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The Future Of Digital Mortgage Technology Innovation

High-powered mortgage executives gathered at the Seventh Annual ENGAGE Event in Denver, Colo., to discuss the future of the mortgage business. The discussions that happened were both lively and informative. Here’s how they see the future of digital mortgage technology innovation:

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“We have to move this industry forward by streamlining the process, and cutting the cost to originate,” said Michael Hammond, Chief Strategy Officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and the Founder and President of NexLevel Advisors. NexLevel provides solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. “This is far more then just hype. This is something that the industry has to do and it is not just about one technology or one platform, it is about coming together as an industry.”

Neil Fraser, Director of U.S. Operations at Paradatec, believes that this will be an evolutionary process. “You don’t need a revolution to convert the document into data that you can believe. You need technology to read the documents, and convert that to data that can be both read and understood. I see that as an evolutionary step in mortgage technology innovation.”

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Paradatec is a mortgage OCR technology organization that automates the data entry operations of large lenders through intelligent document analysis. Neil was Paradatec’s first U.S. employee and has grown the organization every year since the company incorporated here in 2002.

As the mortgage industry embraces innovation to become more digital, everything starts at the point-of-sale. Realizing this fact, a lot of new POS vendors have emerged claiming to offer the true digital mortgage experience. Curt Tegeler, President of WebMax, warns lenders not to be fooled by vaporware as they march toward more digital processes.

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“There’s a lot of buzz today around the digital POS. Why is that? We’ve found that 90% of homebuyers start the process online,” Tegeler notes. WebMax’s digital lending platforms expedites the borrowing process, helps maintain compliance, delivers dynamic online lending tools, and provides a highly innovative borrower experience. “Make sure that the executives behind your POS have deep mortgage experience. You have to understand the market so you know what you’re fixing.”

One area that everyone agrees needs fixing is the appraisal process. If the industry is going to move to a more data-driven process and a fully automated point-of-sale, slower processes like the appraisal need to be addressed.

“Appraisals were really left on the side,” noted Arturo Garcia, the Senior Vice President of Account Management at Mercury Network. He leads all customer retention efforts and strategies for the company, responsible for continuous improvements and increased returns for customer investments and overall satisfaction. “Appraisals didn’t get a lot of attention. However, it’s antiquated to send an appraiser out to the field time and time again. I envision a day when you have a system that can automatically flag issues with the appraisal, fix them or send them right back to the appraiser for fixing.”

The big takeaway from this discussion was that the digital lending process is coming and must touch all parts of the mortgage process in order to make a difference in how loans are done.

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.

Value Your Data

We have heard industry veterans like Roger Gudobba and others say, “It’s all about the data.” The phrase has become so overused that it almost means nothing anymore. However, lenders and vendors alike should listen to this sound advice. Roger was talking about how data can improve the mortgage lending process, and that’s true, but I’m here to say to you that data can improve your marketing process, as well.

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In a White Paper entitled “Put Data First: Why Data Quality in CRM and Marketing Automation are Top Priority” written by RingLead, the author states that whatever your situation may be, you will quickly realize that it all comes back to data, because data is the real value in your CRM and marketing automation platform.

We don’t mean to trivialize the importance of workflows, automated processes and drip nurturing campaigns that these systems offer. These features are one of the primary reasons that organizations invest so much time and money into their implementation and ongoing administration and improvement, but many are rendered utterly useless when they come into contact with dirty data.

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Dirty data has a way of silently infiltrating your organization, creating frustration, inefficiency, and loss of confidence (eg. dismal user adoption) in the systems themselves. It can affect each department and group of stakeholders in a very different way, but unless there is a “State of Our Data” address, the problem is not brought to the forefront of the organization’s collective psyche.

One of the key requirements of a customer and prospect database is to easily segment the records, allowing your organization to interact with one set of contacts differently from others. This can be easy if you have a strict set of values for each field and the input is controlled at the insertion point.

A common requirement is segmentation by job title, but there are simply too many variations on an individual’s job title to try to account for each with a picklist value, so the standard method of insertion is via a regular text field. This creates a pretty big problem for segmentation.

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According to a 2013 Experian QAS survey, 94 percent of businesses believe there is some level of inaccuracy within their CRM systems. When you think about the time, money and focus that is put into CRM, an allowance for inaccurate and useless data is mind boggling.

Think about the time that your organization is wasting sifting through inaccurate or worse, completely useless, data. Inaccurate data leads to:

>>Wasted sales efforts on useless bits of information stored in CRM, leading to discontent and potential abandonment of the CRM system (ie. decreased user adoption)

>>Longer wait times for support while reps are forced to piece together information while on the phone with a customer, leading to decreased customer satisfaction

At Sirius Summit 2013, Jim Ninivaggi, Service Director of Sales Enablement Strategies at Sirius Decisions cited a study that found roughly 30% of an enterprise salesperson’s time is spent doing research on the Internet. If you think about that in the context of an 8 am – 6 pm workday, that means that 35 days per year are spent doing research.

In Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset, Thomas C. Redman sums up the advantages of data completeness as “A moat around our business [that] gives us a unique competitive advantage.” Nowhere is this more evident than the aspect of data completeness.

Duplicate records in CRM and marketing automation platforms are a familiar aspect of bad data. The errors and frustration that duplicates cause can be felt across most departments at almost every level.

Reports are skewed, the wrong messages are being sent, and quarrels are created over one record that somehow made it into the system twice and was distributed to two different sales reps.

How are duplicate records created? Today’s CRM and marketing automation platforms come equipped with very basic duplicate identification, which is, in almost every case, based on a scan for an exact-match email address.

Many modern, technology-enabled organizations are using more than one software platform to manage their customer and prospect data. It is crucial to keep your data in sync across your email, ERP systems, CRM, marketing automation platform, and more. If your data quality plan is limited to one platform, you’re only solving part of the problem.

It’s important to remember that dirty data can be a big problem, but can be easily solved. Analyze the problem and try to hone in on the areas that are causing the most pain. Then get in touch with a team that has experience in resolving these types of issues.

For example, NexLevel Advisors is focused on companies that are looking to take their business to the next level. NexLevel Advisors assists you in elevating your results. Creating new opportunities, executable strategies, and delivering results creates an environment that promotes continual growth and business value for your company.

We add value through strategic advice specific to your company. Our team has years of experience and have been in your situation and position. These individuals possess in-depth knowledge of your complex product and service offerings, the nuances of your market segment, and the challenges of your product roadmap and lifecycle. We deliver customized differentiation in the marketplace for your organization while producing measurable results.

What this means for your business is that you get customized programs from accomplished executives who offer proven results-oriented solutions specifically created to take your organization to the next level, quicker and more strategically than you could on your own.

NexLevel’s experience has covered multiple industries including: Financial Services, Healthcare, Legal Services and Insurance in delivering marketplace results, with extensive expertise in complex technology oriented products and services. 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.

For over 20 years the advisors of NexLevel have been leading and creating market leaders in business, delivering success after success in taking companies to the next level in revenues and profitability. This vast expertise comes from real world experience in running companies, building organizations and holding the following positions of leadership: CEO, CMO, VP Business Strategy, and Director of Sales & Marketing. Our experience makes the difference in your business.

If your CRM reporting seems “off”, if your marketing campaigns are less than impressive, if your sales team is underperforming, then this is your system flashing the Check Engine light. More often than not, dirty data is the root cause.

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.

Back To Basics

As the mortgage industry becomes more advanced, sometimes classic strategies are still worthy of use. For example, in the article entitled “Creating Lead Magnets That Convert” by Clayton Johnson, he says marketing techniques are amazing. No matter how much technology advances online, some techniques never go out of style. One of these classics is a lead magnet.

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Let’s take a look at what lead magnets are and how they can improve your marketing efforts.

How They Work

Traffic is great. But online success is about more than just driving people to your site. You want visitors who are actually interested in the products or services you provide.

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Lead magnets are a marketing technique used to attract leads that are likely to convert. Basically, you offer something for free in exchange for the person’s email address. Then, you send this potential customer additional emails. Each email provides additional free content as well as information on your brand. Slowly but surely, you’re driving the customer toward a sale. This process is called a conversion funnel.

The Right Magnetic Energy

Here’s the thing. Suppose you sell designer furniture: You decide to offer a free product in exchange for email addresses as a way to generate some leads. You can probably get a ton of email addresses if you offer free iPads or big-screen TVs. Of course, that would be incredibly expensive, but you’re almost guaranteed to get a lot of responses.

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The problem (aside from the cost) is that those email addresses aren’t going to be very good leads. Pretty much everybody wants a free iPad. There’s no particular connection between people who want a free iPad and people who want to buy designer furniture.

Offering Free Content

You want to offer content related to your brand. Here are three key ingredients to consider when developing your lead magnet:

>>Is this content something your audience will care about?

>>Does this content have any real-world value?

>>Does this content help solve a problem?

The first step to success is to understand your audience. You’ll want to develop a buyer persona. This is a detailed, fictional person who represents your larger customer base. You’ll also want to understand how your brand is perceived.

Launching A Lead Magnet

The ideal piece of content is something you can create for free but other people are willing to pay more for. This often means creating written content like an e-book. A great way to find out what type of information is popular in your niche is to search the Kindle Marketplace. What e-books are selling well? What type of format does the audience respond to?

When you’ve found some best-selling e-books, take a look at the reviews. Are there any common complaints? You’re looking for shortcomings. The idea is to create a better e-book and then offer it for free. You’ll promote the book by showcasing how your e-book has information the competition lacks.

