Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mini Interview with Dan Itkis, CEO and Co-Founder of BnTouchMortgage.com

BnTouchMortgage.com continues to expand their Mortgage CRM offering with timely updates and a new value added attempt to help generate leads

Dan Itkis from BnTouch took about 10 minutes with me to discuss some of the product enhancements (
the new toolbar) that have been added recently and when we can expect the next major release of their product.


this is an audio post - click to play


this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, January 30, 2006

Keep Your Data Backups Safe, Simple, and Fast

This one is from the "normally out of sight out of mind" part of my papers of subjects that can really bitechaaaaa.

There is a good reason that auto insurance is mandatory. The results of a collision can be catastrophic to you, your family as well as any other entities involved in an accident. The same holds true for your computer, especially in the Mortgage Industry. Information is our life blood and if that get's cut off, well, it's just painful to think about. Here are some
crushing statistics taken from datadepositbox.com.

If there is one thing that you MUST do to decrease liability for yourself, your clients, your employer, your family, your partners; make sure you have a backup strategy in place and you use it.

PCWorld.com - Backup Tips: Keep Your Data Backups Safe,Simple, and Fast
"Winning Backup Strategies" The first backup you make is arguably the most
important because it serves as the baseline for all subsequent backups. (Be sure
to see our collection of info on, and links to, backup utilities.) Run your
backup software, and select the partitions (for an image backup) or files and
folders (for a file-level backup) that you want to safeguard. Don't overlook
items such as your e-mail, address book, and calendar. If you aren't sure where
these items--and other program data--are stored on your system, open the
relevant application and look for file-storage settings among its options.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One password gets you in, everywhere

How many websites and how many passwords... JUST ONE, GETS YOU IN!

This solution I found belongs to the "incredibly brilliant and useful" archives. We all have the same issue. User Name and Password maintenance has gotten out of control. You know how it is...

"Please create a password, 6-8 characters long, using only numbers and letters."

Next website... "your username is the same as your email address."

Next website... "your password must be at least 8 characters long and contain one non-alpha/numeric character."

I counted, and I have no less than 25 user name/password configurations I use regularly. I keep them in a password program. However, I have to launch it and look-up the site, then go back to my browser to finish my login. This takes about 30 seconds times 20 per day... that's 10 minutes/day or one hour per week. For a 2.75 minute investment in watching Jon Udell's screencast, I solved most of the problem.

Jon Udell: Simple single sign-on

Simple single sign-on
Today's 2.75-minute screencast features Nic Wolff's ingenious solution to the vexing problem of single sign-on to websites. I've mentioned it before, but I suspect few outside the geek community read those postings or 'got it' if they did. We'll see if this narrated visual demonstration can manage to cross over.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NAR Survey presents massive opportunity for savvy LO's

Look past the numbers to understand where business comes from and what clients are doing and how that is impacting Realtors. Hidden in the data is MASSIVE opportunity..

There are some nuggets of info in this survey. I'll isolate certain items in different posts as I don't have the time to do it all at one time. However I'd encourage every LO to read the survey to better understand their Realtor's and Client's market behavior, and glean info that might help them focus their efforts where it will matter the most. One caveat... I've not seen the raw survey data. NAR is a savvy group and HOW they asked questions could potentially skew things as more optimistic than real life. One way to discern where a portrayal might be skewed is looking at where the summary offers retrospect and where it doesn't. For example,

If there were any doubt about how prevalent the use of the internet has become...

Nine out of 10 home buyers use a real estate agent in
the search process, but use of the Internet to search for a home has risen
dramatically over time, increasing from only 2 percent of buyers in 1995 to 77
percent in 2005; it was 74 percent in 2004. The next largest source of
information for buyers is a yard sign, mentioned by 71 percent of buyers.

Now, think about the following as further context...

When asked where they first learned about the home purchased, 24 percent of
buyers identified the Internet, up strongly from 15 percent in 2004 and only 2
percent in 1997. Although most buyers use an agent to complete the transaction,
36 first learn about the home they buy from a real estate agent and 15 percent
from yard signs; five other categories were 7 percent or less.
The change here is that the internet is edging its way into being a substantial gate keeper. I believe that Geographically specific (ie-a particular part of town) Blogs by Realtors and associated will become an important part of the landscape as long as they are worthy of attention. More on that in another post.

