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Everything we know about the lead business from everyone at the Leads360 family. From online lead providers like LowerMyBills.com to Mortgage Lead Management best practices. We'll tell you what we know and what we've learned.  

Lower Interest Rates + Your Old Data = $$$$$$

I’ll make this short and sweet. An old lead, today, is a new lead. Why? Rate drops make old prospects new again. There is money to be found in your old leads, and frankly the amount of work that it takes to find that money, is less than the amount of work it takes to find new money. The question is, what are you doing to take advantage of all of the new opportunity? Within the question, for most, lies the challenge. The challenge is that you, like many, probably aren’t doing enough, or anything period.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are, then more power to you. But if you are not, then we should chat about Best Practices and how they will help you capture NEW business, out of OLD data. Don’t waste time, don’t hesitate, start finding that money now.

Oversee.net (low.com) takes on additional $150M investment

TechCrunch reports that Oversee.net has taken a large capital infusion. Our friends over at low.com will surely benefit from this cash as they adjust their business in the face of the changing mortgage landscape. Oversee as a whole is a fascinating company, and represents one of the first e-conglomerates. Just how important will domain names become?

Some argue that it’s the company that makes the domain. A frequently cited example is Amazon.com. Jeff Bezos could probably have used any number of book-unassociated websites to launch his online bookstore.  Meanwhile, I am not sure when, but Barnes & Nobel has snapped up book.com and books.com, they currently redirect to B&N’s homepage, which is probably an inefficient use of the domains, but will still net them a strong marketing advantage in the long run.  Zappos.com, which this blog has discussed before, is another example of a successful retailer successfully using a non-product related domain name.  What value would sneakers.com have for Nike?  For now it is a bit unclear.  Rick Shwartz, while biased, has written an interesting article dissecting the success of hotels.com, and how if any of the smart hotel chains had developed it, they would have seriously boosted their online marketing prowess, click here to read it.

I think Oversee.net is trying to transform itself into the Boston Properties of the online world.  They are betting big on online properties, which as hotels.com has proven, can gain the same kind of inherent value that real estate holdings can.

One consumer, multiple leads…

An interesting blog post popped up on the Lead Critic today. It concerns the monetization of leads by lead providers. The spotlight is on BigMortgageLeads right now. In question is their apparently new(er?) lead form. A traditional mortgage lead form has around 30 fields of basic information and is sold to a mortgage company. The BML form takes this and expands it a little bit, but this is hardly the first time we’ve seen this. For example, the form asks the question “Are you behind in payments” in regards to your mortgage. If you select “Yes”, it prompts a few more questions that prod a little deeper. One of which is “Would you consider selling your house to avoid foreclosure?” If you answer Yes, it will once again prompt more questions about your home.

I’m sure that you can see where this is going. I would assume that initially, a consumer would think that they are filling out a lead form to be matched with a lender. As they proceed, if they answer questions that prompt more questions, it quickly becomes evident that there are other service providers that this information can go to, and at the bottom right before the submit button, there is an acknowledgement of that.

So the question is…is this bad for the consumer, the lead buyer, both, or neither. I guess that depends on who you ask. I cut my teeth in the mortgage industry selling mortgage leads for a few years. I started at the bottom and worked my way up to management. In doing so I had a lot of view into how leads are generated, and even more importantly, how they are monetized. This is where it gets interesting. I guess most people wouldn’t think of it, but this kind of data is a goldmine and is worth $$$$ to lots of people. Where there is a way to make money, there are people who will make it.

So is this a bad thing? That depends on how you do it, mainly. BigMortgageLeads isn’t the first lead company who has done this and certainly will not be the last. From my experience, the way that BML is doing this, namely by putting the information in front of the consumer as they are filling out the form and then telling them that the lead may be sold to other service providers, is much cleaner than some that I have experienced.

At the end of the day, the numbers will speak for themselves. I am sure that we have some readers who use BML leads and I would urge you to share your experience versus more “traditional” sources.

Furthermore…and this one is maybe playing devil’s advocate here…perhaps this is actually better for consumers than other kinds of lead forms. Why? Well let’s take a look at the past, say, 3 years of experience in the mortgage industry. 3 years ago when a consumer was in any kind of financial trouble, what did they do? They mortgaged their house and used their enourmous home equity like a checking account. Now fast forward and take a look at the state of the industry today, and see where that kind of practice left us. Now take a look at BML’s process. A consumer may be exposed to not only a mortgage lender, but a tax advisor, a real estate agent, a debt counselor, etc. And the operative word here is “may”, because not all leads will spill onto the desks of all providers of course. What does this do for the lead buyer? Does it degrade the quality of the lead? Perhaps. Does it enhance the consumers ability to get the RIGHT help? I would argue yes.

