One-On-One: Guild Mortgage CMO Talks About Modern Marketing

The senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Guild Mortgage has a message for loan officers: You are your brand.

Adam O’Daniel joined Guild Mortgage at the end of last year and has 15 years of experience in the mortgage and financial services industries. He has served in leadership roles at Open Mortgage and Movement Mortgage, where his high-performing marketing teams focused on brand storytelling, borrower education, social media, and innovation, according to a press release.

Terry Schmidt, CEO of Guild Mortgage, said in a statement that they are growing and are ready to connect with clients in new and innovative ways. Headquartered in San Diego, the company has more than 4,000 employees and over 250 retail branches in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

O’Daniel recently sat down with Editor Kimberley Haas to talk about what works for loan officers when it comes to marketing in today’s competitive environment.

Haas: Adam, first of all, congratulations on your new role. That’s really exciting. We printed the press information that was distributed when you first came on board, but I wanted to talk with you a little bit more in-depth because a lot of our readers, especially if they work in mortgages, lending, and real estate, they want to know, “How do I brand my product in 2024?”

It seems like there’s a lot of video, there’s a lot of stuff happening. It seems like a lot of work for a lot of people. So I wanted to get your perspective, coming from a national brand, about what you think is worthwhile as far as a time and money investment. And I know you have a lot of background in this field. You’ve been working in the mortgage space for a while.

O’Daniel: I think I would answer that question first by saying that you are the brand. And so when people ask, “Where should I invest in marketing and branding?” for a loan officer, it’s in yourself.

You know, at the end of the day, whether it’s a referral partner in your market, a real estate agent, or someone else in the community that’s referring your business or the borrower themselves, they’re coming to you as a trusted advisor.

A lot of our product is commoditized. It’s available at many different lenders. Pricing fluctuates from day to day, and it’s very dependent on the borrower’s credit history and creditworthiness. And so the unique thing that you bring to the table is yourself, your own personal brand, and how you are going to serve that client. Your years of expertise, your personality, your process, your ability to follow up and deliver a great experience for them.

The things that will help them make a connection to you are going to be the first places that I think you need to be investing in 2024. That has not changed in our business. It is a trust business. You are an advisor to people who are making a huge financial decision, and that’s really where it all begins.

Haas: Do you see more of a need for people to be putting themselves out there on social media? Or are some of those more tried and true methods still working?

I hear from a lot of people that say, “I just get out in my community. I’m with my kids. I’m at the soccer games, I’m helping with the church.” That’s how they drum up a lot of business and it seems to be worth their while to be investing in their community.

O’Daniel: So people have been talking about social media and video for years now. If you still haven’t heard that message, I don’t know how much louder we can say it. You need to invest there.

Everyone’s level of investment will be different. There’s folks who are incredibly comfortable creating their own TikTok videos, and they’re all over Instagram, and they do a terrific job with that. And then there’s other folks who are still learning or getting comfortable with it, or they found another space. Maybe they have a great email newsletter and they post snippets from that on their social media.

Whatever suits you, whatever you’re comfortable with, as a loan officer, you’ve got to put yourself out there on social media because it scales. I mean, you can only speak to so many people in a day, but a LinkedIn post can be seen by thousands of people in just a few minutes. And so it just helps you scale in your community.

That said, the community events, the volunteering, the getting to know your real estate agents, dropping by open houses, doing first-time home buyers seminars, and pitching in at a church or a community center event absolutely is worth your time. We see that back to the basics approach is paying off for our loan officers every single day. And so I think it has to be some of all of the above. You can’t just do one thing because it is a tight market.

There’s not a lot of homes for sale. The number of buyers in the marketplace is much lower than it was two and a half years ago when everybody was buying or refinancing a home. And so now it’s mostly driven by life events. The home they’re in is too big or too small, it costs too much, or they got a raise and now they can afford the dream home. They are relocating because of a job or moving across the country. Maybe they’ve had children or children have moved out. And so it’s life events now that are driving those decisions.

You have got to get connected to people wherever you can. You can’t just pick one method and expect to have the same results.

That’s what we’re doing here at Guild, trying to equip our loan officers to really be in all of those places. We do a great job with tools and technology to help them follow up with people that they’ve met in one-to-one situations. We are automating social media processes for them to make social media easier. We’ve got coaches to help them with their personal brand and how to connect with people over video and social media. It’s just a lot of learning about how to be in all of those places.

Haas: What are some of these coaches advising people?

O’Daniel: At Guild our coaching program is called Elevate.

Our Elevate coaching program is more than just marketing and branding. It’s the entire sales process and how to be a sales professional at a really high level. I was on the call with our Elevate folks a couple of weeks ago, and the tactic that we were talking about was video. We were talking about video both in a one-to-one format and at scale.

I think a lot of people think about video in terms of social media or YouTube. And that’s incredibly important. But a lot of people aren’t there yet.

So what I encourage is to learn to use video in your one-to-one interactions. We’ve been coaching our loan officers that maybe last year I would’ve just sent a text message to somebody. Well, this year I can shoot a personal video message and send that to them. And it does a couple of things.

Number one, it builds a deeper emotional connection with your client. We talked about how trust is important. And when they see your face and they know that you care about them, they see your facial expressions on a video message that is one-to-one, it just deepens the emotional connection and deepens the trust that you have with that client.

It also helps you get more comfortable with video. You start to learn to use it more effectively and not be afraid of the camera.

