Lead Conversion Through Authentic Automation With Nathan Joens 

MLM 246 | Lead Conversion

Time and time again, we are reminded of the importance of having more leads in the mortgage and real estate space. However, it helps to dig deeper and consider how much of these leads are actually converting. Guiding you to do that, host, Jen Du Plessis, talks with Nathan Joens, CEO and co-founder of Structurely, about engagement and conversion ratios. In particular, they tackle how you can convert those leads by scaling conversations through authentic automation, where they use the personal channel of text messaging that is unlike any other. Nate then takes us deeper into the services and systems his company offers to help lenders and agents stay in front of those leads while doing more with less.

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In this episode, we are going to be talking with Nate Joens of Structurely about engagement and conversion ratios. That’s the biggest thing. One of the things that we talk about all the time on this podcast, and in the mortgage and real estate space, is that we need more leads. I get it. We do need more leads, but if we can convert what we have, we can make another $100,000 a year. It’s crazy. We need to be able to convert it. I want to get our guest here. Nate, thank you for joining us.

Thank you, Jen. I appreciate being on. I’m excited to talk about lead conversion and everything that your readers can be doing to help with that.

One of the things I talk about a lot is that conversions for me are due to a lack of sales skills, lack of service skills, maybe not getting back in time, a lack of systems skills, not having a system to get back. The fourth is the lack of sourcing skills. Sometimes conversions are a problem because of where the source is. They’re throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall. In my practice when I’m coaching people, that’s what we focus on. It’s those four areas. I’d like to hear from you why you started the company Structurely?

We started Structurely to help scale conversations. I’ve been following your show and I know that you help your coaching clients take back their personal life rather than trying to sell. Many real estate agents and lenders who are the people we work with, I have so much respect for them because they have no personal life. Their work never stops. There’s no end between work and life sometimes. Having systems, sales skills, sourcing skills, and all of those set up go into play to help you take back your personal life. That’s why we started Structurely. Structurely engages, nurtures, and qualifies online leads 24/7, 365 days through text messaging. When a lead comes in through Zillow Mortgage or Realtor.com, we’re there to respond to them, follow-up with them, and have a two-way conversation to hopefully set them up for an appointment down the road. We stumbled out upon that idea. We’ve been focused on real estate for a while, but it’s a natural progression to get into the mortgage because they work so closely together.

It’s about helping to augment the role of an agent, a lender or an inside sales agent to help convert more leads without any of the work or less of the work. I don’t think that people have a lead generation problem. They have a lead conversion problem. Something that I’ve talked about before is I think everyone reading could turn off their lead generation efforts and mine through their goldmine of existing leads and be almost better off than they were before. There’s so much opportunity there that can be leveraged and sifted through with products like ours and systems that I’m sure you coach and teach about.

I was speaking with one of my clients and he said, “I have a horrible conversion rate.” He didn’t have tracking. I’ve just started coaching him. I said, “You don’t know you do until you track things. You need a system in place.” It turns out he has a 68% conversion ratio. He said, “It’s not as good as what you said yours was.” I said, “It’s not about me, it’s about you. Let’s go back to those that we didn’t convert and figure out why. Why didn’t they convert and learn from that and now put new systems in place, so that we can learn from that.” I love hearing what you’re talking about there. There’s a book called Acres of Diamonds. We are sitting on acres of diamonds in our own databases and we just don’t even know it. Instead, we have our binoculars and we’re constantly looking for something else. It’s crazy that everyone does that. Tell us a little bit about you. Are you coming from a tech world? What’s a little bit about you that said, “This is a problem that needs to be solved?”