The most startling statistic is that Buyers only use the same agent in 11% of the cases (down from 13% in 2004). Alone, that is startling. When put in the context of "85 percent of buyers saying they were likely to use the (buyer) agent again," I am astounded. It's probably a combination of matriculation in the industry and poor marketing to past clients.

This is an amazing opportunity both for the LO and the Realtor. If you are good at client retention, then you are in a perfect position to market this expertise to Realtors. If you need to "break the ice" with agents, ask them about how true they find this survey to be in their office and their business. Ask them why they think so. Finally, Realtors who leave the business have adoptable business. If you are good at adopting "Orphaned Clients" market this expertise to your Realtor contacts. I'd appreciate hearing other ideas that my fellow LO's might have.

Finally, for this post, contrast this year's survey to last year's survey.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Gmail can be accessed from your cell phone

Ok, so I'm a little late to the party on this one...

Back in December Google Announced the addition of mobile access to it's Gmail service. I have a very basic Samsung phone that I can actually read my email from. I've been a late adopter in recent years when it comes to cell phones. I got burned on the first Treo as it broke 2 weeks after the warranty expired. Now, is access email from a web browser on a cell phone efficient? No. But it works in a pinch when you need to see if that important email has arrived, or if you are caught in traffic after a weekend. If you point your phones web browser to http://m.gmail.com you'll prompted for username and password. Everything is optimized for the model of phone you have. By far and away the coolest feature is the ability to call back the person via your cell phone as long as the account is in your Gmail Contacts list. Gmail doesn't have a Synch feature yet, so you'll have to import your contacts from a CSV (Comma Separated Value) file. Read more about the features here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jim Enright of Lenders Insight

this is an audio post - click to play

Mortgage Blog - Industry insights from lenderama

Several people have asked me which blogs I visit regularly. Lenderama is one of the best blogs for LOs to visit on a regular basis for great tips and industry information. Todd Carpenter is very knowledgeable and keeps a constant flow of timely and relevant information going week to week. Here's a little snipit from one of his posts:

Mortgage Blog - Industry insights from lenderama: "Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Overcoming Objections and Attitudes
This is part of my series on selling to Real Estate Agents. I'll assume you've already viewed my posts on Setting Appointments, Benefit Fulfillment Sales Techniques, Profiling Real Estate Agents, and The Decision Pendulum. All are available in my Training Center. We are almost ready to close the deal, but now we need to overcome any final attitudes and objections."

Webhosting Company Myers Puchased by MGIC

Mortgage Technology: "MGIC Acquires Myers Internet
Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp., Milwaukee, has announced the acquisition of Myers Internet Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of Web-based point-of-sale systems for mortgage originators and real estate agents.
Click here for more."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A few tricks to help your be more productive

PC World has some of the best tips and tricks

If you are like me, there are "little anoyances" that bother you. Somehow in the back of your mind you know there should be a fix for you issue, but you can't seem to make it happen. Scott Spanbauer at PCWorld wrote a great article back in September that can be quickly scanned for some potential solutions. Here's an excerpt that is my favorite:

Get Instant Desktop Access

The annoyance: I keep important stuff that I use frequently--including program icons, downloaded files, and the Recycle Bin--on the Windows desktop. But as soon as I launch a program, the desktop icons on the Quick Launch menu disappear because other elements crowd them out of the visible part of the menu, or because the Quick Launch menu itself isn't visible.

The fix: No worries: You can add an icon to your taskbar that will show the desktop in one easy click. First, enable the Quick Launch toolbar, right-click an empty spot on the taskbar, and select Toolbars, Quick Launch. The Quick Launch toolbar should display the Show Desktop button by default. If the Show Desktop button in Quick Launch doesn't appear, it may have been pushed off onto the menu's pop-up overflow (indicated by the double-arrow icon) to the right. To keep it handy, drag and drop it onto the visible part of the menu. You can also get instant access to desktop icons without minimizing windows, by adding the Desktop toolbar to the taskbar. Right-click a vacant area of the taskbar and choose Toolbars, Desktop.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

According a Poll Sponsored by BnTouchMortgage.com

Though the sample size is small, the result shows an upbeat attitude

Today BnTouch Mortgage released the summary of a survey focused on the perceptions, attitudes and plans from the originator's perspective. Results of the almost 70 respondents were made available to the media and yours truly took a look at the results. There aren't any demographics attached to the survey so it is impossible to determine if these were brokers, bankers, independent, net branches, etc.