If I owe $25,000 in back taxes and I am uneducated on the subject, maybe my first thought would be to refinance my house and take out cash to pay it off. Is this the right solution for me? Maybe. Maybe not. But without really digging into the subject and talking to multiple people, I may never know. So you could make a valid argument on both sides of this subject and be right I think, but at the end of the day, I think the consumer may actually be better served given the option to take advantage of different avenues if they so choose.

This of course is going on the assumption that even if a consumer fills out the portion of the lead saying that they are behind on payments and want to sell, that the lead is still being sold to a mortgage company. I tend to think that this may not be the case, however.

My two cents, take it as you will.

Simplification can’t come too quickly for the “Lead Ecosystem”


Image courtesy of GapingVoid 


Anyone in the “Lead Ecosystem” knows that it is a complicated world. 

Lead Providers have a complex formula for generating, pricing, filtering, and distributing leads, in addition to all the integration headaches of providing leads to customers by email, spreadsheet, or through one of many Lead Management Systems.

Meanwhile Lead Management companies have to work with the Lead Providers to make their mutual clients as profitable as possible, while keeping everything running smoothly.  Lead Management companies have to work with hundreds of lead providers, client self-generation and importing of leads,  and exporting those leads to a 3rd party software, such as a Loan Origination System or a client management system.

As convoluted as life is for Lead Providers and Lead Management companies, it’s worse for clients and consumers.

Companies that buy leads, use a lead management system, and otherwise integrate their operations with the “Lead Ecosystem” have a steep learning curve to contend with.  Companies which are used to doing in-house marketing, generating their own leads, gathering referrals, and distributing them on paper, suddenly have to contend with managing multiple vendor relationships-which are all intertwined.  Also successful Lead Buyers have to adjust their workflow and sales process to fit the requirements of working with Internet leads.  That is a lot of learning that a client has to do, before being able to reap the benefits of the Lead Ecosystem.

Consumers often have it the worst.  Consumers have little or no idea about what happens to their data when it is submitted to a lead provider.  They are often totally unprepared for the sales process which they will be exposed to, uneducated about the products which they are interested in, and unequipped to make intelligent decisions.   An unqualified, paralyzed, traumatized, frustrated, or otherwise unreceptive consumer is always going to be the toughest sell.

How do we simplify the Lead Ecosystem for everyone involved?

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

If you’ve been in or around the military, you’ve probably heard this before.

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.

This has been adopted as an unofficial motto of the US Marines, and many of you may remember hearing Gunny Highway say it in Heartbreak Ridge. The Marines used to be the bastard child of the armed forces. Heck, they were conceived in a bar in Philadelphia one evening, and got Army hand-me-downs. But, they made it work, they improvised, they adapted, and they overcame to become arguably the most feared military force the world has ever seen. I’m starting to hear my friends in the mortgage industry say this more and more often these days. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. What does this mean to you?

To me it means a lot of things. Specific to this blog, it means finding what works, and doing it until the whole notion of IAO becomes second nature. What worked last year does not work this year, and what works now is a radical departure from what worked last year, to most. What have you done to improvise, adapt, and overcome?

I can tell you what Leads360 has done. We’ve changed our entire model for the most part. We’ve brought on talent from several different aspects of the mortgage industry; those who have run successful shops, those who have worked with lead vendors, and those who have worked on the front lines doing loans. We’ve had to adapt to the current market and overcome monumental obstacles. We’ve done so and continue to do so. Understanding that you are currently doing the same, we’ve prepared a series of Best Practices for you, for 2008. We know what improvisations and adaptions need to be made in order to overcome. Give us a call, shoot us an email, or stop by the office. We want to help you IAO.

New Year’s Resocutions 2008 part 1

Q: What’s a New Year’s  Resolution?


A: A promise to yourself that you won’t keep.


At this time of year many people are already struggling to stick with their New Year’s Resolutions. Just because the calendar flips over to January does not spark a flood of will power to course through one’s bones, or at least that extra self-control won’t last the whole year. I like making small changes, which are easy to execute on, but still very satisfying. I like resolutions that can be quickly executed, so I just made up a word: Resocutions! Resocutions are Resolutions with instant gratification, which is always nice.

