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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, August 5, 2008-One thing’s for sure-now is not the time for inconsistency. While the knee-jerk reaction in today’s market might be to cut back on marketing expenses, the fact is, tougher times actually demand more communication with clients and prospects, not less. A smarter approach to marketing in today’s climate? Make sure that your message is relevant, steady, targeted and, yes…cost-effective.

Denver, Colorado-based SharperAgent believes it has arrived at a solution that satisfies all the above criteria and then some. With the Success Marketing program-expected to launch at the end of this month-SharperAgent will deliver a multimedia, integrated, “set it and forget it” marketing system for brokers and agents. And, thanks to its recent selection of mega printer RR Donnelley, and the formation of its own print division, Zuma Print, SharperAgent is able to translate scalability into significant savings for the cost-conscious real estate market.

Company Founder and President Brian Wildermuth refers to the Success Marketing Program as a “mini business plan” for agents. He also believes it represents an important evolution for his company-one he had always envisioned.

“When we launched SharperAgent, one of the unique feature sets of the tool at the time was that you could have multiple media outputs from one system,” says Wildermuth. “Most agents create print marketing pieces with one tool and then use a different tool to create their online marketing pieces. What we’ve found over time is that the more automation you can put in front of agents and the less task-oriented items you give them on a daily basis, the more likely they are to utilize and realize the benefits of the technology and marketing.”

According to Geoff Paquette, SharperAgent’s director of product management, the Success Marketing Program revolves around the idea of creating a complete marketing campaign with one tool and, therefore, enabling users to prearrange consistent contact with clients through various methods of delivery. “Our mixed media product will enable a user to set up a totally custom campaign with different touch methods to reach people on a timely basis,” he explains.

Feeling Their Pain

The Success Marketing Program was developed largely in response to demands from the marketplace. As Wildermuth explains, agent and broker “pains” in terms of marketing always boiled down to a few things.

Agents, for one, were tired of entering data into more than one program to accomplish different marketing tasks. Most programs were usually too complicated, and even if they could understand and manage the particular program they were using, it usually fell short in providing the type of substantive content that could help build relationships with consumers.

Brokers, on the flip side, were feeling their own brand of pain. “Brokers want to heighten the agent’s ability to communicate with today’s consumer,” says Wildermuth. “Brokers don’t want their image represented on a recipe card-they want high-quality value and content that will explain to the consumer why their brand and their agent are the right choice. They also want to have that communication fit the different generations they are targeting.”

SharperAgent’s Success Marketing Program attacks each of these concerns head-on. From database management, to ease of use, to copious amounts of relevant content, Success Marketing just might be the solution to modern-day marketing woes.

Delivering Your Message the Right Way

Flexibility and consistency are the most important features of the Success Marketing Program. By simplifying database management, agents can now target their marketing message for specific audiences and take delivery preferences into account at the same time. More importantly, they can now “set it and forget it” to ensure that this message is delivered regularly. As Wildermuth says, “We’ve created the ability for an agent to take a consumer, set them into a campaign with a few single steps, and be done with it.”

“Agents can set up campaigns based on how their contacts want to be contacted, whether via e-mail or direct mail or a combination,” explains Paquette. “The program will also schedule tasks, such as ‘call John Jones on this date.’ You can send your campaigns out to your entire distribution list or a group based on a particular interest or demographic.”

Through careful research, SharperAgent discovered that its clients were experiencing various levels of success with the company’s system prior to the Success Marketing Program. However, it failed to provide agents with a roadmap to follow regarding the frequency of touch they should strive for. The Success Marketing Program tells agents what to do and how to do it with multiple media.

“Most agents do marketing on a shotgun basis,” explains Wildermuth. “They send out a postcard and months go by before they remember that they were supposed to be doing this regularly. The Success Marketing Program takes a consumer database of prospects and your sphere, records the preference of delivery for each of them, and then automates a mixed-media campaign that is touching consumers on a regular basis through various mediums-some go through e-mail, some through traditional mail, and some through reminders that it’s time to pick up the phone or place a personal visit.”

