July 28, 2020

Make Online Reviews Part of Your Referral Strategy

Issues Facing Originators

As in-person meetings become rare, mortgage originators are rethinking how to boost referrals to attract new customers in the peak selling season and keep pipelines full later in the year.

The internet is quickly becoming a key source for new customers and the primary place where prospective homebuyers seek out information. According to a 2019 report by the National Association of Realtors®, consumers interested in buying a house took these initial steps:

  • 44% looked online for properties for sale.
  • 17% contacted a real estate agent.
  • 11% searched online for information on the homebuying process.
  • 7% contacted a mortgage lender.

Additionally, a 2019 survey by BrightLocal determined that in the previous year, 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business, and 84% read online reviews for local businesses. The study also reported that 54% of consumers in the 18–54 age group “always” read reviews.

When it comes to searching for information on home financing, it’s clear many buyers start by typing “mortgage” into a search engine.

The Power of Google and Yelp
Recently, I searched Google for “mortgage” and “High Point, North Carolina” and immediately saw a homebuyer’s review of a local lender on a Yelp listing of “The Best 10 Mortgage” companies in the area. The review praised a loan officer I’ll call Sue L., saying she “made the whole financing process go as smoothly as we could’ve hoped for. Five stars all the way!”

Why was this particular review extraordinary? Because it was the only one posted on Yelp for Sue L. and it was written more than two years earlier — demonstrating the lasting power of a single review from one homebuyer.

Google’s ranking algorithm rewards businesses that earn frequent and positive reviews — helping you move up in local search results.

It’s also clear many individual lenders are putting increasing focus on encouraging customers to review them on sites like Google and Zillow, where many loan officers have amassed scores of customer reviews and ratings.

Google Rewards Businesses with Reviews
Google’s ranking algorithm rewards businesses that earn frequent and positive reviews — helping you move up in local search results, according to ThriveHive.com, an online marketing site.

As well, Google business reviews and other feedback sites for originators won’t charge you anything to ask customers to rate your business.

Google also makes it easy for you to create a digital Business Review Card to email (or text) to customers you’ve helped purchase a home. A typical example might say, “Help other homebuyers connect with us. Please provide your feedback to help us improve our service” and feature a Google Reviews URL link for your business.

Real Estate Agents Reviewing Originators
An online search for “Greensboro, North Carolina mortgage” led me to a single local lender with 46 posted Google Reviews over a year-long period, including one from a real estate agent who praised the lender saying “I know that my clients will get premium service … and (the lender) will manage the transaction in the necessary timeframe.”

It’s a clear example of an emerging strategy based on asking business partners for reviews and ratings.

Broaching the idea of a testimonial with a potential business partner is often easier than proposing an exchange of business referrals. A mortgage originator who has one or two successful deals with a real estate agent can ask, “Do you ever ask customers or mortgage lenders for testimonials? I’m happy to provide one for you and I hope you’ll do the same for me.”

Focusing on reviews initially puts the lender in the strong position of offering something helpful — a five-star Google review — rather than asking about referrals before the agent can assess whether you’re a partner who can reciprocate when it comes to referring business.

Enhancing Your Ongoing Referral Strategy
An online reviews strategy should augment what you’re already doing in terms of building referral relationships with real estate agents and other community professionals. While it’s now harder to connect in person, it’s likely you can also find online person-to-person networking opportunities.

Like industry groups across the country, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce here in North Carolina has shifted many business-to-business activities to videoconferencing and other internet-based technologies. These include leads groups who meet in weekly videoconferences that include members promoting their services. There are also less formal coffee and conversation virtual networking meetings to share news on a weekly basis.

The Insights Blog is a two-way exchange of ideas, and we’d love to hear about your success in adapting your strategy for referrals by using more internet-based tools by sending a note to us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

About the Author


Jo Fleischer

Senior Writer

Jo Fleischer, a senior writer in Marketing, has been with the company for ten years, tackling writing projects ranging from press releases to materials for new product rollouts and website updates. A graduate of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, he began his career as a newspaper reporter and then worked for several trade magazines and public relations agencies as a writer/editor, in both New York and North Carolina.

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