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RISMEDIA, August 21,2010—As we all know, things change. The market has changed…and, by now, so has the real estate industry’s philosophy on how well the market will truly rebound. Those who have pushed through the market’s toughest times and are succeeding even now have embraced this shift and are making the most of it—including Denver-based SharperAgent.

Founded on the idea that it would bring cutting-edge marketing technology to market, its co-founder and president, Brian Wildermuth, quickly realized that in order to adapt to the changing real estate climate, his company would need to help agents and brokers better connect with consumers using more timely and relevant marketing methods.

Here, read how Wildermuth morphed his product into a fully integrated, consumer-driven marketing solution, why achieving that was so vital and how a little-known company named Shutterfly came into the mix.

Stephanie Andre: Why did SharperAgent reach out to Shutterfly to include a new print offering?
Brian Wildermuth:
In the past, when we’ve worked with other print partners, we had a bit of a bumpy road. Shutterfly Commercial Print Services was a breath of fresh air because its core brand promise is to bring innovative, consumer-focused print products to the market. When we first started SharperAgent, the company was more about cutting-edge e-mail marketing. As we grew, our corporate clients—specifically, large brokerages—came to us and asked for an integrated, multifaceted marketing program. Delivering that the right way meant finding a company that looked at marketing the same way we do.

SA: How has the relationship with Shutterfly impacted SharperAgent’s business?
Shutterfly is the premier digital printer in color and quality and offers incredibly competitive prices, which we can pass on to our clients. We’re now able to bring some of the most unique product lines to real estate agents. It’s really taken our ability to deliver the best materials in the market to the next level. Where some other companies are struggling with regard to print media volumes, we’ve seen month-to-month growth for nine months straight.

It’s put us near the top of the list when it comes to direct mail and digital print offerings in the real estate space. Moreover, it enables us to offer real estate firms and their agents fee-free access to a robust, customized print marketing center and template library.

SA: How does your partnership benefit your clients?
A real estate company’s brand is something it’s worked hard to build and each company wants its brand to be memorable in the eyes of the consumer. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Working with Shutterfly helps us ensure that a real estate company’s brand promise and the quality of its marketing/advertising materials is maintained at all levels. Each time a consumer picks up a marketing piece generated out of our system and printed by Shutterfly, they will experience the highest quality in the marketplace and the impact is memorable.

In addition, our relationship with Shutterfly has enabled us to bring new products to the real estate space. For example, we just launched Property Photo Books, a customized version of Shutterfly’s renowned photo books. Now, our clients can create an impressive, bound photo book to leave at a listing or offer as a closing gift. As they flip through it, prospective buyers can view pictures of the home in different seasons, see images of surrounding community amenities, schools, parks, and more. When you see the Property Photo Book with a nice, leather cover, it looks highly professional.

It doesn’t stop there. We will be bringing other Shutterfly products online like its popular bound calendars and greeting cards. On the consumer side of their business, Shutterfly is focused on helping consumers preserve and enjoy lifetime memories. Obviously, homeownership creates hundreds of lifetime memories. Shutterfly and SharperAgent plan on bringing that same focus to the real estate industry.

SA: Can you explain how you’ve integrated Shutterfly into your multichannel marketing campaign tool?
Sure. We have the industry’s only fully integrated, multichannel marketing tool, and now, Shutterfly’s products are included in this as well.

Here’s how it works: an agent can create a campaign that mixes print, online/e-mail marketing with reminders, etc.—all automated. One of those pieces could be a greeting card that looks like it’s been handwritten by you.

Some other companies have multiple output options (direct mail, e-mail) but the outputs are on separate channels, meaning they can automate their print materials or their e-mail messages, but it’s not integrated. With our tool, our clients can essentially pick fully written, designed and organized ongoing marketing campaigns and automate the delivery of consumer-focused messages year-round with a few clicks of the mouse.

Our users can even populate our marketing pieces to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Craigslist. The goal with all of this, of course, is to enable a real estate agent to make meaningful connections with consumers by sending them what they want to receive, how they want to receive it, as often as they want to receive it.

SA: How about the reaction to the Shutterfly component thus far?
It’s been phenomenal, but not unexpected. One of the reasons we picked Shutterfly as our partner is because it has such a strong reputation with consumers. If millions of families have chosen Shutterfly to print and preserve their most precious memories, then it stands to reason that its output will be the kind of quality you’d want for your business marketing pieces as well. Our clients have immediately recognized the impact having this tool will make for their agents and they are committed to utilizing our new print component to its full potential.

SA: What do you see down the road for SharperAgent?
Our core value proposition is to provide today’s real estate professional with the tools and the knowledge necessary to be competitive in any market. Agents need to be effective and knowledgeable marketers and that can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor if they’re trying to do it on their own.

I believe that real estate will continue to demand more from agents than ever before. Growth will come, but slowly, and so to stay competitive, real estate professionals will need to be at the top of their game. For us, that means we need to continue to develop and enhance our product, our Success Marketing coaching programs and our partnerships to truly aid our clients in becoming better and more effective marketers.

It is our vision and focus to keep up with the way agents connect with consumers, so look for more innovations to come in the near future.

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