A lot of mortgage brokers believe their website is nothing more than a glorified business card and that the associated investment in time and money is a waste. This short-sighted assumption gives your competitors a leg up and makes it much harder for your business to catch up in the future.
Like many investments, returns on technology aren't realized immediately, and I think this is what causes many brokers to give up on digital initiatives too early. Digital initiatives are time-sensitive, which means you need to get started sooner rather than later. You can back-date content, sure, but your online reputation, similar to your offline reputation, is built through consistent effort over time.
We are moving to a digital future where consumers are expecting you to provide a clean and concise website. If the thought of your website makes you uncomfortable, there's a good chance potential clients feel the same way.
Industry data supports the importance your website has in educating potential customers. CMHC’s 2019 Mortgage Consumer Survey found that 47% of homebuyers used both online and offline resources to gather information about mortgages. Only 23% of homebuyers did their research completely offline, while 29% used social media for information about mortgages. Around half of all buyers reached out to multiple brokers and lenders before deciding to work with them, and a staggering 87% compared interest rates online.
There are a lot of places online where consumers can find information about your business. People will search review sites, brokerage sites and other areas of the internet to decide which mortgage broker or bank they should contact. The difference is that your website will provide information and resources to help guide consumers in their decision-making process.
It's never been easier to build and update a website. It doesn’t need to be expensive; it just needs to be simple enough that potential customers can find the information they're looking for on both desktop and mobile platforms. With the growth in drag-and-drop website builders via platforms like Wordpress, Wix and Squarespace, there's no excuse for not putting your best foot forward online.
Conversations about useful websites often lead to a discussion on search engine optimization (SEO). Successful SEO takes a lot of trial and error, content, and a long-term commitment to your site. Simply keeping your site up to date and creating blog posts from time to time will have a positive impact on SEO. Two of the three most expensive keywords on Google on a cost-per-click basis are ‘loans’ and ‘mortgage.’ (Finance is one of the most expensive industries to advertise online.) However, there is a bright light at the end of the digital tunnel. If you can prove to Google that you are an authority figure in your space – if you have content that answers online inquiries and you make an effort to update your website – you get rewarded with free (earned) traffic.
I know of many high-performing broker websites that are driving the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars worth of paid traffic each month organically through continued investment in the site. Sure, you can run ads and pay $60 per click on Google, but you're buying clicks, not building relationships. What happens when the cash runs out?
At the end of the day, everything comes down to your objectives as a business and the importance of building relationships with your clients. Your website is only one piece of the customer experience puzzle; a great website won't fix poor service, shady practices or picking a product that benefits you more than your client.
But what a great website will do is make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward. Your website shows potential clients the advantages of building a relationship with you. When you consider that acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times as much as retaining an existing customer, it highlights the importance of focusing on relationships. If you don’t have a website or have neglected it for a while, a potential customer might not want to learn more about your business. You might have the best service in town, but if your website creates a poor first impression, you might not get a second chance.
Clinton Wilkins is the senior mortgage advisor at Centum Home Lenders in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and a two-time winner of Broker of the Year (Under 25 Employees) at the Canadian Mortgage Awards.