08/22/2017

Embracing Technology to Market Your Business Differently

By Nancy Pratt

The nature of our industry makes differentiating yourself from your competitors difficult. In reality, we all offer the same product: title insurance and customer service. But just like how Apple can release a new iPhone with new features and capabilities to better serve their customers, your business can also embrace technology to market your services to consumers in a whole new way.

One way to position your business as a leader in your region is to show your community that you are ahead of the game, and think about technology differently than your competitors. You’ve already taken the first step by reading this blog. Staying up to date with industry associations and active within different organizations gives you the advantage of receiving the most current industry information.

With the technology available today, such as eClosings, you can really revolutionize your business. For example, eClosings give you the essential opportunity to get in front of the consumer before the actual closing. First off, this allows you to explain to them why they need title insurance. Second, this gives you the chance to start building your brand with the consumer from the beginning. Imagine getting to talk to your prospective customer weeks before your competitors. Like ALTA has always said, “You don’t need to meet them at the closing table; you need to meet them at the kitchen table.”

When it comes to eClosings, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. There’s a path for everyone. If you want to be the absolute technology leader, that’s great. ALTA has lots of educational tools available as should a technology vendor in the digital space. But for those who are curious about taking a first step towards embracing technology, start by having meaningful conversations with your partners. Technology is certainly key to differentiating your business in this industry. If you have the opportunity to stand out and grow your business, why wouldn’t you?

 

Nancy Pratt has over 12 years of experience in the eMortgage/eClosing space, and is currently the Vice President of Partner Relations and Government Affairs for Pavaso. Pratt will speak more in depth about this topic during an engaging session titled "Take Your Closing From Pain Point to Celebration” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Make Your Realtor and Lender Look Good

By Linda Grahovec

We talk about customer support all the time.  

“We have the BEST Service”, “We have the BEST Support Staff”

But what does that really mean, what does this service look like, and what exactly are you doing to support your customers?  

Our customers come from several different market segments and different areas of the country.  For underwriters, the title agent is their main customer.  For a title agent, realtors, lenders and attorneys are their customers.  As realtors, lenders and attorneys, the consumer (client) is their customer. Each of these three levels requires a distinctly different approach to sell, inform, educate, and support the corresponding customer base. You need to know each of these levels, and the customers targeted within them, in order to understand what they want and what they need.  In other words, we need to know the customer better than they know themselves.  

How can we help the Realtor and Lender better understand the needs of their customers? What tools or resources can we create to help our customers look great to their clients?  Let’s step into the minds, means and methods of realtors and lenders in order to help them better serve their customers!

 

Linda Grahovec is Vice President and Regional Director of Marketing for Fidelity National Title Group.  Grahovec has worked in the real estate transactions services since 1986, and remains a leader in the industry. She will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Make Your Realtor and Lender Look Good” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE now.

 

08/01/2017

ALTA Welcomes New Members

ALTA is pleased to announce new and associate members, as well as real estate attorneys, who have recently joined ALTA. Check out the entire list of new members. Not a member? Click here to join today. You can also check out this video to learn how ALTA membership can take your business to new summits.

Membership Number July 2017 blog

07/28/2017

Don't Spend a Dollar Marketing Until You Do These 3 Things

Today, there's a lot of pressure put on title companies to begin marketing online.  I'm sure the most common thing you hear about is the necessity of being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and countless other social media platforms. However, for most title companies, I firmly believe this is not the right advice for two reasons:

  1. While it's great to market your company, most websites are not optimized in a way to actually capture the traffic that your marketing should drive.  If your website doesn't check off a basic list of features (I'll provide later), you will probably spend money marketing without seeing any results.
  2. You probably don't know what to market.  Think about this... does the average Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram user really care about title as they are scrolling through their newsfeed?  Nope.  You're the furthest thing from their mind and the last thing they want to see/read about is "what is title," unless they happen to be in that big moment of closing on a house. But, you might spend thousands and thousands of dollars marketing before you ever have your ad appear in front of that person at just the right time; and still, if their agent does not mention your company as one of their 3 recommendations, all that marketing was for nothing.

So, here's my simple solution that will add 100x more value than spending thousands and thousands of dollars on your marketing...First, before marketing to outsiders, consider those in your Sales Funnel (currently closing or deciding to close with you). When someone decides to use your title company, googles you, and lands on your website, what do they see? Is it something that builds trust in your company and merits the fee you are going to charge?  If not, what can you do about it?

