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Lenders, Liars and Losers – Observations of a Humorist

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I don’t know about you, but I am on the verge of a breakdown. Why? Because I am so frustrated with the lending institutions that I have developed a drool, a twitch, and a wicked rash. I truly think the lending institutions are hindering our economic recovery. The bailout money is not translating into increased sales as far as I can see. What I do see is a lot of bank execs with spray on tans, new hair weaves, and fake-tooth smiles that gleam like tombstones in the California sun. Due to the drop in home values, refinancing odds are worse than the odds that Ms. Lohan will drop off the radar, keep her clothes on,  and join a nunnery. And modifications are as challenging as navigating the L.A. freeways on a skateboard while wearing a blindfold. 

I have observed that there is double speak in all bank dealings. Thus, I think it would be helpful to have a translation guide to understand the dubious promises being made daily by these Not-Lending institutions. Does anyone remember Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live (“I slept with Morgan Fairchild)?  Well, Jon, I’d believe your imaginative claim before I’d believe some of the following promises (all of which I have actually heard):

For Those Just Off the Turnip Truck 

  1. “Qualified buyers can still get a loan.” (Translation: “Don’t forget to rip out your kidney and staple it to your application.”)
  2. “After you submit your loan mod package, we will reply in 30 days.” (Translation: “We will mutter, ‘Hell, No, Dude’ to a donut somewhere on the opposite coast, and then we will use your file as a foot stool. You have about as much chance of hearing from us as from Amelia Earhart.”)
  3. “We have your client’s application in our files.” (Translation: “We threw your paperwork into Modification Missy’s trunk. She’s on her way to Vegas, but she’ll get to it soon. Oh wait, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’…and so will Missy. She’s not coming back…and neither is your file. Next!”)
  4. “We require a complete modification or short sale package.” (Translation: “We require three packages –  one for the shredder, another one to be left on a desk so someone can steal your pathetic identity, and one to be erroneously sent to the Foreclosure Department.”)
  5. “We are the fastest in turnaround when your buyers need a loan.” (Translation:  “Underwriter Earl (Missy’s cubicle mate) will slip into his sparkling red pumps, click them together, turn around three times, and squeal, ‘There’s no place like home…and your client sure as hell ain’t gettin’ one, honey!”)
  6. “We sympathize with your client’s situation.” (Translation: “HaHaHaHaHa. Tell him to grow a set.”)
  7. “Your client’s file is in the hands of experts who have experience in navigating rough waters.” (Translation: “Our trained negotiators were formally pirates in the Carribbean, and your client’s ship is about to be seized.”)
  8. “This short sale will close about thirty days after approval.” (Translation: “This short sale will close about thirty days after Peter Minuit returns Manhattan Island to the Indians.”)

What Happens in Banking Stays in Banking

  1. “All we need is one more document to complete the file.” (Translation:  “All we need is your remaining kidney. We lost the first one. It was last seen in Missy’s trunk.”)
  2. “We are here to help those who are struggling to pay their mortgages.” (Translation: “Files of those who have stopped paying will be expedited because our values are backasswards. Thus, we encourage all applicants to blow their credit ratings. It’s trendy! By the way, didya notice my sparkling new chompers?”)
  3. “Your client has a chance to get his loan modified, but he cannot miss one trial payment.” (Translation: “Although he cannot pay, we will string him along for as much time as we can in order to get his savings and retirement money before seizing his home and kicking grandma to the curb. Incidentally, does Granny still have her kidneys?”)
  4. “Trial Payments are for a maximum of three months.” (Translation: “Then we call them “String” payments, because we string you along until you are ready to string yourself from a tree limb. In the meantime, we will be doing the limbo to see how low we can go.”)
  5. “The computer has given us a loan approval based on the appraisal.” (Translation: “Of course, Appraisal Reviewer Rita may lower the value of the appraisal even if it comes it at value, because she must account for dismal market conditions – for which we were largely responsible and continue to be largely responsible – and because Rita must cover her arse to keep her job because she just purchased your unemployed, disabled neighbor’s foreclosed home while the neighbor’s sobbing children clung to her fat ankles.”)
  6.  “In order to complete this short sale, your client needs to contribute cash.” (Translation: “Although the guy is losing his 20% down payment, has lost his job and has no money at all, why can’t he rip the braces off his kids’ teeth and sell them for scrap metal? C’mon – work with us here!”)
  7. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” (Translation: “You’ll never find me again. If you call back, you’ll just get someone else who has been working here for five minutes. You will have to start all over again. You will have to tell your story to fifty more screeners and submit three more short sale packages. You will develop another tick before this is all over…and maybe even Tourette syndrome. Now excuse me, I’m on my way to Vegas with Missy, Earl and Rita…and one of your kidneys.”)

