Shifting to Consumer Direct: A Quick-start Sales & Marketing Plan for Mortgage Lenders

Welcome to my quick start sales and marketing guide for mortgage lenders!

Probably more accurately, this is my framework for evolving traditional, but swiftly growing, mortgage lenders into consumer direct lenders.

This is the actual template that I start with when designing a digital strategy for a new mortgage lender or lead generation client. 

I use this proven framework as a mental model to ensure that I have all of the proven best practices, from Kaleidico’s 15 years of experience, baked into every new mortgage client’s digital strategy.

Feel free to leverage this in building your own unique digital strategy, or if you’d rather, reach out to us and we’d certainly be willing to answer any questions to lead you through the process.

Photo by N. on Unsplash


My Background in Mortgage Lending

I have been building consumer direct mortgage lending platforms since 2000. That was the year that I, and a small team of relatively mortgage ignorant technologists, built one of the first Internet banks. And, even more unique than that, the first and last home equity lending platform that made an instant credit decision on the web and then wired you cash in under 20 minutes. 

That was DeepGreenBank.com. 

Four years later, I led the team that sold that platform and business to LightYear Capital and Don Marron, a legend in his own right and arguably the tallest man I have ever pitched a deal to (nearly 7 foot tall as I remember it). 

One of the losers in that deal was Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans. 

It was in that loss that I ended up being recruited into Quicken Loans. After a quiet period working on building a bank for Quicken Loans, gaining a Federal Bank Charter through the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), and waiting out a non-compete, I began building another online lending platform – EquityOnline for Quicken Loans.

After a power-packed year and a half at Quicken Loans, I left to start Kaleidico.

Kaleidico is a full-service digital agency focused on lead generation. For the last 15 years, it has been my platform to advise, develop, and execute growth strategies as well as design and develop the websites that power these strategies. 

Our financial services practice has specialized in mortgage lenders and lead generation companies focused on direct consumer lending. 

Our successes have included everything from advising and building new consumer-direct lenders to helping traditional lenders grow or transition to consumer direct lending.

That was a long introduction, but the mortgage industry is such a unique and complex environment that I think it’s important to validate my expertise.


Business Objective(s)

Any new strategy has to begin with a clear vision. This vision should be shaped by a well-defined set of goals and expectations as well as an approach to measuring progress and success.

For most mortgage lenders, the goal to become a consumer direct lender comes from one of a couple of common perspectives:

  • We’re a successful traditional branch lender, but we know we need to swiftly move to a digital model for sustainability.
  • We’re buying leads from Bankrate, Zillow, LendingTree, or any of a dozen different high-quality lead providers. We’re experiencing success, but we need to extract a greater ROI from this model.
  • We’re experiencing amazing growth through lead buying and market conditions, but we need to invest now to create a direct to consumer platform that will sustain us in leaner times.

As you drill deeper, you will probably uncover additional drivers, like:

  • The desire for a more sophisticated or refined online brand
  • The desire for a more modern and updated website experience
  • The need for a more refined and “frictionless” experience for web visitors, generating more leads to fuel your sales team
  • The need to help loan officers effectively move online and generate personal lead flow
  • The need to train loan officers to work and sell to Internet leads more effectively
  • The need to design and implement a more effective frontline contact center to connect, prequalify, transfer, and schedule productive opportunities for loan officers
  • The need for a more sophisticated system to nurture and squeeze more juice from your leads database – real-time and aged leads

In this section of our digital plan, we’re trying to determine and document the following:

  • Why is digital marketing important to the mortgage lender?
  • What are their key expectations of performance? What do they expect to get from this sales and marketing strategy, when it works?

This section should contain clear performance expectations.

Key Drivers of New Business

From this point, it’s crucial to determine what’s generating leads today.

Ironically, we often find that many of the lender’s leads are attributable to the website, as frustrating and confusing as that user experience often is on many neglected mortgage lender websites.

