The real estate Industry, both commercial and residential, has a strong dependency on documents. These range from marketing materials such as flyers, postcards, and listings, to complex legal documents such as loan applications, contracts, and deeds of title.
In our decades of automating Adobe InDesign Server, real estate has shown itself to be one of the most successful industries when it comes to advancing greater automation, personalization, and hybrid print/digital communication workflows. We have seen this first-hand, implementing numerous solutions for this industry, and indirectly, as a substantial percentage of organizations purchasing InDesign Server (which we resell) are in the real estate sector.
We see increasing innovation, and of course there’s been a corresponding rise in multi-channel communication. Adobe InDesign remains an ideal tool for rendering compelling digital content, as its typography and imaging is second-to-none, while it is fully exposed to automation. We are also excited by Adobe Express, and are already integrating it into our solutions. Finally, Artificial Intelligence is just as hot in Real Estate as it is everywhere else, with daily examples of stunning innovation such as Adobe Firefly and the generative fill features of Photoshop.
While traditional print marketing materials remain essential, the industry is increasingly incorporating digital tools for designing, editing, and customizing these materials, for greater efficiency and flexibility. The integration of online interfaces allows for quicker updates, deeper personalization, and a more dynamic approach to all aspects of real estate marketing. Every year we see our Paginator and Designer products evolving to meet the changing needs of the real estate industry.
Given the ubiquity of social media, with each channel having different requirements for image format and size, the number of expected image outputs continues to grow. One very powerful capability of Paginator is the automation of diverse output formats from a single content source, for example a set of images sized and formatted optimally for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Template-driven publishing is extremely powerful.
It does not look like print will ever quite fade away. It will simply become more of an “on demand” service, with increasing efficiency and integration with digital content. At a minimum, real estate images and documents should print well, even if you just print them at home. PDF remains an essential delivery format, even five decades after the “paperless office” was announced as the new way of corporate life. One enduring content type that is essential to residential real estate is the yard sign. Creating these with appropriate templates through an online interface is a prescription for success.
No Pain, No Gain: Maintaining Brand Guidelines
With any form of publishing (from Tech Doc to Marketing), there are often knee-jerk, “easy to start” options. Operating on a shoestring budget, users can create some form of content, for any document type, without significant initial cost. The long term cost, however, especially for half-baked solutions, can be absolutely devastating. “Looks like a real estate flyer!” a Sales agent can say, looking at his PowerPoint masterpiece. “That cool font I chose (Comic Sans) really shows ambition, humor and confidence.” Less sophisticated organizations may casually pass control of messaging and design to the Sales team, and this is almost always at the expense of corporate branding.
The more serious organizations understand the extreme value of brand standards. Rather than allowing sales people to rush out improvised content, they will enforce brand guidelines with templates built by designers. In an online editing workflow such as that of Silicon Designer, agents only input information, leaving style and rendition decisions to designers, enabling tight control over corporate branding. This also improves the lives of both designer and agents, as the designers define re-usable templates, without having to update every single document. The salespeople can work with proper focus on the information itself, rather than struggling in a domain where they are not expert. This separation of content from presentation has huge ROI, and results in more effective messaging.
Data is Key
Data is king, queen, butler and maid in the real estate world. Companies literally live or die by data. Although the MLS system is not terrible, and augmenting data points is big business, the question is not so much how great the data is (it tends to improve over time) as how it is used.
There is an ever faster flow of incoming data on the overall market from public and proprietary sources, and a very different (much slower, but far more precise) cadence to the data on the specific properties that the commercial or residential agencies need to promote. The MLS system is just one of many systems which capture information about the overall real estate market: this is augmented by a growing plethora of data sources about properties themselves, as well as those about prospective purchasers of those properties. All of this is used to create increasingly targeted content.
The world of data constantly evolves, while processes to use that data change as well.
In real estate we see data points around the properties marketed, the people/companies they are marketed to, and the entities selling those properties. The most sophisticated companies use these multiple data sources to create extremely targeted content. This enables them to present properties in the best light for the specific recipients of communications, with an eye to the larger context of overall market conditions. No longer can a large-run property listing that is “one document for all” do the trick.
So much info is now available that enables efficient communication: “spray and pray” methods no longer work. (This is also good for the environment.) A much smaller print run, email blast, or multi-channel campaign can produce greater results than ever before. This is especially true once you know more about who you’re targeting, what they’re interested in, and have mastered the art of providing accurate, detailed, and visually compelling information about the properties themselves.
Deployment and Integration
At Silicon Publishing, we provide two main types of solution: database publishing, and online content editing. These are sometimes offered as distinct products, while at others they exist in hybrid solutions. We offer “Paginator” for database publishing, and “Designer” for online document editing, yet we increasingly end up combining these two for real estate.
Our online editing solution, Silicon Designer, is all about enforcing a very strong brand, while enabling agents, marketing and various stakeholders to control specific data elements appropriate to their role. The rendition intent is controlled by brand-conscious designers. When an agent changes the price on a property, they don’t usually have an option to change the font displaying that price. A lead designer, however, might change the design intent, setting fonts, colors, and geometries to better reflect the brand identity. Such role-based collaboration empowers the largest real estate organizations to streamline and optimize communications.
Our database publishing software, Silicon Paginator, flows data through templates, and enjoys ever-growing integration with Designer. With templates created in Adobe InDesign (or, alternatively, through web-based tools), designers can manage sophisticated, targeted campaigns. Paginator also supports automatic generation of property listings and property profiles, while providing business users with self-service control over multi media communications, all through an easy-to-use interface. Like Designer, most functionality in Paginator is also exposed as a RESTful service, making integration with other systems easy.
The ROI can be Extreme
Automation of these communications is not a trivial task, by any stretch. Successful real estate marketing requires coordinated work among experts with several distinct domains of expertise. Data specialists of varying kinds need to work effectively with designers and marketers who have orthogonal skill sets. Separation of content from presentation can enable the most robust publishing capability. But the question becomes one of how far organizations should go with “pure” methods. This depends on several factors, with the skillsets of existing staff and the scale of operations determining the appropriate level of rigor.
In our practice, we don’t provide a “one size fits all” solution. We respect the fact that organizations differ quite a bit, so instead we offer an extensible platform supporting different levels of sophistication. All our partners want to step up their game, but many factors go into targeting that next level. The goal is to improve, steadily, over time. The ideal way to attain this must take into account unique markets and the specific character of each organization. We find it important to move incrementally, steadily achieving gradual improvements, rather than radically changing the entire process in a disruptive way.
Real estate has traditionally experienced steady and reliable long-term growth. We see our technologies serving this industry continuing to mirror that performance, if not exceed it. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you to succeed in this exciting and ever-changing market.