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Creative ways to educate customers.

More than ever before, customers/borrowers are looking for answers to their mortgage and other finance questions. Holding seminars, workshops and other group forums is an effective way to present yourself as an expert-providing solutions to their challenges. But I believe that today's market requires we do something different whenever appropriate. We need to look for creative ways to reach out to our customers and prospects.

Creative Gatherings/Presentations

We have always looked beyond the norm to develop effective and fun ways to engage our customers, their families and prospects. For instance, during our "Fireside Chats" we have a portable woodstove fireplace that we use in our office location. This provides a cozy atmosphere in the winter months for our workshop series, and we provide each of our attendees with a warm fleece blanket. We keep a supply of fleece blankets in our office in a variety of colors and stacked on the wall next to the fireplace. It is one of those comfort symbols that makes everyone feel at ease. Of course, we take the time to get acquainted and discuss a variety of topics, including the current mortgage industry and their loan options.

Our upcoming "Midnight Mortgage Madness," which is being hosted during the basketball "March Madness" season, came as an idea while we were working at the office over the last few months until past midnight. We plan to have prizes and games for our clients who attend during this evening extravaganza.

The Lunch and Learn Series has been well attended. We try to have a prominent guest speaker who adds a specialty piece to our agenda. Some of our guests have included professionals from Mass Housing, 203K Rehab consultant and authors of specialty best-selling books. Our Lunch and Learn Series are targeted on specific days for consumers and other days for Realtors and sphere of influence contacts. We try to have fun with our agenda and present the material in a variety of formats that are participatory and feature games with many prizes and awards. We also use this time to network and we encourage our attendees to bring plenty of business cards and marketing materials to share with others.

Along with other types of luncheons, we posted invitations in our plaza along with local advertising for clients to join us for a Brown Bag Lunch filled with valuable "information nuggets" guaranteed to save them money.

We enjoy sharing unique "Client Celebrations" that include the customer's entire family and their friends. These have included Fall Fest themes with pony rides, and holiday themes with magicians, professional story-tellers, family movie nights and gingerbread-making contests.

We have also been active with our Appreciation Portable Luncheon Program where we support the luncheon with specialty music. This has been a traveling luncheon for affinity groups such as hospitals, schools, police, fire and businesses.

Our Sunday morning Complimentary Workshops are available for clients most Sunday mornings where we provide a complimentary newspaper highlighted with the open houses that are taking place along with property profiles for homes that are listed on the tours.

We include our financial advising team as guest speakers for our Wealth-Building Seminar Series along with our CPA and Tax Accountants-professionals who everyone should have connected to their family for estate planning with wills, homestead and legacy planning.

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We have hosted a variety of thematic events. One included a joint event with a Realtor and was hosted at a local zoo in their conference room. We have hosted others at local golf courses and local hotels over breakfast.

Other programs have included:

* Special guest speakers or authors

* Client appreciation luncheons

* Free credit report and discussion night

* Brainstorming Breakfast

* Community Spirit Client Celebration and Loyalty Month

* Happy Homeownership Month activities

* Center Of Influence Dinners

* Client celebrations with a magician, puppeteer or a professional story-teller (for families); Spring Fest workshop series; movie nights, musical performances and gingerbread-making contests for the holidays.

Tips for Successful Events

To make these unique events successful in your own market, you should:

1. Develop an event that you and your staff can accomplish and that you feel your customers/prospects will appreciate and have an educational and cash-saving benefit.

2. If possible, tie it in with a season (winter-Fireside Chats, for example) or a holiday.

3. Make it memorable so that your guests will talk about it later to their family, friends and associates. Do this with refreshments, entertainment and decorations. Tap into all five senses to have an effective event that is memorable and lasting.

4. Of course, the first three steps make it fun, but you can't forget the educational aspects. You can make that more inviting as well-by encouraging attendees to take part in participatory games that keep the event fun and educational. "Twenty questions" or another way to get the message across is used often and printed on extra large paper for ease in reading and also for impact. We always make sure that our guests have a great package to leave the event with and lots of tools to refer us to their friends and family. We also make sure they know when our next event is being held.

Promoting Your Activities

There are a variety of ways to promote your events. You can use personal letters and notes, telephone calls, toll-free numbers, brochures and circulars, community bulletin boards, tradeshows, third-party endorsements, personal invitations, unique business cards, word-of-mouth, fluorescent electric billboard, banners, window displays, inside signs, posters, name tags, personalized buttons, customized jewelry, personalized clothes, watches, pens and other "giveaways." In addition you could run press releases or local ads and send direct-mail postcards.

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* E-media marketing activities include Web sites, blogs, e-mail, Craigslist.org, and social networking such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Active Rain and EBay.

* Info-media includes articles in newspapers and magazines, speaking at events and organizations and being featured in business and service directories.

* Human media includes circle/sphere of influence, networking groups, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Board of Realtors, mortgage associations and National Association of Realtors.

* Lastly, non-media marketing activities would cover community involvement, club memberships, schools and college/university involvement, churches, fire/ police, affinity and local businesses, and name tags and events.

In addition to how you market events, how you present and run your company will influence the level at which borrowers and affinity partners will commit to you. Some important company attributes to get more business in the door include hours of operation, such as hosting weekend events or a "Midnight Madness" get-togethers. You could also have theme lines, such as "Our Coffee Is Always On." Other attributes that will determine your success include your reputation, location, price, service commitment, efficiency and credibility.

You'll find, as we have, that creating special programs and events will generate enthusiasm among your customers and prospects and make the educational process much more effective.

CINDY WORRELL is branch manager at Franklin American Mortgage, West Wareham, Mass. E-mail cworrell@franklinamerican.com or phone: 508/930-1792
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Title Annotation:ORIGINATION STRATEGIES
Author:Worrell, Cindy
Publication:Mortgage Originator
Date:Mar 1, 2009
Words:1160
Previous Article:Share online resources with realtor partners.
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