Creating New Content

Writing an e-book can be a fairly labor-intensive project. Fortunately, you can still generate leads even before the book is finished. Hit up your social media pages and announce the topic of your new e-book. Explain that you’re just starting the writing process. Ask your social media followers for feedback. This accomplishes two things:

>>You’ll learn about the specific topics your potential audience is interested in.

>>You’ll create advanced buzz and excitement for your e-book.

Of course, once you do this you need to actually finish the e-book. If you can’t deliver on your promise, your customer base will have a hard time trusting you when it’s time to make a sale. But as long as you deliver, an announcement is an effective strategy.

Creating free content can pay off big time in terms of brand awareness and conversions. Following the tips above will focus your marketing efforts on people who are most likely to be interested in the products or services you provide.

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.

Not Everything Needs To Be Digital

There is a lot of buzz around the digital mortgage, but not everything needs to be digital. What do I mean? Some marketing needs to be direct mail. In the article “How and When to Use Direct Mail as Part of Your Inbound Marketing Strategy” by Mac McAvoy, he writes that direct mail regularly gets a bad rap as an exclusively outbound-focused tactic that doesn’t keep up with the ways buyers want to consume content.

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But in the right situations, direct mail could be a crucial differentiator in a world where 78% of consumers have unsubscribed from a company’s email list because the company was sending too many emails.

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Just as a product that’s similar to a dozen competitors will struggle to take off, marketing that looks like everyone else’s simply won’t be memorable. Classic digital marketing tactics like email have become so overcrowded that approaching inbound creatively is crucial to standing out from your competition.

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The key to doing direct mail right is keeping it aligned with your inbound marketing funnel.

Never forget your main objective: you want to lead prospects back online to continue nurturing them there. Any piece of mail you send must direct prospects online to help you track them throughout the process — whether that’s including a link to a landing page or a code they can enter on your website. Plus, the more information you have about what kinds of offers they respond to, the better you can speak to their pain points and specific needs.

Prior to beginning any marketing campaign, your team should be laser-focused on your potential customers’ preferences and needs.

Your number one priority is standing out to those who are most likely to buy your product. This fundamental step shouldn’t change when you’re considering incorporating direct mail into your marketing. Inbound is all about meeting prospective customers where they are.

Given the plethora of other places to spend, it’ll be hard to justify spending on direct mail over, for example, paid content promotion on social media if your target audience is addicted to their smartphones.

However, if your potential customers are old enough to own homes or apartments and are likely to check their mailboxes often, direct mail could prove to be effective. It’s all about understanding what your audience needs.

If you’ve identified that sending a letter or postcard is an effective way to reach your particular prospects, you can begin to think about the moments in the buyer’s cycle when it’s best to reach out with the personalized touch of a physical piece of mail.

For example, a prospect finds a piece of content useful and subscribes to your blog to stay in the know. So what’s your next step?

Keep in mind that all your prospect did was subscribe to an email list. That means they’re probably still a pretty “cold” lead. If they found a blog post through organic search or because they saw a headline that looked interesting on LinkedIn, they’re not going to appreciate receiving any type of content that attempts to make a hard sell, let alone a postcard explaining your pricing.

Think about the number of coupons and offers that you’ve discovered in your mailbox, only to toss them in the recycling bin immediately. Those pieces of mail probably weren’t relevant to needs you’d expressed.

You need to make the content you’re offering via direct mail speak to the individual. That means that if at all possible, you want to segment your mailing list in the same way you’d segment an email list.

Ultimately, striking at the right time with direct mail comes down to maintaining awareness of your prospects’ stage in the buyer’s cycle. Craft the direct mail piece that stands out from the rest by showing that your company understands their leads.

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.

Win The Deal

It’s great to close that deal that you’ve been working on, but what happens when you lose the deal? Why does that happen and how can you win the deal more often? In the White Paper entitled “Why Didn’t They Buy?” put together by DiscoverOrg.com, their research concludes “as a data business, we know that solid, accurate, and comprehensive data drives the best decisions, and even seasoned sales professionals can improve their results by diving into the numbers. This objective study explores the multifaceted and complex buyer persona to reveal which sales approaches are effective and which aren’t—all informed by deep insights into human behavior and rationalization.”

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Specifically, this research challenged the reader to put yourself in the position of the experienced buyer who has met with hundreds of salespeople. What percentage of salespeople would you say are excellent, good, average or poor? Overall, study participants rated 12% excellent, 23% good, 38% average, and 27% poor.

Think about those figures: What are the implications of nearly 2/3 of B2B salespeople being considered average or poor? Buyers have been conditioned to be skeptical and not to trust salespeople in general. Therefore many buyers have immense RFPs and laborious spreadsheets that vendors must complete. They require each product feature and operation to be fully documented, and meticulous hands-on evaluation of each product. The goal is risk mitigation: reducing the uncertainty associated with selecting a vendor and making the purchase.

