Executive Spotlight: Josh Friend Of Insellerate Discusses Mortgage Lending In This New Decade

Josh Friend began his career as a loan officer and soon moved on to open six mortgage call centers. Over the past 18 years, he has grown to manage and train thousands of loan officers, processors, and marketing managers. With a keen eye for developing best-in-class sales processes, he leveraged automation software to build a better loan cycle. Combining the best from both a CRM and lead management system, Josh now enables lenders to achieve higher revenue goals with Insellerate. We talked to him about how he sees the state of mortgage lending.

Q:  If I’m a lender in 2020, what should I be looking for? What are some of the trends you’re seeing? What are some of the things that lenders need to focus on if they want to grow and have a sustainable business model in this new decade?

JOSH FRIEND:  First, I think it’s about access and communication. Being able to interact with your borrowers through more channels than just a phone call or an email. Two years ago, we did our MBA study online with thousands of lenders who applied online to see how they reacted and responded to us; at that time, only .4% used text messaging.

That’s a meager rate. It’s increased over the last year. But many lenders still aren’t using text messaging. Text messages are the most responded to and read form of communications we have right now. The statistics are like 90% of text messages are read within two minutes of being sent. This is a powerful tool that lenders need to learn to leverage.

Another powerful way to interact with consumers is through social media. Consumer interaction with the media has changed significantly over the last few years.  Ask yourself,  when was the last time you saw a TV commercial, minus watching sports? So, if you don’t watch the football game or the playoffs or you probably see very few TV commercials anymore.  Consumers are influenced differently today and into this new decade of mortgage lending.

Q: How so?

JOSH FRIEND: Consumer buying has changed.  I bought five pairs of shoes online. I bought comforters, and I bought an iPhone; I purchased quite a few things online. Right, so online means Instagram feed or Facebook feed. So how to reach potential borrowers and where to reach them has changed. Lending in this new decade is about being able to interact with your consumers and engaging with them in more than one or two traditional channels but through all the different channels.

Q: Is traditional media dead?

JOSH FRIEND: No,  it’s about blending traditional with new media channels, for instance, using things like direct mail in a digital strategy. There are techniques you can use from anywhere. You can, and if someone goes to your website, you can collect their information and send them a postcard or send them mail. Just them visiting your website, there are ways to track their IP address, know where they’re at and reach out to them to and get in touch with them through a different channel. And you know some people may think that mail is too old, that is simply not true.   I can tell you about several lenders that do direct mail and are very successful with that approach.

Let me give you an example of how Amazon used direct mail with me.  About a year ago, I came to my mailbox, and there was a letter from Amazon. So, I decided I’m going to open it up. It’s from Amazon. I opened it up. It says, “Hey Josh. You’ve been an Amazon Prime member for a year and a half years. You have never used your amazon prime video. You know there are great shows, you should use it.”

Now I have been fully aware that there are amazon prime videos.  I’ve seen ads online that I should have watched, but I never reacted to it. Finally, they gave me a piece of mail, and within 24 hours, I turned on, logged into Amazon prime video. So, I now use Amazon prime video.

Q: That’s a great example.

JOSH FRIEND: Yeah. So, I had gotten all these touchpoints, so sometimes I’ll respond online, sometimes I won’t. I think that’s the big thing. It’s able just to be there when your consumers are ready to buy or transact. And then ultimately, the second thing is lowering the friction points for your borrowers.

Q: So, let’s talk about, you’ve mentioned the importance of engagement and that constant flow of communication and shifting to a different technology, and the combination of the blending of digital and still traditional methods. What are some of the biggest hurdles for lenders to embrace engagement? Is it the technology? Is it they don’t know what kind of content to produce? What are some of those hurdles that they’re struggling with, so they’re not implementing this quickly or as fast as they should?

JOSH FRIEND: It’s all those things. So, first, it’s the technology. I think that’s a big highlight which– You know what we do with our platform is we have, six different channels of marketing built into it now and we’re ready for what’s next. I think one of the things that are lenders are looking for is a platform that’s going easily integrate into their current tech stack and be able to add new technologies as they are released.  So today it’s Facebook and Instagram, but you know TikTok is becoming something. What will be the hot social platforms in the next five years?  We don’t know, but we have a system that can easily integrate whatever new platform takes hold.  Most of the technology that’s out there,  it’s 20/30 years old, so they can’t do those things. So, it is technology.

