Client Spotlight: Michelle Dugan, MS Lending / Gulf Coast Lending

Launching Her Own Brokerage

When Michelle Dugan launched MS Lending in 2019 in her hometown of Madison, MS (a suburb of Jackson), leadPops was there to develop her website and design her lead capture tools with our leadPops Funnels.

An experienced mortgage professional who had worked in a variety of mortgage business models (brokerage, retail, banks), Michelle decided that the time was right for her to start her own business. She had known leadPops CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Pawlak for several years, and he was among the first people she contacted to help her launch MS Lending.

“I started the company in March of 2019,” says Michelle. “It was just me in a tiny little one-room office. I thought that that was just going to be the plan: close a few loans each month and have super low overhead, less stress. 

“About a month after opening up the broker that had gotten me into the industry called me and said, ‘Hey, if you’ll get me a laptop and some health insurance I’ll come work for you.’ And I was like, ‘oh, okay, well, that really wasn’t on the radar. But I would love to work together again.’ 

“So he and his son came over that summer, and we had an in-house processor. Then I got a call from another friend that I’d worked with previously, and he and another girl I’d worked with both wanted to work with me. So we opened a second office down in Ocean Springs, Mississippi (on the Gulf Coast). 

“Right after that COVID hit and now we’re dealing with this crazy market, but it’s been great. It’s way more work than I’ve ever done in my life. But it’s so incredibly rewarding. I love it.”

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Michelle Dugan's website for MS Lending is designed to convert visitors into leadsLaunching With leadPops

As Michele was preparing to make the leap to brokerage owner, she knew that leadPops was going to be involved from the start. 

Michelle explains: “I am part of a group on Facebook that has about 200 loan officers across the country. When we started the group we pulled in a few individuals that were doing stuff in the mortgage industry – maybe not originators – but people that could contribute and help us build our businesses. One of those people was [leadPops CEO and Co-Founder] Andrew Pawlak. 

“We became friends as he was starting leadPops. So when I was about to open up my own company he was at a conference that we put together for the [Facebook] group. I saw him and I was like, ‘Hey, this is super undercover right now. Nobody really knows about it, but I’m about to open my own brokerage and I want leadPops to do all my stuff.’ We started working with leadPops on day one.”


Where Clients Come From

For Michelle, opening a business in her hometown allowed her to draw on a lifetime of relationships and ties to the community. “I’ve always been a referral-based lender. I live and work in the town where I grew up so I know a lot of people and know tons of real estate agents. We have a lot of repeat referrals from past clients and we are heavily invested in our local community.”

With real estate agents, Michelle employs the leadPops “Flip-The-Script” approach of providing value to her referral partners by bringing leads to her partners first. “Because I do so much direct work with clients, I work with the customer first, and then I’ll refer them to an agent.” As you can imagine, her agent partners love this approach. 


Couple researching mortgage lenders on a laptopReferrals Do Their Homework, Too

Having a website designed to convert visitors into leads has given Michelle an edge. Even with deep roots in the community, Michelle sees referral clients visiting her website to do their own research before deciding to call. Her leadPops Funnels are a path for those referral clients to give her information ahead of a call or meeting. 

With a lead form that collects 12-15 data points, Michelle and her team are equipped to address clients’ questions before there’s a chance to ask, which makes her look great.

“Sometimes we’ll get people that are referrals from a realtor and they’ll go directly to our website. And oftentimes they’ll fill out the lead information and that will come over to me. So it comes in as a lead that way instead of the client picking up the phone and calling or shooting us an email directly. We see a good bit of that.”

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Another Key Affiliation: Vetted VA

In addition to her referral network and community outreach, Michelle has aligned with Vetted VA, an organization providing free information and insight to veterans in the homebuying process.

“Vetted VA is a big organization that offers assistance to any veteran trying to buy a house. We provide  free solid information that they can trust and rely on. As a result, we’ve ended up getting some borrowers that reach out to us from that source as well. So VA lending has become a good portion of our business too.” 


What Drew Michelle To leadPops?

Through their connection via the Facebook group, as well as industry events, Michelle understood that Andrew’s leadPops approach to Conversion Optimization was a game-changer. 