I am Cofounder and CEO of Structurely. I come from a real estate technology background. I studied Urban Planning and Geographic Information Systems at Iowa State University and in good old Ames, Iowa. I think that has set me up well to help in real estate and technology. I come from more of a systems and tech perspective because I learned how to code in school, but I don’t use it much anymore. On top of that, I’m focused on systems. I love to work on systems. I love to help people leverage their business. We have a relatively small team here at Structurely and we even use our own product to help with our sales. It’s a good opportunity to stay in front of our leads, like I’m going to be talking about how to stay in front of your leads. It means that we can take our team quite a bit further. One of our mottos here at Structurely is doing more with less. Every real estate agent lender is entrepreneurial and has a similar mindset because it’s usually a smaller team for the most part that you’re working with. Sometimes yourself, your spouse, and not just one other member of your team. You have to be constantly looking about how you can do more with less.

Tracking is one of the most important things. I have that on all the time. You have to know your numbers and you have to know what the situation is so that you can make changes in your business to accommodate what you’ve discovered through the tracking. That’s why people run around like chickens with their heads cut off all the time. Help me understand. I want to ask you a couple of questions here because I’m the voice of everybody who’s reading and saying, “This is cool. It’s like having an inside assistant to follow up.” This is the biggest problem that loan officers have. Frankly, realtors, I coached them to follow up. It’s the craziest thing. This is like having an assistant, taking care of some of your follow-ups and doing it in a manner like texting and maybe having the voice of the person. It’s more like them, I hope. My question lies in your comment about saying that everything was coming from Zillow or an online lead. What about loan officers that don’t have online leads? What about those that don’t pay for Zillow, relationships with realtors or don’t have anything online and they get some referrals here and there from their activities online in social media? How can you help those people? That’s the lion’s share of the people that are out there, having problems with follow up.

It comes back to what I was talking about that there’s gold in your database. Regardless if you’re buying leads or generating your own leads or getting referrals, you’re still building your database. You still need to stay in front of them and follow up with them constantly, whether that’s through emails or direct mail or any number of marketing methods. That’s one thing that we’ve constantly been studying. Text messaging is evolving to be one of the most read and active channels to communicate with any leads. Emails are relatively dying. No one reads emails anymore. Phone calls, we did an entire webinar here about dialers are dying before all the virus. Dialers, phone calls are making a small comeback during Coronavirus because more people are at home, they want to talk to people. I saw some stats that during the stay at home, shelter at home, phone calls through Verizon are up consistently more than Mother’s Day, which is one of the highest volume days that people make phone calls. Dialers are making a comeback, but text messaging is still extremely important. Nine out of ten text messages get read.

That’s something that we preach here too. If you have a referral database, if you have an old database, you need to get ahold of them somehow still. Text messaging is a simple unintrusive way to spur up a conversation. That’s something that we can help with too. You can upload your database, segment it, send a message out and say, “I know things are crazy now. I wanted to see if you’re considering buying a house in the near future. Is that something we can help you get started with a loan?” Staying in front of them because 9 out of 10 read it. We see about a 57% engagement rate, so 57% of people are texting us back initially, and then we have the two-way conversation.

Authentic Automation Click To Tweet

Versus email, the open rates, if you get a 10% or 15% open rate, you’re great. That’s good. I’ve always been an advocate of a negative thing here. I’ve been an advocate of not hiding behind the keyboard, having keyboard confidence. How does not hiding behind a keyboard transcend into texting? Are you doing audio? Are you doing video texting? What are you finding in the stats there other than plain text? To me, that’s still hiding behind your keyboard.

There are a few things that we do. I like to call this part of our product and our methodology authentic automation. We don’t want you to hide behind the keyboard. We don’t want you to hide behind a product like ours. We positioned our product as an assistant to you to reach out as a third party and say, “This is Alex with Jen at Best Mortgage Broker.”

The doctor called like, “This is the nurse from the doctor’s office giving you test results.”

Our product has emojis, purposeful typos, and GIF messages. Those go so far to let the lead know that you’re a human. You’re here to listen and to talk. While you’re not talking to them, it feels personal. Texting is usually a channel that’s meant for friends. It’s a personal channel. If you’re texting someone, you’re getting into their life, and we want to keep that conversation short. Usually, when we get ahold of them after sending GIFs, emojis, and typos, 57% respond. We have that two-way conversation back asking some prequalification questions. “What type of loan? Do you know your credit score?” Things like that. Always lead into an appointment, a phone call appointment, set that up and say, “When are you available? When would you like to talk to our team leader?” We always transition that handoff to you in the form of a phone call. What we’ve found is they’re more likely to pick up the phone rather than a cold call because no one answers cold calls anymore. The pickup rate is much higher after you introduced yourself via a text message conversation.