That’s one of the coaching tactics that we started off the year with, is just small ways to incorporate video into your daily process, in order to be more successful long term.

We also give people access to a software called BombBomb. A loan officer can use that technology to record a welcome message to new clients. And then every time they get a new client, they can drop that video into the email.

If there’s a confusing part of the loan process, they can share their screen, explain how the process works while showing it on the screen, record that, and then send that to the client. And it’s just a secure, scalable way for people to incorporate video into their marketing.

Haas: You mentioned trust and you also mentioned the word emotion. And we both know that the home buying process and the home selling process, but especially the home buying process, is a highly emotional thing that happens.

It’s something that you can’t really describe until you’re going through it, but these loan officers are dealing with people who are going through that every day.

How are you helping your loan officers not just enhance themselves in that branding and marketing space, but how are you teaching them to develop that trust with people, or evoking those emotions with people in order to secure the deal?

O’Daniel: The first thing I would say is the people that we have at Guild are already pretty highly skilled in that area. We have an incredibly well-trained origination staff that innately does a great job at understanding people’s emotions and building trust. And so they just naturally are gifted in that way. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all continue to improve and learn new skills.

I think the thing that we are focused on this year is being really good at understanding our clients’ stories and doing a good job of telling stories of how we’ve helped other clients. That means being a really good listener, really understanding not just what the client wants from you in terms of a business transaction, but what story are they trying to write with their life?

How is this home going to fit into the story of their family? And have you asked enough questions to understand that so that then you can guide them to that outcome?

We can turn around and share those stories with the next client.

That’s really what we’re focused on when it comes to the emotional connection, is helping people understand their client story and do a really good job of sharing those successes with others.

Haas: Let’s talk about Guild overall as a company. The presence in new markets. How do you approach it from that a hundred thousand-foot level when you look at the nation and you’re thinking about strategies for getting in front of people throughout the country?

O’Daniel: So the first thing I think about is how do we make Guild nationally the most sought after, most desired brand for that local loan officer to build their business on?

If we can provide the best platform in the industry for a gifted, trusted mortgage loan officer who is an advisor in their community, if we can give them the best brand possible to build their business on, that’s the first thing that I’m thinking about. Because we believe wholeheartedly in that distributed retail model of loan officers in their communities, serving people locally. And so we have to give them excellent digital tools, excellent coaching, and excellent marketing support in order to build that business.

Beyond that, it’s our strategy to build customers for life. We want our borrowers to purchase their first home with Guild as their mortgage lender, and then their second home, and a refinance.

One of the ways we’re improving that experience this year is with a new web portal and mobile app. You can use that account for the duration of your time as our client. That can be through the loan origination process. It can be where you make your payments. You can apply for another loan if you want to move again or refinance. We’re in the pilot phase now, but we’re gonna be rolling that out through the course of 2024, and we’re pretty excited about it.

Haas: Alright. So that’s a major digital tool. You also mentioned digital tools and needing them for loan officers. When you’re talking to people who are customers and then who are loan officers, what are some of the things that people are demanding? What are some of those tools that people are looking for?

O’Daniel: What we have found is what people are looking for is an omnichannel experience. And what I mean by that is that they want you to be able to meet with them wherever they want to meet.

We are seeing that they want to be able to interact with us on every platform. They want to be able to look at a video on a social media app to get to know us and learn a little bit about the services that we provide.

They want to research us more in-depth on a website. They might want to be able to apply and interact on their mobile phone, communicate with a loan officer over text message, but then also be able to pick up the phone and call and meet for a cup of coffee.

They expect an omnichannel experience where at any point I can conduct this business in the digital world, or at any point I can take the exit ramp and go back to an analog experience. So that’s what we’re trying to create.

Haas: That sounds exhausting. What are some of the challenges that come with that?

O’Daniel: It is a tall order but technology continues to evolve. Technology continues to innovate new ways to do that.

Guild has made long-term investments in technology for decades now. We were investing in a proprietary loan origination system and a proprietary CRM platform years ago when others weren’t. Now we have a pretty mature offering in those areas.

I think the way you keep up with it is that you continue to make long-term investments in technology. If you’re always trying to play catch up, you’re right. It will be exhausting.

The next front is with artificial intelligence. This year Guild hired an executive to come in and help us begin to build a strategy around artificial intelligence and how we can use that in our marketing and sales processes to help our loan officers do more business without taking away their primary value, which never goes away, which is a real person in your community who can be a trusted advisor.

Haas:  What are some of your goals in 2024? I know that’s a big ask, but what are some of your personal goals coming into Guild, coming into this new position? What would you like to accomplish?

O’Daniel: Being new to Guild and new in this role, the biggest goal is to build a healthy culture within our organization. Marketing gets to tell the company’s story. It’s really important for me that I understand the needs of our loan officers and I build a good relationship there and help our whole department understand their needs and build a good relationship and a good rapport with them, and start to deliver on things that will help them do more business.

Guild’s a great company. We have a ton of great people here. I feel very honored to be part of it, and it’s been a terrific opportunity to get to meet all the talented people here.

Read More Articles:

Are You Ready To Fall In Love With A Home?

FNB Pennsylvania To Pay $13.5M In Redlining Settlement

One-On-One: BaseCap Analytics CEO Talks About Overcoming Data Challenges

Listen To Our Podcast:

Sign up for our free newsletter.