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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Launching 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.
Referrals 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.”
The 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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“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.”
The 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 monday.com 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 monday.com. 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.”
An 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.”
The 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.”