It sounds like a bot.

In a way it is, but we don’t like that word. There’s some negative connotation around that, but we do things like have purposeful typos, emojis, and GIFs to go a long way. Our conversations with people looking for loans and houses, buyers, sellers, renters, refis, new home loans. You’ve got millions of conversations and we’ve done a lot of things in these conversations to make it feel extremely empathetic. If someone says they’re looking for a VA loan or a veteran, we say, “Thank you for your service.” If they say through a divorce, we say, “I’m sorry to hear that.” We do all these little things to make the lead feel heard and understood because that’s all we care about. They want to be heard and understood. That’s something we take to the next level in our text message conversations, which is the same thing that you should be doing on your phone conversations.

You wouldn’t say the same thing every time. When you send the text message, in talking about the context of someone who has a full database and doesn’t do online marketing, but wants to reconnect with their database to see how things are going, are you able to turn on a dime and say, “We had a snowstorm?” I want to ask them how they’re doing in the snowstorm. We’re in a pandemic. Can I talk to them about how do they feel so that I don’t just dive into, “Are you thinking about buying or selling?” To me, it’s unauthentic now. Other than, “How are you doing? Is there anything I can help you with?” Are you able to turn on a dime? The second part of that question, is it a mass text? I’m sure that you segment it. There are a couple of different apps out there that you can send the same text to 1,000 people that they think it’s to them.

To your first question, we have a feature called script customization. We analyze our script and the two-way conversations, and the drip messages that we have with our millions of leads constantly. We pre-write some based on our data, our evidence, and what’s going on. For example, we wrote all of our scripts to be Coronavirus friendly. That is important. It would be naive of us to go out and say, “Do you want to get a loan?” We’ve changed our messaging to say, “I know the world is crazy now. We wanted to see what your hopes were for buying a house after this all subsides.” We make those little changes to stay relevant, but then also offer script customization, so that you can write your own scripts from scratch. It’s a powerful feature. We’ve seen people put video links and Calendly links so people can schedule appointments automatically. We’ve seen people take full advantage of it to showcase their unique selling value and proposition, and take that authenticity to the next level.

I’m glad you mentioned Calendly. I wanted to ask about that. When I was in lending, the last thing I needed is a phone call that says, “You’re going to have an appointment in a few minutes.” I can’t. That’s cool too. Let’s talk about how many touches are made and when can it be turned off? I always think of these categories. I have passive clients that are 3 to 6 months out for whatever reason. It could be credit, they could have to get a divorce, they could have to get married, or they have to have a child. There are all these reasons. Clients that are active that are inside of three months. Sometimes the six-month client converts faster than the three-month client. At that point, there would need to be a trigger to end the texting for the conversion. How does that play as well? How difficult is it to manage for a loan officer and a realtor who’s running amuck?

I want to start with here is most contacts respond after between the 5th and 8th attempt. Most lenders, realtors and salespeople, in general, give up after the 2nd or 3rd. It doesn’t make sense, but I get it. It’s hard to follow up with hundreds of leads that many times. Our product follow-ups with leads for the most part 26 times over 12 months. That’s a variety of different touchpoints and GIFs. The messages are all written differently based on where the lead is coming from, what type of lead they are, etc. As soon as they respond, let’s say three months from now after the fourteenth touch, we have that conversation with them right then and there too. The drip messages stop at that point and then we have that too way back conversation, back and forth. I’m glad you brought up that categorization of leads in between the 30 days and 3 months. We ask those questions of the lead. What’s your timeframe to move? How ready are you to go? We automatically categorize those leads for you and filter them in our product, handle the lightweight CRM and manage them however you want.

