Lender’s Campaign Stars Staff, Not Celebs

NOV 21, 2011 11:23am ET

Over the years, the mortgage industry has had its share of celebrity endorsers. The most famous were probably Jim Palmer and the late Phil Rizzuto who were, at different times, the pitchmen for subprime mortgage lender The Money Store.

A more recent example is Danica Patrick, who before she became the GoDaddy.com girl, appeared in ads for Argent Mortgage.

And of course, there is no shortage of celebrity pitchmen for the nation’s reverse mortgage lenders.

But British mortgage banker Northern Rock is taking a slightly different approach with its newest online campaign.

It is using its own staff in a starring role in its latest advertisements. The campaign aims to build on the success of the video guides available on its website.

Two customer service agents from the lender’s Tyneside call center appear in the first video for the campaign, which is called “Mortgages Made for You.” The clips, the company said, are designed to bring the women’s own warmth and personality to the business of mortgage lending.

The videos feature call center workers Leanne and Joanne, along with some details about their own lives and circumstances. They highlight not only that the bank’s staff are there to guide borrowers through every step of their mortgage journey, but also feature details of Northern Rock’s customer incentives.

The move comes just months after the successful launch of the bank’s brand campaign, “Works for Me,” which features real Northern Rock customers pictured in their own homes.

Andy Tate, customer and commercial director at Northern Rock, said, “Buying a home can be stressful and daunting for anyone. Here at Northern Rock, we regularly receive great feedback from our customers about how friendly and warm our staff are to deal with, and how straightforward they help make the mortgage journey.

“So, building on 'Works for Me,’ which is all about letting our customers speak for us, we thought our dedicated colleagues in our branches and contact centre would provide the perfect next step. After all, they are the human face of Northern Rock, providing the first point of contact to all our customers.

“We hope our customers will find the most recent videos and 'Mortgages Made for You’ a welcome addition to the website.”

There are things mortgage marketers can learn from what other types of advertisers do.

For example, Adam Armbruster, senior partner in the retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co., answers his own question to automobile dealership advertisers about if their marketing is connecting with consumers.

“There is no 'bad’ ad media. They all work. The secret sauce is how you use them. You don’t want to mess up the recipe,” he said.

Automobile dealers are facing very similar trends that mortgage originators are dealing with today. Armbruster quotes AutoTrader.com statistics that find 20% more time is spent today by consumers researching and shopping for a car, and that 66% of car buyers don’t buy from the first car dealership they initially contacted, although customers say that they are very close to buying once they begin to contact dealerships.

His words to auto dealers: “Get in real time with the buyer and reclaim the customer.

“So what can you do to get started? Market like a professional.

“Examine when and where the buyer took the initial steps to buy your product. Study which media they are using the most at that time and place.

“Build a message that speaks to the buyer in their frame of mind at that time when they are most receptive. Retool your ad budget to spend less per car and reach more of the market.

“Then tell your sales team about what you are doing and what will most likely happen when the campaign breaks,” Armbruster said.

On the other hand, marketing expert Maribeth Kuzmeski tells marketers not to emulate the ads or the behavior from last November’s political campaigns.

She said while the elections showed that going negative with one’s advertising can sway voters, it is no way to build long-lasting relationships with your constituents or your customers.

“As I watched the midterm campaigns unfold, I was reminded how easily businesspeople slip into mudslinging, often without realizing it.

“One second they’re talking up their business, and the next they’re bashing their competition.

Unfortunately, in the process, they end up ruining their own credibility, harming their relationships with clients, and taking the spotlight off why they were hired in the first place.

“Especially in these skeptical times, you build must trust and integrity with your customers and let them know you have their best interests at heart,” said Kuzmeski. “You need to maintain a laser focus on solutions. That is, after all, what clients want from you. And it’s the key to faster closes, smoother client and customer interactions, and lots of long-term business.”

Don’t talk junk about the competition. For business owners and salespeople, insults should be off limits.

“Customers won’t feel comfortable doing business with someone who uses insults,” says Kuzmeski. “For one, they might wonder what you are going to say about them behind their backs.

”Remember, you have only a limited amount of time to win over and impress your customers. Make it a policy at your business—for both you and your employees—to never waste that time by using it to junk talk your competition.

“Instead use the time you have with your customers to create a memorable experience that leaves them saying, 'Wow, that was great.’”

There is also the need to focus on the business at hand. “Sure, make your business personal, but in the sense that you tell your customers how your product or service will personally affect them and improve their lives.

“When it’s obvious you’ve thought a lot about the problems affecting their businesses, it shows them you identify with them, understand how they feel, and appreciate the situation they’re in. And that’s the kind of person they want to do business with,” she said.

Finally, be authentic. People who are authentic, genuine and real are usually at ease because they’re not trying to cover up anything. In turn, being at ease puts others at ease.

Authenticity is giving others the idea that what you see is what you get. Real people are easy to be around because you feel safe knowing that you can trust what they say, she said.

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