Video is the gold standard of modern marketing. Here’s how you can start leveraging it without breaking the bank.
Think about when you browse online or spend time on social media. You see a lot of content, don’t you? What type speaks to you the most? If you said “video,” you are not alone. 78 percent of people watch online videos every week, and 55 percent view them every day.[i] Marketers have unsurprisingly taken note of these preferences, and 86 percent of businesses now use video as a marketing tool.[ii]
Smaller agencies have a lot to gain by incorporating video into their marketing repertoire. For some, this may feel daunting; after all, isn’t video notoriously expensive to produce? The answer: not anymore! In the last few years, the hardware and software you need to create your own marketing videos have become a lot less expensive. Here’s everything you need to produce video content to increase your brand awareness and engagement.
First thing’s first, if you want to shoot video, you need a camera. The good news is that you are probably walking around with a high-quality camera right in your pocket. Don’t believe your iPhone is up to the task? Well, what if I told you that filmmakers have already used iPhones to shoot not one, not two but well over 10 feature films? Best of all, the iPhone’s camera keeps getting better and better with each new iteration.
The quality of marketing videos also hinges on elements adjacent to the camera, including tripods and/or stabilizers, lighting and sound, which have each become quite affordable in recent years. Let’s look at a few details of each:
- Tripods: When looking at tripods or stabilizers, ask yourself what type of marketing video you envision making. Will it be a sedentary shoot? Do you need to move around? Will your subject be standing? Sitting? Determine this ahead of time before investing in any equipment. But rest easy in knowing there are many affordable options out there that can meet your needs.
- Lights: One of the unsung heroes of the filmmaking process is lighting. Think about a shot from a movie that stuck with you; it’s more than likely the lighting had something to do with making that shot special. Now, before you start envisioning your offices filling up with heavy-duty lighting equipment, pause and take a deep breath. There are so many unique, manageable and innovative lighting systems out there – many of which have been built specifically to complement small-scale smartphone videography.
- Sound: Another critical piece in the filmmaking puzzle is sound. While it’s possible to rely solely on the microphone built into your camera, it is highly recommended to up your game with an additional microphone. Aside from lighting, investing in your sound equipment may be the best thing you can do to improve the production quality of your marketing video and give it a more professional feel.
Of course, you must also edit your video footage to remove things like dead air and bad takes. Keep in mind that the ideal length for marketing videos is very short – no longer than two minutes. Many social media platforms confirm this, with Facebook, for example, encouraging users to keep videos to 15 seconds or less.[iii]
But what should you use to edit your video? You could rely on one of the applications that come pre-loaded on different operating systems. For instance, you can make basic video edits in the “Photos” application that comes with Windows. There are other programs out there that offer more functionality for quite a reasonable price, allowing you to add transitions, titles and music much more easily.
Lights, Camera, Action! In our fast-paced, highly competitive market, the adage “give people what they want” has never been more urgent. Internet-savvy consumers want video content. While it’s normal to feel intimidated by the prospect of shooting your own video content, the combination of affordable equipment and potentially massive ROI make it
[i] 135 Video Marketing Statistics You Can’t Ignore in 2022 (invideo.io)
[iii] How Long Should Videos Be? FB, IG, YT & More in 2020 – Animoto
The transaction is the largest in Alliant National history and demonstrates the underwriter’s commitment to partnering with its agents in the commercial sector.
With its growing national presence across 30 states and the District of Columbia, Alliant National is a well-known residential underwriter. However, it is also a force to be reckoned with in the commercial real estate field. It recently insured a $182 million refinance transaction with Chambers County Abstract of Anahuac, Texas. The transaction was a record breaker for both Alliant National and Chambers County Abstract.
“We were in absolute disbelief,” said Chambers County Abstract examiner Darla Chandler Lastovica, commenting on the size of the transaction. “We didn’t believe it was real until it was all said and done.” Lastovica helped lead the title work on the property.
“Alliant National has insured many commercial properties throughout its history,” said KC West, Senior Vice President and Southwest Regional Manager at Alliant National. “However, we’ve never tackled a property of this size and scope before. While it was a major lift, it was exciting to work on insuring such a large tract of land and to work closely with our partners at Chambers County Abstract.”
The transaction covering the sprawling 550 acre-property in Baytown, Texas, was completed on behalf of Ohio-based JSW Steel. The company is gearing up to renovate its pipe and plate steel mill facility on the site. Chambers County Abstract has a long relationship with JSW Steel, having produced title reports for the company’s law firm since 2014.
This particular transaction dates back to 2019, when JSW Steel opened a $10 million file with Chambers County Abstract. After title was opened, the order sat idle for more than a year until one of JSW’s lawyers informed the office that the transaction had ballooned in size to $182 million.
Aside from its sheer size, the transaction was enormously challenging in other ways. First, it had a complex legal description that included myriad tracts and easements. Second, the description changed over the years, making it a substantial effort to determine what pertained to the property. Despite having completed prior title work, it took considerable effort to review legal descriptions and surveys, verify legal instruments and match these to the various tracts.
