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Facts You Need To Know

Now the mortgage industry is changing. So, in order to be successful, you have to change, as well. You have to market better. How do you do that?

According to the article “16 Important Facts All Marketers Should Know for 2018” written by Amy Balliett, the world of content marketing is always evolving, but these 16 stats will help you create a content calendar for 2018 that will get you ahead of the competition.

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As 2017 is now behind us, savvy content marketers are: visiting content past, present, and future. Huddled together around the light of their computer screens, they will dissect the past twelve everything that they did in 2017 to identify what marketing tactics worked and what didn’t.

As they count their remaining budgets they will plan last minute content pushes, hopeful to get another win. But a visit to content future will be the most important part of their journey. Will they see a future filled with success and happiness, or will they refuse to adapt and find themselves buried in a grave of dead tactics?

To avoid finding yourself 6-feet deep in a grave of dead content, consider the lessons that arise from these 16 facts about content marketing:

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Marketers that plan to invest in unique, high-quality content will see a lot of wins this year. Counterparts that rely too heavily on templates or low-cost services, which often prioritize quantity and speed over quality, will likely lose traction this year as a result. The following five trends back up this claim:

1.) According to Hubspot, a whopping 80 percent of consumers prefer custom, original content over canned solutions.

2.) The recent Content Marketing Institute 2017 Benchmarks Report found that 85 percent of content marketers attribute their 2017 success to developing custom, quality content throughout the year.

But quality content isn’t cheap…

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3.) The same report suggests that B2B Marketers who spent at least 39 percent of their budgets on custom content in 2017 saw the most success.

4.) B2B marketers that spent at least 38 percent of their budgets on the same level of content saw equal success.

If you are spending less than most marketers, consider adjusting your budget for 2018. And while you’re at it, focus on personalizing your content as much as possible. This heightens your level of quality while positioning your brand for greater success in the New Year.

5.) Gartner suggests that businesses focused on personalized marketing in 2018 could outsell their competitors by 20 percent

Moving on, with video, it’s all about the simple economic theory of supply and demand. As demand for video increases, the supply of online videos like motion graphics must go up to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. For marketers, it’s important to understand just how strong that demand is so that they can invest more of their budgets into the right types of video in the New Year. The next seven statistics should drive your video marketing efforts in 2018:

According to Cisco, an expected 79 to 84 percent of online consumer traffic will be video traffic in 2018.

6.) Hubspot’s 2017 Video Benchmark Report suggests that successful businesses release an average of 18 videos each month to keep up with demand.

7.) According to Hubspot, 80 percent of customers prefer to watch an explainer video above all other content types to learn about a brand, product, or service.

8.) And if you’re marketing to executives, then video is even more powerful with The Economist suggesting that 85 percent of executives prefer watching a video above all other content types when learning about a product or service.

9.) When considering what types of video to produce, there are three categories you should focus on: personalized videos, motion graphics, and livestream.

10.) According to Livestream.com, 82 percent of people prefer to watch a livestream video delivered from a brand versus viewing a traditional social post from that same brand.

But animated motion graphics continue to be the most popular option because they are more affordable to produce for marketers and offer more engaging storytelling experiences for audiences. Motion graphics also make producing personalized videos easier, which is important for marketers hoping to boost conversion rates in 2018.

11.) According to Vidyard, personalized videos can increase open rates 16 times more than standard videos.

12.) Vidyard also suggests that personalized videos grow click-through rates by 450 percent.

While video is the most popular choice for visual content marketing this year, other forms of visual content should be considered to drive further success. The remaining four statistics should help you convince coworkers and clients alike to focus on creative visual content:

13.) According to reports from Forbes and Deloitte, 71 percent of key decision makers prefer short case studies spanning three to four pages with plenty of visuals breaking up the content.

14.) Blogs that break up their content with images see 650 times the engagement of those that don’t according to Adobe.

15.) Statista predicts that there will be at least 171 million active virtual reality users in 2018

16.) Techcrunch reports that augmented reality will see the most demand with nearly 70 percent of consumers believing that AR will be highly beneficial for them this year and beyond.

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.

Use Content To Get New Business

Everyone wants to succeed in 2018. How do you make that possible? One way is content marketing. In the article “How To Move Customers to Buy With Content Marketing” by John White he says that solid content marketing strategy is critical to your company’s success.

How do we make more sales? Companies everywhere are asking themselves this most basic yet fundamental question as the new year approaches.

Consumers are greater informed, and they have more choices on how to spend their money than ever. Getting them to buy your product or service takes some serious skill.

To get them to buy, you need to move them to take action.

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Your content should be attractive to get people’s attention. This can be achieved by having eye-catching visuals in your content. Another way to do it is by crafting a show-stopping headline that will make them stop scrolling and click.

Then, to keep their attention, your content must be compelling, and it needs to educate the buyer about something new and exciting. People love to learn. If your content lacks value and is nothing more than a pitch, it will turn most buyers off.

Buyers want to make a connection with the companies they do business with. So humanize your brand with your content whenever possible. Use storytelling with real examples of how your product or service solves actual problems and improves lives.

