2 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use “Auction” in Your Headlines

Every year, the percentage of retail transactions that occur online versus in a brick-and-mortar rises.

If you’ve ever purchased anything online, you know that most of those transactions started with a search engine. So, if we’re selling assets—especially if we’re selling them online—it makes since to discover how people are searching for what they want to buy.

Google gives this information away for free. Anyone can type in any term and see its use over time.

This interactive graph from Google Trends shows the proportional use of five search terms related to online purchases.

If you’ve been in the auction business for any length of time, this might hurt your ego. Worse, it might give you pangs of regret for how you’ve advertised your assets for the past decade.

At the most recent iteration of the Auction Technology Specialist course, one of my fellow instructors asked a room full of auction professionals what they would type into Google to buy a Ford F-150. Not a single one of the 28 industry insiders suggested the word “auction.” He wasn’t picking on them. I don’t type “auction” into a search bar, either, unless I’m researching something for a talk or blog post.

So, if a room full of auction people don’t search for auctions, why would we expect the buying public—many of whom don’t have experience with the auction process or positive associations for the word “auction”—to look for auctions? Sure, there’s a small community of folks who frequent auctions and regularly participate in them; but that quantity pales in comparison to just the people who’ve visited a Walmart this week.

If we want to claim that auction brings true market value, then we need to bring the full market to our sellers’ assets. To bring the full market, we’re going to need to adapt to two truths:

  • People don’t search for auctions. They search for assets.
  • People don’t buy auctions. They buy assets.

Our advertising headlines and subject lines and supporting text needs to focus on the assets being sold. While the marketing vehicle of an auction does connote important information the buyer needs to know, that buyer doesn’t care about those realities until they want what’s being sold. If we have only a few seconds to capture attention and then call to action, it would make sense to focus on what’s important to the buyer. Our fiduciary responsibility to our seller is to sell their assets, not our events.

My guess—and I don’t think it’s possible to acquire more than anecdotal data on this—is that more people search for just the asset in question with none of the words in the Google Trends graph shown above. Buyers might use descriptive terms, product categories, concrete attributes, or brand names; but they’re starting with the asset in some way.

I work with auctioneers who have removed the word “auction” from everything in their advertising except their URL and terms. That might be too extreme for you. (It’s not for me.)  It’s not hiding reality or being ashamed of auctions. It’s not deceit. It’s adaption.  

We can advertise auctions. Or we can sell assets.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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