When it comes to lead generation, the majority of mortgage brokers rely on referrals or repeat business from existing clients, according to a survey by Mortgage Solutions.
But what if you don't have many clients? If you’re new to the industry or have just gone out on your own having been employed by someone else, you probably won’t have much of an existing client bank to generate leads from.
In that case, lead generation companies might be the answer.
Lead generation companies exist for many industries. But they have always been particularly popular in the mortgage industry, and most mortgage brokers are familiar with the concept of buying mortgage leads from lead generation companies.
How Do Lead Generation Companies Work?
Since the use of the internet became widespread in the early 2000s, the majority of lead generation companies have used websites as a means of generating mortgage leads. A lead generation company will have one or more websites which it promotes via search engines (using PPC and/or SEO) and, increasingly, through social media channels. Any enquiries generated via these websites are passed on to mortgage brokers who have agreed to buy these leads.
A lot of mortgage lead generators will also rely on affiliates to generate some or all of their leads. These affiliates might be other lead generation companies who are passing on their spare unsold leads for resale, or they can be individuals or businesses who generate mortgage leads purely for the purpose of selling them on to larger lead generation agencies.
Some lead generation companies will get leads via the phone too. At one time, outbound cold calling was a popular way to generate mortgage leads, but this was banned in 2004 when the Financial Services Authority (FSA) began to regulate mortgages.
However, it is still possible for lead generators to publish a phone number on their websites and accept incoming calls from consumers who are looking for a mortgage. And they can also make outbound calls to people who request a call via the website.
Once a lead generation company has a prospective client on the phone, they can either confirm their details and pass these on to the broker who is buying the lead, or they can do a live transfer (also known as a hotkey lead) and put the person straight through to the broker’s phone.
As well as selling leads and enquiries, there are some lead generation businesses that can sell mortgage brokers confirmed appointments with potential clients. These obviously cost more than a straightforward lead, but tend to have better conversion rates.
The way that lead generation companies charge for their leads varies too. The majority charge on a cost per lead (CPL) basis whereby the broker pays a fee for each lead regardless of whether or not it results in business. In some cases these CPL leads have a fixed price, but there are also companies that use an auction model to sell each lead to the highest bidder.
Should You Buy Mortgage Leads or Generate Your Own?
Clearly mortgage lead generation companies are not the only ones who can drive traffic to websites and generate mortgage enquiries from them. As a mortgage broker you have the option of using your own website(s) to generate leads instead of buying them from a third party.
So what are the pros and cons of using a mortgage broker lead generation service rather than being self-sufficient?
The alternative to buying leads is to create your own lead generation system instead. This is actually easier than you might think.
Building your own website doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. And, if you are clever with your marketing and focus on a few specific mortgage niches, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune to drive targeted traffic to your site using Facebook Ads and/or Google Ads. Throw in one or two lead magnets and an email marketing system, and you may well find it is easier and more cost-effective to generate your own mortgage leads rather than buying them from lead generation companies.
What to Ask a Mortgage Lead Generation Company
If you do decide to buy mortgage leads from an external company, there are a number of things you should check before you go ahead. The most important things to ask any lead generation company that you’re thinking of working with are:
- Do they work on a cost per lead basis or do they charge a commission on leads that convert into business?
- Are the leads sold at a fixed price or do they operate an auction system?
- Is there a minimum order size?
- What’s their refund policy for invalid or poor quality leads?
- Are the leads delivered in real-time?
- How are they delivered?
- Are the leads exclusive or will they be sold to other mortgage brokers as well?
- How much control do you have over what type of leads you receive?
- Are all the leads generated in ways which are compliant with GDPR and with FCA regulations?
How Many UK Lead Generation Companies Are There?
Prior to the financial crash of 2008, there were a significant number of mortgage lead generation companies operating in the UK. These ranged from big players like PAA Leads who closed down in 2016, through to smaller lead generation companies like the one I owned myself.
Today, however, there are far fewer mortgage lead generators operating. This reduction in numbers is likely to have been caused by various factors, such as:
- Mortgage brokers now finding it easier to generate leads via their own websites
- GDPR making life harder for some of the less scrupulous lead generation companies
- The contraction of the mortgage market as a result of the 2008 financial crisis
Here’s an alphabetical list of all the specialist mortgage broker lead generation companies that appear to be operating at the time of writing, along with any info I could find about them.
