The "Old Customers Are Gold" Follow Up System© !

 

Article by: Linda Brakeall

As we make plans for success, we have to ask ourselves where is the business going to come from this year?

Statistics tell us that it takes six times as much time, money & energy to find a new customer as it does to maintain and do more business with a previous customer. Few mortgage lenders are actively cultivating this very lucrative market.

The mortgage industry tends to treat it's customers as "blind dates". Think about it! Pretend for a moment that I am an applicant. You and I are typically introduced by a third party. Often a Realtor. We are "fixed up". We go on our "date", which may last 30 to 90 days till closing.

Because you have not invested time in pursuing me, in courting or wooing me, you seldom "call me in the morning". You'll never know if I could have been a good friend, the love of your life, or an on-going source of business.

We have just gone through more than two years of heavy refinancing. If you were involved in the refi boom of 84 and 85, then you probably remember what happened in 1986. It was boom time. Sales were plentiful but many mortgage companies closed their doors. In some market places 30% of the mortgage companies went out of business. Why? They had become "order takers". For two years they sat in their offices and waited for the phone to ring.

When the purchases boomed, those "order takers" didn't have a clue. They had never made a sales call. They had no on-going relationship with Realtors who typically account for 67% of mortgage referrals. And they certainly weren't staying in touch with their previous customers.

As the purchase boom blooms, many people who have refinanced - many more than once over the past two years - will buy new homes. Should they have bought last year while there was a lot to choose from and prices were lower? Probably. But you and I both know that people tend to do what other people tend to do. Didn't Vance Packard call us a "Nation of Sheep"? So your old customers, at least some of them, are thinking about buying a new house right now. Shouldn't you be handling the mortgage again for them? Wouldn't it be easier on you? Working with a familiar customer? Wouldn't it be easier on the customer?

If you want to work and work with your old customers you need an effective follow up system. And you need to put it in place today for two very good reasons.

When the boom hits your marketplace you simply will not have time to create a system. Keeping a system going takes very little time, but creating one takes a certain amount of concentrated brain power. In a boom it's tough enough finding time to shower and sleep. You're not likely to spend time on anything but the absolute essentials.

The other compelling reason for putting the system into place now is that the boom - any boom - won't last forever. Booms come and go and only the well organized professional lasts through good markets and bad. And that is because they have systems in place.

So what kind of simple-to-put-together and simple-to-execute system could you use that would be effective?

First, start attending closings. As I travel across the country doing my seminars I often ask how many loan officers actually attend closings. In a room of several hundred people, seldom more than 10% raise their hands. So that alone would make you different.

As a loan originator, you probably think your job is essentially done when you call the customer and say "You're approved!".

Have you personally been involved in closing a mortgage recently? I have. Because I'm a Realtor, I didn't have a Realtor at my closing. Nor my loan officer. I didn't have an attorney for this transaction. It was just me and the closing officer. Now I'm a professional. I know what to expect. I know how to read the documents, what to look for. But you know what? I was still nervous. Uncomfortable. There was no one there for support. I would have loved to have seen my loan officer stop by! I wanted reassurance that everything was going to be OK.

If I felt that way, what must the average "civilian" customer go through who doesn't have my background? There is never a better opportunity to cement the relationship than when the customer is feeling vulnerable and in need of support and a friendly face. You don't have to stay for the whole closing. Even 10 minutes would be welcome. Say: "I was on my way to an appointment but I just wanted to stop by and make sure everything was going smoothly for you. Is there anything I can do to help? Do you have any questions?"

It appears that you made time for them. They feel important. They'll remember. And when they swap mortgage horror stories with their friends, and they will, they'll mention that their loan officer was at their closing. Chances are they'll be the only one in the conversation who can say that. On such things are reputations and referrals built.

There are a few other things you might consider. Bringing a bottle of champagne or flowers to the closing makes thing festive. It also takes their mind off the petty gripes that are inevitable.

And please make an appointment with yourself to do a follow up call 3 to 5 days after closing. "Hi there! Are you enjoying your new home? All settled in yet? Is there anything I can do to help? Can I direct you to any services you might need? May I ask a favor? If anybody mentions buying a house or refinancing, will you give them my card? Or give me a call? I'd really appreciate it!"

Another way to create a list of "old customers" to keep in touch with is to check out the "Orphans" in your office. "Orphans"? In your office, what happens to the customers whose loan officer is no longer with your company? Typically, no one cares for them. They are orphans. Ask your manager if you can follow up on those customers.

