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Marketing Outlook: 5 Ways Merging Big Data, AI, And Blockchain Tech Is Rectifying The Marketing Gap

One of the biggest challenges marketers face today is customer acquisition and retention. The key to both acquiring new customers and retaining current customers is possessing the critical data that can help you, one, communicate effectively with the highest qualified contact possible and, two, further identify the needs of your current customers to foster long-term loyalty. Unfortunately, the today’s data industry is both far too complicated and highly fragmented, offering a confusing glut of choices that are overwhelming marketers who are in desperate need of this mission-critical information. The existing data marketing ecosystem of data and direct marketing list owners, managers and brokers is wildly inefficient and often ineffective, costing businesses untold millions in unnecessary time and money, and untold more in opportunity loss.

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Even so, given the fundamental truth that data is the backbone of both digital advertising and marketing and traditional direct marketing, marketers have just struggled along with what the market has been able to provide, for better or for worse. Global advertising revenue for 2017 was $591 billion with $209 billion of it dedicated to digital advertising. A conundrum as effective data sources are becoming even rarer as the need for—and actual dependency upon—data becomes more essential. The escalating demand for big data sources that provide quality and complete data has skyrocketed in today’s digital age.

Unfortunately, it’s the fundamental big data sources that have been the very crux of the problem for marketers. Today, an individual, entity or brand looking to acquire a specific data set will have to spend extensive time and resources locating sources that meet its target audience, negotiate costs, and establish privacy standards for the transferring of the data. This leads to a decrease in quality and data record duplication. These three challenges not only make it extremely cost prohibitive to identify and acquire the various parameters required to compile the exact dataset that is needed but, for small and medium sized businesses, it creates a actual barrier to enter the data marketplace.

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As problematic, attempting to generate revenue today from existing datasets brings its own unique set of challenges. The first is the time and money it takes to create data cards and collateral for the data owner to monetize. At the same time, they need to identify the right organization or marketplace with the widest reach—one that represents the highest demand for their data. The second major challenge is integrity and accountability. Data owners do not trust outside organizations to properly store, manage and monetize their data.

The last major concern surrounds the security of the storage environment. Data abuse and lack of transparency in the revenue share business model are underlying fears that will ultimately prevent a list owner from making his/her unique data set available for purchase.
So with all of problems running rampant in the big data industry, what is needed to put this key facet on course? Below are 5 reasons why merging big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology will revolutionize data-driven marketing worldwide, across all industries:

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Empowerment. A blockchain-based system empowers data source providers to monetize their data and better capitalize demand, allowing data source providers to access the large global marketplace. In the same way that eBay provides a marketplace for vendors of physical products, a blockchain-based digital marketplace can create growth potential for data source providers of all sizes, while also reducing barriers to entry into the industry.

Transparency. A blockchain approach provides data providers with full transparency, traceability and auditability, overcoming many of the hurdles data providers currently face in the existing marketplace. Anyone who has operated in the big data space knows that duplicate data, false data, and questionable sourcing are unfortunate industry truths. However, a blockchain-based approach provides complete transparency, allowing buyers to see where the data has been and where it came from prior to purchasing.

Confidence. A more transparent vetting and grading system for data will improve confidence building between the end user and data sources. Currently, most data purchases are practically blind transactions, whereby buyers won’t really know what kind of data they’re receiving until they actually buy it, because no vendor would ever reveal the data prior to money changing hands. Once you have the data, it’s then up to you to determine its quality but by then the money has been spent. Rather than this archaic process leaving much to be desired, having a 3rd party scoring system improves quality and increases trust in the marketplace, facilitating more transactions and leading to overall higher levels of confidence in the industry as a whole. Giving business and consumers quality and verified data that’s vetted and scored externally allows for the reduction, if not elimination, of false or outdated data—a significant problem currently plaguing the industry.

Simplification. By simplifying and aggregating world data transactions into a single point of sale, the result will be an “Amazon” like marketplace, where economies of scale and data aggregation will facilitate a smoother, cleaner and simply better checkout process; creating more data trade worldwide. Giving end users a simplified, easy-to-use and robust interface with a quick and secure payment system between the business or individual and data sources is a requisite means toward this end.

Artificial Intelligence. “Smart Indexing” Engines are now utilizing predictive analytics (a type of artificial intelligence using data analysis and machine learning) for “Confidence Scoring” to provide continual real-time accurate data. Based on immediate business conditions, this will allow for record sets that can be a single individual that matches all parameters or millions of records that match desired parameters.

Ultimately, democratizing big data levels the data playing field by providing the most comprehensive marketing data solution to all businesses and individuals. It will provide a robust interface between the business or individual and the data sources. The backend systems will ensure full confidence in data quality for the end user as well as transactional finality for the data providers.

