Tuesday, December 18, 2007

AMEX does video right, mostly

Another good example of using Web video can be found on the American Express Open for Business website. Short videos from a host of business leaders offer advice to small business owners.

I love that these are very short and well produced. The audio is excellent and the style is engaging. However, it may have been more powerful if the producers hadn't asked these business leaders to focus on such simple concepts.

For instance, does it take a full minute to tell you that the most successful businesspeople combine imagination with a good dose of reality? How about another minute to tell you that if your business involves a design aesthetic that it might be wise to hire a professional photographer to capture it?

I would rather hear them answer one of these questions:

What is the most important thing you did right in your business?
What was the most critical mistake you made and how did you overcome it?
If you could start over today, what would you do first?

Remember, content is king. Every word your listener hears must carry value. Great production values will not save an online video that doesn't provide real value to its viewers. On the other hand, if you have something to say, any DV video camera can do the job.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Freddie Mac: Using online video to fight fraud

Freddie Mac, a government sponsored enterprise that invests in mortgage loans, is using an online video to fight fraud that the company fears may be perpetrated against delinquent homeowners in the wake of rising foreclosure activity. The threat is real, though in today's market it is not as easy for these fraudsters to find other investors to work with. Even so, if Freddie's 2 minute video saves one home it would be worth it.

Here's what I like about this use of New Media:
  • It's very short. Just over 2 minutes long.
  • It's well written, describing the problem and solution in sufficient detail.
  • It's professionally produced, the video looks good and the audio is clear.
  • It's promoted on the company's home page, above the fold.
What could be better:

It's probably just me, but the chalkboard graphics give me the feeling that Freddie thinks I need some schoolin'. I know a lot of people don't know all that much about the mortgage process, but they still don't think they are uneducated. The refi-boom of 2001-2003 taught older homeowners a lot about the business. The younger, Web-savvy first-time borrowers are better able to learn from information around the Web. This means that lenders have to be more careful about talking down to consumers.

Secondly, creating this video in association with someone who is trusted for helping borrowers avoid fraud might have made it more powerful. Sure, Freddie is a well known and trusted brand, but when the headlines report that the company is reporting a $12 billion loss and raising the upfront fees it charges lenders for their business, asking borrowers to "call your lender" instead of trusting a local "hero" starts to sound more desperate than helpful.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

J.D. Power: Lenders must communicate to succeed

Perhaps it shouldn't take J.D. Powers to tell lenders that the key to doing business in the current environment is to do a better job of communicating with their borrowers during the loan origination process. In a report I recently read about in a free e-mail from Valuation Review, J.D. Power's latest customer satisfaction study showed that "the key for lenders to keep customers happy is clear communication, particularly regarding the timeframe of the application and approval processes."

I don't want to belittle the marketing research firm's conclusions, but this is kind of a no-brainer. The company did not give specific advice for meeting this borrower need, but did point out some very interesting facts. Among them:
  • Working directly with a mortgage lender instead of a mortgage broker or online service leads to a more positive customer experience when originating a home loan.
  • Customers who are provided with a time frame for application approval provide overall satisfaction scores that are 112 points higher on average than customers who do not receive a time frame.
  • Delays caused by requests for additional information lead to a 95-point decline in overall customer satisfaction.
This isn't particularly good news for brokers, although better technology can help there. I'll blog on that over on the tech blog. But saving the 95 points by responding quickly to borrower requests for information seems like an easy score.

New Media tools like Ning are making it easier to set up social networks on the fly. I haven't seen anyone apply this to the team of various people that come together to close a real estate transaction, but it seems like it would be easy to do.

Whether lenders use open source, Web-based tools to stay in touch with their prospects or just spring for that admin is up to them. Within the next 12 months, it will be very clear which companies found a solution to this problem and which ones went out of business.