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Creating Neighborhood Associations

As originators, most of us have been taught—since the first day we embarked on our careers in the mortgage industry—the importance of having industry partners. That is, we have been schooled in the tried and true practice of affiliating ourselves with well-respected industry affiliates and associations.  These industry partners include CPAs, financial planners, wealth strategists and possibly even attorneys.  Above all however, the importance of affiliating ourselves with experienced and successful Realtors has been a key objective that our mentors instilled in us, just as their mentors instilled in them years before.

Forming “partnerships” or mutually beneficial referral relationships with these types of industry executives or associations can make a huge difference in our financial success, and with good reason.  Building trust in a Realtor and securing your position as their preferred loan officer of choice can bring in a lot of business for you.   In turn, you can provide solid leads to realtors looking for buyers or sellers.  The same is true with CPAs, financial planners and so on.  This affiliation objective is a sound one, and should always remain a goal of loan originators.

However, in focusing so intently on building partnerships with these associations and affiliates, do we unintentionally lose sight of other valuable and potential “gold mine” associations? We might.  While remaining focused on forming alliances with these individuals and associations is important, there is something to be said for diligently seeking new affiliations with which to align yourself.  That’s why it is important to make sure that you recognize the opportunities for origination that surround you every day, and then respectfully yet eagerly market to these “associations.”

Recognizing Your Neighborhood Network

How many people do we each speak with everyday who have no idea what it is that we do for a living?  Consider that most people frequent the same grocery stores, dry cleaners, post offices, cafes and coffee shops because they are convenient to where they live.  Well, mortgage originators are no exception.  Most of us likely have regular daily routines which place us in the same locations every week or even every day.

But do we take advantage of the opportunities to tell our favorite grocer that we are in the mortgage business?  While we make small talk with them about the weather, perhaps even our children’s activities as part of our regular routine, why do we neglect to tell them what we do for a living? This is especially peculiar as we are in the business of helping people.

While it may feel a little uncomfortable to deliberately solicit business from our neighborhood bagel shop owner or our dry cleaners, it is certainly not rude to let them know that you are in the business of helping people just like them lower their monthly payments, get cash out for a remodel they are dreaming of or provide them with the opportunity to purchase a new home for their growing family.  In fact, it’s rude not to share this valuable information with them.

We know how true it is that people like to do business with people they trust and/or have something in common with.  As neighbors, or regular customers of a potential client you have by virtue of proximity, you become at the very least a person they have something in common with.  While it’s risky to say that your grocer for example, “trusts you,” they do know that you are a “local” in their community, giving you something in common with them.  Once the relationship has had some time to develop, you’ll likely find that they go to the same restaurants, or their children go to your child’s school and so on, building at the very least, a sense of familiarity between the two of you.

The key to building your personal “neighborhood association” is simply to begin sharing a little more about yourself with the people who live and work in your own neighborhood community.  What you’ll likely find is that at least half of the people that you regularly talk with or run into while walking your dog, have no idea what you do for a living.  By letting your neighbors in on your particular expertise, you open a door for a lot of new business.

Once you’ve begun building your neighborhood association you’ll be amazed at how fast a good reputation travels through the neighborhood grapevine.  Provide exceptional service to these clients, and you’ll have referrals coming in like you never imagined possible.  Just think; the everyday rapport that you have with members of your community may just be the ticket to finding a viable and untapped market for new clients.

Marketing to Your Neighbors
Whether you are on a first name basis with everyone in your community, or you hardly know a single one of them, it’s never too late to begin directly marketing to your neighbors.  If the idea of doing so makes you uncomfortable, think about how uncomfortable you were when you made your first cold call.  You survived that, and you actually had to speak on the phone to someone you didn’t know.  Neighborhood marketing is much less intimidating. At first, you won’t even have to speak directly to them.

Direct Mail/Door Knob Hangers—First call your title rep and get names and addresses of your neighbors.  Then compose a very friendly letter or door flier introducing yourself.  A door flier is a great option because you will likely meet many of your neighbors while actually hanging the fliers on their doors.   Begin to familiarize your neighbors with you by saying something like “you probably know me; I walk that big black lab around the neighborhood each evening.”  Then segue into informing them that you are a mortgage originator, and being that you live in their neighborhood, you have very intimate knowledge of home values in the area.  You might simply ask them if they would like free information on their home’s value, or let them know that homes in your particular area have greatly appreciated and they may have a lot of equity that they are unaware of.  It’s important that you are not overly aggressive in your neighborhood marketing, but rather that you are just offering information.

Sponsor a Free Mortgage Seminar in Your Home—After you’ve targeted your neighbors with a direct mailer, the next logical step would be to host an “open house mortgage seminar/party” and invite all of your neighbors to attend.  This will be not only a great way to get to know the people who live around you, but will also help position you as an expert in your local community.  Invite them to bring their families, including children, and make the affair casual, with drinks or snacks for a fun evening.  You don’t need to plan a formal presentation, make sure to keep the atmosphere lighthearted, and family friendly.  Spend just a little bit of time introducing yourself, and provide your neighbors with useful information pertaining directly to your community.   Then lay off the work talk and enjoy your evening.  You’ll be surprised at how many of your neighbors will initiate further discussion with you about their unique situations as the evening progresses.

Follow Up—After your direct mail campaign and your free mortgage seminar, be sure to send thank you notes to all of your neighbors, and leave it at that.  Don’t push them as you certainly don’t want to be known as the neighborhood bully.  However, a well crafted follow-up letter thanking your neighbors for attendance, and inviting them to call on you both personally or professionally as they see fit, will demonstrate utmost professionalism and likely generate at least a few phone calls.

Other marketing ideas include:

  • Sponsor a neighborhood athlete or team
  • Get involved with community service groups, including volunteer networks or local animal shelters
  • Join a club—book club, auto club, or any other that will put you in touch with community members
  • Advertise in community restaurants
  • Place shopping car ads at local grocery store
  • Post signs at cleaners, deli and other establishments in your neighborhood

By making the most of every networking opportunity that is available to us in our own communities, we can generate a lot of new business.  Moreover, we can solidify our positions within our communities as not only friendly neighbors, but also as familiar and trusted mortgage advisors when we directly target market to our neighbors.  So while you’re targeting CPAs, financial planners, and naturally those Realtors, make sure that you’re not missing a golden opportunity to become the top mortgage originator in your own community or neighborhood association.  You’ll be amazed by how many people will say, “You know, I never even knew you were in the mortgage business.”  And they will thank you for letting them know.

By Justin Aldi

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