About The Author

Adam Mittelberg

Adam Mittelberg is Chief Marketing Officer of DataBlockChain.io, a Media Direct, Inc.-partner company at the forefront of democratizing big data and leveling the data playing field. He oversees the most comprehensive marketing data solution available to all businesses and individuals featuring a robust interface between users and data sources and transparent backend system ensuring data quality, confidence and transactional finality. He may be reached at www.datablockchain.io.

You Need To Know About SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) seems pretty straightforward. You pick a few keywords, and voilà! Your page is optimized for SEO, right? Not yet.

Many people understand the basic principles of SEO, but a lot has changed in the last decade, according to Rachel Leist, in her article entitled “The Definition of SEO in 100 Words or Less.”

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She concludes that the SEO that we know and love today is not the same SEO that we knew and loved (or hated) 10 years ago. And that’s why SEO is something marketers should continue to define, and redefine. Here’s a brief definition in under 100 words:

SEO stands for search engine optimization, that much has stayed the same. It refers to techniques that help your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This makes your website more visible to people who are looking for solutions that your brand, product, or service can provide via search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

What hasn’t stayed the same are the techniques we use to improve our rankings. This has everything to do with the search algorithms that these companies constantly change.

SEO works by optimizing a website’s pages, conducting keyword research, and earning inbound links. You can generally see results of SEO efforts once the webpage has been crawled and indexed by a search engine.

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Looking deeper: There are a ton of ways to improve the SEO of your site pages, though. Search engines look for elements including title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links (also known as backlinks). And that’s just to name a few.

Search engines also look at site structure and design, visitor behavior, and other external, off-site factors to determine how highly ranked your site should be in their SERPs.

Organic search refers to someone conducting a search through a search engine and clicking on a non-paid result. Organic search is a search marketing channel that can be used as part of inbound marketing to increase website traffic.

Looking deeper: In present-day SEO, you can’t simply include as many keywords as possible to reach the people who are searching for you. In fact, this will actually hurt your website’s SEO because search engines will recognize it as keyword stuffing, or the act of including keywords specifically to rank for that keyword, rather than to answer a person’s question.

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Nowadays, you should use your keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. There isn’t a magic number, it all depends on the length of your keyword and article, but if you feel like you’re forcing it, it’s better to ignore it and continue writing naturally.

An SEO marketing strategy is a comprehensive plan to get more visitors to your website through search engines. Successful SEO includes on-page strategies, which use intent-based keywords; and off-page strategies, which earn inbound links from other websites.

Looking deeper: Before you create a new site page or blog post, you’ll probably be thinking about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s alright, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, or even your primary focus. Whenever you create content, your focus should be on the intent of your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword (whether it’s long tail or short tail) in your content.

Organic traffic is unpaid traffic that comes from search engines such as Google or Bing. Paid search marketing does not increase your organic traffic numbers, but you can optimize your website using inbound marketing software to gain more visitors.

Looking deeper: One of the biggest changes in the last decade is the way other user behaviors shape the SERPs a user sees on search engines. And today, social media can have a big impact on your organic traffic trend line. Even just a few years ago, it didn’t make a difference who was finding your content through social search. But now SEO takes into account tweets, retweets, Google+ authorship, and other social signals.

Social search also prioritizes content and people that are connected to you. That could mean through a Facebook friend, Twitter follower, or connection through another social network. Sometimes social search will even prioritize content that has been shared by an influencer. Social search understands that you may be interested in content that your network feels is important to share, and therefore it’ll often get surfaced to you.

This all means when you’re thinking about your SEO strategy, you need to think about how your social media strategy fits into the puzzle, too.

Direct traffic consists of website visitors that come to your website by typing the URL into their browser, rather than coming from another website, a search engine, or social media.

Looking deeper: Think of search engine optimization as “search experience optimization.” It’s not just important for your users to find your website, it’s important for them to stay on your website, interact with your content, and come back later. Direct traffic doesn’t just increase your “page authority” in the eyes of Google; it creates more opportunities to turn someone, who first discovered you organically, into a customer.

SEO actually takes into account whether or not your visitors are staying on your website and engaging with other content. If you rank well for a keyword and attract a visitor who isn’t relevant, it won’t actually help your website.

Think about your visitors and the content they are looking for more than how many people you can attract to your website.

SEO is important because it helps people find information and discover pages on the world wide web. SEO is especially important for businesses as it ensures they’re answering their audience’s biggest questions on search engines, while driving traffic to their products and services.

Looking deeper: In the past, SEO success was measured by whether or not you were ranked high on the first page of Google. But even if you ranked well for a term, does that actually mean you’re going to see results?

