Brandon Schnitzer is the finance industry general manager at Natural Intelligence, a leader in intent marketing
and a provider of comparison websites that drive high-value
customer acquisition for leading brands. Reach him at
email@example.com or (646) 432-0380.
Be Bold to Capture Untapped Leads
Originators shouldn’t shy away from comparing themselves with competitors online
By Brandon Schnitzer
The mortgage businessmustovercome chal- lenges that many other industries do not confront. Chief among them is building a base of loyal, repeat customers in an increasingly competitive market.
The average client takes out only a handful of mortgages in their lifetime. The odds of having repeat business is low. This twice or thrice in a lifetime financing
experience means that mortgage originators are interacting with clients for short bursts of intense collaboration, making it harder to establish the type of
rapport that comes over time.
Compounding this is the fact that the average new
mortgage balance is $244,000, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And borrowers are
increasingly relying on online data to research and
These factors tend to drive borrowers to narrow
their focus on the lowest mortgage rates that appear
at the top of search-engine results. This leaves many
originators in a precarious position, especially given
trends and the shifting behaviors of borrowers online.
A changing borrower
While acquiring a mortgage is not an everyday purchase for an individual borrower, it continues to be
the top selling product for financial institutions. Those
institutions are in heavy competition to secure qualified clients with the highest intent to purchase.
How can mortgage originators overcome these obstacles? Mortgage originators can capture untapped
leads if they dare to compare themselves to the
While older generations knocked on their neighborhood bank’s front door to secure a mortgage,
this next generation of homebuyers is different. They
expect their mortgage-buying experience to be completely online.
And it better be easy and fast. According to a study
conducted by Velocify, 48 percent of mortgage borrowers now find their lender online, compared to just
13 percent a few years ago.
Blame it on the millennials. According to the National
Association of Realtors, millennials made up 36 percent
of homebuyers in 2017. A similar report found that
about half of home loans in 2017 were taken by homeowners under 45 years of age.
So how do you reach these influential, high-intent
customers? To be successful, mortgage originators
must engage borrowers at the critical moment when
they are ready to buy.
Simple, right? Maybe you run a cross-sell campaign
to existing clients. Or you invest millions of dollars in
a brand refresh. With all things being relatively equal
from a federal interest rate point of view, how hard
could it be to close those new mortgage sales?
As a financial pro, you know it’s very challenging.
Brand loyalty continues to wane, mortgage rates are
not the only factor in the decisionmaking process, and
the increased reliance on third-party comparison sites
is driving new levels of transparency in the lending
A recent study by Natural Intelligence uncovered
additional new trends around the mortgage selection and procurement process. The key takeaway is
that to win over high-intent borrowers with low brand
consideration, mortgage originators must dare to
Increasingly, clients want to make an informed decision. To do this, they need to know how each mortgage originator compares with the others, evaluating
features and the fine print, as well as feedback from
unbiased third parties via comparison websites, reviews and recommendations.
This shift in borrower behavior represents a significant opportunity for financial institutions. Here’s why.
When reviews are positive and features are easily comparable, borrowers are increasingly open to purchasing from brands that are new to them.
Make the list
Recommendations for top products and services are
meaningful to clients. The Natural Intelligence study
found that for comparison websites, the top listing
converts at a rate 27 percent higher than the second-place listing, and that second-place listing performs
61 percent better than lower-ranked products.
That’s not to say lower-ranked brands can’t com-
pete, as they do fare well. It’s the financial institutions
that are nowhere to be found on comparisons sites
that face the steepest challenges when borrowers are
looking for mortgage information.
Think about your financial institution. Go now to
your favorite search engine and type in “best [your
product category]” or “top [your product category]?
Is your brand featured in the first few results? If not,
you have to apply a new marketing strategy to tap into
those high-intent users.
Here are three actions mortgage originators can
take to better compete.
■ n Address changes in online consumer behavior.
Online research, including reviews and comparison
sites, has become a critical step for these high-intent
consumers. Don’t be afraid to be compared to your
competitors because it’s happening whether you
like it or not. Reviews also give you a great opportunity to engage with your users and receive critical feedback that can inform future business and
■ n Create a comprehensive paid-search strategy.
Nonbranded mortgage keywords are among the
most expensive to bid on in terms of cost-per-click
search-engine advertising costs. They also can be
the most effective. Search volume for nonbranded
mortgage terms, including phrases like “top 10
mortgage providers” or “best mortgages,” is likely
to be more robust than it is for branded mortgage
terms, like your company’s name. Find the balance
that works for you, but you can’t afford to overlook
■ n Recognize and respond to the needs of high-value, high-intent mortgage borrowers. Online
mortgage buyers are looking for value and a seamless online experience. With 80 percent of U.S.
consumers willing to pay more for a better online
experience, there is a tremendous opportunity for
lenders to capitalize on the fast-growing, high-intent
borrower market if they can meet borrower needs.
Companies that want to generate more online
traffic and convert more users must be willing to share
more information with third-party websites, create a
seamless online experience and do their best to be
ranked and reviewed on trustworthy lists. n
are positive and
features are easily
from brands that
are new to them.”