Making an Emotional Connection with Distressed Homeowners
Adept investors that can empathize with a homeowner’s hardship and help them through this difficult period in their life will undoubtedly be successful. To make this connection, focusing on the emotional benefits of your service is more important than features.
A distressed homeowner that is falling behind on their mortgage payment feels vulnerable. While they are eager for options and hope, they may be leery of a stranger and potentially, a vulture looking to swoop down and profit from their misery. How do you overcome this distrust? The answer is to appeal to the homeowner’ emotion, not their intellect.
Emotions are the gateway for a distressed homeowner to make a decision to work with you. World-renowned sales trainer Zig Ziglar explains, “People usually buy on emotion and then justify it with logic.” Sure, a short sale carries fewer consequences than a foreclosure, but this is an intellectual feature, and does not speak to their emotion.
Benefits are the Language of Emotion.
Features are the language of logic. Even people who insist they make logical decisions based on features do so because that’s what makes them feel better. All benefits are emotional. What would be a better way to sell diamonds?
“This ring features a 1.4 carat, pear-shaped cut white diamond with a SI1 clarity grade and an H color rating.”
Unless you’re a gemologist, this ad is gibberish. Here is what might sell diamonds better:
“Imagine that special evening when you gently slip this on her finger and stare intensely into their eyes. She peers at this symbol of your devotion, the promise of your future together, and tears begin to glisten. An adoring smile spreads across her face, and at that moment your love is sealed forever.”
The upside down or late paying homeowner has only one question to be answered, “What’s In It For Me?” It’s not about you, or your realty, or even your expertise. It’s about them – the distressed homeowners that need your help. How will you help them solve their problem, make their lives better and most of all, how will you make them feel good? Some examples of benefits might be….
Move on to build better memories…
Two Step Marketing
Every good marketing message has a clear call to action – it tells the prospect what to do next. While the call to action is often overlooked, it is critical because your objective is to get the homeowner to respond, period.
The most obvious call to action would be to pick up the phone and call for a consultation. Yet many distressed homeowners are cautious and need to be nurtured before they are comfortable enough to reach out to you. For this reason, you can employ a two-pronged approach when contacting distressed homeowners:
Step 1. Generate a lead by providing something of value, such as a free report, in exchange for something in return, such as the homeowners contact information.
Step 2. Provide the requested information and follow-up.
Consider experimenting with some different carrots that motivate troubled homeowners to access
» NOW THAT YOUR LOAD MODIFICATION HAS BEEN DISAPPROVED, NOW WHAT?
What’s so good about this two-step marketing? It’s much easier to create an interest in becoming educated about alternatives to foreclosure (a lead) than it is to get a homeowner to part with their home. You are generating interest, not asking them to list their home with you (not yet anyway). That is what the 2 step marketing process is all about – warming a lead along to fruition and continuing your dialog with distressed borrowers. Taking this principle a step further, you can offer a free report on 5 things you should never do if you fall behind on a mortgage payment, and in the report, list 4 things. What’s the 5th and most important thing you should never do? You guessed it, for that gem the homeowner has to call a pre recorded hotline or do something else to be guided along.
Directing Distressed Homeowners to a website When done properly, a landing page can be an excellent and non-threatening way to Educate Distressed Borrowers on their solutions.
Your initial message to distressed homeowners should be a teaser and galvanize the homeowner to learn more once you’ve piqued their interest. The objective of your first contact should not be to close the homeowner. A post card, for example, is not meant to close the homeowner but to guide the homeowner to another destination such as a landing page, where they can learn more.
A landing page, or lead capture page, is a destination where distressed homeowners go for a specific purpose. Think of a golf course – a landing page is the putting green that you drive the ball (prospect) to. Once on the green, the goal is to get the ball in the hole. Likewise, the goal of the copy and design of a landing page is to get the homeowner that needs your help to take your desired course of action.
You wouldn’t ask someone to solve an algebra equation in order to view the content they came for on your website. Nor should you ask a distressed homeowner to find the page on your website that has information on foreclosure help. A typical REALTOR’s site is busy, with a lot of information and links packed into one homepage. For example, your site might have a section for buying a home, selling a home, the benefits of relocating to a certain community, tips on moving, and a whole host of other information that speaks to entirely different audiences. Rather than asking a distressed homeowner to wade through your site to find the relevant information on their options, create a landing page that specifically speaks to them and answers the question “What’s in it for me?”. Once on that page, a distressed borrower can seamlessly find the answers they are looking for without the need to dig through several links and pages to ferret out the information they are seeking.