MLM 246 | Lead Conversion
Lead Conversion: There’s gold in your database. Regardless if you’re buying leads or generating, stay in front of them and follow up constantly.

You’re a guy after my own heart because I’m all about systems. Mine is in architecture and engineering, so I’m system-oriented and I got the segmentation. You interact with them less frequently when they’re further out than you do when they’re close in. When we have our first conversation with them, we engage with them for whatever the purpose is. We finally have a phone call or we have a strategy session with them, the trigger doesn’t stop there. Sometimes we’re dripping to them and we want to keep in touch with them, but they’re not quite ready to take that action. We can turn off the trigger when they’re finally under contract or when they’re finally refinancing or buying, correct?

Yes. You can take over our conversations at any point. You can step in whenever you want, you can turn it off whenever you want, but we also have another feature called Re-Drips, which is interesting. Touching on what you’re talking about, where if the lead says, “I’m not ready to go for another year,” which happens all the time. We listen to that. If they say they’re a year out, we follow up with them automatically after a little leeway time, about nine months from that conversation. We take care of that automated follow-up.

That’s where people slip through the cracks. It’s funny because loan officers and realtors will have some other type of drip system in the meantime. They’re inviting them to an event there. They have newsletters, recipes, whatever else. They’ve got some dibble dabbles going on, but that’s where the gap is because to me that’s not engagement. To me, that is me giving you stuff. We finally send something or call or see them online holding a sold sign at a title company. We go, “We missed that opportunity. I’ve been sending them stuff, how come they didn’t call me?” I like that you put something in there that’s a reminder for that. For me, this is a digital reminder system. I don’t have to worry about it. It takes care of some of those pieces for me as well. What has been your conversion? What kind of stats do you have? Give me an example of someone that had 100 leads because I’ll tell you, I’ve got a client who needs this. I shouldn’t say that. I’m no longer coaching him. He’s okay, I hope.

When I first started working with him, he had 115 referrals, and he had closed fifteen loans. It’s a lot of work. Some of them had slipped through the cracks and went elsewhere. Some of them were coming from Zillow because he had a relationship with a realtor and he couldn’t get to him in time. That’s a service issue. We had to go back and figure out how do we get more control of this. One hundred fifteen referrals are fantastic, but if you’re only closing fifteen loans as of May, this is a big problem. If someone’s reading this and they’re saying, “I need you because I need an assistant in this particular category,” what kind of results have you had with people being able to elevate their conversion ratio? That conversion ratio was horrible.

It starts on our side with that engagement rate. What we’re doing for you is we want to get in front of that lead immediately. If they don’t respond, you need to follow up with them. We averaged about 57% engagement rate on all of our leads. We break it down into what we call agent-ready leads, which is the final qualification step in our product. In about seven weeks, we convert about 17% of all of our lead stage and rhetoric. That either means that lead is ready to take the next step with you via a phone call, in-person consultation, or meet with you. We average about a 17% conversion rate from there.

It was at 17% of 57 or 17% of the whole thing. That’s a good conversion rate. It’s loan officers listing and a realtor’s listing. We have both here. This is a great opportunity for the title company to share this with, or a mortgage insurance company. Share this with the realtors and lenders that they’re speaking with to have an ability to have this type of a system rather than an actual human being who calls in sick. Who misses this or says something wrong to someone, or you have to follow up, “Did they really do it?” Imagine you have some great tracking, my additional question for you, is this an app-based product as well as desktop-based products? While you’re on the fly, you get a referral, you put their name in and life happens.

We have mobile apps for Apple and Android, as well as the desktop app that you can work wherever you are. You can take over the conversations on your phone from the fly. We also work directly with many CRMs. If you’re using a CRM out there, I hope everyone is. We work directly with them. We know that the last thing that many lenders and agents want is another system to log into. Another log is always hard. We get that. We integrate directly with a lot of CRM. You can upload your leads into Structurely directly from your CRM and then manage those conversations from right within your CRM, as well as Structurely. We try and we try and keep our product in the background as much as possible. There’s this little management as possible.