Not always. You might rank really well for terms that aren’t ideal for your business. So you appear high on search engines, get a ton of traffic, but then your website visitors realize your company isn’t what they were looking for. You don’t convert customers from this traffic, and ranking high for this particular keyword is essentially fruitless.

Also, you don’t necessarily need to be in the top three slots to be successful. In fact, if you rank well on subsequent pages, you may still have a high click-through-rate. That’s great news for marketers who can’t seem to bring pages into those top slots or off the second page.

We said it before and we’ll say it again: The amount of traffic to your page is less important than how qualified that traffic is.

SEO can cost between $100 and $500 per month if you do it yourself with a keyword research tool. It can cost between $75 and $150 per hour for a consultant, and up to $10,000 per month if you hire a full-service marketing agency. Small businesses generally spend less on SEO than big brands, but they can still get the same or better results if they focus on SEO and align with experts that can help them along.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Don’t Slack Off Now

It’s tempting to slack off during the dog days of summer, but content marketing doesn’t take a vacation. If you want top dog results, the time to assess your efforts is now.

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According to John Hall, in his article “This Is the Perfect Time of Year to Assess Your Content,” summer is the perfect time to kick back, hang at the pool, and leave behind any worries you might have about the future of marketing.

Even if your audience members take time off for travel of their own, summer doesn’t mean you get a free pass on your content. While you keep doing what you’re doing and just wait for the next budget cycle to make any real changes to your content strategy, your competitors are building their brands and climbing to the top of your audiences’ minds.

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Content is a dynamic part of your marketing strategy. You’re going to need to check up on your performance and make tweaks to your plan more than once a year, and summer is a great time to assess your efforts and correct course if you need to.

By now, you should have at least a full quarter’s worth of data on your content marketing strategy to review. You should know how close you are to achieving the goals you set and which areas have presented the biggest challenges so far.

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Not only do you have enough usable data, but you also have a competitive advantage when it comes to getting your content published.

Online editors across industries and niches need more contributed content in June, July, and August than almost any other time of year. You can meet editors’ needs, engage your audience members, and contribute to your goals, all at the same time, if your strategy is set up correctly.

And if those aren’t reasons enough to keep up with your content and assess your plan, ask yourself: Would you rather know whether your content is effective now or when it’s budget time and you don’t have the results you need to lock in those dollars?

Content strategies rely on a lot of moving parts, and actually assessing your effectiveness can be challenging, especially if you don’t have anything to guide you through it.

To get started making changes that can impact your company for the rest of the year, follow these three tips:

1.) Retrace Your Steps

Go back to your original strategy and the goals you set. What metrics did you say you would track? How are you doing on that front so far?

Maybe your goal is lead generation. Did you meet your lead gen goal for the quarter? Or are you creating lots of content without seeing many leads? You could have seen good social shares this quarter and grown your Twitter following by 20 percent, but did your content actually help you reach the lead gen goal you set for it? Start by comparing your performance to the goal you want to reach.

2.) Diversify Your Content

Company blogs play a vital role in any content strategy, but if you lean on your blog to do all the work of a diverse content mix, it’ll be nearly impossible to see the results you want.

Content is a toolbox, and you have so many tools at your disposal: blog posts, sure, but also press mentions, email marketing, guest posts, and more. Your blog can’t do it all alone. Great content strategies use different types of content for different goals, so consider what you’ve tried so far and whether it’s actually working, then test adding new content deliverables to amplify your results.

3.) Stretch Your Work Further

Developing content is one thing, but using it properly is a whole other animal. Are you distributing your content and building links? Do you have a plan for how to go from content production to increased revenue or brand awareness? Do you have the tools you need to scale?

Don’t stop at content generation. Put in the work to expand the reach of your content. From paid amplification to email marketing to SEO audits, invest in your content to get the maximum return on your investment.

Marketers have a responsibility to keep an eye on their content’s performance all year, but summer is an especially good time to dig deep. Use the data you’ve collected, identify the gaps in your approach, and correct course for a more effective strategy throughout the rest of the year.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

The Right Way To Win The Deal

Regardless of who you’re selling to, lenders, servicers or the borrower, you have to have a clear strategy and you have to execute. That’s essential. But even before that, famed consultant Jill Konrath challenges people in her article “The Experience of You” that you should start by asking yourself: Would you buy something from yourself?

Konrath goes further to say that you should imagine yourself as someone who’s always involved in the buying decision for your product/service. Here’s the scenario: You’re busy. Really busy. You’ve been in meetings all morning and by lunchtime you’re already two hours behind schedule.

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Grabbing a quick sandwich and chips at the vending machine, you sit down at your desk to try to catch up while you eat. Forty-two new emails sit in your inbox awaiting your response. A quick scan shows nothing requiring an immediate reply.