“I knew Andrew well, so I knew a lot about the research he had put into creating leadPops. And to me, every single aspect of your business is a reflection of your business, right? 

“So when people went to my website, I wanted it to look professional. I wanted to have lead capture there. I knew that the tools I needed to represent myself and my company needed to provide not only leads, but great service and a great appearance. So that was the biggest reason that I wanted to go with leadPops to begin with.”


An email inbox fills up with leads from a ConversionPro Website from leadPopsThe Leads Kept Coming

Michelle’s business was designed to be referral-based, and it still is to a great degree. What she hadn’t counted on was the number of leads that her leadPops Funnels and ConversionPro Website would generate for her.

“I love our website, but I honestly didn’t even consider the fact that we would have leads that would come in through leadPops to add to our business. I wanted [lead capture] to be a part of the website, but because I had never really worked with leads before, it wasn’t on my radar as far as how we’re gonna handle this when everything comes in. 

“I can’t even tell you how many leads came in at first that never really got followed up on – we just simply didn’t have the time and the manpower to do it then.”

“It got so busy – we were getting all these leads and I was like, ‘I don’t even know how to handle this stuff.’ So I hired my sister who’s a super tech nerd. She created all these systems so that when a lead comes in from leadPops they immediately get emails back from us. It drops right into our CRM and it’s doing a lot of the work for us.”

To date, Michelle’s sister has set up 53 different leadPops Funnels, and she’s received nearly 400 leads through her leadPops account. 

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Hello, My Name Is ______ And I’m Your New Client

“It got to the point where I would get a lead from leadPops and the next thing I know I’ve got an appointment scheduled through Calendly. Or I’d have an application from somebody I’ve never heard of that’s sitting in my inbox a few hours later. 

“The SEO that [my leadPops website] has brought for our company has been fantastic. We are not in an area that’s super saturated with mortgage brokers, so I think that when people are looking for a mortgage broker they find my information, and they get into the site that leadPops is built for me. So yeah, we’ve had really good success with the leads that come in, and they’re flowing in almost every single day.”


Mortgage lender on the phone calling a new lead to convert into a clientThe Biggest Predictor of Success: Follow-Up

We always say that Fortune Is In Follow-Up, and any interaction with our Client Success team or a Marketing Advisor will drill down into someone’s follow-up process. Follow-up may be the single biggest predictor of a client’s success with leadPops.

For Michelle, her sister’s automated systems gave her the opportunity to follow up with every incoming lead, and capitalize on more of those opportunities. How does she do it?

“We use for our pipeline management,” explains Michelle. “And then we built out our own little CRM for everything that happens when we get a lead from leadPops. Of course, they get the auto-reply from leadPops immediately, but then they also get another email from me. 

“We’ve got a delay of about two to three minutes. So they get another email from me once it’s dropped into The structure of the email is very casual and personalized. It’s like, ‘Hey, I got your information, I’m really looking forward to catching up.’ It literally sounds like I just took two minutes and typed it out right then. And that’s what we see people reply to instead of a big, structured, auto-reply type email. 

“I mean, if somebody says that their purchase agreement is already in place, or that they’re already under contract, then we’ll pick up the phone and call right away. Some people use my Calendly link to set up a call and an appointment that works for them right away.”

“If we don’t get any reply then we’ve got it set up to where 24 hours later, they’re gonna get another email, and then 48 hours after that, and then a week after that. Eventually, it would kind of fall off if we don’t ever get any kind of reply, but they are in our database.”

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Hometown Connection. Personalized Conversations.

The personalized tone fits Michelle’s personality as well as her connection to Madison, MS, her hometown. With so many relationships there, her approach draws clients in. “I think the biggest thing that’s been successful with us and following up with these leads is how we’ve got these emails structured towards a conversation, says Michelle. 

“It’s super simple. ‘Hey, it looks like we haven’t been able to catch up yet, but I’m still really interested in talking. Do you have some time today or tomorrow to be able to chat?’ 

“The biggest thing for us is that they know that they’re dealing with a real person and not just some call center person that’s sitting in Michigan or Indiana or wherever they may be.”


