Consumers are divided.
The internet remains the ideal venue for product research and due diligence when it comes to comparison shopping for mortgage loans or similar financial services.
Marketers know this. The lead generators wrap up the dominant meme of consumer online loan research, the brilliant "when banks compete you win" slogan of Lending Tree which conflates consumer due diligence with their business model of selling consumer data multiple times over.
LendingTree, Getsmart, Quinstreet, LowerMyBills, Nextag have been consistent top 10 online buyers of advertising, with 2 of these 5 appearing on the top 10 list of July 2006 published by Nielson/Netratings.
Pummeled with the mortgage sales pitch
Consumers have developed innate defenses to block out the endless pulse of spam emails, flash poster ads, and meaningless text link ads. Don't get me wrong, the marketing works. Consumers respond, as the lead aggregetor value proposition satisfies their need to research and compare mortgage rates. But these are tentative, almost anonymous responses. Phone #s are left intentionally inaccurate, "spam" email address used when responding.
Add to that, the practice of the credit bureaus of selling consumer contact information to mortgage lenders, each time a credit report is pulled. Known in the industry as the "Trigger" product, consumers who are in market get subsequently attacked via telemarketers and direct mail.
Using the Internet to enhance local relationships?
How about we look at the equation from the other direction; as if you were a traditional mortgage broker, who generated his business via in-person relationships and referrals.
You would fear the internet; the teasingly low rates advertised would cut into your margins, the consumer: previously empowered only with the yellow pages, now can pit against every lender in the country.
Small is the new big, local is the new national
The technology is there now to target local consumers with local solutions. Local internet consumers convert, knowing that an in-person meeting is even an option is a strong motivating element. In 2005 Seth Godin articulated the concept Small is the new big. Where old marketing addressed the needs of the median consumer, new marketing ideally reaches out to each consumer more individually, personally.
Consider California Mortgage comparisons like this.
Today we have geo-targeting, demographics, social networking, consumer generated content. Mix in a healthy dose of respect for the consumer's privacy and little guys have in their hands a big opportunity.