When mortgage consumers think of a brand, they probably think of a large bank. These are powerhouse brands, true enough. But a “brand” in a more esoteric sense refers to the perception that consumers have about that company and therefore the product.
As an independent loan officer, the loan might be the product, but YOU are the brand. So how do you create a brand in the mortgage industry and how can it help you compete against the big bank brands?
Put a stake in the ground
The first part of building your brand as a mortgage lender is to define who you are. What do you want to be known for as a mortgage pro? Which parts matter most to you? What makes you unique?
This idea of being unique is critical to developing your brand. In marketing lingo, it’s your unique selling position or USP. It also goes by unique value proposition. With either moniker, the key word is “unique.” Is a certain kind of mortgage your forte? Do you have special insights into the financial markets? Identify your professional and personal strengths. Write them down.
Now dive deeper into some of the questions we asked above and create a written portrait of who you are and what matters to you. What kind of mortgage lender do you strive to be? These are your core values, and they help define your USP.
Who is your mortgage customer? (Hint: don’t say “anyone”)
This may seem like a softball, but it’s a trickier question than you think. If you answered “everybody!” then we have a bit more work to do in branding. You should have a specific customer in mind. In fact, to help know your customer, you should be able to answer some very specific questions.
People in marketing lingo say this is known as creating a “persona,” an avatar of the ideal customer you want to work with. In order to understand your customers, you need to know what matters to them, what their pains are. Even knowing what kind of food they like and where they go on vacation will help you create a more detailed portrait and then provide even better service.
Your North Star for your mortgage business
Go back through your USP. Does it work well the persona you’ve put together? Does your value proposition answer the needs of your customer? If not, tweak it until it does. Return to your USP with every marketing decision you make. Use it as a litmus test to ensure the choices you make are true to the brand story you’ve created and express the values you represent.
Now that you have a branding guide in place, it’s time to decide where you’ll market your brand. This will be informed by your persona — where are your customers? Are they on social? Online? In a digital world, imagine your choices as TV channels. To build your brand, you want to be on the channel where your customer is.
Create a compliant but compelling mortgage marketing message
Mortgage lenders are under strict requirements for what they can and cannot say in advertising. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has the authority to cite unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices.
But your marketing messages can still be compelling for consumers. Think about talking to them as people. And what do people want? They want to be smart. They want to save money. And they want to trust their mortgage lenders.
Be in it for the long haul
Stay focused on foundational efforts, especially while you experiment. Building a brand requires building trust. Show up. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be consistent. Stay on message. Always be true to your voice.
And last but not least…. have fun! Building a brand is not much different that building a personal relationship. It takes hard work, consistency, and commitment. Don’t forget to smile along the way.