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Buyers go to great lengths to reduce the risk of buying. They may list their needs in documents that are hundreds of pages long; they hire consultants to verify that they are making the right decisions; and they conduct lengthy evaluations to test products, talking to existing users and doing pilot tests—all in an effort to eliminate fear, uncertainty, and risk. The B2B buyer is fixated on risk mitigation—and your reception as a sales professional depends on the department you’re selling to.

Also, whenever a company makes a purchase decision that involves a team of people, self-interest, politics, and group dynamics influence the final decision. Tension, drama, and conflict are normal parts of group dynamics, because purchase decisions are not typically made unanimously.

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One of the most formidable enemies facing salespeople today is no decision. What prevents prospective buyers from making a purchase, even after they have conducted a lengthy evaluation process? Every initiative and its associated expenditure is competing against all the other projects requesting funding.

What is the ability of different departments of a company to push through their purchases and defeat the company’s bureaucratic tendency not to buy? Let’s look at the profiles of the various departments in terms of how they ranked their leadership ability as a predictor of their department’s ability to promote their internal agenda. Here are department responses that strongly agreed with the statement, “I am often a leader in groups.”

Beyond their formal titles and position on organization charts, people take on specific roles when they are part of a selection committee. Some take control of the group and steer the decision toward their preference.

Based on the research results, you might expect Sales, Information Technology, and Engineering to have more internal clout to push through their projects than Marketing or Human Resources. Therefore, they’re better departments to sell into from the salesperson’s perspective. As a president of a company once told me during a win-loss interview, “At the end of the day, a project will or won’t get approved depending upon who is pushing it.”

In most industries, a single company dominates the market. Compared to their competitors, they have a much larger market share, top-of-the-line products, greater marketing budget and reach, and more company caché. For salespeople who have to compete against these industry giants, life can be very intimidating indeed.

However, the study results provide some good news in this regard. Buyers aren’t necessarily fixated on the market leader and are more than willing to select second-tier competitors than one might expect.

In fact, only 33% of participants indicated they prefer the most prestigious, best-known brand with the highest functionality and cost. Conversely, 63% said they would select a fairly well known brand with 85% of the functionality at 80% of the cost. However, only 5% would select a relatively unknown brand with 75% of the functionality at 60% of the cost of the best-known brand.

In some sales situations, it is necessary to align with the buyer’s thought process in order to win; these buyers are experienced and knowledgeable about their business and technical fields. In other situations, the buyer’s thought process must be transformed and gently shaped over the course of the sales cycle. Finally, just as a doctor must sometimes prescribe a painful treatment to heal a patient, in some sales situations you must control prospective buyers in order to help them.

What selling style do prospective buyers prefer? The survey shows 40% of study participants prefer a salesperson who listens, understands, then matches their solution to solve a specific problem. Another 30% prefer a salesperson who earns their trust by making them feel comfortable, like they will take care of the customer’s long-term needs. Another 30% want a salesperson who challenges their thoughts and perceptions, and then prescribes a solution that they may not have known about.

To better understand the impact of human nature on buyers, study participants were asked to recount the last time they experienced significant buyer’s remorse. Buyer’s remorse occurs after the purchase is made when the buyer feels a sense of regret, guilt, or anger, and they second-guess their decision.

Most people mistakenly associate buyer’s remorse with an impulsive purchase, or assume it was caused by the pressure tactics of a salesperson. When each example was laboriously analyzed, a pattern emerged. The source of buyer’s remorse can be categorized into nine different root causes. However, it is the buyer’s action, which actually caused remorse in over 70% of the examples – not the salesperson or the product that was sold.

Within every company, each department has its own “buyers.” For example, Marketing defines product requirements for Engineering; Engineering builds a prototype for Manufacturing; IT provides the systems Manufacturing needs; and Finance provides funds for IT. For the most part, each department’s buyers are internal to the company, both physically and culturally. The Sales department is unique. Sales is focused solely on external buyers who are geographic and cultural outsiders to the organization.

Within many companies, buyer persona profiles are created by Sales Enablement to provide messaging and information on how the salespeople should interact with the various types of prospects they meet. While most of these buyers personas are predicated on the customer being a rational decision maker, in reality, it is human nature that determines how buyers evaluate and who they ultimately select. There is an entirely intangible, human side to the sales process. And it is the mastery of the intuitive human element of the buyer relationship that separates the winner from losers.

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.