Checking voicemail, you hear that you have seven messages piled up. Since you’re expecting an important call, you’re forced to listen to each one. But your attention span is short. If the caller doesn’t pique your interest right away, they’re bleeped.

Right after lunch, you’re meeting with a salesperson that somehow managed to get on your calendar. You look at the work piled on your desk. There’s enough there to keep you busy for two weeks if you had nothing else to do but finish it.

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Your stomach wretches with the dread of another non-productive meeting. You have no patience for sellers who ask trite questions to which they should already know the answer.

You don’t want to hear about their products or service. Nor do you want to add any more complexity or change to what you’re already doing—even for just a short while. You can’t keep up as it is.

That’s the reality facing most buyers today.

If you’re like most sellers, your approach is creating your own problems. If you’ve been in sales for a long time, you’re likely using the same strategies and techniques you learned long ago. If you’re new to sales, you’re likely being trained on skills that worked just a few short years ago but are no longer effective.

Sales success today requires you to be distinct or face becoming extinct. In The Experience Economy, authors Pine and Gilmore write that future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations. An interesting thought to ponder. What relevance could it possibly have for people who sell?

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The truth is that every interaction you have with prospective customers is either a positive or a negative experience—never neutral. If your prospect feels they received value from your interaction, you get a second chance. If not, you’re out.

Sharing information about your product or service contributes virtually nothing to the value equation. It’s assumed that you will say only good things about your offering.

Additionally, buyers perceive that what you sell is nearly identical to your competitors – whether you think it is or not. As far as they’re concerned, everything is a commodity or soon will be.

Rich and compelling experiences are created by sellers who recognize the shift that’s taken place in the market. They study their prospect’s business problems and goals. They constantly search for information that their prospects would find valuable.

When they talk with their prospects, they bring along ideas and insights into what’s happening in the marketplace, with their prospect’s customers or with their competitors. They challenge their customer’s paradigm of what it takes to be successful and get them thinking.

These “experiences” don’t just happen serendipitously. You have to immerse yourself in your prospect’s business, market segment, industry and more. You need to continually be asking, “How can I help my customers achieve their goals or solve their problems?”

As a person who sells, your job is to orchestrate this rich and compelling experience. You can’t leave it up to happenstance.

Authors Pine and Ginsmore further advocate that customers should pay for this “experience.” With that in mind, I’ll leave you with one final thought:

Would your prospects willingly pay $500 for an hour of your time?

Think about that each time you meet with a potential buyer and make it happen. Your competitors won’t stand a chance.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Guaranteed Rate Rolls Out New Marketing Platform

Guaranteed Rate, one of the largest retail mortgage lenders in the United States, has chosen Total Expert as its strategic technology partner to deploy its new proprietary marketing operating system (MOS), named Red Arrow Connect.  The system is designed for the modern top producer, bringing together best-in-class marketing tools and existing industry leading technology, custom built by Guaranteed Rate’s in-house technology team.

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“As part of Guaranteed Rate’s commitment to leading the industry in innovation, we selected Total Expert as a partner who most closely aligns with our needs and vision for the future,” said Chief Operating Officer Nikolaos Athanasiou of Guaranteed Rate. “Total Expert demonstrated its ability to scale to our needs, allowing us to customize our existing best-in-class technology platform. This streamlines the process for our loan officers to make it easier to build their brand and generate more business.”

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Total Expert, the first modern enterprise sales and marketing technology platform built to meet the unique needs of mortgage lenders, banks and financial institutions, will empower Guaranteed Rate’s nearly 1,500 loan officers across the country to manage and communicate with their customers and referral partners, while maintaining company brand standards and regulatory requirements.

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“Guaranteed Rate has been recognized by numerous publications for being a leader in technology, which demonstrates the company’s ability to be agile and innovative – two words we use to describe Total Expert. We’re pleased that our shared vision has translated into a strong partnership,” said Joe Welu, founder and CEO of Total Expert.

About The Author

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

A Time To Listen

Many times we think we have all the answers, or at least that we know what we’re doing. However, it always helps to get some outside advice. In the article “The Power of an Outside Voice” by Jon Gordon, he shares a story about an interaction that he had with a top CEO.

The CEO said, “We brought you here to reinforce our message. Our folks get tired of hearing us say it but when it comes from an outside voice it’s new, fresh and exciting.”

Jon knew exactly what that CEO was talking about.

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Even though he is brought in to speak to some of the biggest names in sports and business his kids have little interest in hearing what he has to say.

Besides having his kids read his books and writing inspirational messages on whiteboards in their rooms, Jon resorted to outside voices to reinforce the message and principles he want to share with them.

Jon has found coaches, tutors, mentors, experts, etc. to encourage, coach, teach, push and bring out the best in his children.

