Megaphone Interview With Silas Ellman, Co-founder and Vice President of RGR Marketing
Megaphone: Leaders of Lead Gen
Jornaya’s Megaphone shines a light on some of our most successful Publisher Partners. Each one of them has specific elements that make them uniquely valuable to their clients that deserve to be recognized by our industry. Through Megaphone, we’ll sit down with trailblazing Publishers to explore their stories, highlight their offerings, discuss challenges they solve, hear their market predictions, and learn what’s next in store for their businesses.
Interview With Silas Ellman, Co-founder and Vice President of RGR Marketing
After the tumultuous year that was 2020, generating high-quality leads has never been more important. But lead generation trends are changing. What worked years ago might not work in the current environment. To highlight the evolution of the industry and current trends, we’re sitting down with industry leaders to get their perspectives.
Our first interview is with Silas Ellman, Co-founder and Vice President of RGR Marketing. RGR Marketing, founded in 2004, is an online performance marketing company specializing in lead generation for consumer financial services. Their services include mortgage leads, solar leads, tax settlement leads, client branded lead campaigns, and an agency of record business. We spoke to Silas about RGR and the trends he’s seeing in mortgage and solar lead space.
Jornaya: RGR has achieved almost two decades of success. Tell us more about RGR and what you’ve seen in the last 20 years.
Silas Ellman: Lead gen companies, especially lead gen companies our size (smaller companies) tend to have a bad reputation in the space for running shady ads, not selling a good product, or not caring about their clients. We try really hard to do the exact opposite of that. While we’re not perfect, we work hard to run an ethical, honest business. We do our best to create a quality lead that our vendors can get on the phone and work to close the deal.
We also work hard to maintain positive relationships with our clients, any of our vendors, any of our employees. We truly care about our clients - we work very hard to create a quality product, and feel genuine excitement when they succeed with our partnership. Personally, I share the same views as our company - I become happier when our clients achieve success. We even work closely with a lot of our competitors, and I think that's important for companies our size in this space.
Jornaya: What's in store for RGR this year … and beyond?
Silas Ellman: In 2020, we did a really good job expanding the mortgage vertical and, like the rest of the industry, we took a hit. Especially at the beginning in March and April when interest rates were so low. And then in the solar vertical when solar sales dropped because of quarantine. In May through July when things started opening up a little bit, and we were lucky that we created a really good lead funnel during that time. We also took that time to design new websites and better messaging that would create higher conversion rates. Those efforts paid off and we were able to expand our mortgage offerings and we will continue that through 2021.
Our big push for 2021 is what we call cleaning up the solar vertical. Solar, which has been around probably 7 years or so, has gone through many iterations (just like every vertical).
As a whole, it’s a lot younger than the mortgage industry, which also means the lead generation side of things is still evolving. It can be very costly and difficult to generate some solar leads. We have to ensure we’re completely straightforward with messaging so we’re trying to find that happy medium aggressiveness of the language while still providing a quality lead.
Every year we move forward there's advancements on both sides and people are going to get better at closing these leads and we're going to get better at generating what they want to purchase. For now, we’ll continue to find cost-effective ways to drive quality traffic to our websites. As well as being more clear with the consumer: clear on the language on the ad and on the form. We’re always working on truthful and honest messaging, but at the same time, as I said earlier, we have to be aggressive enough in that messaging to get the consumer to click on the ads and fill out the form.
Jornaya: Let’s talk about the changes in the mortgage market. 2020 was a landmark year where mortgage interest rates hit record lows. Lenders, lead sellers, and affiliate marketers relied less on third-party lead generators because demand was so high. What was going on at RGR during this time?
Silas Ellman: A lot of the bigger lenders had this backlog of locked loans and it takes them 30, 60, 90 days to get through that but I think a lot of the lenders brought on new staff to grow with the industry. We noticed a decline in mortgage applications whether it's from us on the lead gen side or through the lenders directly, so we have seen over the last couple months demand pick up quite a bit. We’ve seen a significant demand in a lot of those niche products, mainly VA, FHA, and more recently, on non qualified-mortgage.
Jornaya: With so many dynamics at play, it's interesting to think about how all these considerations factor into consumer demand and the role that performance marketers play in the amount of lead generation. How have you adapted your engagement strategies with consumers?
Silas Ellman: We generate the majority of our leads through email and social. That being said, the way we touch our consumers wasn’t really affected. But, the way we interacted with our vendors did. Huge call center environments moved to the employees’ homes, it was harder to set up calls with the decision makers. So I think not only did we have to learn how to deal with our clients in a new way, but our clients had to learn how to deal with their consumers.
At the end of the day, we care about our clients and their customers. We invested in a proprietary system that integrates with third-party partners, like Jornaya, to validate each lead in real-time. This process ensures delivery of the highest quality, compliance lead with the biggest probability of success. We’re proud to operate with the highest levels of honesty, integrity, and transparency. Our values and priorities show in the long-standing partnerships we’ve formed and the powerful bottom-line results we drive for our customers, every day. We have a proven track record of successfully anticipating and adapting to market changes, and maintaining significant growth over more than a decade in the business.