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An image of eyeglasses, pen, two touch pads and financial documents at workplace with businessman shaking in background.

Conducting Valuable Market Research

After experiencing sustained growth, many businesses will begin to think about expansion. But while moving into new markets can be an exciting prospect, success often hinges on rigorous planning. Here, we will examine how market research is an important part of this process and how you can develop your own. Let’s jump in.

Market research is key to successful expansion

Navigating business expansion can sometimes resemble trying to pick your way through a thick forest. The trail can feel uncertain and unpredictable where one wrong step could trip you up. Think of market research as a light that illuminates the best path forward. It deepens understanding of potential customers and leads to more informed decision-making. Moreover, it reduces risk, enables the creation of better products and services, and shores up the long-term health of your brand.

The challenge of getting started

Despite its benefits, conducting marketing research can seem like a tall order, especially if you’ve never done it before. All too often, this leads to companies commissioning a report by a third party, which can be quite costly. Depending on the research, the cost can range at least $15,000 – $25,000 a pop.[i] This can be an unnecessary expense, especially as it’s possible to gather a lot of this information on your own.

A deeper dive

So, how do you start a market research report? Begin by sketching out your goals and objectives. Then outline the contours of your target market using these categories: 

  • Market demand for title insurance
  • Qualitative and quantitative nature of the customer base
  • Competitor analysis
  • Regulatory environment (only if different from your current environment)
  • Competitive advantages you bring to the table
  • Any barriers that will prevent you from entering the market

Secondary research

After you have this framework, add additional detail by consulting secondary research sources. Fill out the market demand and customer base sections of your report by consulting:

  • Title industry reports
  • Government databases
  • Housing, population and employment trends

Next, learn more about your competitors by following these steps:

  1. Search online for competitors who serve the target market.
  2. Look at business directories and your local land title associations for additional information.
  3. Then, see what your competitors are doing to market their products and services by looking at:
    1. Their website
    1. Social media channels
    1. Review sites
    1. SEO rankings
    1. Any available advertising
  4. Pair this with information on your competitors’ pricing, services and customer base.

In working through this exercise, a better picture of competing organizations will come into focus. The last step is then to populate the sections on your competitive advantages and barriers to entry. Perhaps one of the best tools to use here is what’s known as a “SWOT analysis.” Here’s what that requires you to look at and flesh out:

  • Strengths: What are you doing right and/or well.
  • Weaknesses: The potential weak points within your organization.
  • Opportunities: The opportunities or openings in the market of which you can take advantage.
  • Threats: What could threaten your ability to enter a new market.

Next steps

Armed with a better understanding of the market, your competitors and how they stack up against your organization’s strengths, weaknesses and capabilities, you can build better offers for your products and market them in a way that connects and converts. Don’t stop with just market research, though. Use this document as the basis for creating a strategic plan, a marketing and sales strategy and even guidance for how your organization can align resources with short- and long-term goals. Combined, these various assets will position you to not only enter your target market but hit the ground running.


[i] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-much-does-market-research-cost-philomathresearch/

FBI agents on a football field working together as a team to fight cyber criminals.

BEC Fraud Nears $3B Mark In 2023 In Latest IC3 Report

Calling cybersecurity “the ultimate team sport,” the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) emphasized its ongoing commitment to working with local law enforcement and private industry to combat evolving cyber threats in the U.S. in its recent 2023 Internet Crime Report.

The report, released in March, highlighted investment fraud and business email compromise (BEC) fraud as the two most expensive fraud types in 2023, with investment fraud increasing from $3.31 billion in 2022 to $4.57 billion in 2023 — a 38% increase, and BEC logging 21,489 complaints amounting to $2.9 billion in reported losses.

“Today’s cyber landscape is threatened by a multitude of malicious actors who have the tools to conduct large-scale fraud schemes, hold our money and data for ransom, and endanger our national security,” the FBI noted in its executive summary. “The FBI continues to combat this evolving cyber threat. Our strategy focuses on building strong partnerships with the private sector; removing threats from U.S. networks; pulling back the cloak of anonymity many of these actors hide behind; and hitting cybercriminals where it hurts: their wallets, including their virtual wallets.”

IC3’s Recovery Asset Team (RAT), established in 2018 to facilitate the freezing of funds involved in cybercrime, was able to initiate the Financial Fraud Kill Chain (FFKC) on 3,008 incidents in 2023, with potential losses of $758.05 million. A monetary hold was placed on $538.39 million, representing a success rate of 71%.