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn, LAhomesite.com, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Agent for Movoto

    January 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve got to hand it to you, Gwen. this is about the funniest thing i’ve ever read about one of the least funniest things happening right now. well done.

  2. BawldGuy

    January 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    You’re far too polite, Gwen.

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    January 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Wow Gwen… Bank of America is gonna be pissed that your posted their internal memos’ on Agent Genius!

  4. Gwen Banta

    January 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks, y’all. And Matthew, B of A is going to be even more pissed when they see me pull up out front driving a flatbed loaded with cartons of rotten eggs. Is anybody with me here???

  5. Joe Loomer

    January 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

    What Mathew said 😉

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Katie Ruffino

    February 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I am reading this in our sales meeting in the morning….. Great stuff, thank u

  7. Gwen Banta

    February 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This great comment from Paul Donoghue was sent to my personal email, and I thought it was well worth posting:

    “Gwen, loved your post and your sense of humor. As a banker with 30+ years in the business, I’m embarrassed at the state of our residential lending industry.

    Speaking from the perspective of new originations, the regulations put forth from Washington are insane, and too few lenders are capable of providing applicants a complete list of needed documentation at the time of application … Most applicants will reluctantly give you their left kidney, but hate being asked for a lung, bladder, and liver three days before closing! ;D

    My recommendation is find an experienced lender, who knows the importance of VOC (Voice of the Customer) with a back office that is the antithesis of bureaucracy, likely a community banker or seasoned boutique mortgage banker/broker.

    As for short sales and modifications … what a mess. Small banks work, but the large banks and servicers are nothing but factories, and often without the financial incentive (they usually do not own the underlying loan). My recommendation would be to get to the executives that run these divisions and build a relationship … and you seem like the kind of person that’s capable of doing so. For those institutions that prove to be stubborn, I’d connect with a litigious advocate, who has the expertise and cares about his/her clients.

    I’d enjoy hearing what, if anything, you’ve found that works.”

    Paul lives in Cape Cod where he is in charge of business development, and is a mortgage specialist for North Easton Savings Bank.

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Business Marketing

The secret to crafting consistently high-converting emails?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject LinesThink about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?

    If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.

    The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.

  2. Nail the IntroNever take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.

    It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!

  3. Use VideoEmail might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.

    According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”

    This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.

  4. Keep Eyes MovingThe goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.

    One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.

    One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.

  5. Don’t Ask Too MuchIt can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.

    Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

What entreprenuers can learn about branding from trendy startups

(BUSINESS MARKETING) What’s the secret of focused startup branding, and how can you apply it to large enterprises?

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A set of wine from Craft Hugo, showing off pleasing branding in labels.

Think of your favorite brand. Is it the product they offer or the branding that you love? Exactly – brand ethos reigns supreme, especially with those trendy, aesthetically-pleasing startups (I never thought Glossier had good makeup, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t visit their website once or twice a month).

So let’s break it down.

Co-founder of Red Antler – a company that assists startups in creating successful branding – Emily Heyward believes in a few branding truths.

Firstly, you have to make sure not to market your brand as a single product or experience. Doing so, she says, will pigeonhole you and thus truncate your ability to expand and offer new products and services (she gives MailChimp, known almost exclusively for email marketing, as an example).

What Heyward does say to do is instead market an idea. For example, the brand Casper (one of Antler’s clients) markets itself as a sleep company instead of a mattress company. By doing this, they kept the door open to eventually offer other products, like pillows and bedding.

Heyward states that this “power of focus” is a way to survive – with countless other startups offering the same product or service, you have to position your company as offering something beyond the product. Provide a problem your customer didn’t know they had and offer an innovative solution through your product.

Ever used Slack, the app-based messenger? There were other messengers out there, so focus of Slack’s branding is that regular messaging is boring and that their app makes it more fun. And customers eat it up.

How can this logic apply to mid-to-large enterprises? How can you focus on one specific thing?

Again, placing emphasis on brand over products is essential – what is it about what you offer that makes your customers’ lives better? It’s more cerebral than material. You’re selling a better life.

Another thing to remember is that customers are intrigued by the idea of new experiences, even if the product or service being offered is itself not new. Try not to use dated language that’s colored by a customers’ preexisting feelings. Instead, find an exciting alternative – chat solutions are desperately trying move away from the word “chat”, which can bring to mind an annoying, tedious process, even though that is in fact what they offer.

Broadening the idea of focused brand ethos to a large company can be difficult. By following these tips and tricks from startups, your company can develop a successful brand ethos that extends beyond your best product or service.

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.

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Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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