Are you a marketer working with smaller, more regional players in the mortgage industry? Then this episode — all about mortgage industry content marketing, relationship building, strategic content creation, and more — is for you!
Jeff Kuns, our featured guest today, was born and raised in Southern California but ended up moving to Northern California in his 20s where he discovered his talent for voice acting. He was the voice of the first snowboarding video game for Sony PlayStation called Cool Borders. Eventually, Jeff decided to move into the mortgage business and spent 14 years in origination.
However, after the crash in 2010, Jeff decided it was time for a change and pursued his interest in copywriting and marketing. He worked for two different software as a service companies, one focused on helping loan officers market to customers and the other doing the same thing for insurance agents. In 2019, Jeff found his way to Finance Studio and is now a business development manager there, back in Los Angeles where he started.
Want more niche marketing insights on the mortgage vertical?
This episode is Part 3 in a multi-part series on Mortgage Industry Marketing. To continue learning on this niche, visit:
• Effective Email Marketing, Communicating Brand Value, and Key Audiences in Mortgage and Real Estate: Mortgage Industry Marketing Part 1 with Erina Johnson
• Advanced Lead Generation Strategies, Paid Ads, Co-Registration, and Organic Search: Mortgage Industry Marketing Part 2 with Nate Broughton
• Secrets to Mortgage Marketing Success Through Mastering Personal Branding: Mortgage Industry Marketing Part 4, Marisa Carey
Watch the Mortgage Industry Content Marketing Podcast Interview:
A Few Highlights on Mortgage Industry Content Marketing and More:
- Breaking down the hierarchy of the mortgage industry.
- The mortgage industry presents unique challenges for building awareness and getting your name out there.
- Smaller, regional players are trying to compete with big banks and lending companies, which is a unique challenge.
- During refinance markets with low-interest rates, many new institutions pop up and saturate the market with new loan officers that tend to confuse borrowers.
- The purchase market is still a rate-based, commoditized product game.
- Bigger players like Quicken Loans and banks with advertising dollars pose significant challenges to smaller loan brokerages.
- Loans on properties with acreage, duplexes, multi-units, septic systems, new construction, or bank-owned properties can create problems for larger institutional or online lenders.
- Local brokers are the biggest competition for institutional and online lenders because of their local presence and connections with CPAs and financial advisors.
- Local reps have more advertising money behind them from bigger lenders, creating an imbalance in advertising power.
- Use of imagery can differentiate a brand. Use a consistent brand hero or local photography as ways to convey authenticity.
- There is a missed opportunity for lending institutions to form long-term relationships with clients during large financial transactions, where trust is crucial.
- The distribution is the less talked-about aspect of mortgage industry content marketing.
- Email marketing has a great ROI because it’s free to send an email, and it’s still a great strategy.
- Direct mail can also be an effective marketing tactic, especially for local and smaller shops.
- Mortgage brokers and lenders have access to a lot of information that they can use to create personalized marketing materials, including software programs and AI.
- An effective strategy is the annual review, which is a technique borrowed from financial advisors where they reach out to their clients once a year to discuss their mortgage, provide any updates or information about their loan, and offer any assistance or advice needed. It’s a way for the mortgage professional to stay in touch with their clients and provide ongoing value, which can lead to repeat business and referrals.
- When is it appropriate and advisable to use industry jargon? Jeff explains!
About Host John Bertino and TAG:
A decade spent working for marketing agencies was more than enough to know that there are too many bad agencies and not enough objective marketers within them. John launched TAG in 2014 with the mission to provide brands unbiased guidance from seasoned marketing professionals at little or no cost.
TAG advises brands on marketing channel selection, resource allocation, and agency selection to ensure brands invest in the right marketing strategies, with the right expectations, and (ultimately) with the right partners.
TAG represents 200+ well-vetted agencies and consultants across the United States and Europe.
John’s professional background and areas of expertise include: Marketing Planning, Earned Media, SEO, Content Marketing, Link Acquisition, Digital PR, Thought Leadership, and B2B Lead Generation.
About Guest: Jeff Kuns
Jeff Kuns is the Business Development Manager at Finance Studio. As an experienced content marketing and business development consultant in a range of verticals, he helps financial marketers develop and execute content marketing and communication strategies that move the sales curve.