Chambers County Abstract, however, is a seasoned player in the commercial real estate market, having worked on many commercial properties, including expansive, multi-tract properties. Having a company well-versed in the process is helpful considering the additional challenges commercial properties can pose over residential. For instance, even single tract commercial transactions can contain more instruments, loans, and longer documents than residential transactions. Multi-tract properties are exponentially more complicated, featuring lengthy legal descriptions, multiple tracts to search and volumes of legal instruments to record. Organizing all these components is “a work of art in its own right,” Lastovica said.
Integral to the success of any given commercial transaction is the role of the underwriter, which must make the final decisions as to whether the property can be insured. As Chambers County Abstract’s underwriter, Alliant National acts as a financial backstop if a title claim or issue were to arise. The relationship between title underwriter and title agent is crucial. Both parties must effectively work together to prevent financial loss. While important to every transaction, title insurance serves a unique role in a commercial context. There can often be multiple liens against commercial properties, so having proper insurance in place is critical to the lender getting an expected lien priority.
Alliant National’s guiding principal is to partner with agents and never compete. In its work with Chambers County Abstract, one can see the powerful and profitable logic in such an approach – for both residential and commercial properties.
Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program creates a formidable partnership to fight fraud.
There is no other way to say it: Real estate fraud is a major problem in the United States. According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly 14,000 people were victimized by real estate fraud in 2020 alone.[i] Combatting this growing threat requires strong partnerships, and Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program seeks to foster such partnerships by rewarding Alliant National agents who prevent fraudulent closings.
The program has produced real results over the years. In this blog, we will look at a recent detection and prevention of a fraudulent transaction by Siesta Title and Escrow Services LLC.
Alliant National Agents on Crime Watch
Alliant National offers a $1,000 reward to Alliant National agents who help prevent a fraudulent transaction from closing. The company created the program to help raise agents’ awareness of potential fraudulent transactions and to reduce the overall cost of claims.
To qualify for consideration to receive a reward under the Crime Watch Program, an agent must satisfy a few requirements:
- The reporting agent must be an active Alliant National agent in good standing.
- The agents must prevent a fraudulent transaction or forgery involving a real estate transaction that was intended to be insured by Alliant National.
- In the case of forgery, the intended forgery must include the falsification of a signature with an intent to defraud.
- The Crime Watch Nomination form must be executed by an owner/manager.
- All available and relevant documentation – including evidence showing that the transaction was to have been insured by Alliant National – must be submitted to the appropriate Alliant National State or Regional Agency Manager along with the Award Nomination form.
The submission form and all relevant documentation will be reviewed by the company and a final determination will be made.
Siesta Title Spots Suspicious Activity
Siesta Title and Escrow Services LLC, a title agency headquartered in Port Charlotte, Fla., recently submitted a suspected fraud to Alliant National. Their story underscores the importance of Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program and how collaboration between agents and underwriters can help stop fraud.
The property in question was a vacant lot in Port Charlotte that had been owned by a Canadian man for 30 years. Quite quickly there were communication problems and other warning signs that something about the transaction was amiss.
“The seller was hard to reach from the beginning, did not respond to emails and only called once, but it was a horrible connection,” said Amanda Pertuch, the submitting agent.
Some of the other indicators that tipped Amanda off to the questionable nature of the transaction included:
- The purported seller having suspicious-looking ID
- The purported seller’s wiring instructions going to a foreign bank
- The purported seller’s letterhead having an address associated with a vacant lot
- The purported seller not having a bank account in the same country where he holds citizenship
- The notary on the closing documents was already on Siesta’s fraud alert list
- The purported seller not showing up in any Google searches
Following verification by Amanda’s manager and Alliant National, the suspected fraud was confirmed, and the transaction was cancelled. The proposed liability amount for the transaction was $160,000.
“I’m glad and relieved that we were able to catch this fraud attempt,” said Pertuch. “Anti-fraud programs are important for our industry to keep claim costs under control. I’m happy Alliant National and Siesta Title were able to take care of this quickly and efficiently.”
If you suspect fraud, notify your manager immediately. Your manager may investigate further and will determine next steps. Under no circumstance should suspicions be communicated to outside parties without prior approval from your manager.
Fraudsters will often attempt to speed the transaction along; do not let them succeed. If you suspect fraud or forgery, conduct a full investigation before proceeding to close the transaction and issuing the policy.
Managers should contact Alliant National underwriting or claims for further assistance.
Working Together, We Can Limit Fraud
Alliant National is committed to limiting fraud and lowering claim costs. However, we can’t do it alone. Just as our ability to deliver high-quality title insurance hinges on our partnerships with agents, so too does our capability to detect and thwart fraud. And as Siesta Title and Escrow Services’ work shows, when those partnerships work, real results that reward agents and protect transactions are indeed possible.
[i] Wire Fraud (nar.realtor)
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) 2021 report released in March highlighted an “unprecedented increase in cyberattacks and malicious cyber activity” resulting in a dramatic escalation in financial losses.