Michelle Dugan - winner of three consecutive Women With Vision Awards from 2020 VisionAn Award-Winning Woman Of Vision

On June 28, 2022, Michelle will be in Tampa, FL at the 2020 Vision Summit, receiving her third consecutive Women With Vision award from the organization. As the gender balance of the mortgage industry continues to grow more and more even, she is honored to be part of a growing group of women leading in the industry.

“It means a lot to me to win a Women With Vision award. When I won it the first year I was almost in shock. I was like, ‘Why would they choose me?’ But when you look at the big picture nationally, there weren’t a whole lot of women that were jumping out and opening their own brokerages. 

“I’ve always been a big proponent of cheering women on to win at whatever they’re doing. So I love the fact that I was able to step out, open my own company, and hopefully be a role model for other people opening their own companies.”


The Shifting Balance

According to industry organization AIME (Association of Independent Mortgage Experts), the number of women in the mortgage industry is approaching 40% of its current membership. This, in an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated, shows the opportunities open to women looking to chart their course in the mortgage world.

“I’m noticing that women are starting to rise up to the top in droves in the mortgage industry,” says Michelle. “It has forever been a male-dominated industry. So to be one of the females that is helping to lead the way for other females and show that you can be a mom and a wife and a friend and still have your own company and be really successful is amazing. 

“I never set out to be some trailblazer or to be an influencer or a model for other people to follow in this industry. I really just loved helping people buy their homes. But the fact that I can do both now, it truly means the world to me.” 


A leadPops ConversionPro Website is designed to convert visitors into leads at 2 - 4 times the rate of other solutionsThe Value Of leadPops

Seeing clients succeed is the measure of success for a company like leadPops. And hearing from clients about the value they derive from solutions raises the bar to achieve even more on behalf of our clients.

“The value that I get from lead Pops is far greater than I would have ever imagined,” raves Michelle. “leadPops has paid for itself for years to come with the business that I’ve gotten from it. If I didn’t see another lead for the next three years I would still be working with leadPops because it’s paid for itself over and over and over.”

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Built To Grow Together

“I know we’re always going to have the best technology when it comes to our website, and I know that as trends change when it comes to lead capture, Andrew and leadPops are going to have their finger on that pulse.

“Everything that I’ve gotten from leadPops is far more than I ever anticipated or expected. I love putting your name out there and recommending you to others, especially new brokers that come into the business. To me, there’s nobody that does it better.”

Client Spotlight: Kyle Beetle of X5 Home Loans


Kyle Beetle launched X5 Home Loans in January of 2020 after several years as a Loan Officer and Branch Manager for another company. As Broker and Owner of the company, Kyle has grown X5 Home Loans to a team of 9 people and is dominating the Portsmouth, NH market.

X5 has 120+ 5-star reviews on its Google Business page and is #1 in the Google Local Pack. When potential clients search for lending options in the area they find page after page of reviews attesting to positive experiences. X5 is set up to win the Zero Moment of Truth (when a potential client researches you and your competitors before deciding who to call.)

A leadPops Client From Day One

Kyle has been a leadPops client since he started, and we want to share some of his story and insights, and how leadPops delivers value to his growing business. 

In this spotlight, Kyle shares with us how he’s succeeded with leadPops and the importance of:

• Online reputation management and business listing
• Ensuring all of your marketing works together
• Following up with every lead
• Realtor referral networks
• Optimizing every marketing channel to generate leads


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Where Do Kyle’s Clients Come From?

Kyle’s clients come from a variety of sources, and he continues to expand and diversify in a changing market. “Much of our business comes from referrals and our database of previous clients,” says Kyle. 

“We have started to supplement that with online lead generation, which we’ve done through leadPops. We are doing that to be a better business partner to the real estate agents we work with and refer more business back in their direction.”


Winning The Reputation Battle

leadPops helped X5 Home Loans achieve the top ranking in the Google Local Pack

Whether potential clients come from a referral or online advertising, Kyle and his team know the importance of ensuring that their reputation convinces people to take the next step with X5.

“Online reputation is key to success in this industry. [Buying a home] is an important transaction, so people are going to look for social proof to ensure that they’re going to the right place,” explains Kyle. 


