Author: Seroka, John
Date published: November 1, 2010
Not so long ago, marketing in the mortgage industry was pretty typical - direct mail, newsletters, publie relations (PR), print and radio advertising, maybe even some TV spots. But with the explosion of interactive online sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedln(TM), YouTube and many others, mortgage marketing has taken a turn in a whole new direction. Social media have changed the rules and become a dominant force.
Pull marketing takes over
Traditionally, marketers have used a combination of push and pull marketing to promote their products and services. Typically, push marketing has involved incentivizing brokers to push your product, while pull marketing involved marketing directly to the consumer, utilizing a combination of marketing and PR tactics.
Social media, however, have changed not only how we market, but also the very definitions of push and pull marketing. Now both are regularly used to refer to the impact on the consumer.
Today, push marketing has evolved to mean pushing out a message to as many consumers as possible, regardless of whether they have an actual interest in your product or service. The company basically uses shotgun marketing to reach prospects, then hits all recipients with repeat messages in the hope that some will eventually decide to purchase.
Pull marketing, on the other hand, works the other way around. Instead of pushing one-way advertising at the consumer, the company uses methods that enable it to engage in two-way conversations with the consumer.
Pull marketing does not involve a sales pitch. Instead, it is a method of positioning your company as the provider of information that prospects will find valuable. This works extremely well online with blogs, websites and Twitter postings, for example.
It is a new way of relating to the public - it is PR on steroids. What do I mean? Traditional PR is very "staged," but the new PR is social and loses the "corporate voice" in favor of a more natural, human interaction. In fact, a study released in September by StevensGouIdPincus LLC, New York, projects that social media will overtake traditional media as a PR tool within just a couple of years.
As a mortgage professional, you might build brand identity by writing a regular blog about the mortgage industry, with topics such as qualifying for a mortgage or improving your credit rating. As consumers read your messages and post comments or interact with you online, they will come to view you as a trusted authority.
Best of all, when they are ready to apply for a mortgage, they will turn to you - pull you in, so to speak - because you have built a relationship with them and created a general comfort level about dealing with you.
Company websites get an expanded role
Most websites are organized around the products and services a company offers and, for many years, this was enough. Today, however, with so many people turning to the Internet for information, your website should be much more than the information in the company brochure revamped into online format. It needs to become socialized.
To drive people to your website and get them interested in utilizing your services, you need to offer online content that addresses people's challenges or answers their questions about mortgage-related issues. For example, you might create conversations that will engage new-home buyers, move-up buyers, construction prospects, refinance prospects, renovation and remodeling prospects, and more. Providing this type of interaction and helpful information not only delivers a benefit to the consumer, but also further positions you as a trusted authority in the industry.
It is true that your prospects, more often than you would ever imagine, will turn to social venues to learn about your company and the person with whom they are dealing. In fact, there are tracking applications available on Facebook that will tell you who is looking at you. On Linkedln, you can find out who has been viewing your profile. These tools seem to be everywhere now.
Accordingly, make sure there is content online that places you in a favorable light - ask for and leverage testimonials to your service and recommendations. Make sure they hit your Linkedln and Facebook profiles. Include them on your website.
Be candid - not canned
Using social media to your best marketing advantage means you need to take a less-formal approach to your customers than you may be accustomed to. Social media are a much more interactive form of communication and what you say and how you say it should reflect that. Be honest and genuine. Write as if you were speaking candidly to another person. And leave the hard-sell message behind.
Online, soft-sell is king. So if you get too pushy or cloak your postings in business-speak, million-dollar words and industry jargon, you run the risk of alienating the very people you are hoping to attract.
No cyber-stalking allowed
Much as some people would like to believe otherwise, the rules of etiquette for developing contacts and friendships in the social media sphere are the same as in other types of marketing. You wouldn't show up uninvited at a prospect's front door to announce some new idea you have for him or her, and neither should you chase online acquaintances with uninvited contacts via Facebook.
Just because this is an exciting new form of communication doesn't mean common sense goes out the window. You still need to respect prospects' boundaries.
Creating the buzz
Social media enable you to carry on a two-way conversation with prospects, providing information and getting immediate feedback about your product or service. You really couldn't ask for more.
The question is, who is best positioned to create the buzz? Is it the guy or gal you hired to build your Facebook or Twitter page? Is it the marketing department or agency? Or could it be the PR department or agency?
My opinion is that a PR expert is best positioned to create the buzz. A PR expert knows the value of these new venues to get the message out. PR agencies know how to create stories, they know how to create events and develop relationships. That is their job, and they have been transitioning to online social venues for far longer than you would expect. Talk to your PR department about how social media fit into their daily repertoire, and they will talk your ear off.
While the thought of getting involved in social media can sometimes seem overwhelming, the key is to begin by dipping your toe in the water. It is very important to have a plan - a solid, cohesive plan that will tie in your traditional marketing and PR tactics.
Do not assume that just because your kids are up on Facebook and Twitter that you, as a company, can simply bounce out there and just start some friendly chat. There are endless ways to create your following and drive clients and revenue, and there are even more ways to fail or compromise your reputation, brand and business.
Accordingly, sticking to a good strategy and knowing the social etiquette is important. With the housing market still depressed, now you probably have a little extra time to build an online presence, change what you're doing on your website and position yourself to draw in prospects in a whole new way.
John Seroka Is vice president of Seroka, a full-service branding, advertising, marketing and public relations firm with locations in Los Angeles and Waukesha. Wisconsin, that serves a nationwide client base. He can be reached at email@example.com. You also can connect with him at linkedin.com/in/johnseroka, twitter.com/johnseroka or on Facebook.