Lenders are Late to the Game, But Gaining Steam with Online Marketing

Baby Boomers remain a growing demographic when it comes to online users and social media fanatics, with nearly 60% more 55+ Facebook users just since last year, according to iStrategy Labs. While the reverse mortgage industry is admittedly a little slow to occupy the online space, some companies are beginning to make full use of Internet marketing capabilities, and they’re even starting to “Tweet”, “Friend” and “Follow.”

“Older Boomers are the first generation to prefer the online channel over other mediums,” says Scott Peters, president and CEO of Generation Mortgage Company. “We have both internal and external marketing resources aimed at helping to advance our online marketing efforts.” Peters says Generation has begun to engage clients and potential customers via Twitter, and has launched a Facebook ad campaign aimed at reaching both seniors and the Sandwich Generation.” We are currently evaluating the best way to utilize Facebook to better engage with seniors and their adult children,” he says.

While maintaining a Facebook page takes dedicated resources, Facebook ads are a growing method for businesses to reach potential customers and raise brand awareness. Generation says it has achieved success in connecting with seniors by using the ads. While the company has yet to maintain its own page because of control concerns, “It is certainly in our future,” says Peters.

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“We’re continually tweeting,” he says. “Not just news related to our company, but relevant news items about reverse mortgages, home prices, seniors, finances, etc. I believe that this online engagement is critical to helping build our brand, while also helping us to create additional lead generation.”

“The backbone of the Internet is that it allows our clients to get the information we want faster. It’s much more efficient for seniors (and everyone else) to research and compare online than by calling several different companies,” says Bret Gunther, marketing director for Urban Financial Group, Inc. While Urban has yet to dive into the social media realm, it has discussed the possibility with its parent company, Knight Capital, and how social media would play into marketing for Urban’s reverse mortgages. It also just launched a new website following an overhaul, and maintains a separate Reverse it! site for its wholesale channel.

Know Your Audience

Catering to the senior demographic online, however, takes some careful consideration of their preferences, especially as it pertains to sharing personal information that is relevant to obtaining a reverse mortgage. While other age groups may be more comfortable filling out web forms and releasing information via websites, the 62+ group is on board—to a point.

“About half of our search engine leads call us instead of submitting their information online. That tells us that while seniors are actively using the Internet to search, they prefer more personal approaches as they get further along the decision process,” says Peters.

Urban, which launched a new site recently to help streamline the information it offers online, has also find that privacy is paramount. “We know how guarded our customers are about their privacy, so we’ve taken those concerns into serious consideration as we designed a site that asks them to tell us about themselves,” says Gunther. “We know the improvement is working because we started generating leads from our new website literally overnight.”

Generation found that a simple change like boosting the font size showed strong results. Peters says he saw a 10% increase in conversion on Generation’s landing pages, due in part to simply increasing the font size.

Devoting Resources

There’s no doubt the online space is in a constant state of flux, and that as it changes, even more seniors could be using online resources to search for all products, including reverse mortgages. Marketing through these channels, however, is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

“As technology evolves, so too does the way in which our audiences acquire information. It creates a responsibility on our part to stay ahead of the curve, so we can continue to provide elite level customer service. Acquiring quality online leads at an efficient price can be challenging. It is a competitive market and we must continue to think creatively to ensure efficient uses of our marketing budget,” says Peters.

The resources needed to keep up with those changes, and maintain an online presence presents an additional challenge. “Technology is moving at an exponential rate, so while we are investing in some online marketing now, we’re certainly not putting all our eggs in that basket. We will always rely on our staff to provide excellent customer service. That will always top any available form of advertising,” says Gunther.

“By its very nature, social media such as Facebook and Twitter requires constant interaction and updating. If you don’t have a team that can devote time to that, or you don’t truly understand what to offer to those who “friend” or “follow” you on social media, you’re wasting your time and theirs.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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  • Social media does work (as measured by ROI/conversion to funded loan) if you develop a strategy focused 100% on driving inbound leads. A good broad strategy will drive “engagements” but you need to get much more granular to drive apps and funded loans.

  • Social media does work (as measured by ROI/conversion to funded loan) if you develop a strategy focused 100% on driving inbound leads. A good broad strategy will drive “engagements” but you need to get much more granular to drive apps and funded loans.

