by Michael A. Holden
In light of recent regulations prohibiting some forms of soliciting customers, you can still build your business by using these proven communication techniques.
20 Techniques to Build Your Business
Can businesses talk, fax, or e-mail customers anymore? Seems like a good question in today's business environment. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which limits certain kinds of commercial electronic messages might make businesses concerned. The National Do Not Call/Fax legislation enacted in 2003, which limits calls to persons or businesses on the list, is another concern. Finally, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, regulating privacy and nonpublic information, can also place limits on good business communication. However, title companies can find ways to effectively and publicly communicate with customers in positive, proactive ways that not only comply with the laws but also successfully build their businesses.
What the Acts Say
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 was established to regulate certain kinds of commercial electronic mail messages. The Act does not prohibit sending unsolicited e-mails but instead requires that the e-mail's subject clearly state it is an advertisement or solicitation. An option to "opt out" from future e-mails must also be present in the message. The act also states the message must have a valid reply address. Title company e-mail messages are vastly exempt because the act exempts: "e-mails…to facilitate, complete, or confirm a commercial transaction." The Do-Not-Call/Fax legislation passed recently does place significant restrictions on "solicitation" phone calls or faxes. Exemptions exist, like the ones for the CAN-SPAM ACT, which make title companies vastly able to call almost anyone. The exemptions are as follows:
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, sometimes called the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, which regulates privacy and non-public information, is also a big concern for title companies. In short the GLB Act requires financial institutions to publish privacy policies on the collection and sharing of non-public customer information and to comply with those policies. This act, and the privacy policies enacted by most title companies and underwriters, is an important key to your communication. The privacy policies your company has enacted or the privacy policies of your underwriter can limit you on what information you share in your communications. Read your policies or your underwriters' policies and follow them.
The Keys to Build Business
There are many proven communication techniques that can help you build your business. Each relies on this premise: "Positive, proactive communication with customers is the way to build business." Why do real estate agents want positive, proactive communication? Because they live on commissions. If your salary depended solely on whether or not a transaction closed that month, wouldn't you want to know everything that happened to that transaction the very moment it happened? When the title commitment was ready, when the buyer got loan approval, when the bank funded the escrow, when the closing was scheduled, etc. Each step is an opportunity to communicate with your client, and let them know you are getting their deal (the means to them getting a salary this month) done. Balance is also important. Not every market works well with constant communication. In some locations, two or three positive, proactive contacts with clients are quite sufficient to provide the comfort level they desire.
But this communication premise doesn't stop there. You can use it to build business every time you communicate with clients or potential clients. Here are some techniques used successfully by companies over the years:
1. Client review calls. Calling your customers and asking them if they want to receive commitments and HUD statements by e-mail, then getting their e-mail address and thanking them for their business. The following script is good for this call: "We are implementing a new service at our title company —we can now e-mail your title commitment and preliminary HUD statement to you when completed, so we would like to get your e-mail address if you would like to be part of this new service?" I haven' t called an agent yet that ever said no.
2. E-mail your commitments and HUD Statements. Once you have the agent's e-mail address, use it! E-mail updates on the transaction to keep them informed.
3. Cold calling. Call a current or prospective client on Monday morning between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and use a variation of this script: "Hi, this is (your name) from (your company). I know there was a lot of real estate activity this past weekend and wanted to check to see if you are working with anyone we can help you with? We have subdivision plat copies, subdivision restrictions, and a whole host of other data which might enable you to finalize a contract you are currently working on."
4. Duplication of agent contact to the non-referring agent. Duplicate every correspondence you have with your "referring agent" to your non-referring agent. If you send a copy of the commitment to the referring agent, send one to the non-referring agent. If you send an e-mail telling the referring agent the loan is approved, don't rely on that agent to pass that information on to the non-referring agent; send that info directly to them. It will make all the difference in the world. *
5. Phone "on-hold" message. Here are some ideas to include in your on-hold message (and everyone should have one!). Statements that promote your expertise: "Did you know our company handles more (new construction/farms and acreage/residential resale) transactions than any other title company in the area?" Statements that instill value: "We value our customer's time. Did you know we streamline the closing process with our technological advancements and expert level staff?" Statements that instill responsiveness: "We will be right back to answer your questions; thank-you for holding." Statements that instill quality: "Did you know our company is ranked in the top 2% in our region for accuracy?" "We are members of an elite group of title companies recognized for quality and excellence." Statements that instill customer service: "Did you know our Web site is available 24-hours a day to provide you with a source for title and closing information? Check it out today at www.titlecompany.com
6. Prepare an open-house packet for real estate agents. Let's say it's Friday at 2 p.m.. What can you do to market your business over the weekend? Look in the paper and find the open houses planned for that weekend. Then prepare a packet with some or all of the following information: subdivision plat/subdivision restrictions/loan amortization booklets/last year's tax bill/ the last 12 months' utilities statements/and a prospective loan-rate chart. Give that packet to the local agent holding the open house.
7. Visit an open house this weekend. You could go see that model home in a new subdivision that you really want to do the title work for. Talk to the real estate agent—they are stuck there for hours—they will usually welcome (unless working with a prospective buyer right then) the chance to talk to you.
8. E-mail or hand-deliver newsletters. These can contain simple information your clients need to know; introduce new products and services you offer; introduce new employees; provide local lending rates; etc.
9. How to get in the door. Imagine this. One title company drops off a pen and note pad for your good prospect at 9 a.m. Another title company visits with your good prospect at 10 a.m., and gives her two pens and two note pads. The next title company visits at 11 a.m. and the prospect sends them away; she doesn't have time for more pens and note pads. You come in to see her at noon—what response do you think you are going to get? Now imagine that you have a name of someone who wants to buy a home to give the real estate agent. Do you think the outcome will be different? A lead can be anything from a list of for-sale-by-owner names to names of new marriage licensees.
10. Farming/prospecting lists for Realtors. Create a list of potential clients for the Realtor® you are trying to work with. Any of the following are good sources to provide leads:
With all of the recent regulations against phone calls and faxes, title companies need to be creative to find ways to promote their businesses to real estate agents. Keeping the ideal of high quality, proactive communication in the minds of everyone in your company is the key step in making your company the most desired title company in your market.
Michael A. Holden is president of Guaranty Land Title Insurance, Inc., Columbia, MO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-568-1944. This article is an excerpt from his presentation at ALTA®'s 2004 Tech Forum in New Orleans. Items with a * are concepts and ideas provided by Darryl Turner Companies, Modesto, CA.