Take Your Business To The Next Level

In the beginning, entrepreneurs tend to focus deeply on just launching the business. But what happens when the launch and the subsequent water-treading and breath-holding period starts to subside? In the article “Ready to Scale Your Small Business? Do These 5 Things” written by Emily Richett, here’s what she suggests:

Build A Vision Your Team Shares

While scaling a business of any size takes strategic planning and focus, going from solopreneur status to a true team is a serious leap. Andrew Dymski co-founded the digital agency GuavaBox in his college dorm room. Fast forward to today, and he’s got a powerhouse global team making things happen around the world. His advice? “Spend time building out the vision for what you’re trying to build.” And that’s easier said than done–entrepreneurs notoriously, “keep their noses to the grindstone and never look up,” he adds.

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It’s an essential exercise especially during the all-important shift from one to more than one. “When you start scaling your team, you need to have a clear mission that others can get excited about.” And, as Andrew reiterates, that impacts you, too–not just your team. “Taking the time to focus on your vision can help you build the company of your dreams,” he says, “not just build out another job. You don’t want to finally lift your head up in 10 years and wonder why you wasted your time and energy hustling to build a business you don’t even like.”

Be Endlessly Data-Driven

When you’re scaling your small business, it’s essential to measure and analyze everything.

“When our digital agency went through its first growth phase in 2014, our client base grew 200% in less than three months,” says Lauren Davenport, CEO of the Symphony Agency. Like Andrew, Lauren launched her company in college. Now, she leads a team of 20. “We needed help–and we needed it now.” Their solution? They immediately wrote up job descriptions and brought in seven new team members, seemingly overnight. The only problem? They did it without any sort of hiring framework in place. And that was a problem.

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“We didn’t dig into the nitty gritty of capacity planning and profit margins,” she recalls. “Hiring more people solves all problems, right? Wrong.” In this case, bringing on new hires had the opposite impact–the quality of their product suffered big time. “I had the pleasure of learning the age old lesson of ‘be slow to hire and quick to fire,” says Lauren. “It wasn’t fun.”

The good news? “You can easily avoid this mistake,” she says. For starters, figure out your company’s key performance indicators that, specifically, drive growth and cash flow. And once you do, “measure them like crazy, and you’ll avoid the pitfalls that we learned the hard way.”

Get to Really Know Your Audience

Scaling periods are critical times to focus on who’s buying your products or services. By gaining clarity of who your audience is and where your business is going, “your employees will make decisions based on what is better for the business rather than themselves,” explains Jason Swenk, an agency growth coach and mentor.

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During his career, Jason successfully built and sold a digital agency and now he coaches other agency owners. “You need to drill down into a niche a couple levels where you completely understand your clients’ biggest challenge and what they want,” Jason says.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

When you first launch your business, it’s easy to fall into a ‘yes’ pattern, that is, saying yes to every client, every consumer and every opportunity that comes your way. It makes sense, beggars can’t be choosers, right? While no one’s advocating taking on clients who are going to endlessly drain your time and talent, entrepreneurs tend to be a little more lenient in selecting clients in those early days.

But, as your business begins to scale, that approach might actually hold you back. “At the end of the day,” says Andrew, “the clients that pay you the most money will bring the least headaches. The clients that pay you the least amount of money will bring the most headaches.” His advice? “When in doubt, charge more.”

Be Accountable

Most entrepreneurs, especially freelancers and consultants, “aren’t accustomed to being their own boss,” Lauren says. “It sounds like it should be fun, but holding yourself accountable can be difficult.” While accountability is always important, it’s particularly critical as you’re scaling. Lauren experienced this one first-hand. “When I hired my first business coach,” she recalls, “I couldn’t afford it, but I scraped up pennies and did it anyway.” And guess what? “It was worth it.”

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.

Talking To Prospects

According to Jill Konrath, in today’s crazy-busy world, the ONLY way to capture and keep your prospects’ attention is to talk with them about what matters to them. Pure and simple. That’s all they care about.

Your prospects have zero tolerance for salespeople who think their job is to share their unique methodologies, great technology or extraordinary service. All that info is available online. If it’s of interest, they’ll find it—on their own time.

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Jill Konrath is a globally recognized sales strategist. She’s an in-demand speaker at sales kick-off meetings and conferences where she shares fresh strategies to help salespeople deal with emerging challenges.

Forrester Research also found executives state that 86% of the salespeople who called on them were NOT prepared to have an intelligent conversation on their initial meetings. Most didn’t get a second chance.

Yet your prospects are thirsty for ideas that can help them do their job better, faster, or more productively. They crave information on how to increase revenue, reduce costs or expand their market presence. They search for insights on how to deal with changes in the business environment. A salesperson that delivers these ideas, insights and information is pure gold.

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Additionally, Forrester Research shows that the first vendor to create a viable vision of the future has a 74% chance of closing the sale. That’s an amazing statistic, but entirely achievable IF you target the right prospects, research their business and talk with them about what matters most. In short, you need to use catalysts and context to lead an intelligent conversation.