It’s critical to capture the contact information of the homeowner that visits your landing page. In order to access your free report, video, or other promised snippet of information, prompt the homeowner for their e-mail address and/or phone number. The goal is not to send the homeowner to a website to learn all they can on avoiding foreclosure – the objective is to establish rapport and credibility and obtain their contact information so that you can continue the conversation through more interactive means. You should not give the homeowner the opportunity to close themselves. Remember, you are the real estate expert, not them. An effective landing page will not provide every single detail about your service. Rather, the goal of your landing page should be to capture the homeowner’s e-mail address so that you can “drip” a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. In agriculture, drip irrigation is the process of watering plants or crops using small amounts of water over long periods of time. Using this same principle, you can send timely, relevant e-mail messages to a highly targeted set of troubled homeowners that have sought out a resource to avoid foreclosure.
When asking your web visitor for information, caution should be exercised. People don’t like volunteering too much about themselves, and if they are asked for too much information, they will hit the back button. Prompting the homeowner for their name and e-mail address should suffice. We have seen some sites that require the homeowner to fill out a lengthy questionnaire asking for their estimated income, source of employment, home purchase price, number of mortgages and other detailed information – besides being overly prying, who has the time to fill it out?
There’s an old direct marketing axiom that states too many choices paralyzes your prospect into complete non-action, and this behavior applies to landing pages, as well.
You may have a wealth of reports and resources, but we recommend not giving distressed homeowners too many options on what to do next. We believe that your landing page should have a single call to action, perhaps to download a singular report, rather than giving them a cornucopia of reports to choose from. The whole idea is to spell out to the homeowner, in specific detail, what to do next and not allow them to wonder astray and risk loosing them.
Online video can be a powerful tool to win the rapport of a distressed homeowner. With a 2 to 3 minute video, the troubled homeowner can experience your voice, hear your tone, and develop a connection with you in a “fireside chat.” You can use the video to amplify your call to action by saying, “Type in your e-mail address on the form above to discover how you can…” (complete the sentence). On many CDPE branded websites, the distressed homeowner is greeted with a video message by CEO and co-founder Alex Charfen. His message is powerful and effective, but in our view, the landing page would create more of an impact, and build even more empathy, if the video is replaced with the REALTOR, who ultimately will be the one to work with the homeowner.
If the homeowner is receptive to talking to you, here are some additional tips:
Ask to come inside. Many novice REALTORS and investors think that the deal is going to be made right on the front porch. At the risk of redundancy, a distressed borrower will work with you only if they trust you and like you. If you launch into your pitch on their porch, the homeowner may view you as a slick salesperson that stands to profit from their hardship. Try to face them on the turf that they feel most comfortable in – their kitchen table.
Talk for a few minutes. It’s important for the homeowner to view you as a person, not as an investor. Share some information about yourself and ask for the same in return, so that it doesn’t feel like some kind of awkward first date.
Avoid using the term “foreclosure” at all costs. If you imply in any way that the homeowner is responsible for their plight, you will surely alienate them. “I noticed that you weren’t keeping up with your payments” or, “I saw that you were late on your mortgage” is a sure way to get booted off the front porch. A better approach might be that you “provide ethical and compassionate problems with real estate loans.”
It’s worth mentioning that modesty is important when presenting your help to distressed homeowners. No suits or bling like expensive jewelry. That conveys that you will profit from their loss. Also, keep your hands in plain view and show your face when door knocking. When a homeowner looks to see who is knocking on their door, you better look non-threatening.
Getting the conversation rolling on the phone
The telephone can serve as a good follow up device once you have introduced yourself through other media. In our view, telemarketing should be used in conjunction with other forms of marketing i.e. email marketing, and should not be used as a stand-alone marketing vehicle.
When a homeowner has fallen behind on a mortgage payment, it is a sensitive subject. Whether it is because of unexpected expenditures that happen suddenly, illness, the loss of a job, or marital discord, there are some delicate circumstances that have led to a defaulted payment. To these distressed borrowers, home-ownership isn’t the American Dream – it could be the American nightmare.