Here are some of my resocutions for 2008:

Resocution #1: Trim RSS subscriptions and ditch old bookmarks.

Over the course of 2007, my RSS reader started looking longer than a Kevin Costner movie, which totally defeats the purpose. If you don’t use a RSS reader, you should. RSS brings you the latest content that you are looking for, in almost real time. As soon as your favorite journalist or blogger writes a new piece it’s there, when there is news about your business or industry it’s there. RSS is like bookmarks on steroids, sites without well-functioning, full-text RSS feeds may as well dig their own e-graves.

Whenever I come across a new site that I might want to read in the future, I’ll pop it into my RSS reader. If it turns out to be a useful site, great. If it turns out to be a dud, it will sit in the bottom of my reader, untouched for months. As a resocution for this year I am in process of pairing down my RSS subscriptions to those which I read regularly or those which I need to monitor for one reason or another. I encourage you to do the same and make your RSS experience all that it can be.

Resocution #2: Sell or give away stuff that is just taking up space.

We all have lots of stuff that we bought but never used, replaced with something better, broke but were too lazy to fix. Anything you can stomach getting rid of — just do it. Anything you can’t bear not to sell or use, give yourself a strict one year deadline to get it out of your hair.  Otherwise help your junk find it’s way to the trash can, donation box, or recycling bin.

Resocution #3: Plan your next vacation.

Coming back to work from the holiday season can put people into a funk. So much to do, so little time, such bad weather, and no vacations in sight! You can change that by planning your next vacation, even if it won’t come around for another 11 months. If you have a destination in mind you can start checking for cheap travel deals, planning your itinerary, keep your eye out for any useful articles or information, and give yourself a nice carrot to chase!

Do you have any New Years Resocutions?

Tune in next time for some resocutions for your business going into 2008.

Americans are split on the ‘mortgage bailout’

I don’t know if this surprises me or not. Like so many other hot topics in the news today, Americans are split pretty much down the middle. No pun intended. Read all about it here.

“Americans are nearly equally divided on whether those facing defaults on their mortgages should get special help, with most believing the borrowers are to blame for their own problems.”

Special treatment for those ‘caught’ in bad loans and facing foreclosure. A novel idea. To whose expense will this fall though? Personal opinion of the specific matter aside, moving forward there is a need for accountability on all levels. Can you place blame on the lenders, the brokers, the loan officers, the appraisers, the account executives, the processors, and…umm, don’t forget the borrowers? Sure you can. To what degree can you assign blame to each? It’s questionable and I am sure we would all come up with different looking pie charts. At the end of the day, accountability will keep us from cycling back through this again in the future, that is for sure. To whom do we need to be held accountable? Another one I don’t want to touch, but the fact remains that the lack of oversight and accountability is about to cost someone, somewhere, a whole lot of money.

So the Fed decides to regulate lending… questions aplenty.

The New York Times reported today that the Fed Board of Governors has voted unanimously to implement lending regulations to avoid predatory lending practices (and a second sub-prime fiasco). I think this regulation is actually aimed at the banks (to eliminate the riskiest tranches of future mortgage securities) but just framed in the name of protecting the consumer. This proposed regulation has the potential to impact borrowers, lenders, and lead generators to a significant degree.

The proposal includes four key protections for “higher-priced mortgage loans” secured by a consumer’s principal dwelling:

  • Creditors would be prohibited from engaging in a pattern or practice of extending credit without considering borrowers’ ability to repay the loan.
  • Creditors would be required to verify the income and assets they rely upon in making a loan.
  • Prepayment penalties would only be permitted if certain conditions are met, including the condition that no penalty will apply for at least sixty days before any possible payment increase.
  • Creditors would have to establish escrow accounts for taxes and insurance.

The rule would define “higher-priced mortgage loan” to capture loans in the subprime market but generally exclude loans in the prime market. A loan would be covered if it is a first-lien mortgage and has an annual percentage rate (APR) that is three percentage points or more above the yield on comparable Treasury notes, or if it is a subordinate-lien mortgage with an APR exceeding the comparable Treasury rate by five points or more.

