Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Leads2007 on behalf of Kaleidico, an Airfoil client operating in the mortgage lead space.  This gathering of lead aggregators, generators and providers was an “unconference.”   What’s that you ask? Well, it’s a traditional gathering of industry leaders and competitors in a given space who come together to learn and share and they set the agenda beforehand.  There are no product pitches or long PowerPoints, just honest opinions that are all on the record (and readily available for anyone to read since various folks were blogging at the event).

Just about everyone in the room was somehow involved in generating mortgage leads, and while I came in with an understanding of the process having worked at Quicken Loans, I learned a lot about the science behind everything from creation of a Web form to loan conversion and application ratios.

This is one complex business.  On the one hand you have the lead generators who work to provide mortgage bankers and brokers with good, actionable leads that come from online advertisements.  It’s not easy to generate good leads, and folks like TARGUSInfo help ensure that the data collected is verifiable (yes, there are lots of folks who fill out forms with fake information).  On the other hand, you have mortgage bankers and brokers who pay for these leads, but they want to ensure they only pay for valid leads.  There’s a lot of back and forth and whether a lead is “good” can be subjective and/or depend on the honesty of a particular mortgage banker or broker.

It’s not uncommon for bankers to call a lead only to find out that the phone number is incorrect, or worse yet, the person didn’t fill out a form to begin with. Likewise, lead providers often have leads returned with a refund requested but find out that all of the information they provided was valid.

Doublepositive talked about “hot transfer” leads.  This is where a company actually has someone on the phone before handing off the lead to a loan officer.  That’s a big deal because it saves loan officers a heck of a lot of time trying to run down a person via phone.

There was a lot to learn at Leads2007.  It’s likely we’ll see a new industry association develop with some recommendations to make sure that people who fill out forms for mortgages online receive a qualified person responding to their query while disreputable lead aggregators and lead generators are left in the dust.  It’s only going to increase in importance as the housing and mortgage industries face an unstable climate.

— Todd Krieger

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