Because their hardship is such a sensitive subject, we don’t recommend using our list of distressed homeowners as a purely telemarketing list. Just calling a distressed homeowner without prior contact is a little like calling up a stranger and asking them if they have a drinking problem. Even if they were an alcoholic, would they admit it over the phone to someone calling for the first time?
However, the phone can be used as an excellent follow up tool, once a distressed homeowner knows you or has at least been exposed to your message. Once a homeowner has received a letter or they have requested more information, or they are more open to talking to you on the phone.
Having started a conversation with a distressed homeowner through other means, you have more of a license to continue that conversation over the phone.
CDLData.com includes a DNC compliant phone number and email addresses, when available. The operative term is when available. Landlines are becoming increasingly obsolete as more people use mobile devices. For those homeowners that do have a land line, the majority of them are on the do not call list. For this reason, we’d have to select a larger area to generate any meaningful amount of phone numbers.
Many REALTORS and investors are looking the distressed homeowners up by themselves, without regard to the DNC regulations. Says one of our clients, a mortgage broker in Nevada – “I don’t care about the do not call list because I’m not selling them anything. I’m keeping them in their home.” While many of our clients share this sentiment and feel that they are exempt from the do not call regulations to the extent they are helping these distressed borrowers save their credit and relieve the uncertainty, it is mindful to keep in mind the potential penalties of calling homeowners on the do not call list.
Directing distressed homeowners to a hotline
Many defaulting homeowners are cautious and would prefer the anonymity of listening to a recording that presents your message of solutions and hope.
As one way to overcome a homeowner’s lack of trust, you can send distressed homeowners to a recorded hotline that briefly discusses some of the options they have available. Home owners that may otherwise be hesitant to call you, may call a hotline to hear a pre-recorded message – there is little risk to doing so. If they are comfortable with the message or messenger they can dial through for a live conversation.
There are many affordable tech solutions to seamlessly start a hotline, such as Voice Nation. We recommend keeping the pre-recorded message two to three minutes long so as to not loose the homeowners attention or overwhelm them with too much information. The goal at this stage is to have a short, friendly “heart to heart” conversation with the listener that presents some different options the homeowner has, but more importantly, establish a level of trust and rapport by providing a calm voice of reason and empathy.
Postcard to Distressed Homeowners that generated 16 listings
A subscriber to our pre-foreclosure data used the following post card to get sixteen listings in a month’s time. She sent the postcard out to homeowners 60 days late, multiple times. Each time, she changed the font color. After the third mailing, she followed up with a phone call or a personal visit.
Although her home office offered postcard designs, she said that those were too much “in your face” and came up with this design. I like the picture of the little girl – it puts a personal face on the human element of foreclosure.
Notice that the postcard does not profess that there is any inside knowledge that the homeowner is late on their payment. Instead, the question is, “Do you know people in this situation?”. This disarms the homeowner. Any thoughts?
Think inside the box, literally – using dimensional mail
To get the creative juices flowing, I asked a potential client if he had any ideas on how he would use the list of distressed homeowners that are preforeclosure, and he came up with what I thought was a hugely clever strategy – fortune cookies.
A distressed homeowner would be sent a custom fortune cookie. When the homeowner opened the fortune cookie, they would be greeted with a slip that said, “Solve your home problem – call me. 555-5555.” How clever is that?
I didn’t get the name of the website that crafted these custom fortune cookies, but later, did a Google search for “marketing fortune cookies”, “custom fortune cookies”, and the like, and a handful of promotional companies came up on the search.
This brings up a great point – the more creative you get in your campaign to troubled homeowners, the greater your ROI. Dimensional mailings can come in many forms, but they have one thing in common – they are guaranteed to get opened. Imagine children hovering under a Christmas tree opening presents, and it’s easy to understand why.
Sure, the costs of mailing something other than an envelope can be high, but the Return on Investment is superior to sending something flat. I’ve heard of double-digit response rates when using dimensional mailings because they are unique and commands the attention of their recipient – they are screaming to be opened. It’s not about ROI anymore… it’s about Return on Creativity.
Email marketing is the best ROI on the market today. As an ISP (Internet Service Provider) we have all the distressed homeowners email addresses and guaranty 100% delivery into the INBOX or your money back.