Finance Studio believes that although the financial services industry can be complicated, marketing need not be. They provide customized digital, content, and design projects for each brand, regardless of its size or budget. While the team has experience with some of the most reputable finance brands, they understand that what works for one may not work for another.
Finance Studio’s goal is to provide an affordable creative solution that enables businesses of all sizes to establish, grow, or refresh their brand in a flexible manner.
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Transcript of Content Marketing and Building Brands in the Mortgage Industry, Part 3
Note: This transcript has been provided to assist you in finding extra information specific to your needs and goals. We have not edited it line by line for grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Please forgive small errors.
[MUSIC] Today I’m joined by Jeff Koons from Finance Studio.
Jeff, thanks for taking the time to be my guest today.
I appreciate it.
>> Thank you, John.
Nice to see you.
>> Likewise, likewise.
So let’s see when we were thinking about what marketers in our professional network have experienced in the mortgage marketing space.
You pretty quickly rose to the top as someone that I know has deep experience in the space.
But I guess before we get into mortgage marketing and all the wonderful things we can do to gain exposure in the space.
Let’s start with you Jeff.
Could you tell us just a little bit about yourself.
Put business aside just your personal background, where you located, wife, kids, family, that type of stuff.
And then ultimately how you found yourself getting exposure to mortgage marketing in the first place.
Yeah, so I was raised in Southern California.
I’m back here once again, Los Angeles area.
I moved to Northern California in my 20s.
And that’s where I ended up in voice acting.
I did that for a little while while I was working for UPS.
Voice that’s unique.
Yeah, so I was the voice for the very first snowboarding video game by Sony PlayStation, Cool Borders.
Nice back in the day, some old school stuff there.
And then, you know, decided, I probably should get into something a little more stable.
I had a friend in mortgage marketing or mortgage, the mortgage business.
So I, I got into it and really enjoyed it.
I spent about 14 years in origination.
And then in 2010, after the crash, decided it was time for a change.
And I’d always been interested in copywriting and marketing and had done that for the company that I worked for, in addition to loan origination.
And so eventually started working for two different software as a service companies.
One was focused on helping loan officers market to customers and the other was doing the same thing for insurance agents.
And about 2019 I found my way back to or I found my way into finance studio and vested and now I work for them as a business development manager.
I moved back to LA actually.
How long did you move back to LA?
2010 ish but I was back and forth to Florida and Bend Oregon and then back to Los Angeles a couple of times and I’m here.
I have a girlfriend Jill and two kids and happy little family.
Who’s got the best tacos in Los Angeles.
Locally, it’s a food truck.
I can’t remember the name of it, but they’re parked over on Santa Fe Springs and that’s where we go.
Well, so for those listening, you’ll just have to go through all the food trucks in LA to find the best tacos.
We’re going to need you to send out a tweet, Jeff, when you remember who it is.
Probably lots of listeners in Southern California.
Okay, very good.
Well, – Thanks for the background.
– I mean, and it’s hard to, yeah, it’s definitely hard to miss a good taco.
It just got anywhere, so.
– Yeah, anywhere, I can’t go wrong.
Okay, fair enough.
– So a lot of experience in this space.
And for those that don’t know, you referenced Vestid earlier, which is how I came to know you in the first place.
Vestid is a fantastic, financially focused public relations firm based out of New York City, right?
Yes, New York City and Finance Studio as well.
And Finance Studio is essentially a subsidiary of vested, correct?
Yeah, a platform business and we were built and developed by vested.
So all of our directors and creatives have deep financial service expertise and interest and you know this is a space where financial experience really counts.
So yeah, we do.
Finance Studio was built expressly because vested has some pretty big budget requirement and Finance Studio can handle smaller requests, smaller budgets for digital web design content and branding and design projects.
So We can do individual projects as well as retainer work, but mostly it was to be able to capture smaller budgets.
– Okay, got it.
Okay, and so with that, we’ll transition into more about the mortgage space in particular and some of the intricacies that come with it.
You know, even though we’ve done a couple different episodes in this space, I think we’ve yet to have someone really help us break down just the hierarchy, right?
