In our Hot Topic this week, we have Nick Belenky on the program to talk with us about the forecasted decline in refinance volume & what marketing strategies lenders can employ to succeed in 2022…
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How To Win With Mortgage Marketing In 2022
We are ready for another episode. Thank you so much for joining us. This show is created by mortgage professionals. It is for mortgage professionals and we are grateful to have you as our reader. Our commitment is to bring you timely information in a blog format that you could read anytime and anywhere.
We talk about timely information. We got Nick Belenky to join us, Chief Revenue Officer for Surefire, acquired by Black Knight. We are going to be looking forward to this interview. I had a chance to get to know Nick at the conference. We sat down there for a while and it is a great story here. More than a great story, it is a great product and company. We are going to be talking about some of the trends, forecasts, declines, and revenue in refinance volume. What are others doing? What are the strategies lenders can employ to succeed in 2022?
It is already November 2021. We are starting to look to 2022. Nick is going to give and share some of that information. He is the Chief Revenue Officer. He is responsible for the revenue. He is a good guy to go to. Black Knight saw value in this company. They acquired the company. We are going to get into a good interview in the hot topic segment. Stay tuned all the way through to the second half of the show.
I’m excited to be a part of the Industry Syndicate, IndustrySyndicate.com. Check out all of the shows that are there. Check it out. Podcasts are becoming a major thing. We talked about this while we listened to Malcolm Gladwell at the conference and how he was riding the subway, riding in, and saw everyone that used to be reading papers now having their earbuds in and listening to something. He asked, “I’m listening to a podcast.” He created a podcast. It is taken off and does well.”
Alice and I were forerunners. We are here at the beginning and we are thrilled to be here with you. I am binging on a new author and speaker that I want to share with you briefly. Shawn Achor is his name. He has a book out there. It is the Big Potential. Go out and download it. Listen to his TED Talk and interview that he had with Brené Brown. Brené is one of my favorite people because she talks about shame and talks about how we got to get moving past shame. Good stuff. You are going to enjoy that material.
I’m highlighting it. I have been binging on this on happiness and he’s a scientist on happiness. You go like, “What the heck is that?” Bobby Nicely, one of my clients and one of the partners in Alcova Mortgage, sent that over to me over and I’m glad he did. I’m having a great time learning more about the power of happiness and the power of how to unlock your full potential. It says, “Transforming the pursuit of success raises your achievement, happiness, and well-being.” Most people say, “You got to be happy before you get successful.” In order to get there, check it out. We got links to the show. I’m enjoying it. I love to get your feedback on that.
I want to say a special thank you to our sponsors, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Be sure to read the episode we did with Mike Fratantoni. Finastra Fusion MortgageBot Solution does a great job at helping lenders connect and create a positive experience through their platform with the consumer. We talked about CX, UI, and UX with Karen Jenkins on October 4th, 2021. Go back and read that episode, especially for those of you in the tech world.
We got a lot of technology companies, people in the tech world, or inter-tech companies. In other words, you are a tech department or a tech company within your company. I love that concept, where you are inventing new ideas. Check out some of the things that Karen Jenkins is doing at Finastra and leading their organization as a top leadership and direction. check it out.
Lenders One and The Mortgage Collaborative. Both of these co-ops do a great job of connecting lenders with other lenders as well as vendors. It is a more up-close and personal way to connect with your peers and get updates on what is going on. Also, The Community Mortgage Lenders of America. We are grateful for their sponsorship as well as Insellerate. Josh Friend does a great job of connecting lenders with their clients. He has a great powerful CRM tool that he uses. It is an engagement platform. Check out Insellerate.com and read the blog from June 21st, 2021 with Josh Friend.
Ken Perry has a great product called Knowledge Coop. I’m grateful to him. He and I are also part of a mastermind group called Seven A. We are at the conference there. I love the energy of this company, the culture that Ken is bringing to his company, and also those that use of service. The three other companies you want to bring your attention to are Mobility MMI as well as Modex. Both of these companies help you in the recruiting effort. Pick out and get real data, not inflated data or embellished data. Mobility MMI and Modex help you find the right person at the right time to connect with to get on board.