Here's a basic list of things you can do today (or tomorrow) to get your site to a place where Google actually cares about you, and your message can be clearly communicated:

  1. Mobile Responsive Site (i.e., Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix, etc.)
  2. A Blog on your site
  3. A Google Plus Account
  4. A Google Places account for each location
  5. A Google Analytics account tied to your website

Without these 4 things, don't spend $1 marketing because you'd be driving people to a site that does not communicate your message the way websites that you, me and consumers experience 99% of their time surfing the web.

Once your website meets these 3 criteria, your next steps should be:

  1. Set up a Facebook Fan Page
  2. Set up a Twitter Account
  3. Set up any other social platforms that you want to begin to have conversations on.

From there, you can actually begin to "market." I'd actually like to turn the idea of "marketing" into a better and more approachable concept of "having conversations."  Here are some first steps towards having conversations:

  1. Connect with the Real Estate agents that are your best referral source.
  2. Like, comment and just show them some love online when they post... not on every post, but on the best posts.  Just let them know you're still there.
  3. Post a helpful tip or two on your social media platform, possibly quoting one of your favorite real estate agents, then drive people back to your site to read more about the interview or topic.  
  4. Use social media to have conversations and tease people to your site. Don't use it to just broadcast about title all day, every day. The majority of people don't care, and it costs soooooo much money to constantly reach out until that one time they do care.  

Bottom-line: Make amazing content and Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc will love you... and your customers will love you too.  That's the BIG win!

 

Bill Svoboda is the co-founder of CloseSimple, a software that helps with communication during the title and escrow process. Svoboda will speak more in depth about how to market in the title industry during a session titled "Expand Your Brand Awareness” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Commercial Real Estate Trends

By Nancy Landmark and James Thanasules

Picture this: Four dogs running full speed, careening across the dog park. Suddenly, one turns left faster than the others could anticipate. The other dog owner’s and I watch on in awe as that unexpected left turn creates a giant dog pile consisting of two hounds, a collie and a great pyrenees. I distinctly remember how each dog reacted to the collision differently, and each had a very different outcome (don’t worry, all four are fine today).

In many ways, watching this collision unfold was not unlike watching the forces that affect commercial real estate transactions.  These forces include political and regulatory uncertainty, generational changes that affect the location and makeup of commercial development, increasing foreign investment due to relative market stability, and volatility of energy markets.  Where these trends intersect lies great opportunity – and risk – in the commercial real estate market, commercial title insurance, and in closing sectors.

Stepping into the maelstrom of commercial real estate can be like stepping in to sort out that dog pile.  It can appear chaotic and occasionally indecipherable, but in the end, things come together and the deal moves forward.  Ultimately, commercial real estate transactions turn on managed risk – for buyers, sellers, lenders and title folks.  Most, though not all, participants in these transactions are well versed in the general process and expectations.  Most have a good understanding of real estate – or at least their focused aspect of real estate. 

The commercial title insurance and closing team need to have a solid understanding of their role in a transaction and the ability to help sort out the collisions when they occur.  That way everyone walks away from closing, feeling good and running strong.

 

Nancy Landmark is a VP and Senior Title Counsel at Commercial Partners Title, LLC. James Thanasules is SVP and Chief New York State Counsel at AmTrust Title Insurance Company. Both industry experts will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Commercial Real Estate Trends" at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

07/26/2017

Drowning Consumers: How HOP Can Help you to Educate the Consumer!

By Patrick Harris and Elizabeth Wysong Berg

“So, Phil, what do you do for a living?”

It’s the dreaded question that comes up during every summer barbeque, cocktail party, and family gathering. A friend, family member, or new acquaintance asks what you do at your workplace. And, as always, you’re drowning. How in the world do you explain the complicated world of title and escrow that you live every day?

For other real estate professionals, the question comes from their clients: “What is title? What is escrow?” Yet again, words escape you and your customers are drowning too! What do you do?

Look no further than “Drowning Consumers: How HOP Can Help You Educate the Consumer,” one of the many engaging sessions at ALTA’s national convention, ALTA ONE.  Led by Elizabeth Berg and Patrick Harris, this workshop will help you kick off the floaties, and better explain title and escrow to beleaguered consumers as well as other real estate professionals.