What has been the barrier to entry for anyone who’s picked up this product?

It’s been minimal. Usually, it’s about getting it to work with your CRM. We’ve had a lot of investment to copy your lead routing rules. If you have a round-robin agent on duty, we copy all of that lead assignment and have done it for you. I would say the other barrier to entry has been getting your scripts exactly right. A lot of people, the vast majority of our users trust us to be the experts in scriptwriting because we see millions of conversations and I agree with that. We’re good at them. If you want to drop a piece of content or your website link into your text messages, we help you out and write those scripts alongside you, but that can be a very small barrier to entry.

Especially if you’re doing a long-term, you’re going to do 26 touches, it’s 26 texts that you’re looking at. Come on or you’re, “Go ahead, do it yourself.” You mentioned a couple of CRMs that are relative to realtors. Most of our readers are loan officers. What CRMs are you connected with and integrating with?

People don’t have a lead generation problem. They have a lead conversion problem. Click To Tweet

We can work with any CRM. Salesforce leads, we can work with those. Jungo Connectivity, Surefire, Total Expert. There’s a ton of them and we wrote an eBook ourselves about all of them we work with. I can’t list them off the top of my head.

You have a bunch, and if you don’t, you can find some of the coding to help you get the integration in it.

It’s easy. That’s the number one priority that we do during our setup and our onboarding is getting it as integrated as possible with your CRM.

The last question I have about all of this, most of my shows are not product forced in, but product-related where we talk about a product. I felt like this was important because this is such a gap that people have in their business. We needed to address something that was also going to help them personally and professionally. We know personally because that’s the stress of, “I forgot to call them. I forgot to keep up with them,” was there. Professionally, it will help with their conversion ratios. What’s one thing that you want someone to know after having read this?

I would say that to bring stats into this, I’d love to look at numbers and tracking full circle. Tracking is important. There’s a Salesforce study out there that shows that 34% of salespeople’s time is spent selling. That means 66% of the time during their week is spent not selling. It’s something that I know you talk about quite a bit. That’s on your website. Lenders, agents, you’re sabotaging your personal life, and still not spending all of your time selling. You need to think about these systems like ours that you’re teaching to fill these gaps in your product. You can have a life, go out to eat, when we can do that again, spend time with your family, but all the while servicing your customers. When they come in at 9:00 PM on a Friday, the last thing that you want to do is text that lead, but that’s the only thing they care about. They want to hear from you. They wired at 9:00 PM on a Friday, and you’re going to lose that deal if you don’t have systems or things in place to follow up with them. They bring out those gaps and thinking through the customer journey. Using products like ours, CRM, or your own system is something that you need to be considerate of in your customer journey.

For the loan officers that are reading, this is something that you can take to your realtors as you’re helping them build their business. This is another tool in your toolbox to be able to share with them. If a realtor says, “One of my biggest challenges is the follow up,” instead of you taking on, which I’ve recommended for so long. I’ve repeated myself 30 times on certain things. I don’t care anymore. I felt like I was right.

One of the things that I’ve suggested is if you have a realtor, and that one of their challenges is the follow up, is to bring your team on and help do some of that follow up. Now you could free up your team to do something else while this system does the follow up for you. Of course you don’t want to buy it for the realtor because that’s a RESPA violation. You want to be able to introduce these products. I appreciate it. What is the fastest way for someone to find out how this works? What does it look like? How much is it going to cost? Can I get a demo? Can I have a conversation with you if I have extra questions? What is the fastest way for someone to do that?

Our website is the easiest. It’s Structurely.com. It’s the fastest way. You can get a demo, check out our pricing and download a bunch of the content that you’re going to link to, including some eBooks on how to build systems. You can even test out our product yourself, acting as your own lead.

I was going to ask you that. I wanted to do that. Can I be lead? Am I experienced on this side?

