Alan Parris: Using Digital Marketing to Build Relationships with the Next Big Home Buyer Generation

Alan Parris is Vice President of Marketing & Growth with Maxwell, Asheville, N.C. He joined Maxwell in 2017. Before that, he spent six years with Red Ventures as Director of Digital Marketing and was Founder/Owner of AP Mortorsports Management.

Alan Parris

Applying my 10 years of marketing experience to the mortgage industry, I’ve found that lenders often make the same mistake: They shy away from the expense and resources necessary to build a strong digital marketing presence. By doing so, they miss out on placing their brand in front of valuable prospects and never get the chance to wow those leads with what they do best—forming rapport that grows into valuable business and referrals.

Today’s customers live online and expect relevant, personalized content and messaging that resonates with their individual wants and needs. According to Cultural Outreach’s NextGen Homebuyer Report, around 90% of the millennial homebuyers surveyed spend time each week on Facebook (with 70% checking into Instagram and YouTube in the same timeframe). The same survey found that millennials widely lack financial confidence or certainty around the lending process, with 20% stating they don’t feel confident in any step of homebuying.

That leaves plenty of opportunity for lenders to connect with this massive cohort by providing value and education. With more than 4 million millennials slated to reach peak home buying age in 2021, ramping up a presence on social platforms and building recognition are vital to filling your team’s pipeline over the next several years. To build trust with the millennial demographic, consider marketing materials that reflect a friendly, approachable persona and multimedia content that educates would-be home buyers on the journey ahead.

To truly personalize your marketing efforts beyond general statistics, though, you’ll need to understand exactly what makes your target borrowers tick. Chances are, your lending team holds a valuable trove of information about the lives of your target audience, including frequent pain points, aspirations, preferred loan products, persuasive messaging, and social networks of choice. The knowledge you hold about your customers is crucial to scaling your lending business efficiently. By using both quantitative and qualitative data about your borrowers, you’ll ensure you put your effort into the correct channels and produce content, ads, and touch points that connect with leads in ways your competitors don’t.

Investing in strong messaging and a digital presence will also help nurture those leads to loyal customers. Take Maxwell, for instance. A reason we’ve been able to grow the customer base using our mortgage point-of-sale software to over 250 lenders is the brand we’ve built online. Instead of simply running digital ads, though, we think from our prospective customers’ point of view. What are these leads interested in learning about the industry? How can our ebooks, podcast episodes, and blog posts become an informative, enjoyable part of their days? Are there ways we can work with others in the industry to boost thought leadership and make meaningful connections?

For retail-facing lenders, this cadence might look like hosting financial literacy webinars via Zoom, sharing volunteer and community outreach events online, writing ebooks that explain the various mortgage product offerings, giving market updates, or creating infographics on what to expect from the mortgage process. Then, use the information you’ve gathered about your target audience to distribute those valuable content pieces through a combination of paid ads, email, partnerships, and organic channels.

The point is, few customers make the jump from prospect to customer after a single interaction, especially when the product they’re considering is as major as a home loan. Rather, they wait until one brand stands out from the rest. “We look at always having brand awareness running because that’s how you build trust. It’s crucial to show who you are as a company,” said Melissa Wright, EVP of Production and Marketing at American Pacific Mortgage, at The Mortgage Collaborative’s recent 12 Days of TMC conference. “We need to show that we know our craft, that we have the information, and that we’re willing to share it.”

So play the long game. Build rapport and maybe even delight your audience with entertaining, informative content so that when they’re ready to make a decision, it’s easy: They’ll choose the company that helped educate them on the lending process and came across as friendly, accessible, and trustworthy.

Here, you might be thinking: This all sounds great, but where do I begin? The good news is that you can start small. These efforts can snowball into strong cohorts of repeat customers and raving fans if you follow the metrics, iterate on your efforts, and remain consistent. Over time, the marketing funnel you’ve created will become a source of high-quality leads, serving as a competitive edge and driving reliable business in all market cycles.

In fact, if you’re worried about hiring an entire marketing team before you’ve had a chance to test various strategies, outsourcing can provide a great way to dip your toe in first. “Have someone who knows the brand head up the effort, but don’t be overwhelmed by hiring out a huge team,” Melissa advised. “We’re a big organization, and we outsource a lot of our writing. We’ve outsourced a lot of video work. There’s so much talent out there.” Consider Upwork, LinkedIn, or even Fiverr as a resource-friendly way to begin ramping up your content program and marketing funnel.

For busy lending teams, creating an impactful marketing program can feel daunting. At its core, though, successfully marketing to prospective borrowers is simply about building relationships that drive your retail lending business forward. “The mortgage business has been very transaction-focused. The problem is we lose out on the relationship,” said NexLevel Advisors Founder Michael Hammond in a Clear to Close podcast episode. “The average borrower is going to get seven to 11 loans in the course of their lifetime. Less than 20% go back to that first lender. Instead of only focusing on the transaction, share knowledge and add value to foster those relationships.” With millennials flooding today’s market, now is the time to get ahead of your competition by educating these borrowers and forming a strong bond with the next generations of homebuyers.

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at