In its report, the FBI emphasized the importance and value of victims reporting cyber incidents to IC3.

“Your reporting is critical for our efforts to pursue adversaries, share intelligence with our partners, and protect your fellow citizens,” the FBI noted. “Cybersecurity is the ultimate team sport, and we are in this fight together.”

For professionals involved in real estate transactions, RAT is a significant ally, as the organization has developed the deep insight and resources needed to identify, track and convict cyber criminals.

By creating a strong liaison between law enforcement and financial institutions, RAT is able to assist in the identification of potentially fraudulent accounts, stay at the forefront of emerging trends, and foster a symbiotic relationship where information is shared.

New concerns emerge

The IC3 report noted increasing concern for situations where fraudsters prompt victims to send wires directly to third-party payment processors. Funds are quickly dispersed in such cases, making it more difficult to recover the money.

The FBI is also seeing an increase in fraudsters using custodial accounts at financial institutions or cryptocurrency platforms, where the funds are quickly swallowed up.

“With these increased tactics of funds going directly to cryptocurrency platforms and third-party payment processors or through a custodial account held at a financial institution, it emphasizes the importance of leveraging two-factor or multi-factor authentication as an additional security layer,” the agency noted. “Procedures should be put in place to verify payments and purchase requests outside of email communication and can include direct phone calls but to a known verified number and not relying on information or phone numbers included in the email communication.”

Other best practices include:

  • Carefully examining the email address and URL
  • Reviewing the wording and spelling in the correspondence
  • Refraining from clicking on links requesting you update or verify account information
  • Refusing requests to supply login credentials or personal information via email
  • Training employees on the red flags of fraud
  • Providing staff with ongoing training on how to handle suspected fraud

Wire fraud guidance

As in past years, the FBI reminded real estate professionals involved in wiring funds to put in place strict verification measures should a wire change be requested during the course of a transaction.

In addition, the FBI emphasized the critical need for title agents who are victims of wire fraud to act quickly when the fraud is detected, advising they contact the originating financial institution to request a recall or reversal and a Hold Harmless Letter or Letter of Indemnity.

They also encouraged victims to file a detailed complaint with www.ic3.gov providing as much data as possible to broaden the organization’s ability to track cybercriminals.

Ransomware on the rise

Ransomware incidents were also on the rise in 2023, with 2,825 complaints reported and losses up 74% from $34.3 million to $59.6 million.

In its report, the FBI emphasized that it does not encourage paying the ransom since it will effectively embolden criminals to target more victims.

“Paying the ransom also does not guarantee that an entity’s files will be recovered,” the FBI reminded. “Regardless of whether you or your organization decided to pay the ransom, the FBI urges you to report ransomware incidents to the IC3. Doing so provides investigators with the critical information they need to track ransomware attackers, hold them accountable under U.S. law, and prevent future attacks.”

Light Gray Divider Line

At Alliant National, we are committed to keeping you updated on the latest cybersecurity threats and providing you and your staff with information and tools to help protect your customers and your agency. SecureMyTransaction from Alliant National is an advanced fraud prevention solution built exclusively for independent title professionals. The system helps agents avoid risks posed by wire fraud, identity fraud and vacant property fraud by automating the information you need to move transactions forward with confidence. SecureMyTransaction leverages AI technology that covers and crosschecks:

  • Identification
  • ID instrument validation (US and 200 countries)
  • Bank account validation and ownership
  • Payoff and proceeds verification
  • OFAC searches (FinCEN included in the OFAC feed)
  • Alliant National Underwriting alerts

Learn more at www.securemytransaction.com or contact your agency representative to schedule a demo.

A frozen man bundled up for cold weather.

Reengage Your Cold Leads with Email Marketing

Have some of your leads gone cold? Reconnect using these tips!

Nobody likes to see their email leads go cold, but sometimes it happens despite our best efforts. The trick is not to give up hope, especially when there is no reason to do so. There are many strategies to reignite your dormant prospects. We’ll dig into a few of them here.  

Why leads go silent

It’s important to note that leads are not static. At the end of the day, leads simply represent people, and people are always changing. Seen through this lens, it becomes clear why a lead that was once active could suddenly go dark. Agencies must continually assess their leads and adjust their approach to avoid this.  

Leads can go dormant for reasons that either have to do with the business or with the customer. We will begin on the business side. When putting together your outreach campaigns, problems can arise if:  

  • Your content is no longer relevant to your audience.
  • The message’s quality is perceived as poor and includes:
    • Grammatical or spelling mistakes
    • Delivery or presentation problems
    • Timing issues
  • Larger structural issues like lack of brand trust or awareness.