According to Wikipedia, a catalyst “speeds up a reaction by lowering the activation energy required for the reaction to proceed.” In sales, a catalyst does the same thing. Suddenly the organization is receptive to new options. The grip of the status quo has been loosened. Money even appears out of thin air. Here’s how to find and leverage these trigger events for maximum impact at your company.

Identify The Catalysts

To get started, analyze your existing clients. Ask yourself:

(1)…What internal factors (inside the company) made your clients finally decide to take action?

(2)…What external factors (outside the company) changed their business environment sufficiently so that the status quo was no longer sufficient?

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Often salespeople discover distinct changes or issues that are behind virtually all decisions. Invariably, these are the most common:

New Leadership: Often, within 3-6 months, new executives are implementing fresh initiatives to drive revenue, reduce costs or increase efficiencies.

Financial Announcements: If business is up, expansion projects take priority. If business is stagnant or down, productivity or cost-saving initiatives jump to the forefront.

Mergers/Acquisitions: Any change in this area causes organizations to re-evaluate all their supplier relationships.

New Strategic Initiatives: When new corporate directives are announced, the entire organization shifts to ensure they’re in alignment.

Legal/Compliance: Changes in government regulations (e.g. Affordable Care Act) cause organizations to take immediate action.

These are only some of the many catalyzing events that can create opportunities for savvy sellers. Others include reorganizations, new product/service announcements, relocations, market expansions, new business deals, or new funding.

If you’re new to this type of thinking, review local or national business publications and ask yourself: “If this happens, how does this impact an organization’s need for what I sell?”

Knowing your catalysts frees you to pursue those companies where you have a higher likelihood of closing an accelerated deal. Plus, you’ll know what to talk to these prospects about since you are deeply immersed in their issues and challenges. It’s the fodder you need to have an intelligent conversation.

Get A Jump Start On Competitors

Here’s the good news. Many of these catalytic events are newsworthy announcements, shared publicly by the company. Or they’re part of required financial reporting.

The easiest way to get your hands on this info is to leverage sales intelligence tools – ones that automatically search for your specific catalysts and deliver them to you on a timely basis. If you sell to a small number of companies or track a finite set of catalyzing events, you can get by with Google Alerts.

But things get pretty complicated when you need a steady stream of new prospects. Or when you’re selling to multiple market segments. Or when a variety of these catalysts can signify a loosening of the status quo.

Sales intelligence apps like InsideView, Lead 411 or DiscoverOrg can totally automate this process for you. They sort through all the junk that’s out there, giving you daily alerts about what’s happening in your territory – on just those catalyzing agents that you want to follow.

Intelligent conversations depend on sale intelligence. Today, it’s imperative to be the first one in the door with fresh insights on how to deal with the emerging priorities and issues.

Planning an intelligent conversation involves combining what you know about the catalyst’s impact with your understanding of the context of prospect’s situation.

From this, you develop a game plan to pique your prospect’s curiosity, showcase your depth of knowledge and build trust that you’re an invaluable resource.

You’ll know you’ve succeeded, if, at the end of your conversation, your prospect says, “Very interesting. We clearly need to look at this in greater depth.”

Let’s go back to where we started. According to Forrester Research, the first vendor to create a viable vision of the future has a 74% chance of closing the sale. That means you need to identify a gap between your prospect’s business goals and their current situation.

When companies are disrupted by catalytic events, a gap naturally emerges. Suddenly the status quo is no longer sufficient. Change is needed.

Salespeople who use sales intelligence apps to notify them when these trigger events occur consistently outperform their peers. They get in early, which gives them the ability to shape the discussion.

When these same salespeople leverage context, they integrate their knowledge of the company, individual people and their digital behavior into the conversation. They know more—which enables them to come up with better ways to help their prospects achieve their specific goals.

Combined, catalysts and context yield intelligent conversations – ones that are focused on helping prospects create a viable vision of what’s possible in their organization. In this article, we’ve just talked about the initial conversation. You’ll need more to close the deal. But you’ll get there faster and with minimal competition. It’s definitely the way to sell 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.

Capitalize On Your Content

In an article that I just read from Marissa Lyman of Marketo, she talks about “Four Things Smart Marketers Do With Press Coverage”. The same can be said about great marketing content.

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“A member of your public relations team just secured a killer placement for your company. Congratulations! This is big news—pun intended! This article has it all—corporate messaging pull-through, a nice quote from your executive, complimentary language about your organization—it’s a win all the way around. You’ve passed it around internally and everyone has replied all with comments like “very cool” and “great hit.”

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You’re done, right? That’s the extent of the value that this coverage will bring to your org.

WRONG!