Also, Snapdocs. We are thrilled to have them as a sponsor. Amy and the group at Snapdocs are outstanding. We had a recent interview with Vishal there and I encouraged you to read that. Snapdocs is one of the up-and-coming companies. Pay attention to Snap Docs and check out what they are doing. A special thank you goes to Rob, Les, Alice, Allen, and Jack Nunner is becoming a co-host on the show. It is good to have you all here.
Welcome everybody to our hot topic segment. We are going to be talking with Nick Belenky, Chief Revenue Officer for Surefire, acquired by Black Knight. I’m always interested when industry leaders like Black Knight acquire a company. What is their thinking? What is going on? I love what they do. There is a successful company that should be continued to be paid close attention to. Always pay attention to the acquisitions they make. They are doing strategic ones and good ones. On the show, we are going to be talking with Nick about the forecasted decline in refinance volume and what marketing strategies lenders can employ to succeed in 2022. Nick, it is good to have you be a part of the show. Welcome. I appreciate you.
David, how are you doing? Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity and I can’t believe we are talking about 2022 already.
I should give it a shout-out to your PR firm too, Carrie, John, and everyone there. It is outstanding. They are instrumental in getting us together at the conference and here. I’m grateful to them. For those of you who do not know, Nick, let’s get into sharing with the audience a brief introduction about yourself. How did you get into the industry, a little bit of your journey here and your career before you started at the top of your mind?
It reminds me a lot of the journeys that I hear from our loan officers, customers, and our role in this industry. We are not firemen, police officers, or sports stars. It is always interesting to see how people get into the mortgage industry. I was born in Ukraine. My family was excited that I was going to be an engineer. I became a software engineer and like your cohost Jack Nunnery, telling us about his son and how excited he was when he got into cybersecurity. They are relieved that I took such a safe path. I did that for years.
Several years later, I realized I was attracted to the sales and marketing part of this role, less so the engineering. It took a big career risk and jumped. You are going to hear that a lot from some of the folks in this industry. They started in one place and made a hard turn. Even some folks have been in the industry for several years. The origin story is interesting.
In that way, I share a lot with folks that are lenders and originators. Along the way, I was drawn to sales engineering. Products for big companies, small companies, and Microsoft. I worked for Visa, and, as you mentioned now, Black Knight. It has been an exciting journey. I like the background of being able to see technology from a lot of different angles. That brings a lot in terms of being able to see the mortgage industry and mortgage tech with three dimensions having come from other places.
It does bring a unique background and I applaud you for pursuing your passion because when you find out something you have been educated in and trained in, but to make a shift, that is a bold risk. That is one that those that do make that shift are richly rewarded because when you pursue your passion, you pursue your purpose. When you pursue your purpose, you prove provision in your life.
Let’s get on to solving some of the issues that we are having. What was the need you were solving, and did you stay true to your mission? When you look at the growth of the company and where are you going, you had an original vision and a lot of people struggle when there is a shift. Did you face that? If so, what adjustments did you make?
David, thank you for the introduction. You did marvelous in navigating all the brand names between Black Knight and Surefire in Top of Mind. In several years of history, Top of Mind has served loan officers and lenders in many different ways. It doesn’t always start the same way. The origin story of Top of Mind started with helping loan officers remember to reach out to their borrowers and that was in the format of postcards and sending print campaigns. If you can go back several years, can you imagine the company that you are talking to this day?
Purchased by Black Knight was started on print campaigns and postcards. The evolution went to a full SaaS solution with a CRM component. The latest incarnation is a mortgage marketing platform. There are a lot of turns. Each time you make one of these types of transitions to the market, you have two challenges. One challenge is to convince your customer base that they are still with the right service provider. You can still meet their needs. You want to bring your customers along for the ride.
Top of my networks with their series of Surefire releases, I feel did a good job carrying them forward but the mission changed because the market changed in several years from all that M&A activity and the IMB lender sector. M&A has been prominent that lenders are growing. They are looking for more complex platforms.
