Joe Aaron likes to be stuck in traffic. In fact, he often seeks out the most crowded roads.
“A lot of times, I’ll plan my trips in the worst traffic,” said Aaron, owner of Mobile Mortgage. “As I’m sitting there in the slow lane, I’ve got thousands and thousands of cars driving by. Give me a couple calls back off that and I’m happy.”
Aaron, who’s been in the mortgage field for about a decade, officially started Mobile Mortgage’s engine in January. Aaron drives the 37-foot diesel custom motorcoach all around Southern California as a way to advertise his mortgage services.
He parks at football games, baseball games and even drives the coach to concerts where he’ll pay the extra premium to park in the VIP section near the entrance. Sometimes he just parks near busy streets during rush hour.
For Aaron, it’s all part of carving a niche in an increasingly competitive field. He knows he can’t compete with large companies that spend upwards of half a million dollars a month on advertising. Instead, he’s opted to take his company to the streets, literally.
So far, he’s averaged about 12 loan closings per month since starting Mobile Mortgage.
About three and a half years ago, Aaron decided to go out on his own after several years of working for other mortgage brokers. He soon realized he needed a way to effectively compete, but didn’t have the money to pay for expensive ads. He needed something different.
He read about an attorney who used a mobile office to drive into inner city neighborhoods and offer free legal advice. About a year ago, he decided he needed a mobile office, too, and that a motorcoach would be the perfect vehicle. He and his family had taken many rented motorcoach vacations, but they never bought one. This was a chance to own one and to use it as a marketing tool.
Last July, he flew out to Texas to pick up the 1999 Discovery and drove it back to California. He refurbished the inside, installed hardwood floors and had his business name and contact information placed on the front and back. In January, Mobile Mortgage debuted.
The motorcoach is outfitted with wireless technology so Aaron is connected whether he’s calling on builders, real estate agents or individual homeowners. He targets all three groups.
Most builders already have in-house lenders they work with, but Aaron said many consumers don’t qualify for the limited products offered by those in-house companies. Aaron is trying to break into the builder market by offering alternative products to their consumers. He said he can be on-site for pre-construction, grand openings and new phase developments.
For real estate agents, Aaron offers a 24-hour automated loan by phone system, which agents can use to call in their clients’ loan applications. The application is then sent to Aaron via e-mail and downloaded into his mortgage underwriting system.
Tom Monarch, Realtor/broker with Red, White & Blue Realty in Santa Ana, Calif., has used Mobile Mortgage for several clients. He appreciated Aaron’s ability to expedite loans and change loan structures at the last minute. He also likes that Aaron can come to his office for clients to sign closing documents. Clients like it as well.
“They appreciate the service,” Monarch said. “They think it’s great. When they’re done signing docs, they ask him if they can go camping.”
Aaron also visits individual homeowners at their offices or homes so they can meet him face-to-face and talk about their mortgage needs in his motorcoach. He’s discovered that simply driving to someone’s house generates more publicity.
“Normally I’ll get there and half the neighborhood will be looking at the motorcoach,” Aaron said.
And that doesn’t include the looks he gets from people while he’s driving there. He often notices people looking at the coach as he’s waiting at a stoplight. He can sometimes even see them mouth the words “Mobile Mortgage.”
“I had a gentleman yesterday who pulled up next to me and yelled out the window, ‘Hey, what are the 30-year fixed rates?'” Aaron said.
Aaron anticipates such encounters will turn into real inquiries, no matter where he might be – Lake Tahoe, Mammoth, Arizona, Nevada or up the California coast. He’s taken the coach on vacation to all those places.
The motorcoach costs him about $500 a month to own, but fuel costs can easily soar toward $1,000 a month. For Aaron, however, that’s a small price to pay compared with what he’d spend on more traditional advertising.
“To me it’s just about exposure,” Aaron said. “It’s my way of competing against these bigger companies.”
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