The second big hurdle is the strategy behind the technology.  “What should I send? When should I send it?” Right like not even understanding how often should you call someone or text them or Facebook post them or direct mail them? What’s the strategy look like?

And once you figure out the strategy of it, then you have to create all the content. And I can tell you the amount of content we’ve created for this is immense. So, if you can get the technology out of the way, you still have to build the strategy and all of the content, and that’s been probably the biggest hurdle. It’s beyond technology. It’s the content and strategy.

Q: Right. And you talked about the strategy of how often, what’s the frequency, what’s the rhythm? I’m sure it’s different for different lending channels, and it’s different for different types of consumers. How do you guys educate or how do you build that into a platform so that it is frictionless for the lender, and they don’t have to spend a ton of time thinking about it because you guys are the experts that have already solved that?

JOSH FRIEND: Sure. So, the way we approach it is, we handle over 50,000  applications a month. The amount of data we have on these transactions is immense. It understands what type of context strategies seem to work the best as far as being able to track it. Because we can track things from a lead to an application to disclosure sent to docs to funds, we can understand what contacts strategies move a deal along. So, we have the best practices that we’ve been employed, and from the data, we’ve used.

Then it’s taking the time to break down the data and strategies– to make it frictionless for the lenders.  The strategy and content are built into our platform.  If it’s a new lead, if it’s a purchased new lead or refinance new lead, those are two different types of leads. So, if there’s a referral new lead, it’s a different type of lead, then if it’s a lead that you bought or a lead that you created on your Facebook app.

Then it’s overseeing the journeys of what type of lead it is. Once that lead starts to interact with you, then you understand, okay, well from that new lead, you could get a hold of them on the first call, the first attempt. If not, how quickly do you try to get a hold in the second time, or third time, or how long do you continue to email them or text them or Facebook post them? If you text someone every single day, you’re annoying. If you call someone every single day, it becomes intrusive. If you email someone every single day, you get blocked. But if I email you one day, call you in the next, text you the following day, show you Facebook post the fourth, you get the strategies. And all of a sudden, three days later, you make a phone call again, I’m not annoying. I haven’t bombarded you with phone calls, but I stayed in front of you.

So, it’s how do you time those things, and then if it’s a first-time home buyer or if it’s someone who’s approved for a purchase now shopping for a home? Or else you don’t want to call in for a cash-out transaction because you’re paying off credit card debt. You’ve taken an application, they’ve been approved. But it’s been 30 days, we haven’t heard from them, or it’s been a week, or they’re in the process. So, there are all these different places where the borrower can be on their journey. And you have to have a system that can understand exactly where they are, right. So, they’re getting specific messaging and content that is specific to them.

So, the way we did it was we literally– we built all the contents, all the strategy to make them sign up with us and use our engagement platform. We build the entire system out, which includes the strategy and content. So, they don’t have to do the work. What they have to do is agree on content, make sure it passes their compliance, our staff is compliant. We haven’t had any compliance issues. We set everything up for them. They can make changes, and we train them, they can go there and modify it and, you know, adjust things themselves and fine-tune over time. But we’ve built it upfront, so they don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. And that’s really why we’ve grown so fast. Our lenders have responded unbelievably well to this.

The thing is, I was a lender for many years. I didn’t have all this setup like this. And so, when it came to me with the price points that we charge lenders to do this, I would have said yes, every day of the week because it’s so effective.

Q: Well, and I think the key is that you overcome those significant hurdles. First, it’s the technology, and people can say, “Yeah, okay, let’s embrace the technology.” But even if they have the technology, If they don’t know the strategy and more importantly if they don’t have the content or they don’t feel they have the time, people are busy volumes good right now. But you guys deliver all of that through your engagement platform. Correct?

JOSH FRIEND: Correct. This is right. We’re going to come in and give someone a turnkey marketing department that we automate for them overnight, basically.