Inc. magazine annually ranks the country’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies. A Lakewood Ranch-based company, ProspectsPLUS! came in at No. 3,348 on the list released this month.
ProspectsPLUS, a direct marketing website that offers Realtors design, printing and publishing tools, demonstrated a three-year growth rate of 98 percent and earned revenues of $8.4 million in 2015.
Founder and president Jim Morton, 59, has been in the real estate business since graduating from high school in Las Vegas. He sold real estate from 1978 to 1985, and then went on the speaking circuit, teaching others how to be successful Realtors.
He started ProspectsPLUS! in 1994 and incorporated the business in 1998. The company was designing and selling desktop software for Realtors when the state-of-the art was still the floppy disc.
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“When we first started, my biggest problem is that Realtors would say they didn’t have a computer,” Morton said. “Then we morphed into 35 sales people and would go to real estate offices and do training.”
But the Great Recession, starting in 2007, rocked banks, real estate companies and millions of Americans. ProspectsPLUS! was badly hurt, too, losing two-thirds of its revenue and all of its sales staff.
“I am surprised we survived the real estate crash,” Morton said.
Morton rebuilt the company to take it all online and moved into 7,200 square feet of modern space at Lakewood Ranch. ProspectsPLUS! now has a staff of 27.
We became very focused on customer ratings.
“We became very focused on customer ratings, and meet every Tuesday morning, to review customer comments,” Morton said.
Morton is so focused on customer service that he doesn’t outsource anything. Customer service representatives and printing are all under his roof at Lakewood Ranch.
“When a customer calls, someone actually answers a phone here,” he said.
He attributes the company’s success to referrals, direct mail marking and a partnership with Google.
Each month, 30,000 people visit the ProspectsPLUS! website, where they can explore the marketing materials offered by the company.
“We have 1,100 new registrations every month for ProspectsPLUS! – real estate agents and small businesses wanting to create marketing materials. Once they register we send them a sample pack. We sent out 1,100 of these this month with all of the marketing materials they can produce,” Morton said.
One of the marketing materials is a full-color magazine produced twice a year, said Jim Studebaker, director of operations.
Master Marketing Magazine, a Realtor Guide to Strategic Marketing, combines editorial content with a catalog of ProspectsPLUS! offerings.
“We have 23 different products,” Studebaker said.
The products range from door hangers to post cards, flyers, brochures, presentation folders and more.
“Once a customer signs up with us, we take very good care of them,” Morton said.
Morton reasons that clicking on a computer screen to order a product is easy, while preparing the marketing products is hard. ProspectsPLUS! handles the hard part so that the customer can order what they want with just a few clicks of a computer mouse.
“We want to grow bigger, absolutely,” Morton said. “The great thing about the internet is that you can grow exponentially. You get the right seats in chairs and you have a rocket ship to the moon.”