I was surprised by the optimism of most originators who participated in the survey. It's also funny how most LO's still use Outlook for their CRM (42%), followed by ACT! (23%). If BnTouch can capitalize on producing results with their product and marketing those results, it is obvious that the online CRM market is wide open in the mortgage arena.

90% of originators surveyed felt that their website was either not effective at all or mildly effective. None of those surveyed felt their website was highly effective. My guess is that most people purchase a canned website and park it like a car on the edge of the shopping center thinking someone will stroll on by, see it, and inquire. My internal marketing guru here at GMAC said this was very typical.

The best news for BnTouch is that almost 30% of respondents intended to purchase CRM technology in 2006. As I've said in my blog before, I think this will be a hot year for CRM in the mortgage industry.

Many thanks to Andy Saylor at BnTouch for making the survey results available.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

TECHNOLOGY AND ADD Another great article addressing this topic

If you stuggle with keeping focused this is a great article to read

I discovered David Allen about 4-5 years ago in this Fast Company article over 5 years ago. His blog is worth reviewing on a regular basis.

Today I found a link about filtering information in the era of Technology. I believe there is a link between ADD and our access a need to filter information rapidly. I'm no doctor, but I've seen with my children how TV, Music, Computers and other media create distraction and hyperfocus. Food for thought.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Yours truly is among the faculty

I'm honored to be among these other faculty members

In it's pursuit if helping the Loan Officer excel in every area, LoanToolbox today launched a technology section to their service. Yours truly is one of four current faculty members, including, Dave Savage of the Mortgage Coach and SmartReply, Stephen Breden...A Calyx Trainer and Calyx Point Power User, Writer for MOM and all things Mortgage/Technical whiz, and Rocky Hardie who is one of the most visible LoanToolbox contributors on a regular basis and has a technical chops that make him way smarter than moi.

Am I quitting my day job... ain't no pay, so ain't no way. I honestly just needed another reason to stay up late at night surfing the Internet. Sincerely, this is a great opportunity to combine two of my passions to the benefit of my fellow loan officer. My enjoyment for writing and all things practical yet fun make this a great outlet. I'm still working on LTB to let me put a tip jar on their site ;-)

If you don't belong to LoanToolbox, it is probably the single best investment of marketing and education dollars available in the industry. If you mention my blog, they'll probably cut you a little bit of a deal.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

VoIP MAY BE THE BEST SOLUTION One writer suggests that now is the time

VoIP is something every business might want to consider for cost savings and increased capabilities

I'm a big fan of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) because it is a technology that provides the right service at the right price. Lingo is my home phone provider, giving us unlimited calling to the US AND Western Europe for all of $22.00 per month. Sure, there are some intermitent problems with service, but these problems are fewer and further between than my $120/mos cell phone service. Matthew Friedman from InfoWeek suggests some reasons why your business might want to consider moving to this technology. Here's an excerpt.

Technology has improved. A few years ago latency and voice quality were significant problems with VoIP. Though occasional calls can still be lost and there can be sporadic quality issues, those problems probably happen less using VoIP than cellular communications. If a firm tried VoIP a few years ago and dropped it due to the technology issues at the time, they will find those issues largely solved today. And improvements are continuing.

Packet8 has a great plan for businesses that allow you to control a virtual PBX. At $39/mos per extension (3 extension minimum) it's very affordable. Just make sure you read the fine print on the setup fees as they add up quick.

Monday, January 09, 2006

MISHMOSH Sierra CRM 2.0 Preview, Anuddah Web Conf. SW, Send Cards Online w/Giftcard

I'm thinking I need to go to single posts for each topic... any feedback?

