Marketing Tips For Real Estate Mastery

Ent FCU shares how it nails down the right communicative approaches for its members, its partners, and the larger marketplace.

With a footprint that includes four of the 10 most populous counties in Colorado, Ent Federal Credit Union ($4.2B, Colorado Springs, CO) is the largest financial cooperative in the Centennial State.

As of second quarter 2015, Ent’s 23.56% 12-month loan growth outpaced state- and asset-based peers, which posted 20.52% and 12.30%, respectively.

Jon Paukovich, Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer, Ent Federal Credit Union
Brian Rowedder, Director Of Marketing, Ent Federal Credit Union
Victoria Selfridge, Vice President Of Corporate Communications, Ent Federal Credit Union

The credit union’s real estate portfolio comprised 65.28% of its total loan business as of midyear. What’s more, nearly 7.5% of its members have a mortgage with Ent compared to 5.41% and 4.90%, respectively, for its state- and asset-based peers.

Here, Jon Paukovich, the credit union’s senior vice president and chief lending officer, Brian Rowedder, director of marketing, and Victoria Selfridge, vice president of corporate communications, discuss how Ent drives awareness among all parties in the home-buying process as well as how it plans to further develop this outreach.

What messages or themes is Ent focusing on in its real estate marketing?

Jon Paukovich: First and foremost, we want to let people know we are a full-service lender that offers a wide menu of products. That product availability is a main reason why realtors and members want to work with us. We also try to leverage our local presence by focusing on our local underwriting, decisioning, and servicing. We do service our first mortgages, so we make sure to mention that.

Brian Rowedder: We’ve been adjusting our reach over the years. Not just the message itself, but also the traditional marketing package: How much are we in print, television, and radio with a specific product or service? .

Who does Ent target, and how are you reaching these groups?

Victoria Selfridge: I’d break our target audiences into two groups: our realtor audience and our member audience.

JP: We try to be involved in our local realtors association, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. We do a quarterly mailing that is basically a letter from me on a hot topic in the industry. For example, the new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure requirement is coming in October, so my most recent letter discussed what the impact of that will be. I also contribute articles to the Colorado Springs Real Estate Journal.

Want To Learn More? Jon Paukovich talks about driving awareness to the home buying process in the Callahan Associates webinar Strategies To Make The Most Of Mortgages In 2016

We’ve become involved with a local homebuilders association as well the Housing Building Association of Colorado Springs and they sponsor the Colorado Springs Parade of Homes. We see a partnership with the homebuilders as a potential for fertile growth, though it takes some time because oftentimes they already have established relationships. We’re also active in advertising in the Parade of Homes.

VS: In addition, we offer free training for realtors. There have been so many changes the past couple of years, our training is designed to educate the realtors so they can better inform their clients. It’s been helpful in terms of making Ent an unbiased resource.

How about on the member side?


Ent Federal Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.15

  • ASSETS: $4.2B
  • MEMBERS: 255,117
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.61%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 23.56%
  • ROA: 1.13%

JP: Our mortgage ad currently running on television is focused on the home-buying process. It’s about a young family looking to get a bigger home.

VS: We’ve been focusing on purchase volume advertising. Because we’ve had such success there this year, we’ve also been adjusting our frequency of marketing based on seasonality and the pipeline we have in queue. A lot of people start shopping for homes in the spring and construction in the winter is a little spotty, so we try to focus on spring as our prime season.

How do you tweak your messaging between the two groups?

BR: On the member side, we focus on building awareness in the community. We’ve had mortgage products for a long time but there are still people who are unaware, so we need to become more top of mind. We don’t want it to be a surprise to home shoppers when their realtor mentions the name Ent.

JP: I think with members, we also want to emphasize who they are choosing to work with. We have experienced staff, there’s not a lot of turnover. We try to be flexible, fair, and transparent about what we do. Most people don’t buy a house that often, so they want someone who can be there, answer their questions accurately, and fully guide them through the process.

With realtors, they want to know that we are experienced, that we understand their timelines, and that we will always communicate effectively about what’s going on. We also focus our messaging on the fact we offer everything from government loans to the local housing finance agency-type product, which, in a first-time homebuyer situation, can be very attractive.

In the past two years, we’ve increased our exposure online with pay-per-click ads. We’ve done some Zillow ads in select markets, and we’ve also created some videos on YouTube.

What’s been most effective in terms of channel?

JP: Because we are involved with the military bases in our communities both in Colorado Springs and in Denver we try to work with the credit union’s military liaison to see who is transferring in to these locations and then we reach out to those individuals.

VS: We run home-buying seminars for the general community as well, but we’ve been so busy we pulled back on that a bit. We’ve also seen a decline in people attending the seminars, so we are in the process of revamping that program to be a little more online focused.

Our pipeline is pretty full right now, so we don’t need to drive a lot of new business. The amount of our traditional advertising TV, radio, and print has remained stable over the past few years. Where we’ve been trying to explore and expand our budget is in those electronic tactics.

In the past two years, we’ve increased our exposure online with pay-per-click (PPC) ads. We’ve done some Zillow ads in select markets, mostly our northern market where we don’t have much of a member or branch footprint, and we’ve also created some videos on YouTube.

Can you say more about your Zillow and pay-per-click efforts?

VS: We serve Denver County and the Firestone community north of Denver but don’t have the same branch density in those areas that we do in the Colorado Springs market, so mass media advertising there is less efficient. We use targeted zip code-based advertising on Zillow to reach these communities to develop and maintain mortgage-lending awareness.

We measure its effectiveness based on monthly banner ad click-through rates and compare them to other Zillow campaigns and general benchmarks for digital advertising effectiveness. We’re able to direct these ads to a microsite for the mortgage loan officers who serve the Denver/Firestone area, which allows them to track the website traffic and applications Zillow generated.

We also measure PPC effectiveness through monthly text and banner ad click-through-rates and shift our focus and concentration of funds based on business unit needs. In addition to a general branching PPC campaign for customers who are looking for a bank or credit union, we run simultaneous PPC campaigns each month to support specific products.

Where do you see the strongest ROI on these communication efforts?

VS: Our mission is to provide our members with unbiased financial advice. In the spirit of that, we’re not looking for strong return on investment from things like informational videos or seminars. As long as our members consume and find these materials useful, our organization is committed to keep doing them.

Our mortgage loan officers benefit when they win over a new realtor, so they might tell you the realtor efforts have had a clearer return on investment. When they establish those relationships, it typically does result in a few more loan applications in their pipeline.

How do you see your marketing strategies changing?

VS: One particularly exciting product Jon and his team are working on is a way to have electronic follow-up conversations with our membership. Keeping them up-to-date during the loan process and then following up electronically once the loan is closed. We used to do that through a series of physical mailers, which, while effective, were more costly. Now, we are trying to move to electronic options for speed of delivery and lower cost.

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