In the mortgage industry, even now more than ever, companies are paying close attention to their cost-per-lead and consistently looking for ways to reduce it.
If you were to conduct a Google search on how to reduce your cost-per-lead, nearly every article or blog post you’ll read talks about social media deployment, email marketing, direct mail, content marketing, billboards, PPC campaigns, purchasing the right day parts, purchasing the right list and many more items on a typical marketers “to do” list.
Tactics like these can boost campaign performance in the immediate term but fail to have lasting effects if the underlying foundation, the brand, is not well developed or properly understood internally. When the brand is weak or not understood internally, this is reflected in the overall quality and consistency of your communications which can be built upon over time, ultimately reducing your cost-per-lead. This is why great, well developed brands experience a higher return on investment on their marketing and public relations efforts than others, who may have even been around longer, as they try to mimic or test everything from messaging to positioning statements and more to figure out what will resonate best and drive the most leads for the least cost.
Finding the right formula to reduce cost-per-lead is high on the minds of all mortgage industry marketers, CEOs and other corporate stakeholders.
Frequently, all of the hard work that happens in marketing assumes that if your cost-per-lead is higher than it’s supposed to be, that the “problem” resides in marketing. That could be. But what if it's your brand, not your marketing that's the problem?
If your marketing is not brand-driven, then your cost-per-lead will consistently be higher than it needs to be due to lack of brand equity being built in the minds of your audience.
Here are some ways to determine whether you have a marketing or branding problem:
- If you find you win most of the time due to beating the competition based on price, you have a brand problem.
- If you lack clarity and evidence of distinction in the eyes of your employees, customers or prospects, then you have a brand problem.
- If competitors are successful at eroding your market share and you don’t have a good strategy to gain it back, you have a brand problem.
- If your website basically reads the same as your competitors’ websites, you have a brand problem.
- If your creative is dry, if you don’t have a call to action, don't know where/how often to run your ads or if you don’t know the best times to launch an email campaign, you have a marketing problem.
Maybe, after evaluating yourself against each of these points, you’re still confused as to where the problem actually lies. For this reason, I’ve assembled the following steps to help you uncover the problem so that you can move towards reducing the costs associated with your lead generation:
1) Uncover any confusion about your brand internally.
Conduct an internal assessment by survey to discover how managers and employees define your brand, feel it stacks up in the competitive environment, how they feel about you as an employer and more. If your internal audience reveals mixed messages about who you are or what you stand for, this signals a dangerous lack of clarity of your brand among the people who should be “living” it. People need to be clear about why they're coming to work each day if you expect them to really be on your team. They need to know why it's better to be on your team than someone else’s.
If your own people don’t know what standards they should be living up to, then this is costing you money. Why? Because your own people struggle with how to convey your brand clearly and fluently. Clarity drives your people to deliver upon your brand consistently in all ways which drives audience consideration because they feel you can meet their needs business-wise and emotionally.
2) Uncover any external confusion about your brand.
Similar to the internal assessment in step 1, you may consider conducting an external assessment of your brand as well. This can be accomplished fairly easily with nearly the same survey questions. You should survey your business referral sources, current customers and possibly even potential customers.
If you find that there is confusion about what your brand is externally, this means your credibility in the market place is watered down which is surely costing you money. Why? Because since many brands have this problem, at best you’re lateral to your competitors, just another “me too” offering the same thing with little to no real differentiation. Or worse, you’re busting your tail just to be considered another mediocre brand, never becoming a dominant force.
3) Eliminate any market place confusion about your brand once it’s been uncovered.
If you eliminate market place confusion about your company−your unique selling propositions, key differentiators, positioning, who you are and what you stand for−this certainly is a factor in reducing your cost-per-lead. Why? Because messages delivered consistently and cohesively give you an edge on your competition that you can develop further to set yourself apart from them. These messages build on each other and therefore help build brand equity.
4) Review all marketing pieces.
These pieces should include direct mailers, brochures, presentation materials, folders, website, billboards, ads, anything and everything with a printed message on it all the way down to coffee cups and pens. The goal of reviewing all of these pieces is to determine consistency in messaging, positioning, look and feel.
If you’re messaging, positioning, look and feel are inconsistent, then each time you make an impression on your audience, it’s a new impression instead of an impression that builds on the last. So, no real equity is built. This costs money and again drives up your cost-per-lead.
If you feel the ROI on your communications is short of expectations, it may be a good time to consider assessing your brand.
John Seroka is Principal of Seroka, a full-service brand development and strategic communications firm specializing in the mortgage industry. He may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 866.379.0400. You also can connect with him at linkedin.com/in/johnseroka, twitter.com/johnseroka or on Google+.