Like there’s a lot of players involved, from the loan officers and bankers to the brokers, to the mortgage companies as a whole.
Could you just help us clear up kind of who the players are?
How do we refer to them?
And how the space is kind of structured as we think about building awareness in the space and who we’re trying to talk to and what the respective roles are.
So in general, a lender is a financial institution, a bank or a mortgage bank that offers an underwrites home loans.
That is just a blanket description for all of those institutions.
That can cover it.
So then under them, you have a broker or a loan agent or loan officer.
A broker is a designation of a company that usually works with several different lenders and they can place loans with different lenders depending on the qualifications of the borrower or the nature of the loan that they’re trying to seek.
lenders will do construction loans, new construction.
Other lenders do not touch those kinds of products.
Credit requirements vary between lenders and so what a broker does is arranges and packages those loans in order to deliver to the various lenders.
A loan agent or a loan officer works for the broker and/or the bank directly because places like B of A or Wells Fargo have their own in-house representatives and loan officers.
So a loan officer will usually work for some, you know, either a broker or some subsidiary or a lender directly.
But realtors always refer to everybody as the lender.
It doesn’t matter what they are, a broker, a loan agent, they always refer to us as lenders.
So back when I was doing it.
I think that helps clear up some of the confusion around the different titles and respective roles.
So yeah, this space obviously presents some unique challenges when it comes to getting your name out there and and let’s actually take a step back and say that you know for the most part the listeners of this podcast are marketers working with probably smaller or regional players or regional lenders or individual locations.
and they’re trying to compete with the big banks of the world or the lending trees of the world.
And so that alone is I think a unique challenge.
But tell me what else presents some of the hurdles that makes it difficult to differentiate if you’re one of these smaller, more regional players.
Yeah, it can depend on what the market is doing at the time.
So during refinance markets with low interest rates like we just are coming out of.
There are new institutions popping up, hiring 150 new loan officers to just dial for loans and cold call and do all of that kind of marketing.
So there’s a lot of saturation.
Many of those loan officers are new and tend to confuse borrowers.
It’s very rate driven and in that sense commoditized.
So during and then during higher interest rate times the the purchase market which is the rest of the time, it’s still it’s still a rate based sort of product commoditization game and the bigger players like you know, Quicken Loans or even the banks that are advertising consumer direct, the smaller loan brokerages are sort of up against those advertising dollars, right?
There’s also weird loans.
There’s loans on properties that have acreage or that are duplexes or multi-unit.
They maybe have a septic or their new construction or their bank-owned.
Those weird things really present, I think, more problems to those larger institutional or quicken type of deals or lending tree type of deals because they don’t quite fit the sort of cookie cutter, single family residence, you know, W2 employee kind of thing that those institutions are advertising to in general.
So yeah, so it just depends.
For institutional and online lenders, the biggest competition are local brokers because they are in front of the client, be it through a referral from a friend, they have a local presence where the institutional or online lender can’t compete with that.
Even though they might have a local presence, local brokers tend to have more activity with local CPAs.
I built my business with with CPAs and financial advisors.
So I was always talking to them or seeing them at events locally.
And the opposite is true for local reps.
There’s more advertising money behind the big institutional and online lenders for advertising.
So they capture a lot of business that way.
And then, so how does that play into your messaging, right?
Because a lot of what I know you do at Finance Studio, it comes back to content creation, content distribution, but all the various types of content assets that a financial services provider might need to market themselves.
So coming off of what you just said about how the local reps tend to lean into being, well, just that local, how does that ultimately find itself into the messaging and what’s the right way to wordsmith that or what are the right touch points to get that across in an authentic way?
So I think that the first thing is your branding has to include that one-on-one expertise, you’re not an institution, your expertise is different than somebody who’s hired and trained a loan officer and who might be new because there are so many rules, guidelines, things that you just, you know, a new loan officer just would be surprised by.
And I think sometimes deals, real estate deals don’t go through or loans don’t go through just because of inexperience.
And I saw that so much during my loan officer days was that every time I would compete with a larger institution where the person was dealing with a phone representative, if I could get in front of the client and actually walk through what they were being offered.
There were all of these little just mistakes, you know, and sometimes that would end up in the deal not being able to close and we would close it.
