Real estate firm to close mail fulfillment center

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As a result of the slowing real estate market, Long & Foster Real Estate will shut down its own direct mail fulfillment facility at the end of this month and outsource the work to several vendors.

Long & Foster, which has more than 245 offices and is the largest privately owned US real estate company, processed more than 7.5 million pieces of mail for its 15,500 agents through the direct mail services facility last year.

“This is simply a cost-saving measure,” said Ed Sears, VP of marketing at Long & Foster, about the move.

After April 30, when the center shuts down, Long & Foster will outsource processing, production and mailing of direct mail and print marketing collateral to QuantumDigital. A Long & Foster newsletter will be outsourced to the Gooder Group, and Marketing Matters Inc. will handle mailing services.

Long & Foster agents have had the option to order marketing collateral online via a Web portal hosted by QuantumDigital for the past six years. The average annual volume through the portal has been steadily growing, according to Sears, and was approximately 2 million pieces last year.

“With the elimination of the in-house facility, Long & Foster will try to steer most agents to the online portal,” Sears said. As a result, he expects the volume of online orders to grow quickly and possibly reach 3 million in 2008.

A significant percentage of agents, however, continue to print materials themselves and send them to Long & Foster for fulfillment.

Long & Foster will promote the QuantumDigital service on an intranet for agents and through its communications with agents. Direct mail is one of the most cost-effective strategies for prospecting because “it is affordable, accountable and they should take advantage of it,” Sears said.

Educating Long & Foster's agents about the benefits of the portal is an important priority.

“We'll have to educate agents that if they want to track their campaigns, they have to push people to the Web,” said Eric Cosway, EVP and CMO of QuantumDigital, pointing out that QuantumDigital's portal for Long & Foster can easily build direct mail campaigns that contain e-mail and personalized URLs.

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