Here are the top drivers of new mortgage inquiries in order of frequency and potential mortgage lead volume:

  1. Informational searches around current mortgage rates, a particular loan type, or trying to do some “what-if” scenarios (i.e., looking for mortgage calculators) – Generally, these are homebuyers and refinancing homeowners trying to make an early assessment of their situation and if they can afford to buy a home or if refinancing makes financial sense.
  2. Referrals – Recommendations made by past clients, real estate agents, and other relationships and professional contacts
  3. Loan officer visibility – Reviews! Social media, videos, community outreach and marketing
  4. Lead buying boomerang – This is my term for all of the consumers that search and inquire about their mortgage needs on multiple websites. Most do, and this creates a funny little situation where you’ll get the same consumer (lead) multiple times. As a part of this behavior, consumers often “check you out,” searching your brand and end up on your website numerous times, ultimately applying directly to your website.

Our digital strategy will seek to leverage each of these sources of leads and make the user experience frictionless to ensure that these mortgage inquiries make it to the mortgage lender and loan officers.

Digital Asset Inventory

Now, that we know what the mortgage lender wants from digital and we’ve confirmed what drives their business today, we only have one more area of research to conduct.

What raw materials do we have to work with? What digital assets can we leverage to build our refined sales and marketing strategy?

Some of the digital assets that we often look for within a mortgage lender include:

  • Website – Mortgage lender websites usually have some relevant web traffic (web visitors). Often these are searches for the name of the mortgage company and a few select loan officers. 
  • CRM – Mortgage CRMs, many lenders have multiple (i.e., Velocify, Cimarron, BNTouch, Big Purple Dot, and on and on), are full of aged leads and are always rich with lead generation opportunities.
  • Zillow or Social Listings – Some of the loan officer’s and maybe even the mortgage company itself have been listed, and ideally positively reviewed on other websites

In auditing each of these areas, we are looking to discover platforms to gather and nurture audiences around – audiences that can be turned into sustainable sources of new mortgage leads. 

Audience Development & Traffic Generation

Now that we have a good insight into what the mortgage lender wants to do, has done in the past, as well as platforms and data available to support a new strategy, it’s time to build that strategy.

Our process begins with audience development. We need to “stock the pond” with people that need mortgages or will provide referrals.

Positioning Statement

Our starting point should be an agreed-upon positioning statement. A clear message that defines where we fit into the market – who we serve and why.

The most basic formula for a position statement is:

  • What do we do? This is our target market need
  • How do we do it? This is our differentiation strategy
  • Who do we do it for? This is our target market
  • Why do we do it? This is our reason to believe we’re different from our competitors

This can come together in a very simple positioning statement template:

For [target market] who [target market need], [brand name] provides [what we do and how we do it – differentiated value statement] because [why we do it – a reason to believe we’re different].

With a clear understanding of who we need to be talking to and how we need to be sharing our unique value proposition, it’s time to design our lead generation plan.

Referencing our positioning statement, our lead generation plan is designed using this framework:

  • Where does our audience get their information?
  • What kind of information will they need to make a decision?
  • How and through what means will they engage a loan officer?

For a mortgage lender and their loan officers, the answers to these questions guide our marketing channel and tactics.

Marketing Channels & Tactics

Where do they get their information?

  • Google Search – Google Ads, SEO campaign(s) using loan type, mortgage rates, and mortgage calculator landing pages as well as keyword targeted blog (general personal finance and mortgage specific) content
  • Social Media – Facebook Ads
  • Referral – Google Ads, SEO campaign(s) using loan officer profile landing pages on the website

What kind of information do they need to make a decision? And, how do we make that information easy to get?

  • Loan Type, Mortgage Calculator, and Mortgage Rates landing pages
    • How do I buy a house or refinance my mortgage?
    • What kind of mortgage should I get?
    • Can I afford a mortgage?
    • What are the current mortgage rates?
  • Contact Page and Calls to Actions (CTAs)
    • How do I get started?
    • I have more questions, or I want to get a loan offer from you to compare a current mortgage or loan offer?
  • Loan Officer Profile landing pages
    • I need to find the person I was referred to
    • I need to find the person I was talking to a few days before
    • I need to find a loan officer that looks like they will get me the best deal

How and through what means will they engage with a loan officer?

