time… right now…to start marketing to these prospective — and often young — homebuyers.

Homebuying will be their first rodeo, but it will be your thousandth time in the saddle. Now is the time to invest in marketing, to start chipping away at those mysteries and misconceptions surrounding first-time homebuying and be the source of their information. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll think of you.

Make Sure They Can Find You

Since COVID-19 hit, online shopping has increased 43%. Media usage has increased 60%.  Ask yourself, are your clients or prospects able to find you? Are you showing up when they’re dreaming about that new home? Are you giving them online help on rent vs buy?

Turn On the Marketing Machine…Now

  • Website: Your website is your store. Does your website deliver more than a loan application? Your website should deliver content, education and tools. Be the source for all their homebuying needs. And make sure you have keyword search terms that rank in Google.
  • Google Business Listing: You say your business comes from word-of-mouth referrals. You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think they’re going online to see if you are legit. 1 in 2 people search for a business every day.  76% visit contact that business within one day of searching.  Google Business Listings are free.  It’s table stakes to telling the world that you exist.
  • Five-Star Ratings Now that you have a Google Business listing, make sure you are driving your online reputation. 90% of consumers visit online reviews before visiting a business – even when they are referred by a trusted source. There are some great online reputation tools that can help you survey your clients or partners and push to the right sites.
  • Search:  There are 3.5 billion Google searches each day. When your clients or prospect are searching for information, be sure to employ paid search to drive them to your website. Great content and tools are key for this.
  • Social media: 223 Million Americans are on social media.  This is where they connect with friends, community, and gather news and education. Post regularly on their social news feeds with financial literacy, tips for homeownership, or celebrate a new home purchase. Videos, webinars or tips before, during or after the homebuying process will be valuable. Pull out your iPhone and film a selfie video. Be sure to pay to play. Otherwise no one will find you.
  • Email: Again, as long as you are putting out valuable content, you will drive qualified leads and retain past customers. Set up email campaigns to prospects, current or past clients. Be sure to include a call-to-action to get them to your website.  Learn more. Apply now. 
  • Paid Media: Spending money on media is a sure-fire way to make sure your audience knows who you are and keeps you top-of-mind.  Find the best industry publications, local news stations, or buy online advertising. If you’re in the local market, consider Gas Station TV, billboards, radio or direct mail. Digital media is particularly great to deliver a 1:1 message to your audience.  And now, there is so much technology in place that you can know which media channel drove your customers to interact with you.

Marketing and Innovation

Because the purpose of a business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two — and only two — basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” – Peter Drucker, seminal consultant, educator, author

This is a great quote and fundamental truth. If you’re playing in the refi market right now, you’re enjoying a period of tremendous business volume — you’ve got all the acorns you can stuff in your cheeks. While you’re in the black, and while you can afford to envision a future of sustained success, take the time to reinvest in old faithful: purchases. COVID-19 has created an entirely new market. With the proper marketing approach, deployed at the proper moment, you can help them fulfill their homebuying dreams. And achieve your own success in your business.

By building up a formative horde of nuts, you’ll be among the best equipped to handle winter. Then, when springtime comes again — as it always does — you’ll be stronger and sturdier than ever.

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For more information about how Ludwig+ can add value in this space, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

To learn more about how HousingWire can help you navigate housing-focused media and help lenders plan for “winter,” get in touch.