You can do that. It’s found on the Structurely website. It’s called Test Aisa. That’s the name of our product. We gave it a first and last name, Aisa Holmes. You can test Aisa out there.

MLM 246 | Lead Conversion
Lead Conversion: Most contacts respond after between the fifth and eighth attempt. Most lenders, realtors, and salespeople, in general, give up after the second or third.

Are you speaking anywhere? Are you attending some conferences and things that people could expect to be running into you?

We were planning on attending the MBA conferences, the tech one. I think they moved that to online. We’ll see what that looks like. You might see us virtually there. When things come back, I know Inman is another one that is moved to online again for their summer session. As soon as those come back, we’ll be at those, as well as some smaller events we like to go to. We don’t really know yet.

Do you already have enterprise accounts for this? If someone’s reading and they’re the manager or the CEO, COO, or it’s a loan officer who wants this for their whole company, are you offering that type of a product?

We like to get our foot in the door. A branch franchise and individual office that’s something that we’ve done with a number of mortgage companies across the country. We start with one branch manager, get them to love it, and then they can sell it themselves internally to the remaining chief marketing officer up from their enterprise-wide. It’s something we’d love to do. We’d love to get our foot in the door with a small team about to start.

If someone’s reading like, “Maybe I can’t afford it,” because they have to look and see how much it is. I have no idea. If they can’t, maybe they’re saying, “Maybe I can’t afford it, but maybe my company could help pay half or whatever.” I want to make sure that that’s an option as well.

Absolutely yes.

The last question I’m going to ask you is, how are you keeping motivated these days? Pandemic or not, what are you doing to keep yourself motivated in this industry?

On a personal note, I bought my first house, which was exciting. It’s been motivational to me because it was my first house to see the full experience from a consumer perspective.

You’re not being distracted by your job and steps that you can sit down and see it. Hopefully it was a good experience. There are a lot of challenges in the mortgage industry, as you know. You could be approved one day, and the next day you don’t qualify, or the product’s not even available.

The entire pandemic started with the refi boom. From my experience, working with my lender, everyone was running at a million different directions. That’s something that motivates me. How can I help with my product and my business, lenders and agents focus more, whether that be on personal life or their business?

You're going to lose your deals if you don't have systems in place. Click To Tweet

I want to say thank you, Nate, for joining us and for sharing your product that will hopefully solve some problems and fill some gaps for people that are reading. I’m encouraging the readers to use the links that we have here.  

In the pandemic time, we have 50% off for the first three months.

If they mentioned it, you’d probably honor it for them anyway. I want to say thank you for joining us and sharing something that will hopefully help my readers. Thank you for reading. Please be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already subscribed. Give us a great rating. Nate, the same thing, please give us a review. We need our reviews to come in. Either I’m saying it wrong, but the last review was in 2019. I don’t understand it, but please keep the reviews fresh and coming. It’s important to keep the show alive and going because it’s all my time. The last thing I want to say is if you’re not part of our membership, it’s MortgageLendingMastery.com. Please go and check out the membership. Be part of our entire membership community so that you can get some behind the scenes and some extra goodies. Get some live coaching with me online. Thank you again for joining us and we’ll catch you next time on Mortgage Lending Mastery.

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About Nate Joens

MLM 246 | Lead Conversion

Nate is the CEO and Co-Founder of Structurely. A real estate technology company based in Ames, IA that builds Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) services for real estate businesses to scale personalized conversations with their online real estate leads via messaging.

With experience in Geographic Information Services (GIS), real estate, financing, urban planning, project management, and graphic design, Nate leads the product, engineering and machine learning teams at Structurely to align with real estate customer goals.

This unique blend of experiences has lead him to understand every aspect of scaling a startup, from product marketing to product management. Nate has been the featured speaker at multiple Inman News Connect conference events, including presentations at Hacker Connect and Agent Connect with audiences ranging from real estate professionals to professional developers.

Nate’s ability to understand every aspect of the product’s lifecycle gives him a unique approach to effectively running a high growth software company alongside an amazing team.

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