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Jon also give his children books to read and shared inspiring YouTube videos and messages from role models such as Mo Isom, Daniel Rodriguez, Erwin McManus, Alexis Jones, Eric Thomas, Bailey Obrien and other inspirational people.

There’s something about the power of an outside voice and I want to encourage you to use outside voices to share and reinforce important principles and messages with your team at work and at home.

I will do all I can do to support you by continuing to write articles, give talks and provide even more free resources to be an outside voice for you and others. I know it’s my purpose and I’m glad to be of help.

NexLevel Advisors is a strategic business advisory firm that assists companies in growing their businesses more quickly and strategically than they could by themselves. We are passionate about taking your business and people to the next level by differentiating your company and its unique offerings.

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Our customized solutions help you to sell more, more frequently, to more people by clearly establishing your specific value propositions. This is where real world experience, strategy and execution deliver measurable results for your organization.

In the end, there are many outside voices out there and I encourage you to find the right people and resources to share with your work team and ask family members, neighbors, friends, teachers and mentors to encourage and teach your children and team at home. This philosophy is so great that it will help you with your work life and your home life.

There’s the power of an outside voice and you can start tapping into one today!

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Let’s Do This Right

Now is the time to think about holistic marketing. Why? We all know that the current mortgage market has its challenges. But that’s no reason to give up. Now is the time to hone your marketing so you are the company of choice.

In the article entitled “The Best of B2B Marketing Content: 10 Examples” written by Meghan Keaney Anderson, she says that many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, “Why do they get to have all the fun?” But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2B companies are just as passionate about their products as B2C companies are. And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge to provide them with solutions.

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So, what’s the point? No marketing, including content, is uninteresting if you look at it certain ways. Done right, B2B content marketing can certainly match — and sometimes, maybe even rival — the creativity and appeal of the best B2C ones. Here are some tips:

Remember Your Buyer’s Goals

When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus. So, while it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone, keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.

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Educate Your Buyers

Think about the problems that your product or service already aims to solve for customers. Then, turn that into relevant content that’s going to both save time for and inform your audience, and make it easy for them to access it.

Grow With Your Buyers

When you begin to brainstorm and map out ideas for content, ask yourself, “Do I really understand my audience?” If you have any doubts as to how the idea will benefit or be useful to your audience, the answer might be “no” — and that’s okay. Like everything else, audiences (and people) evolve, so it’s okay to go back to the drawing board in instances like these for a refresh.

Diversify Your Channels

The Internet is only going to become more crowded. And as the human attention span dwindles, that makes it even more important to create content that engages and maintains your audience’s attention.

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So while we don’t recommend abandoning blogs completely, after all, written content is still vital to SEO, we do emphasize the importance of diversifying content formats. Marketers who incorporate video into their content strategies, for example, have seen 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. And remember that tip to “keep it human” we mentioned earlier? That’s a great thing about live video in particular, it can help portray brands (and their people) as candid and genuine.

Work With Thought Leaders

If you’ve ever wondered how to leverage the wealth of knowledge outside of your organization, and inside your professional network, here’s a great example.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the entrepreneurs and leaders you’ve met, or simply just admire, to figure out how they can work with you to create content with teachable experiences that your audience will value. Sharing useful, relatable first-hand accounts conveys empathy, which helps to invoke trust among readers.

Publish Off-Domain Content

Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that, stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website.

Medium, for example, connects your content with the people most likely to read it. Plus, you’re creating a publication on a platform that comes with a built-in audience of at least 6.3 million users.

Incorporate Visual Content

Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital, but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.

But if you can also create content that aligns with the core of your product or service, that’s also great. For example, Wistia creates visual content technology, so it makes sense that it would have unique visual content. Identify what your business does particularly well, and then make the most use of the channel that best aligns with your strengths.

Tell Your Brand Story

Dig beneath the surface of the solutions your company provides. You offer solutions, but what is your process? What have you learned that makes you do what you do so well, and how did you get there?

Sure, topics like engineering might be traditionally “unsexy.” But when leveraged and communicated in a storytelling manner, they can make for remarkable content.

Challenge Your Buyers

It’s easy to feel limited by your medium as you create content, especially for a business audience who you’ve all agreed is comfortable with that medium.

But in order for content to convert readers and incite growth, it needs to occasionally disrupt its audience’s point of view. A company doesn’t work for its content; content works for its company. If you need to say something that a blog alone can’t, the business demands that you make it work, whether that means starting a YouTube channel or seeing how you can integrate an AR tool into your next ebook.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Mortgage Marketing: How To Find Your Perfect Niche

Mortgage lenders want to rise above your competition, but they may have bigger companies and bigger marketing budgets behind them. There’s still a way to win: Truly know your niche. You can position yourself as the go-to mortgage expert for your ideal client, and you don’t have to spend more time or more money to get there. You just have to work smarter.

