This customer spotlight features Katie Foo, Marketing Director at First Home Mortgage. Her interview reveals her experiences in the home financing industry, from refreshing a 25-year-old brand, personalizing the process, and streamlining materials for agents to use up and down the East Coast.
To learn more about our work with First Home Mortgage, view our case study.
1. Tell us about your position at First Home Mortgage and how the company has transformed since you started.
As Marketing Director, my main focus is reinforcing a strong brand identity which highlights the strengths of our business model while offering more tools to communicate our services. Before I joined the team, First Home was already a well-established and successful company, but lacked a Marketing & Communications Department. Loan Officers were responsible for aggregating their own marketing tools without overall direction or support. When I came on board, I began by forming our Marketing Strategy; listening to the needs of our sales staff and examining trends throughout the industry. My initial goal was to define our brand and promote it consistently throughout all our locations. We have since released our new brand guidelines and applied them to a number of platforms; from signage to web presence and promotional items. Our Marketing & Communications Department has grown to include a Multimedia Designer and Copywriter, allowing us to establish a library of marketing materials in addition to email automation and a mobile application. We’re still considered a “new” department, only operating for the last two and half years, but we’re constantly finding more objectives to reach.
2. What are your goals for First Home Mortgage?
As of now, my goals are to fine tune our marketing tools. I think we’ve laid a lot of groundwork but we still need to find better ways to promote our presence, particularly online. Having our Copywriter join the team means we can start to create fresh, new content for more defined customer personas. We want to start applying a content calendar and utilizing SEO best practices to increase overall visibility and ranking.
3. What is most challenging about communicating to your audience and how do you overcome it?
Loan Origination can be very difficult to understand if you’re not familiar with the industry. A lot of borrowers are confused by the loan process, even intimidated by it. Communicating the complexities of guidelines and the housing market as something digestible for the average consumer can be tough. We want to show the full extent of our services, but the message can become muddled. To overcome this, we’ve created informative marketing materials for particular audiences which outline the basics of what we offer, but always direct back to contacting a Loan Officer. Instead of giving a client a huge pamphlet to read about every loan option we offer, we summarize what we do and how we do it, allowing the borrower to refer back to the Loan Officer with their own questions particular to their situation.
4. What’s your advice to other financial services companies seeking to expand their brand story?
Start by taking a hard look at your brand story. FHMC had already been in business for 25 years when I first started, but when I began to ask what defined our brand, I received conflicting answers or hesitation. It’s best to communicate with team leaders in order to come to an agreement about what your brand story is, who you’re trying to communicate it to and why. Once you understand your brand, you can start to look for ways to best promote and support it.
5. What trends do you expect to see (or are currently seeing) in the financial services industry (marketing, customer needs, etc.)?
We currently live in the age of convenience. Many home buyers look to ease the loan process by using an online lender instead of speaking directly to a Loan Officer. First Home Mortgage is built on the value of personal service, which is a totally different approach. In order to maintain our company culture and meet the evolving needs of our clients, FHMC maintains a personal connection while integrating new tools to streamline our services. We provide borrowers with online applications, secure document scanning and continued access to our support staff. Our Loan Officers always make themselves available to clients, diligently providing guidance and updates throughout the loan process. We combine the need for a quick and user-friendly service, while ensuring each borrower attains a mortgage that best suits their needs.
6. How do you believe agencies and financial services companies can best work together?
By taking the time to understand the importance of each company. Generally, financial service companies might overlook the value of an agency and how it can help their business. Agencies can sometimes clump financial service companies together, when actually services and clients served can be extremely different. I think First Home has gotten the most out of connecting with agencies by explaining how our culture is different and taking the time to understand why an agency is needed when you’re dealing with something as important as your brand identity.
7. What influenced your organization to work with Orange Element?
I was looking for a local company who could offer personal attention and support. I reached out to past-colleagues, one being a Creative Director, asking her if she recommended anyone. She mentioned Orange Element, so I inquired and received an answer immediately. After a brief conversation about our goals, I was given a tailored proposal about what could be done to achieve them. Instead of being steamrolled by a sales pitch, I was offered a solution and recommendations based on what I had communicated to OE.
8. What results are you seeing with the updated First Home Mortgage brand and where do you hope to take it in the future?
Loan Officers are much more open to promoting our brand; our department receives a number of requests for marketing material which meet our guidelines. We’ve gotten more compliant and consistent in our messaging to audiences and it inspires more initiative among our sales staff. My hope is our Marketing & Communications department continues to expand and provide even more value for First Home Mortgage, allowing our company to grow stronger overall.