The following blog post started out as a POV for a potential client. I thought it made a better blog post and believe that you can substitute just about any type of business in place of “mortgage company”.
Understanding the Business Challenge
The online marketing landscape for mortgage companies has become increasingly difficult over the past several years and most of them are struggling with similar issues. Traditionally, mortgage companies are excellent direct marketers. The use of cable television, radio, direct mail, lead aggregators, affiliate marketing and even search engine marketing, have been effective marketing channels due to their action oriented nature and the ability to measure and quantify results. However, due to the abundance of mortgage companies and the success of these channels, the competition has drastically increased thus leading to a congested and confusing marketplace. As a result, volume has diminished and differentiation is an enormous challenge.
Adding to this challenge is the uprising of social media which has put the power to publish in the hands of the consumer. Influence has moved from the brand to the consumer and now mortgage companies are not only dealing with lower lead volumes but also with a reputation management issue.
Mortgage companies have done extremely well with paid search marketing but as the competition increases, so does the cost for clicks. This puts significant pressure on the performance of the web site to raise conversion rates in order to produce a reasonable cost per acquisition (CPA). The natural response is an attempt to better utilize natural search results which will drive greater volumes of traffic to the web site without the costly per click charges. However, achieving success in natural search is not easy. The game has changed drastically in the last two years and the tactics used in the past for SEO are not nearly as effective. Compounding this problem is the lack of quality content on the web sites of most mortgage companies. The creation of quality content has become the new SEO and the infiltration of social media sites in the search results page has made it harder for companies to become listed among their competitors. This has created a “perfect storm” for marketing departments within most companies and in particular mortgage companies.
Solving the Problem
This business challenge is now a trend and mortgage companies are asking the same questions:
- How do I get better results in natural search?
- How do I manage my brand’s reputation?
- How do I produce more leads?
- How do I differentiate in this crowded marketplace?
It is my opinion that the answer to these questions lie within the same marketing effort; social media.
Marketers should not think of social media as the destinations such as FaceBook and Twitter but instead as the human behavior that has a part of society for decades. That behavior is the sharing of opinions, experiences, preferences and loyalties within a personal network. A recent Forrester Research study indicated that 83% of those surveyed indicated that an opinion of a friend or acquaintance that used a product or service was viewed as the most trusted source or information in making a purchase decision.
The use of social media has also become a preferred method of disseminating information to the marketplace whereby a consumer can share that information with their networks. Social media provides marketers with a vehicle to drastically increase the consumption and exposure of this content. In addition, due to the text nature of this medium, search engines find it easier to index this content and as a result of its keyword richness, social media sites are dominating search results for relevant keywords.
For brands suffering from service issues, this presents a significant reputation management problem. In an attempt to solve this problem, brands avoid participation in social media thinking that the problem will go away if they don’t participate. That is the most incorrect stance a brand can take. Instead, participation in social media with the creation of quality content will meet this problem head on and give the consumers a way to interact with the brand on a positive basis.
Quality content should be defined as valuable information for the benefit of the consumer. This could include client testimonials, educational materials, POV’s on the industry, and even goodwill information about the organization. If mortgage companies were to commit to the production of quality content, they will find that their happy customers will interact, engage and share the content with their networks. Participation in a social platform will cultivate the positive sharing of information. Without it, the unhappy customers will be the only voice.
Having a steady flow of quality content in social destinations will have impact on the following:
- A positive consumer voice to offset negativity
- A display of concern for the well-being of their customers by the brand
- Protection of the brand name
- A wealth of text based content located off the brand’s sites with links inbound to the main site
- Improved rankings in natural search due to the inbound links
- Additional listings within the Google search results for more click through options
- The ability to differentiate from competition
- An opportunity for satisfied customers to share their experience with their networks
- Improved effectiveness of all other marketing channels as prospective customers enter the marketing funnel after engaging with content referred by a friend
- A steady flow of new content which will over ride and suppress negativity in a similar fashion to the Facebook news feed
- The elevation of a brand’s status as a member of the community and a thought leader
- The development of a loyal customer base and the creation of brand ambassadors
Whether you like it or not, social media is happening to your brand. Choosing to participate provides a marketing vehicle unique to the digital marketing era. This is the preferred method of communication for consumers the only marketing channel that has such significant impact on the rest of the marketing funnel. When done correctly, social media will improve a brand’s visibility, increase customer loyalty, enhance a brand’s reputation and provide distinct market differentiation.