Tech@Work: Set Up Your Own Burn Unit

Writable CDs are an inexpensive marketing and backup resource.

September 1, 2000

Maybe you’ve heard that anyone can purchase a compact disc drive that will not only read CDs but write to blank ones as well.

Why should you care? With the cost of CD-RW (recording and rewrite) drives dropping to reasonable levels--as low as $250--you have good reason to consider adding this technology to your arsenal.

Take Margaret Lynch, owner of Realty Solutions Inc., Richmond, Va. Her residential company produces its own CDs, loaded with the company Web site,, which salespeople distribute as freely as business cards. “Our anecdotal evidence shows that consumers like to view a CD more than read direct mail,” says Lynch. “People see the CDs as a gift. They’re perceived as costly to produce. And once you get people to your site, they’re virtually yours.”

Her salespeople also burn, or create, CDs with their listing presentations and leave copies with prospective sellers after an appointment.

The process of creating a CD is known as “burning,” since a laser reads and writes data to the disc. You can buy blank CDs, or CD-Rs, that can be burned once for less than $1 each. For about $2, buy a CD-RW, which can be burned hundreds or thousands of times. Each CD holds about 650MB, or 450 floppy disks, of data. That’s a lot of listing presentations and personal brochures.

If your computer is less than two years old, it probably includes a universal serial bus (USB) port. Check your manual to be sure. If so, you can plug a CD-RW drive into this port externally. If you have an older computer, you may have to hire a technician to add the drive.

So it’s cheap and easy to hook up a “burn unit.” Now what?

Since you probably don’t have more than 650MB of personal data files on your system, you can back up your entire file system to just one CD-RW for about $2. The price alone might motivate you to back up on a regular basis—a good habit in the age of data-eating viruses. If your system crashes or you buy a new computer, just pop in your backup CD to get your computer up and running.

In addition, since a CD holds about 450 times what a 1.44MB floppy can (even a couple of high-resolution graphics can overload a floppy), sharing files and photos becomes a breeze.

Once you realize how much data you can put on a CD, you’ll see how much a CD-RW can enhance your customer service. With a digital video camera, go beyond sharing simple photographs and put video tours and listing presentations on CDs, and then mail them to relocating clients or hand them out at open houses.

Since you can buy blank CD labels from any computer or office supply store, you can create and print personal labels for your CDs to further brand and market yourself and your services.

Like Lynch, I distribute a CD to prospective clients that features sections of my Web site, my personal brochure, several electronic forms, and video clips of my seminars. I accomplish this for about $1.25 per CD, complete with my own private label and photo in a standard CD case.

Put a few of these ideas together, and you have technology that not only makes you more productive but also adds pizazz to your marketing efforts.

In addition to instructing GRI programs, Stephen Canale has spoken at hundreds of seminars in 45 states, covering subjects relating to real estate sales and technology. For more information on his products, newsletter, and seminars, visit

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