Digital Print Changes Landscape for Real Estate Agents

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Digital print technology is improving the ability of real estate agents to form long-term, one-to-one relationships with clients, according to The Personal Marketing Co., a printer that specializes in the real estate market.

The Lenexa, KS, printer last month celebrated the one-year anniversary of its installation of a Xerox DocuColor iGen3. It added a second printer in June 2003 and has embraced digital print technology to provide better one-to-one marketing tools for its clients.

The iGen3 is a cut-sheet digital press capable of operating at speeds up to 100 pages per minute. Newer digital presses are cheaper and more efficient, so the cost of doing personalized mailers has fallen, said John Wendorff, CEO of The Personal Marketing Co.

The advent of improved databases and data storage also has affected costs, Wendorff said. Whereas storing 25 gigabytes of graphics data once was a challenge, today storing 250 terabytes is not uncommon.

To get price rates of $1 per piece or less on a personalized print job, mailers once had to order at least 1,500 to 5,000 identical pieces because only by buying in bulk could they get the price down, Wendorff said. Personalized information such as addresses was added to a color piece by putting mailers through a second run on a black-and-white printer.

Today, mailers can pay less than $1 per piece regardless of the size of the project. Furthermore, digital press can do color and black-and-white printing in a single run and make each piece highly individualized.

Real estate agents have much to gain from digital print, with its variable data and one-to-one capabilities, Wendorff said. More than many other marketers, real estate agents depend on individualized communications to form long-term relationships.

For most people, real estate represents the biggest financial transaction they make in their lives. Moreover, these transactions often are sparked by a sudden change in people's lives, such as a new job, and they depend on ongoing relationships when selecting an agent on short notice.

"The real challenge is, you never know when somebody is going to need real estate services," Wendorff said. "When they don't need you, they don't need you at all, but when they do need you, they need you right now."

Recent advances in variable data also give real estate agents more freedom to personalize a piece, Wendorff said. For example, to send a card to clients on their birthdays, an agent once had to use the same style card for every client. Now, each card can be unique, with individualized graphics in addition to text.

Real estate mailers are becoming more offer-driven, Wendorff said. Through digital technology, agents can send different offers to different groups of homeowners depending on their personal information.

"We try to put our client, the agent, in the position of reliable and trusted adviser," Wendorff said.

The Personal Marketing Co. has been in business since 1978. It serves 100,000 real estate agents nationwide.


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