I’m sure by now, you’ve been pulled in multiple directions by mortgage lead “experts”, telling you how to spend your marketing budget. The worst part is the uncertainty when deciding which system will provide you with the best ROI for marketing dollars.

From our experience, the biggest lapse comes in the form of misunderstanding the difference between marketing agencies and lead providers in the mortgage space. This misunderstanding could be the difference between seeing an ROI and throwing away your mortgage marketing dollars. Lucky for you, we’ve simplified it all in this blog!

Mortgage Lead Providers

Mortgage lead providers are those who either buy or generate mortgage leads, then turn around and sell them to lead buyers, or in this case LOs. Companies that fit this mold include Lending Tree, Zillow, Bankrate, Realtor.com, and FreeRateUpdate. If you’ve researched any of these providers in the past, then you’ve probably heard some good things, and some bad things. Here is a look at the good and the bad:


  • Fixed lead cost – Understanding the exact cost per lead makes budgeting simple and provides you with a consistent rate when forecasting and measuring ROI.
  • Specific attribution targeting – Receiving leads of specific criteria reduces the number of junk leads you will have to weed through in order to find the leads that are worth your time.
  • Lead refunds – Some companies offer refunds for leads provided with invalid contact information. This serves as a sense of security, knowing that you’re marketing dollars won’t be wasted on a lead that was dead from the get-go.
  • Lower commitment level – This means walking away at any point. Because you’re only paying for leads and not a service, there is nothing to keep you from leaving if it’s not a good fit.


  • Cost per lead of $20 – $40 – Although it is fixed, these leads are expensive. Paying high prices for mortgage leads can significantly stunt your ROI.
  • Non-exclusive leads – How many times has this lead been sold? Although a lead provider may sell you leads exclusively, that doesn’t mean these leads were sold exclusively from the original provider. These leads could be sold to numerous parties before you. Meaning, you could pay for leads you’ll never have a chance to convert.
  • Ambiguous pricing – Savings aren’t passed on to the buyer. If the provider receives a promotion or a discount of any kind, you would never know. You’re stuck paying whatever you agreed to.
  • Aged leads – When were these leads generated? Last week, last month, last year? Speed to the lead is a critical part of working mortgage leads. Good luck converting leads that are already working with another LO who got to them first.
  • Unknown Traffic Source – Not knowing how these leads are collected or where they are collected from, makes approaching these leads very difficult.

Mortgage Marketing Agencies

Mortgage marketing agencies are those who operate as a marketing agent on behalf of your mortgage business. They are serviced based, such as implementing and managing a mortgage lead generation system for you, as opposed to simply selling you leads. Just like lead providers, there are some benefits and drawbacks.


  • Cost per lead of $5 on average – Inexpensive leads means increased ROI when you convert. You don’t have to break your bank to bolster your pipeline.
  • 100% exclusive leadsHaving your own lead gen system set up for you means you have full control over each and every lead that comes in. This provides a sense of security knowing no one has these leads but you.
  • Transparent pricing – Controlling the lead gen system allows you to keep tabs on lead cost as they are generated. Better yet, when savings or promotions are offered, the savings are passed on to you, instead of lining someone else’s pockets.
  • Real-time leads – As mentioned before, speed to lead is critical! Having access to the lead immediately when it comes in means you’re able to interact while your services are top of mind. Strike while the iron is hot!


  • Variable lead cost – Lead costs can be unpredictable. For example, one day you could pay $25 to generate 10 leads ($2.50/lead). Then the next day you could pay $25 to generate 5 leads ($5/lead). Fortunately, most lead generation systems have safeguards, tools, and alerts in place to keep this from getting out of hand.
  • Lack of filtering ability – Because of the real-time nature, filtering abilities are limited. You’re likely to run into some junk leads. (We are currently working to make sorting by self-reported attributes a reality at Empower Funnels.)
  • No lead refunds – When paying to generate exclusive leads you’ll likely be paying for the engagement (clicks, impressions, views, etc). Take Google Ads for example. If they charge you on a per-click basis, they aren’t going to refund you if a lead doesn’t pan out. This is a trade-off of capturing the lead higher in the funnel.
  • Higher commitment level – Because implementing a mortgage marketing service is more complex than just buying leads, the level of commitment asked of you is usually higher. This doesn’t necessarily mean a contract in all cases, just simply more work and attention.

No matter the direction you choose for your mortgage business, make sure to consider all the good and bad that comes along with each option. If there is one thing you should take away from this it should be that mortgage lead providers sell you leads, whereas mortgage marketing agencies help you generate leads.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you at the top!

P.S. Interested in learning more about getting the biggest bang for your buck? Click here to find out why our system is known as “the Cadillac of mortgage lead generation” by booking a FREE live demonstration today!

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