2020 was the year of the Zoom meeting, but how will you take video to the next level in 2021? For inspiration and answers, we turned to three top producing Loan Officers: Greg Gale of Nova Home Loans, Nicole Rueth of Fairway Independent Mortgage, and Wendee Close of CLS Financial. Below, they explain how — and why — they use video in their work, share tips and best practices for fellow Loan Officers, and preview plans for the year ahead — including a new Homebot-native video platform.
Nicole: I started making videos about six years ago. It helps me to deliver as much relevant information as I can to agents, borrowers, and investors, but also to engage with people and share my passion. I love my job — much of the average American’s wealth comes from their home, and we get to support that. I think my excitement comes through much better in a video than an email.
Now with COVID-19, video has become all the more important — if you didn’t have it figured out at the start of 2020, you had to figure it out fast. Of course I’m on Zoom every day with clients and to coach my team, but we also send out videos twice a week.
Greg: I started in 2010; my financial planner’s brother worked in marketing and convinced me to give it a try. If you go back and look at those old posts, you’ll see I had horrible lighting, I wasn’t great on camera — and I had hair! Today, I use video in multiple ways. I post on social; I include personalized clips in emails to new clients to help them put a face to a name. I’m also part of the beta for Homebot’s new Video Manager, where you can add custom explainer clips right in the modules clients see.
The great thing about video is you can reach a lot of people quickly — a short clip may not go super deep, but it keeps you in their mind. It also allows you to share context and feeling that might get lost in writing. Just now, for example, when Nicole was talking about why she likes her job, I was thinking, “Is she hiring?” I got pumped up listening to her talk, which is something no email or text can convey.
Wendee: I got started when our office hired a video specialist. The agents at our branches were all recording posts for social, and we thought, “Why don’t we lenders try it out?” I think having made that investment was important, because when you get busy it can be easy to push aside. But we had skin in the game. And it’s been a great tool for communicating, whether it’s about a specific product or just general education.
Wendee: For my team, it was taking time to prepare. At first, we started out with just a topic, but that made the shooting stage much longer. That said, there’s a difference between prepared and scripted — you want to know what you’re going to cover, but you don’t want to get so detailed that you’re memorizing. You have to be yourself.
Eventually, we landed on bullet points — and even with that, we’ve each found our own style. My team calls me “Wing-It Wendee” because once I have that list, I’m ready to record, though it might take me a couple of takes. We call my husband “One-Take Tony” because he likes to read prep materials over and over — but once he does, shooting goes very quickly.
Greg: I remember the technical stuff gave me trouble early on. People are more familiar with ring lights and softboxes these days, but whatever tools you use, you do need lighting. Some of my early videos looked like I was shooting in a cave. There’s sound, too — you should play a bit of the file back before you post it to make sure your settings were correct and you picked up the right mic. But don’t listen to the whole thing — that will just make you want to not send it. And the truth is, it’s okay if you stumble. People will actually connect with you more if you’re authentic.
Nicole: Exactly. I’m my own harshest critic, and early on I wanted my videos to be perfect every time — so they ended up feeling a little staged. Eventually I realized I was trying too hard. I think if I had been myself sooner, even if I made a mistake or even cursed once in a while, I would have climbed the learning curve much faster.
Greg: Be consistent. It can’t be one video today, another in three weeks, another two months after that. There’s plenty of room for variety in what you shoot and how — you can do one from your webcam and another more produced; some at the whiteboard and some outside. Pay attention to your analytics so you know what works well on different platforms. But whatever you do, do it consistently. We shoot videos every Thursday, they get edited right away, and we post the following week. If it’s not “always”, it’s “never”.
Wendee: For me, I think the biggest thing is finding the right level of production; you have to be professional but still human and relatable. Even now I sometimes struggle with that balance; I’m happy to pull out my phone for a quick Zoom call or consultation, but it’s harder for a social post or ad. Like Greg said, I think it’s about mixing it up — you can vary your production depending on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.
Nicole: Absolutely. With a content-heavy video, for example, I’ll use a teleprompter, but for a quick market update I just wing it. I do recommend setting up a green room — you can shoot videos anywhere, and it can be a very inexpensive setup, but for me, taking that leap forced me to learn. The moment we had the space, we started figuring out more about lighting, editing, and everything else.
I love Greg’s point about consistency, too; if you want to be successful you have to be intentional. Many people try video for a couple of weeks and blow it off if they don’t see traction, but it takes years to build. I remember it took me ages to get to 100 subscribers on YouTube. But if you stick it out, things start to snowball.
Wendee: We try to meet people where they’re at and break down whatever they’re experiencing. Last year after COVID-19 hit, we did different series — on peace-of-mind mortgage planning, refinancing versus repurchasing, one called “should I stay or should I go?” People were thinking about moving and renovating for lots of new reasons, from making space for work and virtual learning to adding a home gym. We had to get creative with testimonials — maybe we can’t shoot in someone’s new kitchen, even though lots of people are cooking more these days. But people are also spending more time outside. We had lots of fun showing off a client’s new back yard after we helped them refinance.
We also do videos that walk people through the timeline of a loan, step by step. We share fun facts about our team. And we’ve done a lot of work with like-minded businesses in the community that follow the same principles we do in serving their clients. We help support them, and they support us.
Nicole: On our team, we choose themes for each month — anything from helping your kids buy their first home to how refinance rates are determined. We’ll write a blog on the theme, and then our Wednesday videos and often our online classes cover a related topic. It gives us a framework that helps us plan ahead.
Greg: It’s smart to group topics together, and to think about the questions you’re asked most often. On our team, we also plan around days of the week — we might do “Wealthy Wednesdays” or “Monday Motivation.” On “Fur-Baby Fridays,” we share photos and videos of our pets. For the Real Estate Agent audience, I also like to ask successful agents what they’re doing and share those lessons, whether it’s how to prospect or how to build their database.
Greg: For me it’s exponentially more video. I hosted two live webinars recently, and I’m going to start doing those twice a week — for buyers and investors. They’re easy to repurpose, too — even when and if we go back to live classes, we can record them and continue sharing them with new audiences.
I’ll also be sending out more videos, including through the Homebot Video Manager. I’ve used the BombBomb integration before to connect with individual clients, but what I love about Homebot Video Manager is you can create an entire library of clips and share them with a much larger audience. It’s already helping me bring in new business.
Wendee: What’s next for me is trying out the Video Manager — I want to get in on that beta! More broadly, our team has planned out our next few months of video, from our educational series to social. Next month, we’re doing some fun little videos explaining all the acronyms people hear, like DTI.
I get inspired hearing what others are doing, too — I’ve learned so much from Greg and Nicole just in this one conversation. I think the possibilities for video are endless. It’s the way of the future.
Nicole: I agree — I don’t know that we’ll ever completely go back to business the way it was before. My team does four times the classes now than we did in person; it’s so much easier without the drive time. Even when people are commuting again, they can just plug in and listen in the car.
And like Wendee, I want to start using the Homebot Video Manager as soon as I can. I never have time to record a clip for each individual client. But being able to create my own content and then share it with lots of people at once — that’s brilliant.
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