When we provided a list of new homeowners that recently moved in, a few clients used dimensional mailings with stunning success. For example, A dentist sent a manilla folder with “Dentists” in the subject line, for easy filing. Inside the folder was helpful oral hygiene tips, a profile of the dentistry, and, get this – a toothbrush with the practice’s contact information. The cost per mail piece was high, but the response it yielded was well worth the investment. Similarly, a landscaper in Colorado sent out an evergreen sapling to new homeowners. This creative mailing ”sprouted” many new jobs.
If you think inside the box and use dimensional mailings, your fortune cookies will read, “More consummated transactions.”
At CDLDATA.com, we provide early, accurate and exclusive pre foreclosure data on distressed homeowners before their hardship reaches any public file.
When reaching out to distressed homeowners in pre foreclosure, one popular marketing vehicle is a postcard, because they are cheap to print, cheap to mail, and a postcard doesn’t have to be opened – they stare distressed homeowners in the face. Yet despite the advantages of this “tiny billboard”, there are potential pitfalls to avoid. In this post, I’ll hopefully give some insight when planning a postcard campaign to upside down, struggling homeowners that are eager for hope and solutions.
Focus on Benefits, Not Features
One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen with postcard campaigns is the tendency to focus on features, which talk bumpkins about the REALTOR. The reality is, the homeowner doesn’t care about you, your expertise, your training, how big you are, how many homes you sold, or what association you are a member of. Let’s say you helped 28 homeowners avoid foreclosure last month, or you are a member of the Better Business Bureau, or you completed a course on short sales. That’s great, but it doesn’t answer the homeowner’s only question – WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? People buy on emotion and justify it later with logic – they’ll come back to your credentials later, according to world renowned sales trainer Zig Ziglar.
While features are the language of logic, benefits are the language of emotion. Here’s some examples of benefits:
“Get a good night’s sleep for the first time in six months”…
In another post, we showed an example of one client’s postcard that did a good job focusing on benefits, and it paid off. > See her postcard here.
The point to get here from 40,000 feet is that you should talk less about you and more about the homeowner that is experiencing a very difficult period in their lives.
Postcards Will Not Close The Sale
Not much can be fitted on a 4 1/2 by 6 postcard. The objective then of a postcard is to tease the homeowner and encourage them to learn more. In our view, the best call to action is to drive them to a landing page, where they can access something of high perceived value, such as a free report. Once on your landing page, you can capture the homeowner’s contact information and nurture the lead with “drip” marketing.
People Respond To Repetition
If you send one postcard one time to one list, hopefully you can get a deal. One listing will pay for the postcard campaign and put money in your pocket. But the reality is marketing has never meant to be and never will be a one-shot deal. To create big, predictable results, you have to market your services repetitively and be “in the face” of your listing prospect with several touch points. It’s like a parent that finally gives in to repeated requests for a new toy, a piece of candy, or permission to stay up late. Distressed homeowners are the same way. The best results come from multiple mailings. Through repetition, you establish familiarity, which in turn builds credibility, which in turn builds trust. You then have more of a licence to call the homeowner or knock on their door.
Use Creative Calls To Action
While you ideally want the homeowner that is falling behind on their mortgage payments to call you, the reality is many of these homeowners will not immediately pick up the phone and warm up to a stranger that has sent one post card. Yet those homeowners that would not otherwise pick up the phone will feel feel more comfortable going to a landing page where they could download a free report on the 5 things they should never do if they fall behind on their mortgage payment, or a leery homeowner would feel more at ease listing to a 2 to 3 minute hotline that provides an overview on their options available. The soft sell approach works.
Instead Of A Logo, How About A Map To Your Office?
In our view, a logo isn’t as important as a brick and mortar address. It’s a virtual world and there are a lot of shysters on the internet, so people want to see a real place. This is especially true with distressed homeowners that feel vulnerable. Remember, the entire media for the past two years has been telling everyone that if someone approaches homeowners with foreclosure help, they are probably a vulture. Having a real place for the homeowner to see and visit will go a long way in dispelling this myth.
There are myriad other variables that will determine the success of your postcard marketing campaign. The headline, your choice of color, font selection are just a few factors among them, but we won’t divulge all on this blog. For expert consultation, call us at 866-377-4599.
At CDLDATA.com, we provide early, accurate, and exclusive data for real estate professionals. Armed with insider information from the credit bureaus, you will know exactly which homeowners have just missed a mortgage payment. Since this is not yet public record information, you can get more listings by being the first to advise distressed homeowners on their solutions, long before your competitors.