Research over the years has consistently shown that emotional response has more influence on buyer’s behavior than the claims made within the content. In other words, if people aren’t feeling it, they’re not buying.

Your content should make buyers begin to envision themselves using your product or service. This is a critical step, and if you don’t get past it, you won’t make a sale.

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Next, consumers want to know how the product or service gets delivered to them. If you are selling a furniture set and part of the visual people get when envisioning buying is them spending their entire weekend assembling it, they will not be moved to buy. Make sure that your content reassures buyers that the setup will be quick and easy, and that it won’t cause significant disruption to their lives!

Buyer advocacy is one of the best ways to get others to make a purchase. Encourage your existing customers to comment on your content. We all know that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a massive trigger for buyers these days. When your existing customers comment, it validates the claims made within your content.

While price alone is not enough to make people buy these days, they do want to feel like they are getting a good offer. Your content should make the buyer feel like they are spending their hard-earned money wisely.

Remember, there are lots of places people can buy. You don’t want to warm them up to the idea of buying your product or service only to have them shop around because the offer you presented did not make them feel good about spending their money.

Your offer should have a little bit of scarcity associated it with it. In other words, after consuming your content, buyers should feel like your company is the industry-leading expert and they can’t get exactly what you are offering them anywhere else.

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Always be thinking about SEO with your content marketing. Create content that is written for SEO using strategic keywords placement within the content that buyers are likely to use when they do a search online. When someone goes to Google or Bing, they have intent and an expressed interest in your product or service.

Creating fresh content that tells your company’s story is the best way to connect with buyers in today’s market. Your content marketing is what makes your business discoverable on the Internet, and getting it right is vital to your success.

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.

Your Roadmap To Success

Now is your time. What do I mean by that? The mortgage lending industry is undergoing radical change. In the STRATMOR Insights Report, Nicole Yung, the company’s Senior Partner put it this way:

“While there have been many significant advances in mortgage technology over the years, most of were focused on improving lender processes and productivity, not on fundamentally changing the borrower’s experience,” said Yung. “But, as the publicity surrounding Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage and the Agencies’ stated commitment to Day 1 Certainty attests to, Digital Mortgage may well be a game changer that no lender can afford to ignore.”

So, the big question is: How do you as a vendor take advantage of these new industry trends? One way forward is to know what’s going on in the industry so you can use that knowledge to turn that lender into a high-value prospect. For example, in the late summer of this year Embrace Home Loans, a prominent leader in the mortgage industry, added industry veteran Patrick Mullen as its new Director of Recruiting. In his role, Mullen will spearhead the growth and expansion of Embrace Home Loans’ sales organization by developing a robust recruiting strategy.

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“My vision is for Embrace Home Loans to be the employer of choice for mortgage origination talent in the markets in which we serve. Embrace Home Loans is uniquely positioned for growth and I am thrilled to play a role in helping drive our future growth,” said Mullen. “I joined the team at Embrace to continue to build upon the great foundation the company has built over the past 3 decades. In my 15 years recruiting within the mortgage industry, I’ve learned mortgage originators desire a stable and secure company, a supportive culture and strong executive leadership; Embrace Home Loans is that company.”

How can this news help you? You can use this newsworthy trigger event at Embrace Home Loans to talk to them about how your technology will help them recruit. Knowing about these trigger events and using them to your advantage is essential to success these days. In the White Paper entitled “Hidden Gems: The Ultimate Strategy To Find High Value Prospects” written by Jill Konrath, she explains that many trigger events are newsworthy announcements. Companies share much of this information via press releases. They want to be visible. Sometimes the media writes about what’s happening. Or, people on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter spill the beans about what’s going on. All this is online, waiting to be found. You need to use this knowledge to adjust your thinking about how you sell.

If trigger event thinking is new to you, it’s important to broaden your understanding of these catalytic agents first. That means we need to take a look at the plethora of “trigger events” that can create a ripple effect within an organization. Here are just a few of the major categories:

>>Mergers, Acquisitions, Partnerships. With these types of activities, organizations re-evaluate many of their existing relationships to determine what Strategic Initiatives. >>Strategic Initiatives. When new corporate directives become a priority, there’s a shift virtually overnight in what decision makers are concerned about. They need to quickly determine if their status quo is sufficient to help them achieve their new objectives.

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>>Market Challenges. This broad category can include competitive activity, changing customer demographics, economic turbulence, rising gas prices and a host of other factors that can both positively or negatively impact future business.

>>Legal/Compliance. Any changes in government regulations or corporate litigation can cause an organization to undertake immediate action.

>>Reorganizations. Tumultuous restructurings change priorities and shift alliances virtually overnight. Existing business relationships are all in jeopardy too.

>>New Leadership. Anytime a new executive is brought onboard, they’re expected to deliver results quickly. Change is always in the air. Depending on what you know about the organization and position (e.g., CFO, VP Marketing), you can infer what might be forthcoming.

>>Financial Announcements. If an organization has missed their earnings expectations or sales growth is lagging, expect to see big changes in the upcoming quarter. Conversely, if growth was better than expected, watch for new initiatives to support their expansion.

