Garth Graham is a partner with Stratmor Group and has more than 25 years of mortgage experience.
Garth Graham is a partner with Stratmor Group and has more than 25 years of mortgage experience.

Donald Trump should be looked to as a brilliant example for our industry.

Still with me?

When it comes to celebrities in this country, Trump is certainly the man we love to hate. I think he knows this, and it's become part of his strategy. We, the mortgage industry, tend to find ourselves in a similar situation, except that consumers don't love to hate us, they just often do.

Given the beating our various brands have taken since the financial crash, the importance of a mortgage lender's brand might be even greater than that of a presidential candidate.

The reason I want to draw some lessons from The Donald — in addition to those from my last column — is that I'm continuously building my own personal brand. My goal is to garner so much attention, using Trump as a poster child, that he is driven to attack me from the stage. What better way to make a name for oneself in marketing and earn 15 minutes of fame than by being targeted by the biggest hair in politics?

In case that strategy won't work for you, here are some other lessons our industry can learn from the political aspirations and media strategies presidential candidates benefit from and employ in their quest for the highest political office.

One of the tools most successful at keeping Trump in headlines isn't even one of his own strategies. The polling processes used by news organizations to track candidates' estimated winning ability keep their names in the press.

Without polls, we would have to wait until the election process was over to find out who won. No one wants to wait that long — not to mention spend that much money — to know how they are doing, which is why polls have been used for decades. Gallup Inc. claims to have been the first company to conduct accurate opinion polling to predict presidential elections and have data back to 1936. Every time a poll comes out between now and November 2016, Trump can expect to be covered in the story, and he probably will be.

Customer polling is important in our industry, too, though lenders don't always use accurate methods, or use them often enough. We can't wait for someone else to do it for us. In the worst-case scenario, the consumer will take their dissatisfaction to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public consumer complaint database. Customer polling is a good method of uncovering customer satisfaction and a real-time dashboard to display critical success factors for management review are the recommended solutions.

If you track the poll results, you know that this information is provided often. Publications know it will be read and so they are more than happy to cover these surveys. Besides, things change quickly — as you know if you've been watching Hillary Clinton's performance in the polls lately. The same is true in our business. Things might have been slow during the downturn, with far more companies leaving the business than entering it, but that has changed. With an improving economy, your competitors have stepped up their efforts to get new business and that will impact your standing in the market.

Smart lenders keep tabs on how they are doing in any market by measuring their performance against that of their peers. Lenders who don't do this either fall behind competitors or spend too much money on misguided efforts to keep up. A recent conversation we had with a client underscores this point. Management wanted to speed up loan processing in a certain market because the sales department said it was a competitive imperative, but they had performed no peer group analysis to back that up. When that analysis was conducted, we found that the typical competitor's speed to close in that state was nowhere near as fast as the salesperson had indicated. It would have been an expensive exercise that was desired by sales but not demanded by the market. The client saved the money.

Benchmarking against peer data is a great way to uncover this kind of information, but this is also in line with what we've learned from over 40,000 MortgageSAT surveys we've conducted for clients. That data suggests there's not a huge difference in satisfaction based on speed to close, unless you're taking longer than 60 days to refinance a loan, when things deteriorate as quickly as The Donald's hair in a hurricane.

Still, it was a good question to explore, as performing well in terms of your plan is never as good as performing well in relation to your competitors — which, by the way, is a lesson all of the presidential hopefuls will learn on the long road to the election in November 2016.

Garth Graham is a partner with Stratmor Group and has more than 25 years of mortgage experience.