Then there is the customer side of things, which may include:

  • Budgetary constraints
  • Changing goals
  • Staff turnover
  • Inaccurate data
  • A competitor offering a more compelling value proposition

Reconnect with your leads

To begin rebuilding a connection with your leads, take a strategic approach by reviewing your marketing lists and segmentation strategies. As mentioned, leads often disengage if your content is no longer relevant to their needs, goals and pain points. Determine if your buyer personas are still accurate and that you are actually sending the right content to the right people at the right time.

After that, review your email marketing programs and ask hard questions about whether you are incorporating all the latest best practices. You may want to consider developing personalized content for future messages. Ensure you emphasize value for the reader. And don’t forget to double check that your copy is optimized for mobile!

Reengagement campaigns

Agencies can also go one step further by creating a reengagement campaign. These campaigns involve sending a series of emails or phone calls (or both) that de-emphasize hard sells and prioritize educational and helpful content. Over time, reengagement campaigns show cold leads that your agency is a trusted, go-to resource that is equally committed to solving their problems as it is to making money.

Keep the momentum!

Once you start to see engagement again, it’s important not to stop. Stay consistent with your messaging. Consider using a content calendar if it’s helpful. Whatever you do, keep a watchful eye on your email analytics. Staying vigilant is the best strategy for adjusting in real time and ensuring your audience stays engaged and happy.

Final thoughts

Sometimes in marketing, it can feel like you are taking one step forward and two steps back, especially when a lead goes quiet. Yet marketing is often a pendulum rather than a straight line. Anytime leads go cold, it can feel like a major setback. But with some thoughtful course correction, your results can soon start swinging in the right direction.  

A blindfolded businessman standing amidst 3 clouds against a blue sky

Which Cloud Model Is Right For You?

Public, private, or hybrid—what suits your agency best?

Once a novelty, cloud networks now personify the modern workspace. Businesses leveraging cloud deployments typically enjoy enhanced flexibility and productivity. Moreover, with the rise of remote work, the cloud has become crucial in attracting and retaining valuable talent. However, maximizing the benefits of your cloud network depends on selecting a deployment model that aligns with your organization’s goals. If you’re considering the cloud for your agency, you’ll need to choose between public, private, and hybrid options. Let’s explore the differences to help you determine the best route for your business.

Public Cloud Deployments

Public cloud networks rely on the infrastructure provided by third-party cloud service providers. In this setup, companies utilize shared resources and are often charged based on a pay-as-you-go model. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of this deployment model.

Pros:

  • Greater accessibility: Public cloud providers often have a large service area, meaning agents can access vital tools and data from any location.
  • Easier scalability: Public cloud providers typically offer flexible pricing models, which can be ideal for agencies seeking to scale their infrastructure up and down depending on business demand.
  • Better focus on core business goals: Migrating to the public cloud offloads IT management to a third party, which empowers agencies to focus more on their transactions and customer relations. 

Cons:

  • Security concerns: Despite their robust features, the fact that resources are shared on a public cloud may trigger potential security and privacy concerns.
  • Third-party dependence: Using the public cloud means your IT setup becomes largely dependent on a third-party provider.  
  • Cost overruns: Public cloud is rightly celebrated for its flexible pricing, but without careful due diligence, it can also lead to cost-overruns.

Private Cloud Deployments

Private cloud networks are designed for the exclusive use of a single organization and are managed either by the network’s owner or third-party. Here are a few of the benefits and potential drawbacks.

Pros:

  • Customized security: Private networks enable administrators to create customized security controls and exercise greater data sovereignty, which greatly assists with compliance in regulated industries like title insurance.
  • Performance gains: Plus, with private networks being designed for exclusive use, companies can potentially gain more consistent network performance.
  • Effective resource allocation: Private clouds permit more effective control over digital resources, which optimizes an organization’s productivity and cost-effectiveness.

Cons:

  • Up-front investment: Private clouds can involve sizable up-front costs, as businesses will need to invest in infrastructure like servers and networking equipment.
  • Rigid structure: Relying on private clouds can pose problems for agencies if they want to make changes to their deployment setup. Investing in additional infrastructure may be required to support higher-intensity workloads.
  • Higher maintenance costs: Maintaining a private cloud necessitates that agencies continually invest in sufficient resources like specialized IT knowledge, which can potentially strain budgets that could go toward other revenue-producing activities.