So I think for local or smaller brokerages, that’s the way to sort of emphasize it in your marketing, your content is being local, being personal, one-on-one, hands-on.
And another thing we could talk about later when we talk about sort of the secret to that success of that messaging.
And then transitioning into like the identity or aesthetic part of the content marketing effort, right?
I’m curious to get your take on what type of, and it’s a tricky question so put you on the spot a bit here but I’m curious what type of imagery you think really helps to get that across especially in a way that somehow differentiates right because I mean you can only use so many stock photos of the of the two hands shaking right you know or the the realtor or mortgage officer hugging it out with the happy client so you know are there are Are there ways to convey these things with photography and video that help get that message across in a more authentic way?
I know it’s a tough question.
Yeah, that’s a curveball.
I think that the more you can sort of bring a hero into the mix, like if you have a local like that.
That’s always worked in marketing and I think it still does because people can form even though they’re not having a relationship with that person necessarily, they still form this sort of, you know, there can be a repetitive like exposure psychologically to someone and so I think it’s just being consistent with the imagery.
if you can develop some sort of brand hero.
I’m not sure about a mascot.
You know, that just sort of popped into my head, you know, some kind of a mascot or something.
I don’t know if anybody’s doing that.
I kind of know.
What about local photography?
What about images of the local city?
Does that stuff work?
The local taco joint in LA?
I mean, if you’re showing Dino steaks in Philadelphia, does that give me a a competitive advantage at the local, you know, loan officer there?
I think when it comes down to it, it’s the differentiation needs to be around expertise rather than sort of, um, uh, local knowledge.
I mean, that might, that might be something more for a real, for real-time marketing, um, but loan officer marketing, I think there is a huge, uh, opportunity, the missed opportunity for most lending institutions, large or small, local or institutional, in not really capitalizing on the ability of forming a long-term relationship with someone who is doing the largest financial transaction of their lives, usually.
Trust is a big deal when it comes to that size of a loan.
Here in Los Angeles, we’re talking 600,000 plus usually.
There’s opportunity in terms of staying in touch with those clients.
There’s opportunity in terms of making sure that their mortgage is suitable and helping them figure out ways to realize that it’s suitable, which would come through different software or other things like that.
But I think the smaller firms have a great opportunity because they can get in front of those clients.
They can follow up with them.
And most businesses don’t.
hardly anybody follows up with their clients and they’re leaving I think I read somewhere 35% of their 35% more revenue on the table just be just by not following up up selling cross selling those kinds of things.
Okay and and then again with you guys doing so much work in content production let’s talk about what types of content formats content assets you find are often most effective.
for loan officers from mortgage companies, what works?
That’s what everybody really wants to know that’s listening.
– Yeah, SEO optimized long form content is really where we spend a lot of time.
One of our clients was better mortgage.
And I think the reason for that is because borrowers, when they’re in the loan sort of market, whether there are buyers, buyers tend to be a little more voracious than ReFi.
But I think that there is just sort of a hunger to learn, not make a mistake.
And so content should be long enough to sort of cover those questions and especially where they are in a given customer journey, the stage of the funnel that they are.
Um, so yeah, I think a solid library for each stage of where a borrower may be.
They want to know about credit score.
They want to know about annual percentage rate.
They want to know what Fannie Mae is, what FHA is in VA.
And I think that one of the important things when you’re writing that content or having someone or hire or looking to hire someone to write that content is that they have to have actual mortgage and financial experience.
Otherwise it’s just like I said, with the new loan officers selling, it’s the same thing in content.
Um, mistakes are to tarnish your brand costly mistakes can be made.
And it does tarnish your brand.
Uh, Well, and so for your regional against small regional player, let’s even just assume like single office or something like that.
And they’re saying, yeah, you know, I hear about this SEO stuff.
I hear about the content library.
Why do I have to create that?
It’s already all on the net.
What’s the advantage to me to to go through the effort to do it when it’s already on hundreds of other blogs across the net?
Um, that that comes down to authority.
there’s authority given by Google to your website, uh, for content that is expert and that gets referred to locally.