These are some of the biggies. But there are also a whole slew of other trigger events that can catalyze change. They’re not earth shattering. But, if you’re aware of them, you can get your foot in the door to have a good discussion with a person who’s finally open to new ideas or vendors.

Knowing about these and other trigger events happening in the mortgage space can make that lender a perfect target for a sale. Today research shows the profound impact of this vital sales intelligence on the sales process. CSO Insights found that effective use of sales intelligence results in a 17% increase in revenue productivity/rep.

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Also, Aberdeen Group discovered that companies who support sales teams with sales intelligence tools see a 28.4% increase in year-over-year revenue. Additionally, Aberdeen Group found that 81% of companies who used a sales intelligence platform saw significant yearly gains in team quotas.

Leveraging sales intelligence yields compelling results. And, the key driver of these results is a trigger event that alters a prospect’s priorities. By using them effectively, you can initiate more opportunities, deepen existing relationships, shorten your sales cycles and minimize competition.

Selling via trigger events is not meant to replace your existing prospecting process. It’s imperative that you still target and go after your ideal customers. Instead, think of trigger events as an ideal augmentation strategy to find those hidden gems. It creates more opportunities for you. And, if you set up a system to do the work for you, your technology partner will alert you when something happens that could create a need for your products or services.

Sometimes finding the best way to use this new knowledge and marry it with your existing strategies can be tricky, which is where trusted partners like NexLevel Advisors can be crucial. If you think about it, this type of knowledge and expertise is valued by executives when making decisions. Executive leaders look to make informed decisions based on more than just internal knowledge, they seek information from trusted external resources. Fact based research, viability assessment, target market segmentation, and competitive analysis all provide a detailed view of potential opportunities, risks and rewards specifically developed for your organization.

As a trusted business advisor, NexLevel Advisors leverages years of experience in business strategy, corporate performance, strategic selling, and marketing to deliver customized solutions that help our clients take advantage of their unique business opportunities. These custom developed solutions allow you to obtain new insight and perspective, optimize sales & marketing effectiveness, and increase customer loyalty quicker and more strategically as you take your company to the next level.

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.

Your Brand Matters

What you stand for is important. Relationships in the mortgage industry matter a lot. Often technology decisions, for example, are made based on who else is using that same technology.

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For this reason a lot of mortgage technology vendors are reluctant to tinker with their brand, but I’m here to tell you that’s the wrong approach. In the article entitled “The Importance of Updating your Brand” by Chirag Thumar, he defines a brand as “what your consumers perceive of your company. The idea or feeling that they associate with your company is the brand of your business. If you ask your clients of what comes to their mind when your business is mentioned and they respond consistently with an emotion or perception, which is your brand.”

Your company’s brand plays a vital role in the workings of its business, as it helps create an impression, evokes curiosity about the company and its business, and gives out an essence of quality and professionalism.

Why should you update your brand?

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Brand image is crucial in communicating properly with your target clients the goodwill of your business and to assure certain levels of expectation. Even if your business has an established brand, it needs to evolve as the business itself changes. Re-branding and refreshing your company’s appearance is crucial to keep it relevant to your old clients as well as to attract new ones. There are many reasons why to do so, such as:

>>To reflect internal changes

>>Business growth: As a business expands, the brand needs to extend itself to appeal to the increasing mass of consumers that the company is trying to interact with.

>>Globalization: When a company expands its products and services to the international market, the brand name has to evolve to be represented constantly in all the countries.

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The biggest of the international brands like Google, eBay, Apple, Coca-Cola update their brands frequently to cater to their expanding business strategies.

When is it time to update your brand?

Re-branding your company is a decision that should be made after a systematic analysis of the response pattern of your consumers. There are certain signals that your brand needs an update, which you need to look out for, like-

>>If your brand is being associated with negative feelings

>>If your brand is out of sync with your business identity

>>If your brand is not making your business stand out

How do you get your brand updated?

A refresh comes in many forms and it is important to have an understanding of your clients’ attitudes to opt for the most suitable re-branding for your business. The options include:

>>Getting a logo: If your business doesn’t have a logo, consider getting one developed. Or if your company has had the same logo for a long time, consider getting it changed. A case in point is the company Starbucks, which has become a very easily recognizable brand with its much simplified logo.

>>Changing the company’s name: For a business to appeal to the popular mass, the company needs a name that is easily accepted and recognized by its large variety of consumers. For example, the digital giant Google was once known as “Back Rub”.

>>Releasing a new product that has gained relevance among the consumers.

>>Changing the way of advertising: It is essential to advertise your company the right way and by right way, what is meant is the way your target audience will find your product or service the most appealing. It is equally important for the advertising strategies to be relevant to both your business identify as well as time.

And most companies can’t do this alone, which is where partners like NexLevel Advisors come in. NexLevel Advisors marketing services helps its clients strategically market products and services whose complicated selling propositions or complex technical offerings require the communication of highly specialized information to elevate results. We offer world-class expertise and marketing insight to deliver dynamic marketing strategies and campaigns that will truly take your organization to the next level.

So, don’t be afraid to change your brand to meet today’s mortgage industry needs and don’t be afraid to ask for help in making sure that you do it right.

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 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.