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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Home, Sweet Homebuyers

Home, Sweet Homebuyers Homeowners Marketing Services delivers to its 4,000 clients throughout the country customers who are ready to buy almost anything By MICHAEL HART Staff Reporter Marc Silverman has been a veterinarian for a long time. He knows what to do with a sick cat, an injured dog. But he also knows the clientele he has at the Agoura Animal Clinic in Agoura Hills, and what they go through when they’re looking for a new vet. “Most people won’t go more than five miles away from their house for a veterinary clinic,” Silverman said. So when he goes looking for new business, there’s not much point in going too far. “Those two hills on each side of (Agoura Hills) kind of keep people here,” Silverman said. Instead, he does his best to make contact with everybody who moves to the area. He sends new homeowners a letter, inviting them in for a free first visit. Silverman figures somewhere around 5 percent of the letters he sends out turn into a visit to his vet clinic. “And as long as I keep getting that number, I’m happy,” he said. Silverman’s happy to talk about his direct mail strategy. Not everybody, however, is so willing to have the competition learn their tricks. That’s why Homeowners Marketing Services in North Hollywood keeps its client list pretty close to the vest. HMS president Barry Weiner said he called 12 clients of the 4,000 he has in 35 states before he found a couple, including Silverman, who were willing to talk to a reporter. The secret apparently is so simple, subterfuge is required to make it work. Homeowners Marketing Services trolls county assessor’s offices all over the country collecting the names of people who have just bought homes. HMS clerks organize the information, turn it around quickly and put it in the hands of people who might want to make use of it: businesses who have something to sell people who have just moved into a new house. “It’s a very simple thing,” Weiner said. “Anybody who moves into a new home needs everything, but when you first move into a new place everything seems so strange.” You don’t know where to go to find a plumber, a dry cleaner, a church, a vet. So Weiner helps them find you. His staff of 75, working out of an office building he owns on Victory Boulevard, plows through 3.6 million names every year, delivering weekly allotments of information already printed on mailing labels. Some national clients get as many as 70,000 names a week, others as few as 50. “When you prospect, you want to target to your best potential,” Weiner said of marketing to new homeowners. “These are all people who are credit-worthy or they wouldn’t be buying a house.” The company was started in 1968 by an entrepreneur named Arthur Bartlett. Then it was called Comps Inc. and was just one enterprise Bartlett was involved in, along with water softeners, gummed labels and coupon books. He sold Comps Inc. to Telecredit Inc. in 1971 for $250,000 and used the money to start a franchise real estate company that would eventually be Century 21. Weiner, Telecredit’s sales manager, bought it from the company. By 1978, he and five employees had sales of $180,000. Last year, sales topped $7 million. Despite the prospects offered almost every company imaginable by technology in the last 25 years, a lot about the mailing list business hasn’t changed. Most of the information still comes to HMS the same way it always did, and it has to be finessed in the same way. “It’s still microfilm and microfiche,” Weiner said. “Some of them are starting to have CDs, but you still have to keypunch it in the same way.” HMS has its share of big clients. Some Weiner was willing to divulge the identity of were Supercuts, ADT Security Services Inc., Budget Blinds and Strouds. But his own sales staff hammers away at small businesses, many that are newly formed and haven’t developed their own networking systems yet. “It puts small business on a level playing field with the big boys,” Weiner said. For $98 a month, a business can get access to new homeowners in what is typically a 10-zip code area. Each week, HMS delivers the mailing labels, ready to go. While home sales obviously vary from area to area, HMS sales manager Renee Simone said it averages about 100 names a week. Silverman’s Agoura Animal Clinic, for instance, is in Los Angeles County Area K, which includes much of the West Valley, from Winnetka and Woodland Hills west to Westlake Village and Agoura Hills. Typically, that area averages about 92 home sales a week. The Glendale-Burbank-LaCanada-Flintridge area averages a few more, about 119; the Beverly Hills-Century City area a lot fewer, 51. Nevertheless, week in and week out, Silverman said, it seems to pay off. What’s more and the cat may be out of the bag here when the veterinarian himself moved to a new house in Agoura Hills a few years ago, he got his own name on a mailing label and plenty of pitches in the mail. “But I didn’t receive anything from another vet clinic,” he said. So far, so good. SPOTLIGHT: Homeowners Marketing Services Year Founded: 1968 Core Business: New homeowner mailing lists Revenue in 1978: $180,000 Revenue in 2001: $7 million Employees in 1978: 5 Employees in 2001: 75 Goal: To help new businesses succeed Driving Force: The need new homeowners have for products and services

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