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Surefireside Chats: James Polinori | Geneva Financial

Jul 08, 2021

Surefireside Chats is our monthly series where we sit down with mortgage marketing leaders to hear their top strategies and secrets for success as they raise the bar one campaign at a time.

In today’s episode, we are joined by James Polinori, chief marketing officer at Geneva Financial.

Top of Mind Networks:

How did you get started in marketing?

James Polinori:

When I was 15 years old, I walked into the local newspaper demanding a job. I was running for a press position on the student council and knew that working for the paper would give me a competitive edge. We made a deal that I would deliver newspapers if they would let me work in the newsroom. Eventually, I asked the advertising department to teach me how to write ads. They gave me a stack of ads to practice on and ended up loving my work so much that they sent them to clients. Soon after, clients refused to work with anyone but me.

Top of Mind Networks:

What does the marketing team owe the rest of the organization?


Our mission is to take the load off of loan officers so they can focus on building relationships with their clients and producing the best quality files. With Surefire, we can pitch loan officers an entire marketing campaign without the need for them to even log in to the system. Our marketing efforts build upon every transaction put into our operating system and Surefire in hopes of generating two or three more.

Top of Mind Networks:

How do you draw on your company’s existing tech stack and data partnerships to enhance the marketing effort?


I have one rule for technology: If it doesn’t fit, it’s got to go. Human touch connects borrowers and loan officers, which is a major advantage of working with independent mortgage banks over megabanks. We’ve made sure our operating system, mobile app and Surefire CRM are constantly working hand in hand to deliver a personalized experience. Instead of bombarding borrowers and loan officers with notifications, we make careful decisions about their execution, determining which content better serves as text alerts or emails. We can easily mine this data on behalf of our loan officers using Surefire.

Top of Mind Networks:

How do you keep the marketing outreach of a distributed origination team on-brand and on-message?


Marketing starts internally by living your company values and protecting brand integrity. Our “Home Loans Powered by Humans” tagline is built into our core values and guides our actions. We prioritize the human element of marketing by engaging with borrowers over the phone rather than flooding their email inboxes. To maintain consistency in producing high-quality, creative marketing content, our team meets daily to review the materials before they are sent out. Without a hands-on approach, brand integrity can shrink rather quickly.

Top of Mind Networks:

What kinds of industry trends do you keep your eye on?


Tracking marketing ROI gives us insight into how well our campaigns have captured borrowers’ attention. Having Surefire in our toolset gives us a world of reports on our performance that tells us exactly how effective the latest marketing trends have been in our campaigns. Surefire provides visibility into the entire process of a borrower receiving and responding to an email, starting a mortgage application and the loan closing 30 days later. This data is key for measuring the ROI of our marketing, especially when it comes to creating and delivering new styles of content.

Top of Mind Networks:

Have your tactics changed at all this year in response to the pandemic or interest-rate environment?


Geneva Financial was experiencing explosive growth prior to the pandemic, which led us to increase automation to handle the volume. In retrospect, adding tools like Surefire to our arsenal better positioned us to handle the curveballs thrown by COVID-19 and take advantage of the influx of business from refinances. Without the technology we have in place, we likely would have missed out on a ton of volume this year.

Top of Mind Networks:

What are some ways you measure the success of marketing activities?


We receive weekly metrics on our operations broken down into sections on processing, underwriting and the pipeline as a whole. Because our tech tools are integrated with our operating system, we can also track application and closed loan volume, which I use to determine whether the marketing team needs to ramp up or slow its pace. It’s through this deeper level of analysis that we can see exactly how we’re performing and also uncover additional opportunities for deals that loan officers may not have had otherwise.

Top of Mind Networks:

Can you share a top marketing trick or success story?


Authenticity is the driving force behind our marketing success. In order for campaigns to truly resonate with borrowers, they need to feel like they were written by the loan officers themselves. In our efforts to turn single transactions into two or three more for our loan officers, we establish referral processes and work to increase their SEO. We’ve also strengthened our listing offerings by communicating with listing agents and notifying them of loan milestones and the unique marketing opportunities we can offer them through Surefire that are far beyond their usual flyers. Multiplying opportunities for deals paves a more solid path towards loan officer success.

Top of Mind Networks:

What are some productivity-boosting tools you can’t live without/use every day?

  1. My phone — It gives me the power to work from wherever, whenever.
  2. Microsoft Outlook — The slew of integrations available in Outlook, including Surefire, support us in doing as much as possible for our loan officers.
  3. Time-blocking — One of my favorite time management tools.
  4. Microsoft Teams — Allows our team to keep the creative energy flowing from a distance.
  5. My planner — My custom marketing planner keeps me on track, and I couldn’t get through my day without it.
Top of Mind Networks:

You’ve just won an Oscar. Give us an acceptance speech shout-out.


First and foremost, I’d like to thank my team. I’ve been insanely fortunate to assemble a team that understands my insanity. The owners of Geneva Financial would be next on my list because they never clip my creative wings and they actively support diversity in our company. Finally, I have to thank my partner, who supports me in all that I do.


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