So while there is a lot of noise out there, I found that, you know, on my, on my own website back when I was doing it, you know, all of that was relatively knew, which is weird.
I mean, I was there at the inception of automated underwriting.
When I started out in lending, we were faxing our rate locks and faxing documents to lenders.
So that’s come a long way.
But still, authority and the establishing of your expertise to your market is like the most important thing.
And the way that that can be done like really effectively is with content.
Because people do read it.
I know, you know, they’re gonna find stuff on Investopedia and they’re gonna maybe scope out, you know, whatever, whoever, you know, Quicken is saying.
But you can sort of craft a local personal expert message.
Especially if you do the kind of follow up that I’d like to talk about.
Let’s go there.
Tell me about the follow up because it’s, you know, I’m also, of course, a content marketer.
And it’s one thing to create it.
But I always say, what good is a billboard on the moon, right?
The greatest billboard ever created.
If it’s on the moon and nobody sees it, what good is it, right?
So the distribution aspect of content marketing, I feel like is the less talked about aspect of content marketing.
So I would love to hear your thoughts on distribution, tactics, strategies and the right ways to go about it.
Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything broken or wrong with email.
It’s a great strategy.
It has a great ROI because it’s free to send an email, so there’s no real cost there.
I think that direct mail is also another avenue that would get really good results with the the right kind of writing.
I used at the tail end of my mortgage career, I was focusing a lot on reverse mortgages and that sort of mailing worked really well given the market that it was going to.
But I think email boxes are a little more crowded than snail mailboxes probably with that kind of material.
So I I think that there is definitely some room, especially for local smaller shops to do direct mail.
If it’s done correctly, personally, I don’t think postcards and that sort of thing, advertising rates is the way to go.
Like it needs to be personal, it needs to be helpful information, needs to be some sort of an offer of knowledge and really client or customer advocacy.
So I think that there’s a lot of room for that.
And the reason why is because as a mortgage broker or lender you have access to a a lot of information.
You know, when the loan was started, you know, the rate that it was locked in at, you know, the likelihood of people looking to refinance.
So there are software programs, there are ways to track.
Even, I even saw somebody pulling data with AI and creating videos out of it to send directly to consumers on their retirement account.
You could do the same thing with mortgage.
Um, and one of the strategies that I swiped from working with financial advisors was the annual review.
Um, and that’s, that kind of leads me.
That’s the secret I was going to sort of give away.
Let’s hear it.
You want to talk about that?
Love to hear.
So I think my kind of secrets that I was going to divulge here were, was going to be, you know, that for actual, that actual mortgage experience, number one is that you have actual mortgage experience or somebody writing for you that has actual mortgage experience.
For lead generation, my strategy was going back to, like I said, taking a page out of my financial advisors that I worked with, playbook and doing an annual review with my clients.
I had all of this customer information.
I knew them.
I knew their life stage.
I could, you know, just having an annual phone call with them to catch up often generated new business, whether it was a referral from them or whether it was like, “Hey, you know, we’re thinking about taking some cash out.
I’m glad you called because I’ve been thinking about it a month ago and blah, blah, blah.
So I think there’s, especially in a rising rate market and an uncertain rate market, like we’re experiencing right now, the biggest thing, the biggest capture of new business for a mortgage broker may not be going out and trying to establish relationships with realtors.
It may be going back and starting to figure out a way to stay in touch with their clients year after year after year.
Cause that was one of the things that I know most of the people that I worked with or my peers in lending weren’t doing, but I was doing it and it accounted for a significant portion of income.
And so you bring up email marketing a couple of times.
We had an email marketing expert on in the space who talked about staying in front of clients as well.
I would have to imagine there’s a perfect marriage between the email market access aspect of this and the content creation aspect of this so that when you’re emailing folks you have something great to send them to.
Have you found certain types of oh I don’t know whether it’s data graphics or like.
certain types of content that are especially useful when it comes to populating that email marketing newsletter with something of value?
Like what are some common requests that you guys get at Finance Studio and or that you would recommend to a mortgage company looking to juice up their email marketing with some type of linkable asset that you can that you can put in that email newsletter?
I think that email should probably direct back to their own website rather than away from their website.
So I guess I’m not fully sure.
Usually a blog.
I see what you’re saying.