Call them and say: "Hi there Mr. or Mrs. XXXX! This is Linda Brakeall from Mortgages Are Us. We handled your mortgage when you bought your home in 1992. The loan officer who worked with you is no longer with our company and my manager didn't want you to be neglected just because John is no longer with us. We still feel you're part of the Mortgages Are Us family. I just wanted to call, say hello and remind you that we're always here to help if you have any mortgage questions or if you are thinking about refinancing or moving. Is there anything I can do to help you? May I send you my card so that you'll know who to call if you need anything? Thanks! Nice visiting with you."

If you got any kind of a positive response, these people go on your list. So now you have a list. How do you keep in touch?

I'm going to suggest a systematic approach that takes very little time or money to execute. We're going to plan on 4 contacts the first year, 3 the second year and a minimum of 2 contacts per year till they die or move away!

Let me give you the contents, then we will plug them into the system. First, you need to send anniversary cards a year after they move into their new home or refinance. It doesn't have to be complicated. It can be a purchased card or written by hand. It needs to say something like this:


H a p p y A n n i v e r s a r y !
" One year ago you bought your home !
I hope you are enjoying it. "


Second, when you take applications ask birth dates rather than ages. Then you can send birthday cards. Adults get so few birthday cards that it's an event.

Next pick some Odd Holidays to send a card, just to even out the contacts during the year. I'm fond of Ground Hog's Day if you need a card for February.

Last, put together an " Annual Financial Forecast". I know that sounds complicated but it doesn't have to be. You may have a financial guru somewhere in your company who'd love to do this for you. Do you have someone somewhere who knows the difference between M1, M2 and BS? Can he translate financial gibberish into English? If so, perhaps he or she would give you the benefit of that knowledge in an article that you could distribute to your mailing list.

If not, there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. Every December and January the financial pages in every newspaper are full of articles speculating about financial trends, the economy and interest rates for the coming year. Clip out several. Check out the graphs and charts in USA Today. They are written for an 8th grade reading level so everyone can understand them! Put together 2 to 4 of the best articles with a personal note: " I just ran across these articles and thought they might of interest to you! Happy 1997!"

Let's put it all together in a 3 year plan that can be repeated indefinitely.

For three years (36 months) we'll need 36 folders, hanging files or envelopes. Label them January through December three times. Mark the year on each "January". We're going to send out 4 contacts the first year, 3 the second, and at least 2 per year forever.

Next you have to decide what to send and when. There are a couple of basics. Everyone should get a birthday card and the Annual Financial forecast. The first year you send the Anniversary card. That only leaves one card that needs to be inserted the first year. Use it to round out the year. You don't want more than 3 months to go by without contact. If you're creative, create the Odd Holiday cards. If you're not, stop by the card shop and get some "Thinking of you" cards. Here's the plan:


Tickler File--3 Year Plan
a. Buy 36 Folders
b. Decide what to send & when
c. Sign and address all cards, etc. (Yes N O W , or the day of closing. If you wait, it won't get done! This is a perfect project for a high school helper.)
d. Add your customers' names to the list for " Financial Forecast "
e. File cards etc. by month
f. Check the file each month -send out the cards !
(They do absolutely no good in the file!)
g. Mark last one: " L A S T O N E ! "
h. Do it again for the next 3 years!

E X A M P L E :
Y e a r 1:
Financial Update in January
1 or 2 Birthday Cards
1 Anniversary Card
1 Odd Holiday

Y e a r 2
Financial Update in January
1 or 2 Birthday Cards
1 Odd Holiday

Y e a r 3 - f o r e v e r
Financial Update in January
1 or 2 Birthday Cards

Besides the cards , if you can squeeze in a phone call or two during the year, you will increase your effectiveness. And your referrals. There is a simple rule to remember about referrals: You don't ask - You don't get !

There are also dandy little heart stickers available from specialty companies that say: "I love referrals!" Can't hurt to sprinkle them around.

This simple system can be done by hand - yours or someone else's or a computer program if you're so inclined. The method matters less than the action. Repeated customer contact is the key to repeat customers.

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Linda Brakeall is the author of Unlocking The Secrets of Successful Women in Business, and has trained 36,000 people in 27 states in sales, marketing, presentations, and communications since 1992. She has authored 99 magazine articles on sales, marketing, selecting salespeople, managing sales teams and communications. You can find out more about Linda and what she can do for you at http://www.lindabrakeall.com
Ph: 800-662-7249

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