In today’s hyper-competitive mortgage market with fluctuating rates, low inventories, and changing borrower expectations, it is vital that you truly understand your target audience. A thoughtful, tailored approach to marketing will allow you to lock in relationships with your ideal borrowers far more effectively than your competitors.

Understanding and effectively communicating with your most profitable niche markets is critical to your success. Entire books are written about how important it is to find your niche, but there are very few roadmaps that make it easy. But without an ideal target, most of your marketing dollars will go right down the drain.

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This guide was designed to help loan originators think through the first and most critical step in their marketing strategy – figuring out your ideal prospects. The first part of the guide will explain the benefits and concepts surrounding finding your niche. The second part is a step-by-step questionnaire we call the “know your niche” worksheet. Just answer the questions and you will be ready to market very intelligently, without wasting money.

Part 1: Identify your ideal borrower

In an article entitled “How to Define Your Target Market” by Mandy Porta from Inc.com, Porta states, “To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly.”
“Given the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. No one can afford to target everyone. Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market.”

If you’re targeting “anyone who needs a mortgage loan”, your target is too general and you will be competing against larger companies with much larger marketing budgets. You simply can’t affordably attract every potential borrower. Instead, focus on your ideal borrower.

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Don’t worry – by focusing your marketing efforts on your ideal borrower, you’re not excluding people who don’t fit your criteria. Those people will still come to you via referrals and other avenues, but your marketing program has to get specific. With a narrowly defined ideal customer, you’re intelligently targeting your marketing dollars and efforts on a specific segment that is more profitable for you or easier for you to serve.

Consider which niche markets you can serve best and you will quickly see great opportunities to focus your message with laser precision. Here are just a few examples of how this works.

Example 1: Veterans and military families

If this is your ideal borrower, you can pinpoint their average incomes, the neighborhoods they prefer, the news sources they read, where they go, and what types of mortgages serve them best. This niche market has several subsets that would allow you to get even more focused, like active service members, retired military, families or individuals. Identify your ideal borrower, and you suddenly have critical demographic intelligence that can help you tailor your marketing messages for maximum effectiveness.

Example 2: Millennial borrowers

If millennial borrowers are your ideal borrower, you can zero in on their incomes, the areas the prefer to live in, what they read, what they do with leisure time, and what types of mortgage loans are best for them. This niche market is far too broad on its own, but you can divide it further by considering gender, specific occupations and even which neighborhoods they are most interested in living.

By clearly defining your target audience, your marketing materials and value propositions can be much more specific, personalized, and meaningful to your prospective borrowers. With a very clear target, it’s much easier to determine the best values for your marketing dollars.

Yes, this is the hardest part of your marketing strategy. But we combined our expertise with the tips included in Porta’s article above to develop a worksheet that will make it much easier for you to get it right, quickly.

Part 2: Know Your Niche Worksheet

Your current customer base is important. Who are your best borrowers now? Which characteristics or interests do they have in common? Why do they come to you? Are there specific types that bring in more profitable or enjoyable business than others? Who are they? It’s very likely that other people just like these could also benefit from your services.
So, check out your competition. Who are your most successful competitors? Who are they targeting? Don’t go after the same market. You can find a niche that they are overlooking.

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Know your benefits. List all the benefits of getting a mortgage through you instead of your competitors. Next to each feature, list the benefits the borrower receives (and the benefits of those benefits). Once you have your benefits listed, make a list of people who have a need that your benefit fulfills. When you have identified your ideal borrower population, dig deeper to find smaller subpopulation niches inside of the broader demographics.

Choose specific demographics. Figure out not only who has a need for your service, but also who is mostly likely to buy it. List the following details about your niche: age, location, gender, income level, education level, marital or family status, and occupation.

Consider the psychographics of your target. Psychographics are the more personal characteristics of a population. List their characteristics regarding: personality, attitude/values, interests/hobbies, behavior. What media does your ideal borrower turn to for information? Do they read the newspaper? Do they read their mail? Or do they search online or attend events? It’s critical to understand their behavior so you don’t waste marketing dollars on efforts that your niche market largely ignores.

Evaluate your decision. Once you’ve decided on a target market, be sure to consider these questions:

Are there enough people who fit my criteria? Get narrow, but not too narrow that your population is too small to keep your loan pipeline full.

Does my target market really benefit from my specific services and expertise? Do they see a need for it?

Do I understand what drives them to make homebuying decisions?

Can they afford to get a mortgage loan?

Can I reach them effectively? Are they easily accessible?