Here’s a sneak peek into this cutting-edge presentation:

  • Master Talking Points for real estate professionals to explain title and escrow in short, simple terms
  • Discover the Four Words that perfectly explain title and escrow to John and Jane Smith
  • Learn about Marketing and Sales Techniques that cut through the noise and present your company loud and proud
  • Revisit ALTA’s Homeowner Outreach Program
  • Be the first to see the latest, greatest and Newest HOP Materials and campaigns (trust us, you’ll love it)
  • See, hear, and touch Real Life Examples of Title and Escrow companies who implement the HOP program and have increased their market share
  • A dynamic, conversational presentation that invites questions, discussion, and great ideas

Don’t swim against the current as you struggle to explain the ins and outs of the real estate process. Attend “Drowning Consumers” and swim confidently with the current of knowledge. Then, the next time someone asks about title and escrow, you’ll know exactly to say.

 

Patrick Harris is currently working for Western Title Company, where he specializes in communications with realtors and consumers in their home-buying process. Elizabeth Wysong Berg is the Northeast Region Underwriting Counsel at Agents National Title Insurance Company. Both industry experts will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled, "Consumers: How HOP Can Help you to Educate the Consumer!” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register now.

From eClosing to zClosing

By Ryan B. Peterson

In 2007, the five largest mobile phone manufacturers ­– Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and LG – collectively controlled 90% of the industry’s global profits. That same year, Apple launched the first generation iPhone – at a time when it controlled just 4% market share of desktop operating systems and no market share in mobile phones. By 2015, Apple singlehandedly generated 92% of global profits while all but one of the former manufacturers made no profit at all.1 Apple disrupted a massive global industry controlled by five seemingly impenetrable incumbents. 

Disruptors and technological innovators are not new.  Today’s newest technology and latest disruption are tomorrow’s commonplace.  Tech moves quickly, and consumers’ tastes change even quicker. How does one keep up?  In particular, how do independent title agents keep up with ever-growing technology changes and consumer demands?

In our ALTA ONE panel discussion entitled “From eClosing to zClosing” Martin Stone, Eddie Oddo, and myself will discuss these and other concerns/opportunities surrounding disruptive technology in the title space.  Remember the slow evolution of the use of email in your agency?  Or mobile notaries and signing services?  What once seemed daunting is now customary.  In time, it will be the same for eClosings, eNotarization, digital mortgages, and whatever my children (Generation Z) demand when they come of age and buy their first home.  “How do I prepare for eClosings?” Though a valuable question, it is not the question because that is just the technology disruption du jour.  In this panel we look forward to discussing the right question(s) to ask, how to evaluate the myriad of technologies available, and specifically how to prepare your agency for the constant stream of new technologies and consumer demands.  We look forward to seeing you at our ALTA ONE panel in October!

 

Ryan Peterson is the Executive Vice President of Westcor Specialty, and is responsible for the overall vision, strategy, and growth of the Company.  At ALTA ONE, Peterson will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "From eClosing to zClosing” with his colleagues Eddie Oddo and Martin Stone. Click here to register now.

 

[1] Van Alstyne, Marshall W.; Parker, Geoffrey G.; Choudary Sangeet Paul.  “Pipelines, Platforms, and the New Rules of Business Strategy.”  Harvard Business Review.  Apr 2016.

It’s Not Official Unless It’s on Instagram

By Julie McConnell

I met my best friend on Instagram. No seriously, it's true. I subscribe to an online workout which is done (cue canned line) from the comfort of your own home. I essentially work out by myself with no class or trainer waiting on me to show up. Luckily for my undisciplined self, I discovered a group of women who do the same online workout and have connected with one another on INSTAGRAM. When I found this community of women, I was hooked and that is how I met my best friend. She posted, I clicked like.  I noticed that we lived in the same city, sent a private message, and the rest is history.

If this tool is powerful enough to connect people from all over the world and give them a platform to motivate and encourage one another on a daily basis, can it be used in our business in the same way? Can real estate professionals use Instagram to create a community and start a mutually beneficial conversation with one another? Or to meet potential clients they would not normally have met? Could it allow for settlement professionals to have unique and unlimited access to real estate agents?

