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August 2007
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Skip ZIPs with Geocoding

IT USUALLY can go without saying that getting the address right is fundamental to direct mail success. The topic has been receiving more attention of late, though, in part because of the U.S. Postal Service’s new Delivery Point Validation requirements for getting the maximum postage discount. Mailing lists must now be scrutinized to an even finer degree to ensure address accuracy.

In addition, technology is providing new options for targeting communications to an audience. One example is “geocoding” (geographic coordinates), which enables residences and businesses in a set area to be identified with much greater precision than via ZIP codes.

[ The Proposition ]

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services is the fifth largest full-service real estate company in the United States. It offers real estate and financial services through more than 3,500 independent realtors and its own staff.

Management credits the company’s success, in part, to recognizing

that

people like to know what is going on in their neighborhood and addressing that curiosity in its marketing program. The realty firm had a long-standing policy of sending postcards to surrounding residences whenever one of its independent agents sold or listed a house in an area.

The problem was, its previous system used manual processes for gathering mailing information and addressing the postcards. As a result, it could take weeks to get cards into the mail.

Also, Howard Hanna wanted to switch to using GPS information (geocoding) rather than ZIP codes to select houses near listings. ZIP codes were designed to make mail delivery more efficient, not for locating homes nearest each other. The company found its results using ZIP codes, even ZIP+4, had been disappointing and expensive.

[ The Solution]

The real estate firm worked with three specialized companies to customize a solution: Scope 1 Marketing Technologies, an application service provider that develops one-to-one marketing programs; Dickman Directories, which provides mailing services and directory information, including geocoding data; and Dispatch Digital Printing Services, a variable data and digital printing services provider, based in Erie, PA.

Twice a week, records from Howard Hanna’s own database of new and sold listings is submitted for processing. The system automatically generates a 25-card mailing to the nearest residences for each listing.

All of the company’s agents use the system, but it obviously helps that the cost is underwritten 100 percent by Howard Hanna. Management believes the ability to locate addresses automatically is a key part of making the system easy to use.
 

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