The challenge changed from how we serve loan officers and individuals to how we serve them and have a powerful platform for large lenders with hundreds or thousands of loan officers. David, the moment when we struck the right balance was when we came up with this concept of making sure that we got these blueprints for success, which are best practices based on what type of lender, what is your focus? Are you retail, consumer, direct, or wholesale? What size? Once we cracked that code, it became a scalable problem to solve.
Jack, you understand mergers and acquisitions. Nick touched on that.
Nick, back in July 2021, Black Knight completed its acquisition of Surefire, the industry’s most used CRM and marketing automation platform. Why is Surefire a great fit for Black Knight?
I will answer it from my perspective. As the organization that got acquired and represented Surefire, I would say that there are a couple of obvious reasons. If you go look at the press release and see the investment into Surefire, it is clear that it is a strategic investment. What was the strategy? No, that is the question I am trying to answer here.
In the portfolio of Black Knight’s origination products, they offer some strong brand names. I don’t pretend to represent them or understand every aspect of it. I came from other industries, but that is on brand, meaning that bringing in a CRM and mortgage marketing engine that is a brand name in the industry, Surefire has been a brand name for several years. It makes a lot of sense for a company like Black Knight to get to bring in something that they know is going to work right away.
Imagine and contrast it against other options. They could come in with a product that no one has ever heard of or they could try to build their round. I mentioned it before. I said, “The blueprints for success. You don’t have best practices unless you have been practicing for a while.” It would be a while before they could have a product around their portfolio. That has a lot to do with it.You cannot say that you have the best mortgage marketing practices unless you've been practicing them for a while. Click To Tweet
Surefire is a good brand and it has been around, but it is more than that. They don’t buy something because that is a good brand. They got to see the integration, which is something Allen is familiar with. Allen, let’s get over to you.
I love to ask about integrating. With any acquisition, you got to integrate those different products and services. Sometimes existing interfaces may have existed, but anytime that you create that close partnership between your products, you always want to enhance. There is something to get the market first, and there is a long-term plan. Would you mind sharing how the integration has been going and what you will be looking forward to as the rest of 2021 concludes in 2022?
There are some pre and post-acquisition technology integrations. From a technology standpoint, we were already integrated with another portfolio product, Optimal Blue, Pricing Engine, and CompassPPE, which was already integrated with the Surefire platform. Those integrations helped us to know more about Black Knight and have already interacted with Black Knight.
If you go off of the integrations that may be obvious from a strategic standpoint, we are working hard to integrate with Empower, Black Knight’s flagship LOS. We are far down the road with that integration and we are looking forward to making an announcement soon. You may have seen in the press release the integration to LoanCatcher, which is the fully integrated broker product from Black Knight and that includes Surefire.
If you are paying attention again to the press release that was in July 2021, this integration was released on September 15th, 2021, at the NAMM Show in Las Vegas. If you do the math, a huge organization like Black Knight is staying nimble and doing integration in a couple of months. That is an impressive timeline. It often can take years and shows how Black Knights let Surefire stay its brand and identity, and let us stay nimble while joining and enhancing the portfolio.
On that same note, we are also seeing a lot of interest on the servicing side. You have heard in 2020 about the ReFi Boom, but that ReFi Boom also characterizes a major hit to retention for servicers. It is something to the tune of 18% retention rates, which is unheard of. It was unbelievably low in 2020. As servicers look to figure out how they will recover, they will have to start marketing. Surefire is a great tool to start building into servicing platform and who better than Black Knight to address that problem?
It sounds like you are going to need a bigger boat. Alice, let’s get over to you.
We use Top of Mind. We can relate to everything that you are talking about and we went through our own iterations of how we used it first and reevaluated everything. It escalated how we used it. I agree with you. There is a place for it in servicing. It is a great product. I wanted to ask us. What is in it for 2022? I love to hear what is on your roadmap.
The future is bright. When we are looking at what our customers are asking us to do, I mentioned a little bit about direct-to-consumer and wholesale and this has a lot to do with how the market is evolving. Our lender partners are looking for more capability in lead distribution and more capabilities in centralized marketing versus distributed retail and the wholesale channel. We are particularly proud of our broker bridge product that we are releasing, which is related to helping wholesalers attract brokers by offering them a marketing solution that could be complex for them as brokers to manage on their own. Wholesale lenders are able to manage it on their behalf.