Bill Convis, CTO over at Sierra CRM gave me a sneak preview of Sierra CRM 2.0. Wow... the process manager and the campaign manager are both very flexible tools and will put Sierra at the forefront of capabilities in Mortgage CRM Automation.

For the demo, Bill used ASAP, another Web Conferencing software worth a look. What I especially liked about this one was that all I had to do was click a link... no configuration, no signing in, nothing. This to me is appealing as I want users to have a "no-brainer" approach to meeting with me.

Finally, here is a great option for sending Gift Cards with a nice Greeting Card at the same time. Ultimately, if you send out over 100 cards a year, your cost is $1.50/card, addressed, stamped and mailed. Cost of gift card is extra.

Friday, January 06, 2006

FRIDAY'S FREE-FOR-ALL Another CRM, Unexpected Techie, and other rampblings

I've been down with the "Crud" this week and so I'm just throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see if it'll make any noise

Did you see the Rose Bowl like 28 other million people? Not relevant to my blog, but a great game, nonetheless.

Here's yet another CRM vendor for the mortgage industry. I think 2006 is going to be a heated year for CRM in our industry with a certain number of smaller players struggling. I have no clue who these guys are, but I like their mission statement. The site is light on content and specifics. One of the things I like about BnTouch Mortgage's site is that it has great content and allows you to understand the meat of the product. MortgagePro CRM has a new site that is more like a real product website instead of a "Dan Kennedy" marketing 101... (nothing against Dan... just that his style isn't appropriate for complex software). The problem is that the site doesn't quite know which product it is. Click through the site and notice how the logo changes...

Who would think that the CEO of the largest religious publisher in the US would be a techie? Well, I think Michael Hyatt's Blog is unbelievable. He has great Outlook Tips (including VB Scripts) writes a lot about Getting Things Done (For you David Allen Followers), and even answered my email to him. I've linked his site permanantly.

Another blog I really like is Todd Carpenter's. His blog, like mine focuses on the inside of the industry. He was kind enough to feature a post about me.

Finally, I had the priveledge of getting a demo of Lender's Insight yesterday by founder Jim Enright. Jim's a great guy and they have a solid product, If you are a Mortgage Market Guide member, or a Loan Toolbox Member you can get some smoking pricing.

Speaking of MMG... check out the speedometer that lets us all know how fast Barry is traveling down the freeway (just kidding). It's a nice visual enhancement to the product which is already one of the best in the industry tools around.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

MAKING A SMALL CHANGE FOR A BIG DIFFERENCE How I'm using virtual meetings and Mortgage Coach to increase my closings

It's great to start the new year with a new attitude and a new tech toy tool

I continue to love Mortgage Coach for uniquely positioning me with my clients. Besides being a great sales and marketing tool MC also ensures I'm doing what's right for the client. Yet for many of my clients the information presented is too "thick" to sort through. Describing the Total Cost Analysis over the phone is awkward at best. In person it is very effective. However, booking office appointments can slow down the process and in today's world creates logistical complexity. So I've begun to use web meeting software to bridge the gap. At my previous company our network would not support the use of meeting software, so I've had a 9 months dry spell and it's good to be back using this technology again.

On Monday of this week, I booked 3 Mortgage Coach Analysis presentations (yes, I worked on a holiday)... all of them virtual. All three of them resulted in loan applications. The most gratifying comment came from a lady who owns a local business. "I've been trying to sort through my options over the past few weeks and I've been upset because all these loan people do is fax me these quotes which I can't understand in the first place. You took the time to educate me and advise me on my options and made a significant difference for me. I appreciate working with you." That was the nicest compliment I've had in a long time.

From the usage perspective, I used GoToMeeting (I'm in the middle of my 30 day trial) and every one of my prospects were able to sign on with out any challenge. I'm still getting used to using the tools, but the basic setup is fairly intuitive. Over the next few months, I am going to sample the various options available and share with my readers the results.

Regardless of the vendor, this format is a big win and a great way to differentiate yourself in the market place and make every aspect of the loan process more convenient for you and your client. My next step is to start using this tool to review HUD-1 statements with the client.