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CMO Insights with Erica LaCentra, CMO, RCN Capital

As Chief Marketing Officer of RCN Capital, Erica LaCentra brings over a decade of marketing leadership experience in the real estate lending space. We sat down with her to uncover optimal strategies for alternative financing companies looking to expand their reach and trust with motivated real estate investors.

Erica shares keen insights on the power of educational content marketing to position lenders as trusted advisors rather than strictly transactional partners. She also explores the significance of targeted, automated journeys to deliver personalized value at scale as well as always scouting the next big marketing trend, no matter the industry, to continually elevate competitive positioning.

For alternative lenders seeking to thrive in a crowded marketplace by forging genuine investor connections, Erica lays out an inspirational blueprint covering everything from reliable lead gen tactics to crafting lifecycle campaigns that resonate.

Which marketing channels and platforms should alternative lenders be focused on to reach motivated real estate investors?

LaCentra: The real estate investing space is honestly smaller than one might think, but also very tight-knit. For lenders looking to find motivated investors, it can be a great strategy to look for investing associations, real estate meet-ups, and other educationally motivated groups. Throughout the country, there are no shortages of educational communities where real estate investors look to share resources, provide insight to newbies, and simply connect. Whether these groups meet in person, think Real Estate Investing Associations, or REIAs, or local meetups, or converse online in Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, or more targeted mastermind groups, being able to get tapped into these opportunities can be a game changer to find motivated real estate investors. One thing to keep in mind is that the experience you provide to potential clients when entering these groups can make or break your opportunity to gain traction. Word of mouth is critical in these groups and if you don’t make a great impression, it could permanently sour your reputation.

How important is content and thought leadership marketing for establishing RCN Capital's expertise and trust in the market? What types of content best connects with your clients?

LaCentra: Content creation and thought leadership marketing have been critical to RCN’s strategy for establishing our brand and reputation in the industry. In a highly competitive space like ours, loan programs alone often aren’t enough to help you stand out. Being able to provide greater value for our clients through the content and education that we circulate has become our differentiating factor. If you can provide meaningful content in the industry, you can position yourself as a trusted resource beyond just the products you offer which can be invaluable for retaining customers.

In terms of what content best connects with our clients, it's hard to point to just one format because people consume content in so many different ways. My best suggestion would be to think about how content can be repurposed into multiple formats as you are developing it to get the greatest potential reach with your customer base. For example, creating an article can be a great initial piece of content, but what would be better would be taking content from that article and turning it into a short video that could be used on social media and a white paper offering that could be sent out via email. The more formats and repurposing you can do with the content you are developing, the greater the likelihood you have of clients seeing it and digesting it in a preferred format.

How much are marketing automation, CRM, and digital account management platforms playing into your current strategy and process efficiencies?

LaCentra: While we do rely heavily on our CRM to more efficiently segment our client base for marketing purposes, and we have more automated workflows than I can probably count, I do often feel like we are just scratching the surface for what we are doing from a marketing technology standpoint. This thought excites me more than anything though because I do feel like even what we are accomplishing to date through our current marketing automation strategy is miles ahead of where we were a decade ago. We can do so much more marketing overall but not just marketing for the sake of marketing. We are creating extremely pointed marketing targeted to highly specific client segments.

Being able to create a more tailored customer journey from the time someone submits a contact form on our website and beyond can be so powerful for conversion rates and customer retention over time. With every touch point we record in our CRM, we can serve more relevant content to our clients, and most importantly, we can get that content in front of clients at the right times to encourage business from them. That also makes for a better customer experience because clients feel like we understand their wants and needs rather than sending them generic, catch-all content.

What are some key performance indicators, metrics and analytics you closely track to gauge marketing success?

LaCentra: The biggest things we track closely to gauge success are first, ROI on campaigns that we are running. It seems like a no-brainer because if a campaign isn’t showing a positive return then it should be terminated. No one likes spending simply for the sake of wasting money. However, it is important to look at successful marketing campaigns and find their diminishing point of return or the point where no matter how much more you put into that campaign, you simply won’t get additional returns. Finding that sweet spot is critical to knowing where we can allocate more money or resources, where we need to pull back, or where we need to stop altogether.

The other metrics we look at are most of the standard engagement data points across our various marketing channels/platforms. So, for example, for our website, we look at overall traffic, what sources are directing the most traffic, new visitors vs returning visitors, page views per session, time on site, engagement onsite, visitor locations, conversion rates for forms, and keyword performance just to name a few. For email marketing, we look at delivery rates, open rates, click-through rates, what people are clicking on, unsubscribes and bounces and we also look at commonalities between content that clients are viewing regularly to refine the emails we are serving them. The list goes on and on for each marketing channel because we really are looking at how our customers engage with us regularly to create a better understanding of the paths clients take before ultimately submitting and closing a loan with us. Then we look at what touchpoints encourage repeat business and customer retention. One data point on its own doesn’t really tell us much, but looking at engagement across marketing efforts is where we start to see trends which allows us to be more thoughtful in our campaigns.

Looking ahead, what emerging technologies or approaches are you focused on to enhance RCN Capital's competitive positioning and client experience?

LaCentra: I think looking ahead, we are focused on how we can improve our marketing automation efforts and create multifaceted marketing journeys for clients that serve them with content that is highly specific to their needs. Again, I think we are just scratching the surface with what we are doing now, so my focus is to continue to improve upon what we are doing so we can create a highly personalized experience with our clients. I want our clients to really feel like RCN understands the problems they have and that we are providing catered solutions to fix those problems. I think the nature of marketing in general is always changing so I’m always looking to see what the next exciting way will be to reach our customers so that we can incorporate that into our strategy.

Any last thoughts on marketing strategy heading into the year or tip/tricks or advice for current or aspiring CMOs?

I think especially if you are a marketer in the real estate lending space, it is so important to stay on top of marketing trends and emerging marketing opportunities that are gaining traction in other industries. I have found that this industry can often lag behind what other industries are doing in terms of marketing so being able to recognize and implement new marketing technology or strategies ahead of the competition can give you a significant advantage. It probably sounds cliché but I would encourage current or aspiring CMOs to always be looking for the next big trend or the next big thing. Marketing and marketing techniques are always evolving so in order to be at your best you always have to be looking for what’s next.

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