  • Your website – This where most clients will first engage you, even if they’re referred to you. This channel gives them the most control over a situation (getting sold to) that is often intimidating.
  • Phone call – This is where your urgent requests for a rate quote or loan offer are likely to come in.
  • Email – This is where personal referrals are likely to originate. Email and text messaging often become the customer’s list preferred medium for follow up, but rarely are they the source of the initial contact unless there is a referral involved.

The Lead Generation Plan

In my experience, all of this understanding of client psychology and behavior boils down to the following high-level lead generation plan.

  • We get our best mortgage loan inquiries from people doing Google searches, which we capture and funnel into our website using Google Ads and SEO. 
  • Ideally, we are funneling these people to relevant mortgage blog posts,  Loan Type,  Mortgage Calculator, Rates, or Loan Officer profile landing pages.
  • Once these folks land on our landing pages, we need to give them the confidence that the next best thing they should do is contact a loan officer.
  • Separate from this flow, but equally essential to every lead generation plan is your lead nurturing system (email, text messaging, and voicemail) for nurturing and remarketing to aged leads.

This leads us to conversion optimization. How do we get that new mortgage lead?

Conversion Optimization

Converting a web visitor to a lead is definitely a blend of art and science.

The art is getting our visitor emotionally confident to ask their question and seek the counsel of a loan officer. Many consumers that would become mortgage leads are intimidated and anxious about the often mysterious and confusing mortgage process. 

Our number one goal is to provide that potential client with simple, straightforward information about their circumstance and possible loan options. Our mission is not to give them financial advice on the website, but rather provide them with the confidence that they may qualify and should feel confident about contacting a loan officer to figure out their loan options.

Now for the science part. The internet and most websites are confusing and overwhelming to the people we hope to serve.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the science of cutting through that noise to help a prospective client start a conversation with you.

Here is what all this means in straightforward terms.

  • We do our best to get visitors to a very specific and relevant landing page
  • On that page, as high as possible, we encourage them to contact one of our attorneys. This should be a clear call to action, a web contact form, and a phone number.
  • After this initial call to action, proceed to educate your web visitor about their potential loan options, the process, and again why it is important to start a conversation with a loan officer
  • Closeout every page with another strong encouragement to contact a mortgage loan officer

One of the biggest mistakes I see from mortgage lenders and loan officers on their landing pages is slipping into the trap (mostly fueled by compliance fear)  of avoiding any straightforward answers. Yet, expecting a consumer to trust you enough to give you a name and phone number.

Keep in mind that increases in conversion rates and leads are always a function of how clearly you’re articulating to web visitors that their best source of mortgage information is a loan officer advising them on their specific financial situation and circumstances.

That’s pretty much how to build your lead generation system in a nutshell. 

Our final step in the process is to track and monitor our plan to determine if it’s working. This brings us to our final step – performance metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Performance Measurement & KPIs

You can get crazy with metrics. 

For all but the most complex programs and largest budgets, you can use these simple tools and KPIs.

  • Use Google Analytics for all of your metrics.
  • Monitor and grow your traffic (visitors to your website)
  • Get more pages indexed and ranking in Google searches
  • Monitor and improve your page conversion rates
  • Monitor and grow your new mortgage leads

Once you begin producing new mortgage leads, it’s wise to start a regular feedback loop between your lead frontline reps and loan officers, and the marketing team. They will give you invaluable insight into improving lead quality and volume over time.

Next Steps?

Do you have questions about any of this? Contact me directly at bill.rice@kaleidico.com.

Do you want help implementing a lead generation program for your mortgage company? Kaleidico can help you generate more mortgage leads. Schedule a discovery call to discuss how we can quickly get this process started for your company.

About Bill Rice

Bill Rice is the Founder & CEO of Kaleidico, a digital agency. Bill specializes in providing law firms, attorneys, banks, and emerging technology clients with lead generation strategies enabled with content marketing, SEO, PPC, and email marketing.

Send this to a friend