Moving beyond brand X: you don't have to be a faceless competitor with no brand loyalty in the vast mortgage space. Here are some tips on how to build a brand and get some mileage out of it.

Author:Seroka, John

It's no secret that mortgage lending is a highly competitive industry and that it continues to be extremely difficult for lenders to differentiate themselves from one another. * Mortgage companies often compete on rate alone. Yes, rate is surely a top consideration, but all things being equal, "how low can you go" can't be the only hand you have to play. * When you hear the word "branding," your logo and the name of your company come to mind. But your brand is not your logo--it's what your logo represents. * So if I were to ask you how you define your brand, how would you respond? * For many chief executive officers, chief marketing officers and other marketing professionals, how you define your brand can be a challenging question to answer. Often, too much focus is placed on driving inbound calls that only lead to success in the immediate term, instead of setting your company up for long-term, sustainable success by focusing on why those in the market should select your company over another. * So, if you feel like the return on investment (ROI) you're experiencing on your campaigns is disappointing, it can be tough to determine at times if that's due to a marketing problem or a brand problem.


Marketing problem or brand problem?

The two are easily confused, and some believe that pouring more and more dollars into marketing will win more business and drown out competitors. This may be true. Marketing, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the process or technique of promoting, selling and distributing a product or service.

Marketing certainly builds awareness. However, if it's not brand-driven marketing, the ROI will be rather disappointing comparatively.

I meet with many mortgage companies that feel like they're in a perpetual state of playing catch-up. So how can you put a stop to this once and for all?

The answer comes down to developing your brand--a brand that people gravitate toward so that you make the list of viable contenders when they're shopping for a mortgage.

Sure, the bottom line may certainly come down to rate, but if you don't even make the list, then they won't know you have a competitive rate.

So how do you know whether you have a marketing problem or a brand problem?

* If you only win based on rate alone, you definitely have a brand problem.

* If you lack clarity and evidence of distinction in the eyes of your employees, customers and/or community, you have a brand problem.

* If competitors are successful at eroding your market share and there's no 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 or if you don't know the best times to launch an email campaign, you have a marketing problem.

Simply discovering you have a brand problem should be enough motivation to do something about it..

Without a strong brand that clearly communicates who you are, how you're different and why you exist, you automatically blend into the same pool as everyone else. That's a very vulnerable place to be.

It's important to point out a distinction here since we've been tossing around the terms "branding" and "brand development."

Brand development is the discovery of a brand's evidence of distinction; branding is the tactical application of how that distinction is communicated internally and externally across all marketing channels and touch points. A new logo, tagline and color palette can refresh a tired communications program, but none of these tactics change a brand's distinction.

Also keep in mind that if your company has a strong brand, people will rarely consider others; they request your brand by name and recommend your brand regularly.

Strong and well-established brands also survive marketing budget wars, increase appeal to potential co-branding partners, help to mitigate negative press during a crisis and expedite consumers' decision-making process.

It is important to note that most brands that fail, do so because they lack substance--a true core identity. Without a clear understanding of your brand, consumers have no choice but to base their decisions on factors outside of your control...

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