The following protections would apply to all loans secured by a consumer’s principal dwelling, regardless of the loan’s APR:

  • Lenders would be prohibited from compensating mortgage brokers by making payments known as “yield-spread premiums” unless the broker previously entered into a written agreement with the consumer disclosing the broker’s total compensation and other facts. A yield spread premium is the fee paid by a lender to a broker for higher-rate loans. The consumer’s written agreement with the broker must occur before the consumer applies for the loan or pays any fees.
  • Creditors and mortgage brokers would be prohibited from coercing a real estate appraiser to misstate a home’s value.
  • Companies that service mortgage loans would be prohibited from engaging in certain practices. For example, servicers would be required to credit consumers’ loan payments as of the date of receipt and would have to provide a schedule of fees to a consumer upon request.

The proposed revisions to TILA’s advertising rules require additional information about rates, monthly payments, and other loan features. The amendments also would ban seven deceptive or misleading advertising practices, including representing that a rate or payment is “fixed” when it can change.

Under the proposal, creditors would have to provide a good faith estimate of the loan costs, including a schedule of payments, within three days after a consumer applies for any mortgage loan secured by a consumer’s principal dwelling, such as a home improvement loan or a loan to refinance an existing loan. Currently, early cost estimates are only required for home-purchase loans. In addition, consumers could not be charged any fee until after they receive the early disclosures, except a reasonable fee for obtaining the consumer’s credit history.

The Federal Reserve has engaged in extensive outreach efforts with consumer groups, the financial services industry, lawmakers, and others to ensure that the proposed rules are likely to achieve the goal of protecting consumers from unfair practices without shutting off access to responsible credit. The proposal takes into consideration testimony given at four public hearings the Board held in the summer of 2006, and a hearing held in June 2007, as well as public comment letters received in connection with those hearings. The Board also consulted with other federal and state agencies and its own Consumer Advisory Council.

The Federal Register notice is attached. The comment period ends ninety days after publication of the proposal in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly. Read all of it here.

So what does this mean for you the borrower, lender, broker, or lead generator?

The devil is surely in the details.

- How will the standards be enforced?

- What will be considered “evidence” of ability to repay? Will qualified consumers be willing and able to meet these standards? Will unqualified consumers be able to meet these standards?

- What will be considered sufficient “verification of assets”? Who will do the verification? Who will be the first major lender to get caught looking the other way?

- Will reduction of prepayment penalties significantly change product offerings?

- Will the forced establishment of escrow accounts for taxes and insurance significantly change the product offerings? Is this even legal? What will the threshold be?

- If yield-spread premiums are eliminated who will benefit and who will be hurt under a flat compensation plan? Will this regulation be easily avoided by burying disclosure in the fine print?

Take Lead Nurturing to the Next Level

This is a guest post from marketing automation expert Jason Kort.

An important aspect of lead nurturing is marketing automation. Lead Management Systems offer basic automated communications but many companies should look to take their nurturing efforts to the next level.
Since not every lead closes on the first contact attempt, integrating a marketing automation platform, such as softvu SoftVu, into a company’s lead management approach can help clients nurture leads with relevant, timely, and engaging multimedia messages to help build competitive differentiation, brand awareness, business credibility, and product understanding.

These messages are all automatically “triggered” by a lead management system like Leads360, by certain actions taken by salespeople, or a time trigger (such as 10 days after product or service inquiry). Some clients set up a series of campaigns that cover up to 36 months of lead nurturing messages. These nurturing campaigns help produce more deals from your leads, significantly increasing ROI.

Keep your sales team focused on high probability leads.

The real value of automating these and other critically important but tedious sales tasks is that your sales people now spend their time working only high-probability, leads who are already open to a conversation or even ready to close.
With top of the line marketing automation you can produce more “hot leads” from your pool of old leads.. So, instead of just skimming the top of the pile, your sales team touches every prospect with regular, relevant communications, knows who to call when, and closes more sales.

How do they know who to call when?

SoftVu’s communications platform sends a view notification the instant your prospect views a message. SoftVu view notifications include details about the message and the viewer so you can respond immediately—a great strategy since your prospect is clearly interested, probably near a phone, and has time to talk. This notification will automatically notify a salesperson through their LMS and in Leads360’s case can even automatically dial the lead through the Leads360 LeadDialer.

And beyond real-time view notifications, the SoftVu system tracks your sends and views and writes all activity back to your LMS, providing clear information you can use to prioritize your calls.

Marketing automation and lead management, a powerful combination

Lead management keeps your salespeople organized and effective, while marketing automation helps reach those prospects that you just can’t get over the phone.
Together a lender can maximize their conversion rates.