So usually a blog, I mean, do you find that white papers are all that useful for a mortgage lender?
Do you find that video content might be a better place to send them any specific type of content or just you should just be creating something?
I get what you’re saying.
Yeah, yeah, no, I get what you’re saying.
I think that a consistent newsletter is almost like required because that is a great, that’s a great way to stay in front of people over and over and over again.
And that’s what we did at Vantage Production, which was formerly mortgage success source, is find or develop a newsletter to stay in front of people on a consistent basis, because it’s the consistency that sort of gets them accustomed to seeing you and hearing from you.
And as you know, the more that you email people, the less they unsubscribe.
It’s counterintuitive, but the less they hear from you, the more likely they are to unsubscribe.
Because the people who want to hear from you stay there, and who cares about the people who don’t want to hear from you, I mean, but there are people.
So I would say it doesn’t always have to be financial information, although it should be, and it can be around how to sort of help people see their mortgage as the financial instrument that it is.
So you could bring in things around retirement.
You could bring in things around mortgage early payoff strategies or why you would keep a mortgage for longer and not pay it off or discuss, you know, everybody’s curious about reverse mortgages.
People have this like very dim view of reverse mortgages that I think is not at all warranted, especially for someone who needs it.
It can be a great product for the right person, but again, it’s all around suitability And that’s where that’s, that’s another sort of note that I took from financial advisors was really getting to suitability because loan offices in general aren’t don’t tend to be financially savvy.
They don’t tend to think of what’s going to happen to a person’s retirement or ability to save for retirement by taking X dollars worth of mortgage out.
And so what I tried to do and where I think there is a great opportunity is to really get yourself financially educated and then help others, your clients and even affiliates, like even referral partners help to get them educated to understand that, you know, a mortgage is a financial instrument and it can be used intentionally.
So as long as your your content is tailored, the more tailored it can be to that individual in their situation, the better and as long as you’re keeping in touch and sending them something of value doesn’t necessarily matter what the format is, perhaps, perhaps the answer to the format, and what they should be sending again, whether it’s videos or white papers or blogs does actually tie back to their personal situation, their age maybe to a degree, right?
Things like that.
And then then lastly, you know, bringing it back to finance studio, which is a newer brand spun out of vested finance studio was also, you know, I know, kind of part of scribed, which was a content writing team that’s now evolved into something bigger than that.
And that’s finance studio.
You know, you guys have worked in the space for a long time, not just mortgages, but financial services.
Can you speak to any specific past client examples that you think would be relevant to those looking to do marketing to, you know, for mortgage companies or to prospective borrowers?
Yeah, we did a, we had a really great relationship and a long relationship with Better Mortgage and wrote there.
They had a great SEO driven content department.
And so it was really nice to work with them because they understood the power of optimized content.
And they also understood the power of mortgage experience and expertise, which we had.
And there were more than there was more than me.
Initially, I was writing for better mortgage.
And then later on when I developed into the, or when I came into the business development role, I wrote less, but there were three of us on the team that had mortgage background and mortgage experience and it, and it really counted.
Um, on our team now, uh, we have experience in, um, insurance.
We have team members with experience in M&A and, you know, hedge funds and all kinds of everything you can possibly imagine in finance.
So I think that that expertise is really important because if you’ve ever read content by someone who doesn’t know the nuances or the, the, even, even though you try to avoid jargon, there is some appropriate time to place jargon and explain it.
So you know what you’re talking about.
Yeah, I know what you mean.
You can tell.
Yeah, I mean, you can tell.
Well, that was a super thorough breakdown.
I appreciate you giving us the download on what you’ve seen work in the space and through your many years kind of in the space or adjacent to it.
So we really appreciate it Jeff.
If somebody wants to get in touch with you or Finance Studio, what’s the best way to do that?
Yeah, look us up on the web at financestudio.
com and that’s a great place to start.
They can see all of our service offerings, download our one sheet.
If you’d like to get a hold of me, it’s just Jeff at financestudio.
By email, I’m happy to send out case studies or examples of client work.
And yeah, happy to do that.
Well, thanks again, Jeff.
We really appreciate your time.
And I think that does it for another episode of the niche marketing podcast.