“A lot of times people are recommended to us by a real estate agent. So before they reach out to us, they’re going to look us up and see the reviews that we have, see what our website looks like, and see if they feel comfortable working with us.”

This is where Kyle and X5 win The Zero Moment of Truth.


Where does Kyle focus his efforts for those reviews?
“We’ve focused on building Google reviews. Working with leadPops, we’ve focused on appearing in the top of the Local Pack results.” (Note: X5 is #1 in their Local Pack!)

When asked how an emphasis on reviews and online reputation affects the team, Kyle has this to say. “It’s been great to get all those reviews and it’s really satisfying for our team to see that as they come through. 

“Basic human nature tells us that a large majority of our clients are looking at our reviews. So [reviews are] a great tool for us to point people to when they first get in contact with us.


“Maybe it’s an online lead that we just spoke with. We can send an email and say, ‘hey, check out our reviews, because you don’t just have to take our word for it. Here’s a bunch of other real people that have expressed positive opinions.’”


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Connecting The Dots: Marketing Tools That Work Together

Tje X5 Home Loans ConversionPro Website designed by leadPops, with 75 points of lead capture across the site

Winning the battle to be found and establishing trust is the first step. Being able to capture leads from reviews and website visits is key to capitalizing on your reputation. That’s where Kyle’s leadPops ConversionPro Website sets him apart. He knows that everything works together to optimize his ability to create leads.

“Everything has to go in line together. So that’s where having a well-put-together and optimized website that leadPops has put together for us takes us to the next level,” says Kyle.


“We’ve used it since day one. Having everything cohesive between our social media pages, our Google page, and our website gives people the confidence that even though we’re a small company, we’re legitimate.”


Follow-Up: Turning Leads Into Clients

Kyle and his team are positioned to be found, win the reputation battle, and capture leads from visitors to their website, social media channels, and more. The next step is where his success and growth are truly made: following up with every lead.


“Follow-up is key, and it’s something that we’ve prioritized,” explains Kyle.


“We’ve built out a customized program for phone calls, text messages, and emails that clients will get, depending on their status and their level of intent. 

“It takes resources to dedicate to that, particularly in an environment like this where you need to do more follow-up for fewer closings; we know that it’s worthwhile long term.”


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A Personal Touch
While X5 uses follow-up software to ensure that every lead is contacted, they also make sure that there is a personal touch.

“Having a team approach is beneficial. You can have the best software platform in the world, but if you have a lot of clients to follow up with and it’s just one person, you’re not going to be able to do it. 

“And I’ve seen plenty of examples myself, where that lack of follow-up loses you transactions because you just ran out of contact with someone for too long.”


Following Up With Every Lead

Woman on the phone, following up on leads

We asked Kyle if he has a follow-up plan and process for every type of lead.

“Yes. Every lead does get some type of follow-up. We have a process that we’ve refined over time specific to the type of client. 

“If they’re working on their credit because they don’t currently qualify, then we know they’re planning for a future purchase, but they’re not ready yet. If they’re pre-approved and searching for a home at that time, we’re in more contact.

“Different clients are going to want to hear from you in different cadences. And what we’ve found is that when you’re consistent in executing on the follow-up, that cadence was slower than I initially thought. 

“At the start you think, ‘Okay, I’ll call people actively searching for a house once a week.’ And if you do that, after six weeks, a lot of those people are like, ‘Dude, why are you calling? Yeah, I’m still searching for a house.’

“That weekly call sounds like a good idea. But when you put it into execution it’s actually too much. So a lot of what we’ve done is to scale back the amount of follow-up to find a point where it’s not intrusive, but it’s appreciated.”


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Follow-Up Must Provide Value

“One thing that stood out to me a long time ago was someone making the point that as a salesperson, you want a relationship. But the customer is not looking for a relationship. Customers have family and friends and lots happening.

“We need to have valuable information and a reason to be in touch with people.


“We use HomeBot as a tool to really empower them financially. That’s something we can use as a reference with them that can be beneficial. And then we try to be creative with connecting.”