“Frequency and consistency is everything when it comes to staying competitive,” agrees Amy Deneweth, SharperAgent’s creative director. “A lot of clients pay for messaging and realize they can only afford to send it once or twice. This program allows you to say, ‘Hey, I can now stick with this all year.'”

Multiple Mediums for Changing Consumers

To effectively reach today’s diverse and constantly changing consumer, a multimedia approach to marketing is quite simply a must. Such an approach is “what traditional companies outside of real estate have been doing for years,” says Wildermuth. “In their advertising efforts, they include television campaigns, direct-mail campaigns, and support them with e-mail and online campaigns. We want to take that same approach that works in so many other businesses and use it in real estate.”

“For many agents, hiring an ad agency is likely cost prohibitive,” however, explains Deneweth. “With our new mixed-media capabilities, SharperAgent can now offer an agency in a box. The Success Marketing Program offers them their own mini marketing department doing the print for them, the e-mail sends, the home tours-they can set up their whole campaign for the year.”

“Consumer behavior is such that the consumer needs to be touched multiple times through multiple mediums,” Wildermuth adds. “With so many new companies coming into play trying to grab the consumer’s attention, an agent needs to not only demonstrate their expertise in selling real estate, they need to make meaningful connections with consumers by contacting them on a regular basis in the manner in which they want to be communicated with.

Content That Matters

When it comes to effective marketing, not only is it critical to mix the media, but also the message, says Deneweth. With SharperAgent’s library of more than 2,500 pieces, accomplishing this goal is no problem for users of the Success Marketing Program.

Deneweth recommends, for example, that agents “round out” their marketing message by using an appropriate mix of both property and personally meaningful and relevant information. “Consumers are hungry for any kind of real estate marketing information-whenever an agent can become the trusted resource of that information, that’s always valuable. But then you may have customers who appreciate the targeted demographic or consumer information-the summer safety tips or the local sports schedule. They’re always effective in creating top-of-mind awareness.”

SharperAgent’s Success Marketing Program also offers a large degree of customization, such as creating company-designed marketing pieces to reflect a brand’s unique look and feel and messaging, to personalizing newsletters for individual agents.

“We offer a series of pre-built campaigns that agents can select from, custom campaigns by brand, or the agent can create their own campaign from our marketing library of more than 2,500 pieces,” says Paquette. “Agents can change how the messages get sent out any time while the campaign is going on, and they can add or delete people at any point.”

The bottom line, according to Deneweth, is to stay as “topical as possible to get your messaging across in a crowded, competitive arena.”

A Leading Resource

Helping facilitate SharperAgent’s Success Marketing program is the power of RR Donnelley, touted as the largest printer in the world. Leveraging a seamless workflow with the Chicago, Illinois-based printer, SharperAgent has formed its own print company, Zuma Print, enabling the company to take a 12-step print order process and turn it into a three-step process. Zuma Print now serves as the print-output arm of SharperAgent.

Thanks to Zuma Print, SharperAgent is able to provide clients with a broader array of products to enhance the user experience, making it more enticing and easier to order print products. Thanks to the prowess of RR Donnelley, SharperAgent is able to improve distribution and significantly lower pricing.

“RR Donnelley offers us a scalability component and a quality component that’s really tough to match,” says Paquette. “Our choice of working with RR Donnelley has enabled us to utilize processes and quality assurance components that they have developed for America’s most successful and well known retailers. They can offer solutions that we might not have thought of up front because of their history in the business.”

According to Wildermuth, while many may unwittingly disadvantage themselves by cutting back on marketing, smart companies will immediately see the benefits in programs such as Success Marketing.

“Companies that get it are willing to step up in a time of challenge, while some companies retreat,” says Wildermuth. “Now, more than ever, is the time for people to step it up. Thanks to our relationship with RR Donnelley, we believe we’ve created the most powerful CRM marketing system and combined it with the world’s largest print vendor to create exceptional value. We can now go to a large or small organization with a substantially better program than our competition. Now we can get extremely robust technology into the hands of agents at extremely low prices.”

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