Those are important from a lender-type perspective, which will be addressed in 2022. There is this big push for omnichannel marketing. We have been talking about omnichannel a lot, but you have to wait until your lender partners come back to you and start asking you the same questions you have been asking them. 2022 has been the year that we have been hearing it right back, which is email, text, and video. Remember those postcards from earlier? Those are back.
You want to reach borrowers where they are. Where are they? They are at home in their pajamas. How are we going to find them there? Let’s send them a postcard. It sounds quaint, but the market has exploded for sending physical goods and prints to borrowers as part of an omnichannel marketing program that doesn’t send emails. Sending emails is very much a 2020 approach.
We started thinking about the central part of the United States and the postcard still works. We have clients that we do a lot of advising in our last mortgage company that I was a partner in several years ago. We found that the postcard still works in parts of the country. Texting is off the charts and much more responsive but it doesn’t get about the action. I was talking to another owner of a business. He was talking about the power of text. It gets into that. I’m interested in talking about the refinance. Jack, you were talking about looking forward to 2022. Let’s get over to you with a question.
David, I always keep looking at these origination numbers. In 2020, ReFi was about $2.6 trillion in the origination market. The forecast for 2021 is about $2.25 trillion. When I look out at 2022, the forecast number by the MBA is $860 billion. From $2.25 trillion down to $860 billion. With that forecast decline in mind in the ReFi sector, what marketing strategies can lenders employ to succeed in 2022?
We like to look at it as more of a ReFi Boom recovery. That is our positive spin on the way that looks. It is not a softer landing? It doesn’t make everyone feel better. In that market, what lenders are asking us about is, “Where do leads come from? How am I going to get the same lead volume that I had in 2010?” The answer is you are not. The leads are going to get more expensive. How are you going to make sure those leads are being properly utilized? Where is your ROI going to come from?
However you source leads in this market, that price is going to go up. Those prices are going up if it is advertising, direct lead purchase, or direct mail. We are seeing that those lenders applying more sophisticated prospecting strategies are winning more often. We polled and measured our customers in 2020. I dialed it back to February 2020. We are going back to pre-pandemic and pre-boom.
What we were seeing is that those who were using automated prospecting campaigns were doing about twice as well from a closed loan volume standpoint as those that were not. Those were relying primarily on relationships, outbound communication only, or inbound leads only and responding directly to leads through direct non-automated measures.
What happened in the last few years? If you look at Q2 or Q3 of 2021, instead of being twice as high performing, those that are using automated campaigns are three and a half times as high performing. They are originating three and a half times as many loans as those that aren’t using automated systems. What is the answer to the marketing strategy? Implement an automated prospecting strategy. You have to.
We talked about omnichannel before. It can’t just be get a lead and send an email. That is pretty passe. That is not going to be nearly as effective. You have to have a humanized approach in 2022. Humanized means different things to different parts of the borrower base, but they are expecting to get text messages. They are going to open those up 97% of the time versus 18% for email.
They are expecting to see videos. They don’t want to see prerecorded videos that are highly produced advertisements. They want educational. They are used to consuming content through YouTube. They want you to send them a video of yourself too. They want to see you. They were like, “Who am I going to do business with?”
From a retail perspective, if I can’t walk into a branch, all my retail experiences have been curtailed. You are going to have to send that retail experience to me. Part of these marketing strategies enables loan officers to put their own personality and brand into these centralized communications from large IMBs. You can see who you are dealing with. You can see the face. It is like when I go to David’s website here, I see him looking back at me. I got to feel like I got a connection. You got to have that same type of connectivity with your loan officer.
We grew up in this industry, believing that mortgage banking was a referral-based business. There is a paradigm shift happening with electronic marketing that challenges that old-school thought. I agree with you. You are either going to embrace the e-marketing concept and all of the power it brings or are you going to get left behind over the next several years?
A third option is to buy a blimp and put your name on the side of it. Not every lender can do that. We know who we are talking about there. You hit it spot on.