One of the things I appreciate most about Instagram is that it is a medium that allows for a conversation to take place without the need to be face to face. People can participate in an ongoing and open way, not constrained by typical every day limitations.  

In this ALTA ONE Engagement Lab, we will discuss:

  • How to have a productive and meaningful presence on Instagram
  • How to show your agents and consumers another facet of yourselves and your company
  • How to use Instagram to connect with your clients
  • Keeping your messaging and branding consistent

If you are not marketing on Instagram, you are missing out. Come discuss ways to market your company one photo at a time.

 

Julie McConnell is Vice President, Marketing for Long & Foster Settlement Services and has dedicated her career to the development of successful agent partnerships and the growth of new client relationships. McConnell will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “It’s Not Official Unless It’s on Instagram” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Don’t Be the Weakest Link: Training Your Staff

By Genady Vishnevetsky

Genady cartoon Earlier this year, the IDC forecasted that security spending will reach $81.7 billion in 2017, an increase of 8.2% from 2016. Enterprises from Fortune 50 to small businesses continue to seek a silver bullet. The economy produces a dozen new security vendors every month who promise to solve all our problems. Yet, according to a 2017 Verizon report, 43% of users are still falling for simple social engineering attacks and 81% of users are still using weak or re-claimed password.

We all are focusing on the wrong things. If we look at the fundamental shift in the security paradigm over the past five years, we can’t ignore the fact that traditional network boundaries are erased, while inherent trust from social media drives many of our decisions.  Protection is no longer working, so we shift to detection and response. Each of us carries at least one computer in our pocket that is as powerful as our desktop from five years ago; and it is always on, always connected.

Technology and protection are necessary, but we must shift our focus to what matters most – Dave, the weakest link. Our duty as security practitioners is to focus on continuous user education and awareness, but we must be careful with the approach we take.

When you are creating a security awareness program, consider these things:

  • Make it relevant. Make it resonate with your audience. Give real-life examples from work or personal experience to show why your message does or does not make sense.
  • Praise and reward. Use positive reinforcement. Take five out of a hundred people who clicked on a phishing email and report “we had ninety-five percent resilience rate”, instead of “we had five percent failure rate”.
  • Test, train, and test again. Consistency is important. Use training exercise results to tweak your program.
  • Just in time training is the best way to modify behavior. Correct mistakes as soon as users make them.
  • Be creative. CBT’s are boring. Engage your audience. If you’re using PowerPoint, make it dynamic. There are many good short videos available on YouTube for free.

Focus on Dave!

Genady Vishnevetsky serves as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for Stewart Information Services Corporation, and is an established leader with experience in building successful security programs and developing defense against emerging threats. Genady will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled, “Don’t Be the Weakest Link: Training Your Staff,” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

 

07/25/2017

Finding the Right Talent in All the Right Places

By Rich Griffin

Question: When is the best time to plant an Oak Tree? Answer: 20 years ago.
Question: When is the second best time to plant an Oak Tree? Answer: Today.

If you’re anything like me, you always have a need for talented employees. But if you’re anything like most of the managers in the world, you only look when there is an immediate need. So what’s the best way to avoid the treadmill of timing your hiring needs with finding the best talent?

Here are five ideas to consider:

  • Turn recruiting into a year-round process. Start with the premise that the interview should not be the first time you meet a prospective employee. Good people are all around us when we take off our blinders and look around.
  • Create a system to engage talent down a path that leads to your door. Hiring the perfect employee at the exact moment you have a need is very much like catching lightning in a bottle. You may do it once, but you will be lucky if it ever happens again.
  • Let people know you are looking. Hiring doesn’t have to be a one-person show. Many hands make the work easier. Let other employees, vendors, partners and customers know you’re looking. They may have rock stars you didn’t know about, or the perfect candidate is unhappy at their current place of employment.
  • Tell your story and network like crazy. Bring more people into your circle who are already fans of what you’re doing, and you’ll become a magnet that attracts people who want to be part of something good.
  • If you are hiring because of turnover, it may be time to look in the mirror and ask the hard questions about the work environment you’re creating. Sometimes you already have the best talent and they are running out the back door because you’re not doing something the other guys are.

 

Rich Griffin is the National Sales Manager for North American Title Insurance Company and will be leading a discussion on the topic, Finding Talent in All the Right Places, on Wednesday, October 11 at ALTA ONE this year. Click here to register now.