When asked what creative ways he’s connected with clients, Kyle offered this example:

“We sent out direct mail and email blasts offering a free pie to our clients around Thanksgiving. A small percentage, relative to our entire database, took us up on it. But a lot of people replied and appreciated it; it stood out as something different. And then a bunch of people actually did come and pick up a pie. 

“I think those people are a lot more likely to come back to us. They have that feeling of goodwill – they picked up an apple pie and ate it with their family. So there’s a stronger connection by doing something creative.”


Building Strong Referral Networks

Not only does X5 provide value to clients in every step of their follow-up, they do the same with their real estate referral network. Kyle and his team have taken the leadPops approach of “Flipping The Script” to heart. 

This means actively bringing new leads to real estate professionals and not waiting for referrals to come to them. X5 utilizes their leadPops Funnels to create leads that they share with their partners, delivering value and building strong and loyal relationships.

X5 also looks for new ways to stand out as a partner for all local Realtors®. “If a past client has had their credit pulled or they’ve listed their property for sale we try to reconnect with realtors. Those are things that help us and also help the real estate agents that we work with who are at the core of our business.”

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Diversifying The Lead Pipeline

While referrals are a core part of Kyle’s business, he knows that creating and sustaining a diverse source of leads is key to being able to adapt to market changes.

As part of Kyle’s leadPops Local Growth Bundle, X5 sees a steady stream of high-intent leads coming from the local Google ads that leadPops manages. These leads behave differently than a traditional referral lead. But with a solution to win leads with their sterling reputation and provide value in their follow-up, that part of the pipeline has become vital.

“With our Google Ads we’ve seen higher intent, even from fewer leads. That better supports what we’re aiming to do – it’s been a good match for us,” says Kyle.

“We’re seeing people that are searching for certain keywords and are a little further along in the process to a point where they are looking for the guidance we can provide.”


As for the process of closing leads from Google Ads versus a referral:

“It’s a longer timeframe for an online lead coming through search, typically, than someone coming from a realtor. Usually, someone speaking with a realtor is ready to actually start looking at houses. 

“But the challenge of getting them under contract is the same regardless of where they initially came from. That means we need to really be diligent with our follow-up systems. And we need to have realistic expectations for the time it will take to convert into a closed loan.

“You’re not going to see the same closing ratio from ads in the beginning of any lead generation process. So we’re measuring it more based on how many people we are connecting with and how many applications we are taking; we know that that’s going to drive closings down the road.”


Setting Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations for each type of lead is key for Kyle to assess and measure the various leads in his pipeline. Once the process is moving it is easier to build a model and forecast how those leads will grow business over time. 

“I would expect you’d see the first loan closings [from search ads] somewhere around four to six months from their start. You have to factor in the timeframe to get pre-approved, to search for a house, and to get under contract. So that’s kind of our expectation.”


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Everything Is Optimized To Convert

leadPops helps connect every part of a digital marketing solution

Kyle has been a leadPops client since he started X5, and we’re always excited to hear from him and what he’s learning. We asked why he continues to use our solutions. 

“There are several things that leadPops does that I was initially attracted to, and those things have been delivered on, which is why I’m still a customer. 

“The website design looks really modern, and the ability to make some custom changes makes it something that represents our company – that was appealing. 

“Beyond that, the focus on the Funnels and converting traffic into action.

“I think leadPops is spot-on with the approach of needing to actually convert that eyeball into something more tangible that we can take action on. So the fact that that is built in from the beginning is appealing.


“I knew that we could build off of that, which we have. We’ve been doing more to drive people to those Funnels and convert that traffic. 


Premiere Customer Service

“And the customer service throughout has been solid, which I think is important. I think it’s an area where a lot of times with other companies it can be pretty terrible – you’re clicking to ask for support and you’re not hearing back for a really long period of time. 

“The quality of your client service is something that has kept our relationship strong.”

Next Step: See How Your Marketing Measures Up

To learn more about how leadPops can help you grow your business like we have with Kyle, schedule a FREE Digital Marketing Assessment.

We’ll review your current online presence and the tools you use to get found, win the reputation battle, and convert eyeballs into leads that you can turn into closed loans. 

Schedule a Free Digital Marketing Assessment.