Jason Perkins: Why Now is the Time to Spring Into Digital Marketing


Mortgage lenders have been relying on CRM software to maintain their customer relationships and grow their businesses for decades. But it’s when the housing market stagnates and originations dry up that the software really pays off. With CRM software, mortgage lenders are able to use what they know about their borrowers to sell more products and win more business.

To learn more about why CRM software is critical for lenders in this current down market, MortgageOrb interviewed Jason Perkins, founder and president of Bonzo, a relationship management automation solution that slashes the time mortgage and real estate professionals spend communicating with prospects.

Q: In today’s mortgage landscape, why is a CRM system crucial for mortgage companies to maintain a competive edge?

Perkins: The most valuable asset for mortgage companies is their data, and the second most valuable asset is their ability to use that data to drive sales opportunities. This latter quality is what sets a robust CRM system apart.

Because traditional mortgage CRM systems are used as data warehouses and not for marketing, there’s a stigma that all CRM systems are the same because lenders don’t see any results from them. But there is more modern technology now available that digests data that lenders already have and sends sales opportunities to a lender’s marketing and sales teams to capitalize on them. This is what gives lenders a competitive advantage. 

A robust CRM system will also help lenders create more meaningful relationships with borrowers. Marketing isn’t rocket science, but if a lender just blanketing all its contacts with the same message, it’s just noise. But when a lender has a tool that can segment data and drive awareness by reaching out to customers in a contextual way, based on their unique needs, it’s very powerful.

Q: In what ways has digital marketing technology improved over the past decade?

Perkins: Five to ten years ago, most CRM systems focused on email and didn’t include text messaging, let alone video or social media. These days, if a CRM system doesn’t have texting capabilities, the lender using it is missing out on a massive opportunity. However, it’s not just the ability to text that’s important. Today’s digital marketing technology enables lenders and loan officers to send texts from the recipient’s area code, which can cause open rates to skyrocket. 

In fact, according to our own research, the average open rate on a text sent from a local number is over 90%, while the response rate is typically between 60% and 70%. With email, one is lucky to get percentages in the single digits, because many people now view email as junk mail. That doesn’t mean emails no longer have value, but they can’t be the only thing a CRM system is able to do.

Q: How do digital marketing innovations enable mortgage companies to better serve the needs of today’s borrowers and ultimately drive growth?

Perkins: Today’s consumers are more digitally connected than ever – they’re constantly checking their social media, texts and emails. Fortunately, newer digital marketing tools allow lenders to create an omnichannel marketing strategy, so they can be where their customers are at all times.

However, many consumers receive 10 or more texts and dozens of emails per day, so there’s a lot of noise to break through. The same is true for social media. The average consumer spends about four hours a day on Facebook or Instagram, but there’s a ton of noise on these platforms, too. 

That’s why it’s important for lenders to contextualize their data. With a strong CRM system, for example, a lender can leverage its existing data to create targeted ads on social media or personalized texts that are more likely to generate a response than sending out the same message to every contact. When a lender is able to strategically leverage different marketing channels and borrower segments with the right messages, it has a greater opportunity to turn customers into brand heroes and generate repeat business. 

Q: How can lenders leverage digital marketing technology and still keep borrower interactions personal?  

Perkins: The key lies in the approach. On a basic level, all sales and marketing is about taking care of customers. The problem is that most lenders don’t know how to convey that feeling of “care” at scale. With the right technology, one can use existing customer data to create customized messages that spark conversations and real interest. 

Another important strategy is to be inquisitive in one’s marketing efforts. A lender should never be shouting at its customers about rates and what it can do for them. That’s never going to move the needle. A lender should be asking questions and using the responses to those questions as opportunities to drive the conversation deeper. With today’s digital marketing technology, this is very easy to do. 

However, lenders also need to realize who owns the relationship with the customer – the loan officer. Lenders need digital marketing technology that amplifies the voices of their loan officers and enable them to win more opportunities where the trust is already built in. 

Q: In light of shifting consumer preferences, what specific capabilities should mortgage companies prioritize when selecting or upgrading their CRM system system?

Perkins: The first thing lenders should do is to ask their loan officers what marketing assets they really want, and think about the capabilities they need as lenders. For example, if a lender wants to sync its marketing efforts with its loan origination system, it’s important to ask a CRM system provider what that integration will look like. A CRM system may have all the bells and whistles, but if doesn’t leverage loan data and other existing data to drive conversations forward, it’s really pointless. 

Another key consideration is AI, which is creating a massive cultural shift as well as improving how quickly lenders can engage potential customers. Every lender should ask their CRM system provider what their roadmap is for using AI because it’s going to change everything in our industry. The bottom line is that if a lender isn’t constantly appraising the value of its marketing technology, it’ll probably end up stuck in a contract with a system that no one wants to use.

Q: Amidst rising compliance challenges and data security concerns, how can lenders safeguard sensitive information and build trust with both clients and regulatory bodies in their marketing strategy?

Perkins: At the very least, lenders should be constantly evaluating and reevaluating their tech stack, specifically the tools they use for marketing. Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception in the industry that if marketing technology lets a lender do something, it must be OK to do. But that’s not necessarily true. For example, all major mobile carriers now have filters in place that prevent messages with certain terms from being sent and also require lenders to register their marketing campaigns in advance. If a marketing technology provider hasn’t stayed abreast of these changes – and some have not – a lender could end up wasting a lot of time and money sending texts that no one ever receives. 

Lenders also need to ask their CRM system providers whether their systems help manage compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and other state and federal laws involving digital communications. If a CRM system has texting capabilities, but doesn’t come with permissions and brakes, including clear and simple opt-out options, a lender could end up in hot water.

As a digital marketing provider, our firm is constantly educating lenders on these issues. Lenders and loan officers place an enormous amount of trust in their digital marketing providers, so our job is to make sure we get it right.

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