For a reverse mortgage originator, getting the word out about the services he or she provides can be one of the trickier parts of generating new business. One opportunity that could help an originator get in front of more seniors’ eyes is appearing in the media outlets that they absorb on a daily basis.
Grassroots marketing is an important part of establishing contact within a loan officer’s sphere of influence, but going to the places where seniors are already focusing their attention can potentially provide a notable boost to the business connections that can be made. There are few things that can help communicate an originator’s personality quite like local television and radio, where a potential borrower can see and hear how a loan officer can help them.
The establishment of trust, credibility
Different originators adapt to different tactics based on the realities of their own markets, but there are some universal points of agreement that emerge from people across the country who have engaged in advertising through their local television or radio stations. Among these is that appearing in these places allows a senior to begin trusting you when they can see and hear what you have to say.
“[On TV], people get to know you as ‘the reverse mortgage person,’ because they’re hearing from you over a period of months doing the interviews,” says Brad Friedman, owner of ReverseMortgage.Pro out of Hampton, Va. in a phone interview with RMD. “A 3-to-5 minute conversation with somebody allows for personality to come out, further conversation about the things that we do beyond the reverse mortgage, and the positives and negatives of the reverse mortgage program. It’s really driven our company forward to be known as the local reverse mortgage experts.”
Having a presence through local media can also allow for more opportunities to give a senior the assurances they need to actually pick up the phone and call, something that would be difficult to get across for a business with a call center. This is according to Bruce Simmons, reverse mortgage specialist with American Liberty Mortgage in Denver, Colo.
“With a big call center, you’re not going to know who you’re talking to, and you’re sitting on hold, so it’s not as friendly,” Simmons says in a phone interview. “This is more friendly, and local media allows your personality to show, more so than an ad in the paper, or some other means of marketing.”
Additionally, a robust online presence can often go hand-in-hand with a media appearance, since a potential borrower’s trusted advisors will likely be doing their own legwork in getting a perspective on a particular loan officer and their credentials in working with senior clients for a reverse mortgage.
“That online presence is one of the most important things in reverse,” says Scott Harmes, manager of the C2 Reverse Division of C2 Financial Corp. in San Diego, Calif. in a phone interview. “Virtually every borrower gets trusted advisors involved, and those trusted advisors are going to be checking you out through third parties. Whether it’s your Better Business Bureau rating, your NRMLA membership, your CRMP designation, that type of thing.”
Once that credibility is established, that can go a long way in helping seniors initiate first contact with a loan officer, says Friedman.
“They feel like they’re getting to know you, so when they’re calling, they already know who you are and the credibility is there because they’ve seen you over a period of time, so that really helps the senior community with that sense of credibility,” he says. “And that really drives the comfort level for them to initiate that first call, which I think seniors have a hard time in feeling comfortable with the reverse mortgage program.”
How to break into local media advertising
There is no one, single surefire method that works in establishing inroads to marketing via local TV or radio, and it’s also not a tactic that will provide an instantaneous return on the investment. Still, the potential it can have for the loan officers who devote the necessary time and money into nurturing it can come with both business and reputational benefits.
For ReverseMortgage.Pro, Brad Friedman’s success comes primarily from paid television appearances that take the form of 3-to-5 minute informational interviews, and that format evolved from the company’s initial flirtation with local media marketing from a starting point in radio.
“We started on the radio answering call-ins for questions, and moved to TV,” he says. “Now, we still do a combination of 30-second and 1-minute TV commercials, which allows for that credibility for a moment because we can put out any type of message that we want, but it just reinforces our company name and the face behind the marketing.”
The concept, he says, is not dissimilar from AAG’s efforts through spokesman Tom Selleck, but on a more local and accessible level.
“Obviously the marketing budget we have is not AAG’s, but we try to do the same thing on a smaller basis and that 3-5 minute interview program really allows for that sense of comfort with somebody,” he says.
Radio itself can also be an effective outreach method in certain markets, but Bruce Simmons found himself having to work at it before the benefits became totally clear to him.
“It’s not a cheap way to go and it can take a little while for it to take hold,” Simmons says. “After a little while I started getting some good leads here and there, and set some meetings up with people. So, it takes an investment in money and time. I do a 30-minute radio show every week, and if you go that route, it takes time to plan out the radio show, and if you want to take calls [you have to plan] how you want to do that.”
Monetary, reputational returns on investment
Still, while it took a lot of time and effort, the monetary benefit of putting a reassuring and ever-present voice with the product he was selling helped Simmons to see the radio outreach as a beneficial prospect.
“I’ve run the numbers, and basically I’m earning more than 2-to-1 on the cost, $2 to every $1 I spend,” Simmons says. “Last year it was a little more than that.”
For ReverseMortgage.Pro, the most profitable media advertising has been in the long-form interview format. The added benefit of consistent reach of these mediums to the target demographics helps establish direct avenues to the homes and eyes of seniors, a demographic that still gets the majority of its information and entertainment from television, Friedman says.
“It is not an inexpensive method of advertising, but it does reach a segment of the market consistently, and you do get to become known as the reverse mortgage or mortgage expert in the local community,” he says. “And, that is a positive aspect on business, not just on the seniors, but from all the other professional people that are watching those same shows.”
Having a firm grasp as the face of the local reverse mortgage market can also help establish some of the media inroads for you, says Harmes. A robust online presence and the creation of informational videos by Scott and his daughter Christina Harmes have helped them to become recognizable as the experts of the business in their part of the country.
In fact, an establishment of credibility can sometimes make the media come to you, Harmes says.
“Christina and I have had two different radio shows, been in print media a lot, and have initiated almost none of it,” Harmes says. “In our market, we’ve become very well-known because of our consistent marketing over the last ten years. So, once you’ve established yourself in the market, then the media will come to you. Or, if you approach the media, it’s easier to establish who you are because you’ve built such a foundation.”