Mortgage bankers can snare business on the Internet if their advertisements invite participation, experts say.
"Allow people to interact with you, so you can gain information about them," advised Gina Borden, principal consultant with the technical services unit of Norwest Corp., Minneapolis.
Ms. Borden suggested a question-and-answer page whose format ranges from basic queries about what a mortgage is to more complicated inquiries about the effect of points and interest rates on loan costs.
She offered her comments about the information superhighway at a senior executives conference in New York sponsored by the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
Bankers at the conference agreed that the Internet has the potential to be a marketing tool, but were split on whether its time has come.
The system doesn't have enough of a track record on which to draw many conclusions, said Marc C. Smith, president of Crestar Mortgage Corp., Richmond, Va. "But some companies have already taken the first step and gotten on-line."
At Norwest, a mortgage page has generated "a lot" of leads resulting in closed mortgage loans, Ms. Borden said.
The mortgage page is part of an overall corporate package that the bank has on the Internet. Internet users can tap into Norwest's earnings reports, research from the bank's economist, or information about various products.
Incentives such as premiums are a good way to get Internet users to stop cruising long enough to respond to solicitations, Ms. Borden said.
Mortgage bankers that do not have Norwest's financial muscle can take a scaled-back approach. A modest presentation can be just as effective, as long it is appealing and not garbled with technical jargon, industry consultants said.
"The Net will be what business people make of it," said Leilani E. Allen, director of Tenex Consulting, Burlington, Mass.
Right now, more than six million people access the Internet, making its marketing potential immense, she said.
Mortgage bankers could use the system in direct marketing efforts. But loan officers must be told, Ms. Allen said. "Otherwise, you'll get a whole lot of opposition from the inside."
The systems can also be used as an educational service for Internet users. Ms. Allen suggested creating newsletters, and offering counseling and information on rates.