  • Social media is definitely working in our category (as measured by ROI/conversion to funded loan). Your strategy has to be 100% focused on driving inbound leads not just broad “engagements”. It’s all in the strategy and tactics and if done right, should be an integral and rapidly growing part of your marketing mix.

    • mktglogic21,

      I am not overly Internet savvy when it comes to websites, the social media, etc. I am confused by your two comments.

      Can you please add a third comment providing more information about your points?

  • At the retail lender level, this was a balanced presentation. Most statements at the originator level are as disappointingly helpful as those of mktglogic21.

    The biggest issue with the Internet is a general lack of compliance. It will only be a matter of time before some begin designing and selling programs which will allow regulators to begin trolling the Internet for compliance on a large scale basis.

    Wholesale lenders must be concerned about the issue. HUD is looking to such lenders to oversee their own retail operations plus those for whom they provide wholesale services. As it is exposed that there is little oversight or monitoring of this problem, HUD will need to decide how it will respond. This issue alone could cause such deep concern for some wholesale lenders that, like Wells, they terminate their wholesale operations.

    The headaches of wholesale lending will become more and more apparent with time. It will not become what brokers survive but rather which lenders provide wholesale operations. Wells seems to have discarded a low profit, high exposure area. As usual they show why they are the industry leader.

  • Wow, Cynic. Your cynicism knows no bounds. While I agree that the oversight of this brave new world or brave slightly aged world depending on where you stand on the timeline will soon be infiltrated by regulators if it isn’t already, the increasingly savvy seniors who friend, tweet and troll the internet will require the marketing skills presented in this article. It behooves all of us to at least understand how this marketing works.

    I agree with Bret Gunther that this is a continuous exhaustive and possibly exhausting way of marketing, but, it coulc provide an audience that looks to a certain brand as authoritative.

    • Louise321,

      No bounds?

      That reminds me of a famous quip from PM Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill: “So little time, so much to do.” Here is the story behind the quote according to Wikiquote.org:

      “On one occasion during an election campaign Churchill was speaking in a church hall in rural England. The hall was decorated in the well accepted colour scheme of that era – mission brown up to shoulder height, then cream up to and including the ceiling. When he finished his speech Churchill called for questions. The first came from a middle-aged woman dressed in country tweeds. ‘Mr Churchill, I am a member of the Temperance League,’ she said, ‘My local branch has been examining your use of alcohol. Are you aware Prime Minister that, during your lifetime to date you have consumed enough alcohol to fill this hall up to here’ stretching her arm dramatically to indicate the mission brown zone on the wall. ‘We want to know what you intend to do about it.’ Churchill looked at the woman, followed her arm to the top of the mission brown zone, and then slowly allowed his gaze to move up through the cream zone to the ceiling. ‘So little time, so much to do’ he said.”

      I now feel like Sir Winston; I must now redouble my efforts to achieve those heights to which I am accused.

      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. “So little time, so many new things to be cynical about.”

  • Cynic, I’m referring to retail although social media marketing can have a place in wholesale as well.
    reverse_mortgage_maven:
    Thanks for your reply. Social media is a broad term and used by many to describe many things. I’ll provide an explanation of how to use social media marketing to drive inbound leads for reverse mortgages in my next post. It’s one of the most non evasive forms of marketing that exist. Contrary to what the Cynic thinks (I’m sure it’s due to his lack of understanding of how to use social media to market reverse or other products), compliance and/or lack of compliance becomes less of an issue when utilizing a good social media marketing strategy. I do agree with his statement about a general lack of compliance on the web though…

    Wish I had more time now but will be back to this soon.
    Thanks.

    • mktglogic21,

      If you do have something to offer the industry you are making it more difficult on yourself by writing in the manner you are. You are showing a lack of understanding of how we operate.

      Those of us who have been in the industry for any time at all know there is a huge difference between how lenders, brokers, branches, and individual MLOs market. Your Comment makes it clear you are not aware of those differences. By your last Comment it seems you know there is a difference between retail and wholesale but little more.

      While you might understand marketing on the Internet, your three Comments show you do not know how to edit on this particular segment of the medium. That does not build confidence on your self proclaimed expertise.

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