If you think the press coverage is a one-and-done type of deal, think again! There are lots of things that you can do with a press hit to make it go the extra mile for your brand. You can (and should) take all that free publicity and make it work for you. Here’s how:

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Socialize It

Post that article to your social followers! Sharing stories like this over company accounts is a nice break from traditional corporate announcements and shows validation for your brand by third-party sources. Even though press coverage isn’t an endorsement, sharing articles where your company is reported on externally adds legitimacy to your narrative. That’s because studies show that earned media is considered the most trustworthy form of marketing.

And of course, if you have an executive quoted in the piece or maybe a partner or customer featured in the article, make sure all of them are tagged to give them some extra love, like greater exposure and even more follows.

Incentivize It

There are lots of tools available now to incentivize employees and brand advocates to share news like this via their social channels. Doing so allows them to spread the word to their social networks for additional reach. The benefits of using platforms like GaggleAMP or Influitive is the element of gamification, which entices employees more than an email that just says, “please share.” It’s easy to set up a rewards program (Swag! Giftcards! Money! Oh my!) through these tools, further incentivizing your coworkers for their efforts.

Put Some Paid On It

I said that to the tune of “I got five on it,” by Luniz (if you don’t know that reference, please look it up). Just because you got the hit for free doesn’t mean that you can’t give it an extra “boost.” Putting paid promotion behind the post on any social network or via a content distributor ensures that more eyeballs— especially more of the right eyeballs—will reach the article.

Much is given to a company’s website—pricing pages, product specs, customer testimonials, C-suite bios!—but I urge you to consider the page where I spend most my time: the press room. Your press room should not only include staples like your company’s most recent boilerplate and announcements (maybe even a link to your corporate blog, if you’re feeling fancy), but it should also include recent mentions of your organization in the news. It’s one thing for people to see what you’re saying about yourself when they look at this page. It’s an entirely other thing for them to see the nice things other people are saying about you”.

At the end of the day getting press coverage or creating awesome marketing content alone doesn’t ensure the results your looking for. It is critical to share the content through as many channels as possible. Looking to attract more borrowers? Maybe it is time to share more.

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.

Get Noticed

It’s tough out there. If you want to get a lender’s attention you have to be on your game. What does that mean? It means that when you write a blog or any content, you need to make sure that it gets read. That seems easy enough, but it isn’t. Everything starts with a good headline.

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In the article entitled “How to Write Catchy Headlines and Blog Titles Your Readers Can’t Resist” by Corey Wainwright, he says, It’s one thing to write great content, but it’s another thing to get it read and ranked, which is where nailing the title comes in.”

Titles are what sell the content. They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the most common questions we get concern crafting titles.

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How long should my headline be? What words should I use? What words should I avoid? Should I optimize it for search, or for social? Or both?

Luckily, we’ve come up with a simple formula for writing catchy headlines and blog titles that you can reference from here on out. So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

1.) Start with a working title.

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of coming up with a perfect title, start with a rough draft: your working title. What is that, exactly? A lot of people confuse working titles with topics. Let’s clear that up:

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Topics are very general and could yield several different blog posts. Think “raising healthy kids,” or “kitchen storage.” A writer might look at either of those topics and choose to take them in very, very different directions.

A working title, on the other hand, is very specific and guides the creation of a single blog post. For example, from the topic “raising healthy kids,” you could derive the following working titles:

>>”How the Right Nutrition Can Strengthen Your Kids’ Bones”

>>”A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Your Child’s Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-Being”

>>”X Recipes for Quick & Healthy Dinners Your Teenagers Will Gobble Up”

See how different and specific each of those is? That’s what makes them working titles, instead of overarching topics. It’s also worth noting that none of those titles are perfect, they should just be specific enough to guide your blog post. (We’ll worry about making it clickable and search-friendly later.)

2.) Stay accurate.

Accuracy is critical when trying to finesse a title, because it sets clear expectations for your readers. While I’m sure lots of people would love to click into a post that said “10 B2B Companies Killing Facebook So Freaking Hard They Don’t Need Any Other Marketing Channel” … it’s a little bombastic, no?

Unless, of course, you truly did find 10 B2B companies rocking Facebook that hard, and you could confirm that all 10 of them had stopped using other marketing channels. First and foremost, your title needs to accurately reflect the content that follows.

One way to ensure accuracy? Add bracketed clarification to your headline.

So if you remember nothing else from this blog post, let it be this: The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience. If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust.

Accuracy encompasses more than just hyperbole, though. With the example working title above, you’d also want to confirm all of the examples are, indeed, B2B. Or even that they’re all companies, instead of, say, individual bloggers that target B2B audiences. See what I mean?

3.) Make it sexy.

Just because you have to be accurate doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make your title pop. There are a lot of ways to make a title sexier.

Of course, all of this hinges on understanding your core buyer persona. You need to find language that resonates with them, and know what they find valuable.

