Broken ankle

218: The Achilles Heel of My Facebook Ads

Every Friday afternoon this summer, a new series of Facebook ads have launched, running until the following Tuesday morning. They’re the only Facebook ads I’ve built that don’t promote an auction. Instead, they’ve touted stellar auction sale results or brag-worthy statistics from auction campaigns. Both sale results and traffic stats have proven to be good bait when fishing for new auctioneer clients. 

Usually, the large crowds of efficient traffic to my clients’ sites eventuate into successful auctions and plump commissions. Here’s the dirty secret, though: sometimes they don’t.

I remember one auction south of the Mason-Dixon line a couple of years ago. I had used audiences, photographs, and headlines similar to ones that have consistently worked like catnip in adjacent states. The targeted ads worked. Well, kinda. They drove thousands of people to the auctioneer’s website. Despite that, the auction bombed. If I remember right, the auction was stopped early because of frightfully-low sale prices. The auctioneer wasn’t just disappointed. Livid, he told me of his new goal to “warn people I care about” never to use my services, never to trust the stats I publish. It was a high-profile failure for him. So, I can understand the emotion.

Candidly, I have auctioneers inform me regularly that people aren’t registering to bid, that traffic isn’t turning into bids, or that bids are weak. “Are the ads running?” they ask. Sometimes, the email beats around the bush with the question, “How are the ads doing?”—even though almost every ad I build can be tracked both in real-time and historically in each of my clients’ Google Analytics. Those subject lines are code for me to ask a client what would make them feel more comfortable or what changes they’d like me to make to help them feel less anxious.

If you’ve been in the auction business long enough, you know that you can sell a property at ridiculously-high prices on mediocre advertising; and you can get a no sale out of incredible web traffic. Market conditions, perception of asset, seller reputation, proximity to a 1031 exchange deadline, and a prospect’s comfort with the auction method can swing sale prices in both directions from average.

That said, I have found a few limitations beyond my control that often neuter efficient traffic from Facebook ads or well-earned clicks from direct mail. If you’d like to convert more of your website traffic into bidders, you’ll want to avoid the following choke points.

Limited Content

I can’t tell you how many times an auctioneer has asked me to send people to a page that has no photos, no description, and/or no details on how to bid. As a holdover from decades ago, auctioneers want to alert the buying public as early as possible so consumers can “save the date.” With their website not yet ready to conduct business, my job is to send interested parties straight into frustration. Not only is that a bad brand image, that makes the prospect less likely to click on future ads—for the auction at hand or subsequent ones.

Wrong Content

Sometimes, I’m asked to link to pages that say nothing of the asset(s) being sold. There’s just a generic title, auction date & time, and terms & conditions. Unfortunately for our industry, people don’t buy auctions. They buy assets. Some auctioneers have preview dates & times listed before even one sentence or headline about what’s being sold. Like Area 51, we’re asking people to show up for a mystery. We waste their time. In so doing, we waste our opportunity.

No Way to Start the Buying Process

You can refuse to participate, but we all live in a world with Amazon Prime, grocery pickup, restaurant apps, and “Press Button. Get Mortgage.™” The American buying public has expectations about being able to at least bid immediately. The best calls to action I’ve got in the tackle box are “Buy at YOUR price,” and “Bid now.” Few people will remember to bid later. You’ve got to have a way for prospective buyers to place an online bid or a pre-bid on the page where they land. Even if you’re advertising an offline real estate auction, you need to have a prominent link to a form or email generator that lets people get their skin in the game. Immediate registration beats nothing, and a bidding catalog beats both.

No Facebook Pixel

Most online buyers don’t make a transaction on their first visit to your page. (If you don’t have online bidding, that’s a guarantee.) So, how do you make sure they get second touches with your content? A Facebook tracking pixel. Half of my clients have no way to capture this valuable consumer data because they lack that free pixel on their site. In addition to not capturing those who respond to their ads for remarketing, they can’t replicate that traffic to find more bidders like them. They forego Facebook’s powerful artificial intelligence engine and all of the prospects it could bring them in the second wave of their advertising.

Most of these remedies can be implemented for free. Some don’t take any additional time—just patience. All of them will increase (1) the professionalism of your brand and (2) quite possibly your commissions and sell-through rates. When a client doesn’t have these ducks in a row, it actually relieves some of the pressure I feel to deliver them high-performing ads. That relief comes in the truth that I charge the same fee to send crowds of people to an active marketplace as to a dead end.

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