CFO World

CMO interview: What Mortgage Choice’s marketing leader is doing to instil CX

The latest bootcamp for home loans initiative taps into wider efforts to help customers improve their financial wellbeing

It’s no good trying to be a customer-led marketer if you haven’t established the key fundamentals of brand strategy, purpose and process first, Mortgage Choice’s GM of marketing believes.

Melissa McCarney has spent the past five years working at the financial services company and is the first group marketer to sit at the executive table. She’s just unveiled her latest initiative, ‘Mortgage Choice Home Loan Boot Camp’, which she positions as another step forward in the group’s brand transformation from pure mortgage brokering to full financial services adviser.

More recently, this shift has seen the company change remuneration structures for franchisees aimed at making them more competitive.

“What we are now looking at as we move into the next phase of change is brand strategy, and we also need to focus on our CX strategy,” McCarney tells CMO. “As GM of marketing, it’s important for me to be the customer champion, and to drive and foster this change [around customer experience] across the entire organisation.

“Five years ago when I joined Mortgage Choice, I had more fundamental things that need to be addressed and fix. And until they were addressed, the business wasn’t quite ready for CX in a more strategic sense.”  

That initial layer included getting the right website platform in place, and introducing centralised communication programs to ensure the group communicates to customers throughout their lifecycle, McCarney says. The second big step 18 months in was relaunching the brand, inside and out.

“We changed the visual identity but more importantly, we worked on defining purpose and then defining service standards to help deliver to that purpose,” she says. “Those are fundamentals to delivering CX, because you have to know what purpose you’re trying to deliver to before you can build the CX you want and need.”

Financial bootcamp

McCarney’s latest effort, ‘Mortgage Choice Home Loan Boot Camp’, is a response to the growing need for education around financial well-being. It’s based around a core bootcamp digital content program, supported by a mix of broadcast, digital, social and out-of-home advertising.  

“We know a lot of customers are doing a significant amount of research before speaking to an expert as they want a level of education first and don’t want to look silly. We saw that as an opportunity to start having a conversation earlier with us, so they come to us while doing that research,” McCarney says.  

“The lending environment is changing significantly. Now more than ever, it’s really important for people to be financially fit or they’ll struggle to get a home loan. So we wanted to do more education around what it means to be financially fit. It’s very deliberately a prospect program.”

Mortgage Choice has built a microsite with different bootcamp modules, the first of which are about securing your first home-loan or refinancing one. The eight-week series is complemented by an email-based lead nurturing program that sees participants being encouraged each week to complete the next stage of the bootcamp. Each module features a short quiz and those who complete the quiz go into a prize draw.

What made the latest activity possible was replatforming Mortgage Choice’s website to a new CMS in January. “This has given us more flexibility to build these things fast – we built the whole bootcamp in a six-week period,” McCarney says. “We already had a very clearly defined creative platform of ‘better choices for a better life’, which we were adding to.”

Another consideration was being able to capture interactions to understand how a prospect was interacting with the microsite, which allows Mortgage Choice to then offer targeted content via email.

As part of its supporting above-the-line, digital and social media advertising buy, Mortgage Choice struck a radio sponsorship with the Today FM network around the ‘Kate and Hughesy’ drive time program incorporating specific integration points.

“Radio is giving us air coverage, but most of the source of bootcamp registrations has come via social media,” McCarney says. “Two years ago, social media was something we dabbled in; now it’s a much more significant part of the overall strategy, particularly from a brand point of view. It’s not so much a lead generation tool for customers ready to speak to a broker right now, as it doesn’t tend to work that far down the funnel. It’s more suited to earlier in the funnel, such as our bootcamp idea, and where it’s more in the customer’s control.”

The bootcamp is illustrative of the changes Mortgage Choice is making to its marketing strategy in order to focus more on brand rather than lead generation. “We’ve taken some investment out of paid search, as it’s becoming extremely competitive and expensive. And without brand investment, it’s worthless,” McCarney says.

“However, we have always seen the opportunity to play a role in education, and that comes from the fact we’re a financial planning business. Five years ago, we launched financial advice, and one job we need to do from a brand point of view is help people understand we can do more than just help with home loans.

“Although it’s called a home loan bootcamp, there’s a lot of financial planning content within it and the next bootcamp will be more about the financial planning side of the business. It’s important for us to talk to customers about more than just a home loan.”  

Up next: What Mortgage Choice is doing in the face of growing financial services scrutiny, plus McCarney shares her views on the evolution of the CMO role

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Financial services scrutiny

With Australian financial services institutions under intense scrutiny by the Royal Commission, it’s clear brands like Mortgage Choice have to adopt a stronger lens and regain trust around helping customers with responsible financial planning. McCarney says the most critical component is being super tight around compliance, processes and structures.

“At Mortgage Choice, we have very good structures in place across loans and financial planning. The challenge is how to do that as efficiently as possible, and how, from a CX point of view, we help the customer through the complications of the process and educate along the way,” she comments.

Reports suggest the number of consumers appointing a broker is growing every quarter and now sits at 57 per cent. “It’s growing because it’s getting complex and people need advice and help,” McCarney says.  

In order to create the right journey for customers digitally, Mortgage Choice spent time during website redesign getting upfront with customers, building journey mapping and personas.

“This customer approach is working well in the marketing team, the next challenge is to get that mindset through the rest of the organisation,” McCarney says. “And as we start to develop more things for customers, we need to make sure we’re delivering improvements to the franchise experience as well. It can be done at the same time.”  

While she’s the first to admit Mortgage Choice could do a better job of using first-party customer data, there are some examples of it being put into action. One McCarney points to is the group’s centralised email marketing program, which it undertakes on behalf of franchisees. The focus is on using data to talk to customers at more touchpoints across their lifecycle.

“We’re also using data to personalise the content, such as state and loan type. This is improving the effectiveness of programs,” she says. “Ongoing customer communications are so critical for conversion and leads as well as retaining those who’ve gone through the pipeline.”  

The changing role of the CMO

Having been at Mortgage Choice for five years, McCarney has directly borne witness to the change in perceptions around marketing leaders in this time of digital transformation and customer-led change. One obvious shift is the move from marketing to more holistic customer experience.

“I think that’s why we’ve seen a lot of CMOs moving to chief customer officers or marketing departments reporting into a chief customer officer,” she says. “The need for marketing people to have a very deep understanding of customers is important. It always has been, but it used to be about the best way to write a message to get a customer to do something; now it’s about how to deliver better experience at every touchpoint.”  

It’s also why McCarney believes marketers have a more strategic role at the executive level. “I’ve seen the level of influence I can have across the whole organisation grow,” she says.

“The other important thing for marketing is consolidating with IT. Marketing and technology today have to work hand-in-hand, and marketing professionals have to be more technical than they were in the past.”  

McCarney agrees marketing is also more collaborative than ever and says a significant component of building the brand at Mortgage Choice has been getting franchisees to do their own local-area marketing and lead generation.

“The relationship my team builds with the distribution team is very critical. Then it’s about how we arm the sales team and give them the right tools, and make marketing so easy for the franchisees it gets done,” she says.  

“We also have to look after franchisees from a CX perspective, as they are delivering the experiences. We have to tool them up to deliver the experiences and we also don’t have as much control over how their employees do that.”

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