We are watching the world get more virtual. We are going to see where that trend goes. It seems all the indications are going to be more virtual. I have an opinion that it will stay. How can lenders warm their relationships with their borrowers in a more virtual world and all the way around? What are your thoughts and strategies?
We are going to have to embrace technology in order to do that. Think about how the borrower experience is changing in a digital world post-pandemic. Depending on the way you look at it, there are a few strategies. Some specific ones are to look at what you are doing to communicate with borrowers while they are in process.Embracing technology is necessary if lenders want to warm up their relationships with borrowers in a more virtual world. Click To Tweet
How do I improve their experience? What do I do there? Having educational and engaging content is critical. It is measured to affect your net promoter score and referrals. You got to think about what content they are getting. Are they getting a checklist to show how they are going through the loan manufacturing process? Are they getting an engaging piece of content with video, information, warnings, and help? Is it informative? That is critical when they are prospects.
When you are working with your agent partners, you need to be putting out platforms that allow you, your agent, and the borrower to work together and help them buy or finance the property. As a lender, you even have the opportunity to influence the open house process by projecting single-property site views right into the check-in table. That buyers are walking into that showing by themselves. A lot of times, the agent can’t even be there in certain scenarios because they can’t walk the house with them. You, as a lender, can provide an interactive experience right there on an iPad as they walk in on a side table in a way that maybe a couple of years ago wasn’t as high of a priority.
Nick, thank you so much for being here. How can people reach you and connect with you?
I appreciate you being here. Thank you so much again to Deputy PR for connecting us. I’m looking forward to watching your continued success now that you are inside of the Black Knight family and I wish you all very well. I’m a big fan of Shelley Leonard and the vision that she has. Many people like that. It is a culture where they are growing through an intelligent acquisition strategy. I’m glad you are part of them. It is a great company. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with you, Nick. I appreciate it.
Thanks for having me on.
That wraps up this episode. Next episode, we got Pete Paglia coming on of HomeBinder. I met Pete at the conference and invited him to the show because I’m looking at ways we can create stickiness. Think about repeat business. The mortgage industry is pathetic of all the industries out there. I don’t know if we are the worst, but we got to be near the bottom of the whole market and drawing people to stay with us. A way to do that is through a home buyer product, HomeBinder. We are talking a little bit about that. We are focusing a little bit on this part of the year on forward-looking strategies that you can employ in 2022. Be sure to come back next episode for the hot topic segment to talk about that.
Special thank you to our sponsors, Finastra, CMLA, Lenders One, Insellerate, Mobility MMI, the MBA, Knowledge Coop, The Mortgage Collaborative, and Snapdocs. We are glad to have all of you as sponsors. Thank you, readers, for reading and sharing this show with others. Reach out and get a hold of Nick. You will enjoy the conversation and getting insights into the bigger vision there. We didn’t get a chance to get into all that we could have, but I think you can. He will open up with you when you call him directly. It is good to have you with us, everyone. I look forward to having you back here next episode.
- Black Knight
- Big Potential
- Alcova Mortgage
- Mortgage Bankers Association
- Mike Fratantoni – Past Episode
- Finastra Fusion Mortgagebot Solution
- Karen Jenkins – Past Episode
- Lenders One
- The Mortgage Collaborative
- The Community Mortgage Lenders of America
- Josh Friend – Past Episode
- Knowledge Coop
- Mobility MMI
- Vishal Rana – Past Episode
- Optimal Blue
- Nick Belenky – LinkedIn
About Nick Belenky
Nick Belenky, Chief Revenue Officer, Surefire at Black Knight. With over 13 years’ experience as a B2B sales leader, Belenky directs Surefire’s sales operations and new customer acquisitions with an unwavering commitment to client success. Previously, Belenky was the director of sales for CardinalCommerce, a Visa company, and leader in authenticating digital transactions. He oversaw the company’s channel partnerships and merchant sales, driving sales growth into the triple digits. Belenky also held sales management positions at 1 EDI Source, a provider of electronic data interchange (EDI) solutions and business visibility software, and CEIA USA, a global security equipment manufacturer, where he increased revenue by more than 30%. Belenky holds a degree in computer engineering from Case Western Reserve University.