We are 12 days away from the end of October. This month at Shred Media, we will have talked, interviewed, connected, and spoke in front of thousands of professionals in real estate and mortgage. My job allows me a unique opportunity to hear from all of those that serve the industry and those that directly serve the end consumer. After the last 19 days, three things are more apparent to me more than ever:
- Mortgage professionals (at large) are too damn dependent on others
- The mortgage industry NEEDS to take control of their business development
- We MUST make getting to the consumer first an absolute priority
This shouldn't be news to most, if not all, of you. Josh and I have been talking about getting to the consumer first for months, pretty much since Gary Vaynerchuk's Agent 2021, and we are continuing to pound that message home. Excitingly enough, Gary Vaynerchuk himself validated everything we have been speaking about last weekend at AIME Fuse.
So, where am I going with this?
Before I answer that, let me first say that this article will 100% rub some people the wrong way along with some very good friends of mine who are on the other side of my argument. But at the end of the day one of our core principals at Shred is to champion the local experts and what is best for their business. I will always stay true to that.
Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Russ Smith, who is the EVP of National Production/COO at Caliber Home Loans, as he addressed a group of CHL producers. I won't go into the details of the whole talk (which was awesome), but his opening line is what stayed with me. Russ asked, “what you would all do if Realtors and Builders went away tomorrow? Would you be able to get business?”
Here is the punchline. The answer is a resounding NO for most MLOs in the industry.
I am sure some of you will say well I could always buy leads and do credit triggers and blah blah blah, but the point was and IS can you source your own business? If you can't or at least if you can't source a majority of it, that means you are dependent on someone else to grow your business. And this is a significant problem in the mortgage industry.
This isn't a secret to anyone, and in fact, there are numerous successful businesses built around the fact that MLOs cannot or will not source their own business. These are multimillion-dollar businesses that are counting on you, the MLO, you the mortgage lender, not to be able to get your own deals. They are counting on you not to do “direct to consumer marketing.”
We all know the players. You sign up for their system, which is 100% focused on giving an agent something of value for little to no cost while you pick up the tab. They talk about “lead sharing” and helping agents grow their business. But in actuality, you are funding them to grow their business by helping the agent, and HOPEFULLY, you are getting referrals on the back end. I am not saying you can't get ROI, and I am not saying you won't get deals. But I am saying that this model keeps you at second position when you really should be in the first position.
Fun Fact: There are some great threads in some FB groups happening right now about a very popular one about a certain tactic that happens once you leave. When I mentioned this to a group of 20 producers, ZERO of them had any idea this was happening.
Want to go bigger? Let's look at MSAs and Zillow lead share. This month I heard story after story of agents dumping the MLO partners because they stopped co-paying for Zillow leads. Love how you were the best MLO out there…until you stopped co-paying for leads. And stop calling it co-marketing for crap sake, because it isn't and deal with it. If you are in mortgage, then Zillow is your competitor plain and simple. No debate, no argument. Every dollar you put in their pocket is a dollar spent trying to put your model out of business. Zillow has stated this themselves so this isn't just a tinfoil hat conspiracy.
I could go on and on about the specific “solutions,” but I want to ask you this. What if the industry as a whole puts their spend towards building a brand and getting to the consumer first with marketing? What if they invested in solutions that attracted consumers so they can generate their own leads? What if we invested in ways to source our own business? Would that put us in a stronger position?
In the internet era that we are living in, there are no gatekeepers. We can market to the consumer first. We can do the same type of attraction marketing that agents do to get leads. We can do anything and everything to source our own business. We need to be willing to do it at scale and have the drive to take control of our destiny.
I am not saying to not work with agents, but what I am saying let's change referral source to partner source. Let's indeed be in the game 50/50, where you the MLO are referring business to the best, and agents, in turn, are referring business to the best. True co-marketing and actual collective business growth. This is what the consumer expects and deserves. They trust us to refer them based on expertise, not based on who decided to pay the most.
In mortgage, we are at a crossroads, and when it comes down to it, you cannot build a mansion on rented land. You cannot create a successful LONG-TERM business being utterly dependent on someone else. This is why at Shred, we will NOT be working with or helping any companies that are focused on making MLOs dependent on real estate agents. We need to practice what we preach, and that is helping MLOs get to the consumer first and to not be dependent on agents.