Hybrid Cloud Deployments

Aside from these two options, there is also the hybrid cloud deployment model, which combines elements of both public and private clouds. Hybrid-cloud organizations will typically host some resources, data and workloads within a private cloud while also utilizing third-party providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure. Check out the pros and cons of this approach.

Pros:

  • A fluid model: Hybrid deployments can easily scale to meet fluctuating demand within the real estate industry and ensure optimal resource allocation.  
  • Cost-effective: Hybrid clouds afford agencies flexibility in how they use their cloud infrastructure. Agencies can leverage the public cloud during peak worktimes and avoid overprovisioning their private network.
  • Customizable security: Hybrid cloud businesses can create customizable security measures regarding where they house critical data or workloads. Agencies deal with highly sensitive information. With hybrid cloud, this data can be kept out of a public network and managed on-premises for greater peace of mind.

Cons:

  • Complex management: Managing a hybrid cloud can be complex. Agencies must be adept at navigating diverse environments and integrating various systems into a cohesive whole.
  • Cost control: Using multiple cloud networks can cause billing headaches, as users sometimes find it difficult to track resource allocation, transfer data and reduce waste.
  • Regulatory compliance roadblocks: Finally, hybrid clouds can create security and compliance risks with data that is moving between environments. Agencies will need to implement stringent controls to secure data that is “in-transit” between networks as well as data “at rest” within a single network.

Final Thoughts

As with any critical IT decision, all cloud deployments have their pros and cons. Before pulling the trigger, spend time talking critically about your business and what will work well for your team. Some considerations to mull over include your security requirements, budgets, current IT capabilities and future business projections. After having these important conversations, you can reference our list of pros and cons to select a network that will take your business to the next level.

Graphic welcoming Brianna Dowling, Underwriting Counsel serving Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona

Alliant National Welcomes Brianna Dowling as Underwriting Counsel

Dowling will provide underwriting support to the company’s agents throughout the Central West region.

Longmont, CO — (April 11, 2024) — Alliant National Title Insurance Company, the title insurer that is uniquely responsive to the needs of independent agents, is excited to welcome Brianna Dowling as Underwriting Counsel serving Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona.

Dowling comes to Alliant National after a long career in title insurance. Previously, she served as General Counsel for a large, privately held title insurance agency. She managed a team of six in this position. She was also responsible for continuing education, consulting on regulatory matters and offering comprehensive transactional support both pre- and post-closing. Dowling simultaneously worked as General Counsel for a small underwriter that insured properties exclusively within Colorado. Additionally, she developed extensive policy claims experience earlier in her career by working in two large title insurers, where she handled claims throughout the western U.S.

At Alliant National, Dowling will provide reliable and responsive underwriting support for Colorado and Utah agents. She will be responsible for addressing agent concerns, streamlining closings and making strategic, data-driven decisions on whether titles can be insured.

“I am excited that Brianna is joining our underwriting team. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that gives her unique insight into the perspective of the independent agents we serve,” said Jeff Stein, Chief Underwriting Counsel and Senior Vice President for Alliant National Title Insurance Company. “Her background and skills will be invaluable for our agents who rely on fast and dependable underwriting responses so they can close transactions and insure titles with Alliant National.”

When asked about her hiring, Dowling noted, “Alliant National has a great reputation in the industry, and my experience confirms that the team here is top notch. I am really looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and helping Alliant National’s agents close more deals and grow their businesses.”

Dowling is a passionate and active member of the title insurance community. As a director of the Land Title Association of Colorado (LTAC) and a member of its legislative committee, she contributes her time, energy and expertise to advancing the industry’s interests and making sure it operates at the highest possible quality standards. She is also a member of the Real Estate Section of the Colorado Bar Association and serves on the Bar’s Title Standards Committee and Affordable Housing Task Force.

Dowling received her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from the University of Delaware and her Juris Doctor from New England Law. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

Alliant National supports its independent agents by combining expert residential and commercial underwriting with a passionate heart for service. The company delivers uncommon help that promotes the well-being of agents and the communities they serve.

Media Inquiries

Adam Mohrbacher
Clockwork Public Relations
e: amohrbacher@clockworkpr.net
p: 651.587.4792

About Alliant National Title Insurance Company

Alliant National is on a mission to empower independent agents while protecting property owners with secure title insurance. The company partners with its agents and never competes against them with direct or affiliate operations. Alliant National serves thousands of title professionals as a licensed underwriter in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Visit alliantnational.com for additional information and follow Alliant National on LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest company updates.

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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