Once you’ve identified your ideal customer and understand them, you’re well on your way. It’s much easier to figure out the most effective approach to a target market if you know exactly who they are. Think of it this way: You can throw all your marketing dollars against a giant wall and see what sticks, wasting valuable money and time with every dollar. Or you can identify your ideal borrower and more intelligently invest your time and money with precision.

The more you market to and serve your ideal borrower, the more you will know about them and the more effective your marketing approach will get over time. Remember, the work doesn’t end after you’ve identified your target audience. It’s essential to stay current on market and industry trends, know your competition, and pay close attention to your target niche. Once you’re “in”, it will be very difficult for another mortgage lender to displace you as the “go-to” mortgage expert in your niche.

About The Author

Brandon Perry

Brandon Perry is President at The Turning Point. Brandon oversees all operational and administrative activities of TTP. Brandon brings over 16 years of experience in various financial services industries to TTP which enhances the Company’s ability to maintain it’s position as industry leader in providing customers with an advanced marketing solution.

Engage With Your Niche

To succeed in the mortgage market, your first step is identifying your niche. Once you’ve decided on the best demographic target for your success, effective communication will take your message from blah to bingo. Here, we’ll cover 5 important guidelines that will make sure your niche listens and engages with you, effectively driving your mortgage business.

In my view, the five keys to effectively communicating with your niche include:

1.) Tailor your materials according to their needs

When it’s time to communicate with your niche, you have to think about what matters to them. If you don’t consider their priorities and challenges, you will definitely miss your target. When you’re writing your email messages, postcard, articles or other marketing materials, think about a few of these examples:

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Is your niche first time homebuyers? This niche will likely ignore retirement savings advice, vacation home or reverse mortgage products or construction financing tips. Instead, bring them “preparing for your mortgage loan” checklists, credit tips and down payment savings plans.

Is your niche single women-led families? This niche likely won’t care about lawn care advice or DIY remodeling projects. To become a valued voice for this niche, send them lists of “kids eat free” restaurants in your area, tips for paying down loan principles, and recommendations for ideal family neighborhoods.

You have to focus on solutions to your niche market’s real problems. This is what borrowers are really looking for, so you have to position yourself as a problem solver. If you have solutions that will truly help them, let them know and your message will get notices.

2.) Create a crystal-clear message.

Your niche is extremely busy and they are bombarded with marketing messages every second of every day. That may be an exaggeration, but only a slight one. Marketing is everywhere, and if you want your niche to take notice of you, the message has to be absolutely clear and very simple. Your marketing messages are not only competing with other mortgage lenders, but they are also competing for space in your niche’s brain against all the other advertisements your niche sees every day – whether it’s McDonalds or Beyoncé or American Express. Be clear, concise and to the point.

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Graphics can grab attention, but don’t let them overwhelm your marketing to the point where you message isn’t being communicated. Make sure your graphics are relevant to your message and will be noticed by your niche. Simple, clean design should enhance your message, not compete with it.

Again, people are busy. When you do get a few seconds of their attention, don’t squander it with unclear messages or irrelevant graphics.

3.) Deliver something valuable to your niche

When you communicate with your niche, always offer something of value and include a hook that will entice them to contact you. Simply put, offer additional (valuable!) information as an incentive to reach out and start a conversation with you or exchange contact info so you can more target them even more effectively in the future.  This extra value “hooks” a prospect, setting the stage for further communication.

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Here are a few examples of hooks:

>>Download a free step-by-step loan process guide

>>Download a neighborhood resources guide

>>Download a checklist for getting started buying a home

>>Call us today for access to your free mortgage loan calculator

>>Click here for warning signs of fraud

>>Call me for details

>>Call us for a free readiness assessment

All of these hooks offer something of value to an interested prospect. They will increase not only the attention your pieces get but boost your response rates and position you as the go-to expert for mortgages.

4.) Include a clear and concise call to action

You have to motivate your prospects with a strong “Call to Action”. Calls to Action (CTAs) are often the difference between prospects just eyeballing your content versus prospects that are converting into actual leads.  In today’s highly competitive mortgage market it is critical to convert potential borrowers into leads, which convert into actual borrowers.

You can create great content, new websites and professional marketing materials but if all a potential borrower does is read your materials you still have nothing to show for it.  Your CTAs must motivate the potential borrower to take action.   To get pre-qualified, to start the application process, to speak with a loan officer, because once they take that first step at contact, most borrowers stop shopping around.

So, what is the difference between a CTA that drives leads and action compared to the typical CTA that people just read but don’t act on?  There are a number of factors that impact the effectiveness of your CTA. They include:

Wording is critical: Use words that demonstrate an understanding of your prospect’s pain and what motivates them. Put yourself in your prospects shoes.  What would you be looking for throughout your home buying process? Ask yourself “What’s in it for me?” The prospect will eventually ask themselves this same question.