Once you’re armed with knowledge of your buyer persona’s preferred style, try testing out some of these tips for making your headlines a little sexier:

Have some fun with alliteration. The title and header in this blog post, for instance, play with alliteration: “Foolproof Formula.” It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.

Use strong language. Strong phrases (and, frankly, often negative ones) like “Things People Hate,” or “Brilliant” pack quite a punch. However, these must be used in moderation. As one of my coworkers likes to say, “If everything is bold, nothing is bold.”

Make the value clear. As we mentioned above, presenting the format and/or contents to a reader helps make your content a little sexier.

Make it visual. Is there an opportunity to include visuals within your post? Make that clear in the title.

Focus on the “who’s,” not the “whys”. Want to intrigue your audience? Focus on the “who”: Headlines including the word “who” generated a 22% higher CTR.

4.) Keep it short.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long or short your title should be. It depends what your goals are, and where your headline will appear.

Do you want this post to rank really well in search? Focus on keeping the title under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.

Are you trying to optimize your title for social sharing? According to our own analysis, headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average. As for Facebook, headlines with either 12 or 14 words received the most Likes.

5.) Try to optimize for search and social.

I say “try” because, sometimes, trying too hard to optimize for these things can make your title sound strange. Remember: You want to optimize your title for your audience above all else, but if you can optimize for both search and social, that’s great.

The secret to thinking about all three at once? Focus on keywords that you know your audience is already searching for, then look into the search volume for those keywords.

Once you have a keyword in mind, you’ll want to be sure to place it as closely as possible to the beginning of your headline to catch your reader’s attention. (Again, you should keep your headline under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.)

6.) Brainstorm with someone else.

Once you’ve refined your title using the tips above, it’s time to come up for air and connect with another human. Title brainstorming is an essential part of the process.

The final step before scheduling a blog post is pulling another member of the team into a back-and-forth title brainstorm in a chat room. One member of the duo will post the title they recommend into the chat pane window. The other person will then refine that title even further, or suggest other angles. After several back-and-fourths, the duo will agree on the title that’s accurate, sexy, concise, and SEO-friendly.

It’s essential to put your best foot forward with each post that you publish.

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.

Effective Email Marketing Tips

E-mail may seem a bit old school, but e-mail should be a part of every mortgage technology vendor’s strategy. The big question is: How do you do your e-mail marketing right so you get real results? In the article entitled “3 Ways to Trigger a Sense of Urgency in Your Sales Emails” by Heather R. Morgan, she shares that the average adult has to make about 35,000 decisions each day. Which include things like, what to wear, which route to take to work, where to buy coffee—these are just the start, and usually the easiest.

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How does this relate to e-mail? So, you can imagine the last thing someone wants to face when they open a cold e-mail from you is a complex choice. As a salesperson, your job is to make their decision to respond as easy as possible.

The simplest and most effective way to do this is to appeal to your potential customer’s most basic human instincts: desire, curiosity, and fear. Of all the emotional triggers out there, these three can create a strong sense of urgency and increase the chances of someone responding to your e-mail.

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Of course, this is easier said than done. In the span of a single cold e-mail, you have to trigger those instincts and, at the same time, communicate that you understand the customer’s wants, needs, and worries, and can deliver the solution: you.

Here are three tips to help you do the same:

DESIRE

Every business wants to grow and succeed. Your e-mail can appeal to this by offering the promise of serious and direct business value. Your messaging should address, quickly and believably, exactly how your prospective customer will benefit from your product or service, and it should do so in a manner that inspires them to respond. There are two approaches you can take:

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The first is to demonstrate value by providing clear and tangible examples, or social proof, of how your service or product delivers results. This is especially effective if you can use actual numbers to demonstrate success with a competitor.

Alternatively, you can reframe your product features as customer benefits. This is a good approach if you are new to the scene or unable to reference your clients by name.

CURIOSITY

Intrigue is a powerful tool that can also be a lot of fun to use. If your e-mail hints at a solution to a potential customer’s pain point or particular need, their desire to know the full story should override any hesitation to respond to your e-mail.

For example, you might inform the buyer you have an idea or strategy that will make a significant difference to an aspect of their business. Remember, you are trying to keep their curiosity peaked, so this should just be a teaser, something that will induce them to follow up.

FEAR

Fear is probably the most powerful way to introduce urgency and inspire a potential customer to action. However, it’s important to apply subtlety over aggression. You don’t want to terrify your potential clients; you just want to address their concerns. Research specific issues at play within their industry, introduce anxiety, and then end on a positive note by offering a solution.

Instead of writing, “Data hacking will destroy your business if you don’t do something now,” try an approach with less fire and brimstone: “Data hacks have increased tenfold in the past two years, making it more important than ever to protect your data.”

Hopefully these tips will help you enhance your e-mail marketing strategy.

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.