In 2021, IC3 received 847,376 complaints from consumers and businesses – a 7% increase from 2020 – with potential losses exceeding $6.9 billion. Most significantly for the title insurance industry, business email compromise (BEC) schemes resulted in losses of nearly $2.4 billion, up 33% from 2020.
In its report, the IC3 identified Russia as a hot spot for cyberattack actors in 2021. In recent weeks, the risk of those cyberattacks has grown exponentially in retaliation for the many sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
On March 21, President Biden released a statement highlighting the imminent threat to our nation’s cybersecurity. That same day, Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said in a press briefing, “We’ve previously warned about the potential for Russia to conduct cyberattacks against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs that the U.S. and allies and partners imposed in response to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine. Today, we are reiterating those warnings, and we’re doing so based on evolving threat intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks on critical infrastructure in the United States.”
These imminent threats are a reminder of how important it is to take the necessary steps to protect your agency and your customers.
Alliant National has just released a white paper titled Escrow Fraud/Social Engineering: Recent Schemes and Prevention Tips to provide our agents with information, risk factors and protocols that will help you partner with consumers, real estate agents and lenders to defend against the fraudsters.
In addition, the Biden Administration released a Fact Sheet, urging companies to take immediate steps to protect their systems, including:
- Mandate the use of multi-factor authentication on your systems to make it harder for attackers to get onto your system
- Deploy modern security tools on your computers and devices to continuously look for and mitigate threats
- Check with your cybersecurity professionals to make sure that your systems are patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities
- Change passwords across your networks so that previously stolen credentials are useless to malicious actors
- Back up your data and ensure you have offline backups beyond the reach of malicious actors
- Run exercises and drill your emergency plans so that you are prepared to respond quickly to minimize the impact of any attack
- Encrypt your data so it cannot be used if it is stolen
- Educate your employees on common tactics that attackers will use over email or through websites
- Encourage employees to report if their computers or phones have shown unusual behavior, such as unusual crashes or operating very slowly
- Engage proactively with your local FBI field office or CISA Regional Office to establish relationships in advance of any cyber incidents
The Biden Administration also encourages IT and security leaders at all companies to visit the websites of CISA and the FBI to access technical information and other useful resources. These heightened threats represent a clear and present danger for all of us. We encourage all of our agents to download the Alliant National Escrow Fraud/Social Engineering today and share this information with your staff and customers.
The talent market is tighter than ever. Here’s how to best spread the word about your opening.
You’ve likely heard the labor market is tight these days. A countless amount of digital ink has been spilled recently describing what is now known as “The Great Resignation,” and the data shows that it’s not mere hysteria or hyperbole. 4.5 million people voluntarily left their positions in November of 2021 alone – an “all-time high” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.[i]
These numbers have had a sizable impact on the labor market. Not only has the value of labor increased, but many companies are finding that their ability to recruit and retain necessary talent has become severely restricted. So how should companies attempt to break through the noise and find the workers they need?
Recruitment Has Never Been Easy
Anyone who has ever attempted to hire knows the process can be enormously complicated and expensive. Even before the pandemic and the rise of The Great Resignation, businesses often struggled to find, attract and hire the right people. This was and remains particularly true for smaller firms, which often lack the resources to invest in job board postings or contract with recruitment specialists. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternative options for maximizing the reach of your opening. In fact, there are several.
Leverage Your Social Networks:
Social is a superweapon for spreading the word about a job, and there are many ways to leverage these platforms for your recruitment purposes. You can start with a simple organic post and request that your networks share it with relevant applicants. Major platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn also have specific functionality for posting jobs. This includes the ability to support your posting with a minor ad spend or associate it with your company’s business page.
Put Your Job at the Center of Your Website
Your website is your biggest piece of digital real estate – and it is a valuable resource when trying to fill a new post. Not only can you create a career page on your website and post your job there, but many CMS systems let you activate modals or place a promotional banner image on your homepage. Of course, this functionality differs wildly from platform to platform. But many CMS systems – for example, WordPress.org – offer easy-to-install plugins if such features are not already supported.
Conduct Community Outreach
As powerful and convenient as digital channels are, sometimes you must also go directly into your community. For example, businesses, regional colleges, universities and trade schools are a goldmine for potential talent. These institutions will also likely be happy to showcase your posting to their students free of cost, as they have a vested interest in helping their students secure internships or employment.
Take Advantage of Your Existing Staff
Keep in mind that each member of your current staff has their own professional network, and they may know several quality candidates for your open role. A great way to access this talent pool is to set up a small referral program. Not only will you gain potential candidates, but they will likely be more invested due to the pre-existing relationship they have with your team.
To Attract the Best, Cast a Wide Net
When you need to hire a good candidate for an important position, it’s critical to get your posting in front of the maximum number of people. With close to 11 million job openings available near the end of last year,[ii] it’s safe to say that The Great Resignation is far from abating. To beat the competition, you must rely on both your digital and traditional channels. And with a little luck, you’ll find the perfect addition to your growing team.
[i] Statistics for Great Resignation (fastcompany.com)
[ii] Job openings near record high, with 11 million vacancies – CBS News Job openings near record high, with 11 million vacancies – CBS News