This (long) answer to a question submitted by a mortgage loan agent deals with learning website marketing and doing it yourself, vs. hiring someone to do it for you so you can focus on your business.  My answer would have been exactly the same if the question had come from a surgeon.

Submitted by: Stephen B.

Line of Business: Reverse Mortgages

Question: Well, things have gotten much more interesting recently, but not in a good way.

I just lost my job!

Crisis = opportunity I know – the Chinese symbol and all that.  I’m not looking for sympathy but just wonder what you think about trying to get my reverse mortgage website profitable before I run out of money in savings.  HELP.


The strategy you outlined in our earlier emails about setting a 12-month deadline, and getting a positive return on investment so that you can re-invest into the business and have a well-oiled machine in a year was great – given the paycheck you had coming in to keep food on the table during that 12 months.

That has obviously completely changed now.

The biggest factor is how much you have saved.  If you can still give your website 12 months, and I mean really give it 12 months, then this could be a great opportunity.

If you can do it, but it just means you’ve got to live leaner, or use some liquid savings that you really wish you didn’t have to…but which isn’t life-changing, then do it with the plan that you have 12 months to make it happen.

By the way, 12 months isn’t a magic number, but the main idea is thinking longer-term rather than shorter-term.

Could you have things working well in 6 months?  Sure, if you focus and execute.  Less than 6 months?  Even though it is certainly possible, and some of my peers might argue, giving it less than 6 months scares me – I’m too conservative for that.

The worst thing – and I’ve been there – is desperation.  If you’ve only got a month or two of savings, and it’s GOT to work, that leaves no time for error or the recovery time after you get sucker punched from something out of the blue.

Doing lead generation online can be very effective, and sometimes we can get leads coming in within a week of starting.  Of course, sometimes it takes a month.  Google can love your site and bless you with great Quality Scores, and make your clicks pretty cheap so you can get a bunch of visitors to your site to try to convert to leads.

Or not.

The keyword estimate tools that we’ve run and the tools from Google can be right on – which means that the expected volume and costs can be pretty accurate, which means that you can plan the numbers with a little bit of certainty if you know your lead conversion ratio and loan closing ratio, and of course your average deal size, revenue, profit, etc.

Or not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that although the “Internet marketing channel” (that’s all this really is, similar to the Yellow Pages or direct mail or whatever) flat out works when you have it correctly implemented and optimized, there are a ton of moving parts that mean you might need to adjust and then try again.

If the Internet didn’t exist, and you posed this question to a (reputable) direct mail house, they might tell you to get a job so that you had some breathing room.  You might need to change the headline or the offer or the type of phone number or the color or whatever on your postcard campaign, and do 3 or 4 or ??? iterations before you started getting a positive ROI.

That’s pretty similar to the process on the Internet.  You test and optimize keywords, ad text, landing pages, headlines, offers, guarantees, and even the text on your inquiry submission button!

The huge benefit that the Internet gives you is the blazing speed of the “feedback loop,” so that you don’t need to wait for printing and posting and a mail drop and the Pony Express and people to open and call and all that.

With AdWords, you can pick some keywords and put up an ad in 20 minutes, and see if people click on it or not.  Then if they click on it, you can see if they like your site and decide to inquire or not.  You can see which keywords and ad text turned people into leads more often than others, and then stop the worse-performing ads and optimize the better-performing ads.

Okay, enough on that part of it.

Finally, the last thing we were talking about before was whether it made more sense to do this yourself, or if you need to be the guy in the field, bringing in and closing business, and eventually training your loan officers.

From our conversations, you are obviously a bright guy and understand the marketing world.  So my big questions for you would be whether you truly love online marketing, and whether you really have the time to do it.

Before you lost your job, your answer to whether you really had the time to spend to do it right probably would have been no.  (I’m guessing, but I probably would have been correct, right?)

Now, assuming you do have the cash reserves to ride this out without getting another job, the “time” answer is yes – assuming you can focus and prioritize and execute and all that necessary stuff.

So we are down to whether you really love online marketing.

I bet that people that learned all this stuff themselves are happy that they are skilled in online marketing for their own businesses, rather than paying a company to do it for them – given the benefit of hindsight.

My guess is that the people that stuck with it and are successful or on the road to success are very happy they did it themselves, because those skills will keep them from ever starving in the future, no matter what happens to their current business.

If you love online marketing, and are willing to learn what you need to learn, and keep the blinders on to shiny objects, and will test, test, test, and love looking at reports and creating spreadsheets and optimizing and always thinking of new ideas and keywords and ad text…then you should absolutely go for it.

You also need to focus though.  I’ll say it again, but don’t get caught up in the “shiny object” endless cycle – there aren’t any magic bullets out there.  Just intelligent, iterative – and hard – work which will eventually pay off.


…if you are a sales-driven person who likes to meet people, visit prospects and clients, and generally think big picture and let other people execute the small stuff, for example, then I don’t think you’ll be happy doing this.

On my arbitrary rating scale of 1 to 100, if you acquired terrific skills, but didn’t have the passion for it, let’s say you were at a 70 or 75 in terms of overall effectiveness.

With a great marketing partner that worked together with you to get all the info necessary to approach your market the right way and create a strong sales funnel for your business, I’m going to say you’d “score” a 85 – 90+, and as your partner learns more about your business, the lingo, industry idiosyncrasies, etc, it will increase from there.

Not sure what you said to make me run off at the mouth like this, but I hope there is at least one nugget in all this that helps!

Let me know if this makes sense and if you have any follow-up questions – it is pretty late as I type this…