Noble efforts and the MAFA Syndrome – The Antithesis of Direct Marketing

Mortgage Marketing and it's noble effortsI have talked to literally hundreds of loan officers this year alone and one thing that seems common to all of them is this love-hate relationship. Well, maybe love-hate isn’t the best description; maybe necessary evil is a better description. Since email has become such a big part of our everyday business lives, we naturally believe that all other technologies are absolutely necessary to compete in today’s business environment. We could rehash the buggy-whip analogy from the movie, Other People’s Money, or a myriad of business talks over the years, but instead let’s cut right through the BS and get to the heart of the matter.

If there’s a new technology, there’s going to be people that have to sell it. Direct mail mortgage marketing was a new technology, but it still exists today, and there’s a reason for that. However, in the world of mortgage marketing, we’re going to look at one facet of technology bestowed upon us since the late 1990s. It’s amazing how many were sold on the idea that success, if not survival, were dependent on it.

We’re talking about “The Blog!” “The Blog!”, a shortened expression of the term weblog, is a wonderful resource and a great area of expression for many. A blog can be an excellent place to learn new things or see what others think on topics ranging from astrophysics to zoology, from marketing and recipes from incredible chefs around the world to how to care for an Anatolian Shepherd.  “The Blog!” has been awesome.

That’s why so many people came out of the woodworks to learn and subsequently “sell” the service of creating and implementing blogs ad nauseam and it’s also the main thrust of the MAFA Syndrome.

I’ve been examining blogs from Loan Officers around the country for a while now and, with all due respect, nausea is typically the response. It’s not because most don’t look nice or aren’t well crafted, but the overall sense of necessity coupled with the obvious case of abandonment, much less the clear sense that no one ever sees these blogs. It’s truly a noble effort, but hardly worth the time unless you really have a passion to do it, which is to say a passion to write. Most LO’s blog because they are either financially connected to the effort (in other words, they were sold one or paid to have one made) or they read somewhere that you can’t compete or survive without one. The problem is, their virtual audience just doesn’t exist. Countless blogs have been created and they start off with a couple articles written by well-meaning LO’s who are trying to “market” their businesses. And countless blogs now lay dormant; no activity, no updates for years and they just sit there. This is only one of many reasons why marketing has become so loathed by so many, especially in the real estate industry, and this makes loan officer marketing seem tough.

What is it about a blog, other than its most basic functions of being a log on the web, that makes it worth doing?

I would love to compare different blogs, for example, on tube electronics vs. the loan process, or the ins and outs of wood finish vs. the current state of the market, but that would take quite a long time. Suffice it to say that writing about the loan industry is only of interest to those who are actually IN the loan industry and, unless the goal is to share these thoughts with colleagues, using it as a marketing tactic is the worst possible use of time and resources and that’s when the MAFA Syndrome takes hold.

“So Keith, what the hell is the MAFA Syndrome?”

It’s a noble effort, but nobility with a lack of clarity as to how it’s supposed to work is a mockery of the very technology used to support it, and when you think it all the way through it’s a fraud. It’s the wrong tool for the wrong purpose.

When preparing for a session with an LO or Realtor I’ll examine their outward exposure and this will normally mean, among other things, going through their website. About 70% of those who have websites that aren’t completely canned, like ala mode sites, have a blog and 100% of those blogs are dead; untouched, unseen, without comments and abandoned. When I see this it reminds me of Milli Vanilli and how the lip-syncing incident embarrassed so many. I wasn’t a fan, but the industry had given them a Grammy and it was fraud. I would only consider a blog fraud if it was filled with articles just taken or plagiarized but, at the same time, it doesn’t really matter. No one is reading them anyway and that’s the problem. And those who do actually continue on are heavily seduced by the MAFA Syndrome.

Marketing seems useless and hopeless when attempted this way, and now anything that has the term marketing attached to it is doomed as a pre-judged failure. Unless, of course, it’s free. And this is where the MAFA Syndrome runs rampant.

Since I talk to so many LO’s and Realtors on such a regular basis, I have yet to find one who blogs or, for that matter, does any type of online marketing, like Twitter and Facebook or email, that can tell me how many actual files have come from that activity. They are addicted to the process of tweeting or posting on Facebook and none of them can quantify its positive impact on their business with the exception of “follows” and followers and, of those, there is no existing number of deals that come from it and yet, these folks are die-hards about doing it. Committed to a fault despite the lack of result, there are psychological factors that explain why so many are so dedicated to faux marketing processes that deliver little to no results and give the illusion of popularity.  This is the MAFA Syndrome at its ripest stage. “So Keith, what the hell is the MAFA Syndrome?”

Well, simply put it’s Mistaking Activity For Achievement. In other words, it’s busy work that appears to be worth doing and yet creates nothing more than wasted time and effort for a purpose in which it is not designed.

I used to think that the old definition of insanity was accurate, but it really isn’t, because if you do something over and over again expecting a different result, you may very well just be trying real hard and just not making it happen. This is an interesting consideration when you see people trying to turn a social media platform into a marketing effort and watching it fail over and over again, but if Coca Cola can use social media as a marketing tool and, it’s pretty much free, I’ll keep whacking away at it until it works, right? I wrote about this in a post called Stepping Over Dollars to Pick Up Pennies that covers the mediums a little more directly.

My advice is to stop doing it this way; stop spending time using social media to connect with people other than your own close friends in the hopes that it will increase your business. It won’t and it never will. Social media is excellent for bringing something already popular into people’s lives. This doesn’t work for marketing a loan officer or a Realtor.  While many retail marketing efforts can be enhanced by social media, it’s the people that like and share these things, because they really do like and share these things. A product can be marketed to people and a need can be created in the process with some types of products or services, but the real estate industry simply isn’t one of them. Real Estate isn’t the money game it once was as a personal investment bringing the poor who crossed the finish line (by getting funded with B paper) into the fray of the “lower middle class” simply by owning a home that will soar in value. Those days of perceived value as an option are gone, at least for the foreseeable future.

Because you are in the loan or property business, you only have a handful of ways to make the absolute most out of your connection to the people you’ve done business with that can be considered a viable marketing plan. Your only other options are to do “no marketing at all” or follow the latest “marketing craze” of the MAFA Syndrome, both of which leave countless thousands in revenue on the table unclaimed and out of reach.

Remember, a blog is one of those areas where the MAFA Syndrome thrives. Obviously, we blog and I personally have a passion for writing, although it’s not the main focus of my passions, I often feel compelled to explain some of the things that are obvious, but sometimes get lost in the shuffle. This is where the savvy salesperson will find a niche and take advantage, thus, further giving marketing a bad name.

Communicate with your sphere of influence in a real way using a medium that really works and stop chasing the latest craze. Besides, the latest craze isn’t really that crazed anymore. Think about it.