Mortgage Lead Generation Companies in the UK
This company uses a different fee model from most other lead generators. They run Google Ads campaigns on your behalf to drive traffic to their own websites. Any leads generated through "your" Google Ads campaigns belong to you and you pay a cost per lead plus you have to cover the advertising charges from Google.
Their website - which reminds me very much of the website that the Guild of Professional Mortgage Advisors (see below) used to have - looks incredibly dated and refers to the FSA instead of the FCA. I wouldn't be surprised if they had actually ceased trading.
As far as I can tell, this company is still operating. However, their website appears not to have been updated for quite a while. Lead Co-op was founded by the same person who founded Leadbay (see below) and, like Leadbay did, it uses an auction system to sell its leads.
Another company whose website looks like it hasn't been updated for a while (although the smallprint does refer to GDPR which only became law in 2018). Their pricing seems to vary from time to time and it's not uncommon to see messages saying they are "at full capacity" and can't take on any more brokers. However, they do currently appear to have mortgage and remortgage leads available for £60 each.
According to their website, all leads are generated via their own consumer-facing site (QuoteSearch.com) and they call each lead to verify the contact details before passing them over to you. They don't publish any prices for leads on their website.
There is very little information for brokers on their website. However, their terms and conditions includes details of pricing as at February 2020 which suggests they are currently trading. Mortgage leads are currently priced at £40 each.
Online Mortgage Advisor works differently from most other mortgage lead generation companies. Instead of paying a fixed price per lead, you pay them a percentage of your commission/proc fees on each lead that converts to business. Their website doesn't say how much of a percentage they charge, but one broker I spoke to who uses OMA told me he currently pays them 22% on each lead that converts.
Simply Online Leads was born out of the ashes of Leadbay (see below) and is now known as SO Leads. Although it doesn't say so on their website, I know from personal experience of supplying them that they do get a proportion of their leads from affiliates. The remainder come from their own site - SoSmart Money. SO Leads sells its leads via an auction system with prices varying according to demand, geography, and the type of mortgage enquiry.
Unbiased has been around for a long while and its website started life as not much more than a directory of IFAs. Today they run a consumer-facing website which promises to connect people with a financial adviser or mortgage adviser who can help them. As a mortgage broker you can sign up to buy these leads. There's a monthly fee of £59 plus a fee of £45 for each lead.
Although it's not primarily a lead generation service, I've decided to include VouchedFor in this list as I know that it's an important lead source for quite a lot of mortgage brokers. VouchedFor is a review website (along the same lines as Trustpilot, etc) where people can leave reviews for mortgage brokers, IFAs, solicitors, and accountants that they have dealt with. Once you have a profile on VouchedFor then you have the potential to receive mortgage enquiries via the site from members of the public. VouchedFor doesn't charge per lead but there is a £45+VAT monthly membership fee.
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List of Former Mortgage Lead Companies
For completeness, here are some mortgage lead generation companies that you may have heard of but which are no longer in business.
- Advice Online
- E-finity Leads
- Guild of Professional Mortgage Advisors - a victim of the 2008 financial crash, according to one of the former director's LinkedIn profile
- Leadbay - which gave rise to SO Leads
- Lead Magpie
- LeadPoint UK
- PAA Leads - the lead selling arm of Money Supermarket
Should You Use a Mortgage Lead Generation Company?
As you can see, if you want to buy mortgage leads in the UK your options these days are fairly limited. I could only find 14 companies that claim to specialise in generating leads for mortgage advisers – and several of those looked like they might not actually be trading anymore.
Over the past 15 years I have seen several lead generation companies shut their doors or go bust, often leaving mortgage brokers severely out of pocket. If you come to rely on a particular lead generator and they go out of business you not only have the potential to lose any money you have paid them upfront but you also risk your supply of new clients drying up.
That’s why I recommend that, even if you do decide to make some use of lead generation companies, you should still make sure you have a reliable lead generation system of your own in place as well. That way you’ll potentially have lower costs, higher quality enquiries, and be less vulnerable in the event that a major lead supplier closes down.