Proper design and placement: If you want your CTA to get the attention it deserves, you need to take advantage of basic design principles. To pop, your CTA needs proper white space, colors, shapes and other visual elements. This field has been studied to a science by marketing automation experts, so it’s critical to get their help.
Marketing automation experts know that seemingly small changes in design can have a huge impact on your response rates. They constantly test colors, shapes, sizes and placement to generate the highest returns, so consider a marketing automation platform to avoid losing out because of simple design principles.

Deliver value to your prospect: Provide your prospects with insights, trends and offers that the prospect can’t live without.  Put yourself in the their shoes and find out what motivates them to take action. Adding value for your prospect creates a higher need and increases the chance of taking your call to action.

There are a number of articles that provide key insights into the power of CTAs and how to get the most out of them in your marketing materials.  In an article by Wendy Marx entitled Calls to Action: “How to Motivate Your Audience”, she lists 10 Guides to Creating Calls to Action that Convert”. Check out the story for some additional tips on creating the perfect CTA https://goo.gl/Zd18pz.

5.) Consider a marketing automation system

There are several turn-key programs available that can suit your niche perfectly. “Set it and forget it” technology has dramatically improved marketing effectiveness and you don’t have to do this alone when there are experts with proven success. Once you’ve done the hard part of identifying your niche, you should lean on marketing automation systems that know how to get attention in your niche. They have ready-made content that’s already been proven effective, and you can consistently stay in touch with your niche with very little effort.

Choosing the right marketing automation system will give you a significant advantage over your competitors. Make sure your system has expertise in your niche market and understands the keys to effectively engaging your ideal audience. Backed with marketing automation, you will quickly make progress towards being the “go-to” mortgage expert for your niche.

Succeed with targeted, clear solutions

Effectively communicating with your ideal niche will bring the leads in that you need to grow your loan pipeline. Consistently deliver the messages they’re interested in, with clear language and hooks that further engage them, and you will become a trusted advisor. When your audience knows that you “get them” and that you provide valuable solutions, choosing a mortgage loan provider and recommending you to their friends will be a simple decision.

About The Author

Brandon Perry

Brandon Perry is President at The Turning Point. Brandon oversees all operational and administrative activities of TTP. Brandon brings over 16 years of experience in various financial services industries to TTP which enhances the Company’s ability to maintain it’s position as industry leader in providing customers with an advanced marketing solution.

Is Your Marketing DB An Asset Or Liability?

We work with lenders across the country to help them leverage marketing automation so that they can attract potential new borrowers, keep current borrowers informed and past borrowers connected for future business or referrals while increasing customer satisfaction.

Invariably, lenders what to know what kind of marketing programs we have, how effective are campaigns are, what type of templates we have and how customizable the system is and best practices or examples from other successful lenders. Lenders want to know when they can start emailing prospective borrowers, how soon they will be getting leads and why it is not happening faster.

These are all good questions, but what amazes me is that they always want to jump to the marketing materials before we even discuss the most important first step. So what is the important first step that many lenders look past?

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The first step is discussing the condition of their marketing database. You would be shocked at how many lenders say that they want to start marketing immediately but when asked about the condition of their marketing database we hear things like this—“I think we have a list from the last couple of trade shows”, or “don’t worry about that we will send it over to you later”, or “I think we have a spreadsheet with that information somewhere.”

Unfortunately, these and many other similar responses indicate that the marketing database is not in the condition needed to fully maximize new and evolving marketing strategies. Would it surprise you that many trade show lists only include a physical address and not an email address? Or that lists that you buy online don’t always include the person’s full name, title or the physical address? O the information is outdated and has not been updated in years? At this point the lenders database is definitely a liability.

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If the keys to successful marketing to todays millennial home buyers include a dynamic mix of print and digital marketing materials delivered in a highly personalized manner specific to that individual when they are searching for a home, isn’t it absolutely critical to have a clean marketing database with as much information about the potential borrower as possible?

The companies that are most successful at attracting new borrowers understand that one of their greatest assets is their marketing database. It is the lifeblood of their organization and as such, treat it that way.

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They understand that to have a clean marketing database takes a commitment on a daily basis to constantly be updating, modifying and cleaning up this information. Information is power, and the companies that have a clean database are in the best position to maximize that information to drive new business.

If you want to successfully leverage marketing automation to attract new borrowers, it all starts with your marketing database, one of your businesses greatest assets.

About The Author

Brandon Perry

Brandon Perry is President at The Turning Point. Brandon oversees all operational and administrative activities of TTP. Brandon brings over 16 years of experience in various financial services industries to TTP which enhances the Company’s ability to maintain it’s position as industry leader in providing customers with an advanced marketing solution.