Elusive Mailing List

215: 3 Lists Every Auctioneer Wants But Nobody Can Buy

With the rise of big data, entrepreneurs have grown to assume that just about any kind of data is available to purchase. In many cases, that valuable demographic and purchase history is more robust than most of us would ever need. The problem is that it exists in proprietary databases. Those black boxes at best are available for blindfolded lease and at worst compete against us.

Even before Facebook’s ubiquity and Amazon’s dominance, though, auctioneers asked me for the same prospect lists they still assume I can procure. When I tell you that these lists get requested often, I mean every month—sometimes weekly. I still encounter surprise and maybe even disappointment when I can’t deliver them. To save us both from an awkward conversation later, I’ll just explain them here for you.

Real Estate Investors

As of July 19, 2019, we haven’t been able use Facebook’s real estate investor interests to target real estate ads. (I assume that’s to comply with HUD anti-discrimination regulations.) Even before that, we couldn’t target actual investors—only people whose Facebook habits showed an interest in investing. As of right now, we can’t purchase a list of individual people who invest in real estate. We can target companies whose standard industrial classification (SIC) falls under real estate development, management, or brokerage. We can ask for highest-known executives in those firms and phone numbers and legal/opt-in emails where available. In certain databases, we can pull people who own homes but don’t live in them. A list broker can sort that by net worth and/or annual household income. It’s a long shot, but that’s currently our best option.

Land (or Any Asset Category) Buyers

There isn’t a commercial source for those records. Landowners, yes. Land buyers, no. Independent auction companies should have a list of past bidders and buyers from auctions—hopefully sortable by asset category. Those lists should be queryable in order to pull only past buyers and/or bidders. Until you have critical mass, you can use that list only for direct mail. Once you do get several hundred buyers and/or bidders, you can use Facebook’s lookalike audience tool to find similar prospects. Until then, one option would be to partner with a joint venture company who does have a list large enough for lookalike audience potential. If you drive the Facebook traffic to your website, you can then start using your Facebook pixel data to create a prospect base. Using information sign-up forms and bidder registrations on those joint-venture auctions, those who do respond can become seeds to start or accelerate your own list. 

People Who Want [fill in the blank]

This is the one that makes me audibly laugh, when I open the email. Men have joked my entire life that they never know what the women in their life want. If that’s true, that takes out 50% of the people whose wants we can capture and query. Even if it’s not true, we would need a Minority Report-style system to mine this desire data. Do we really want companies to know our private thoughts? We can hit this goal obliquely through a list of past bidders or buyers on similar items, assuming their need or want wasn’t satiated since that last auction. We can purchase lists of some interests and purchase history, and we can target non-real estate ads to even more interests on Facebook directly. But the best we can do is get adjacent to wants and let artificial intelligence engines do their magic. There’s no list for people who want a mower or a Coca Cola sign or 20 acres.

That said, not having these lists and even not being able to acquire these lists doesn’t mean our advertising has to be ineffective or inefficient. It just means we need to do more homework, more experimenting, more tracking, more data analysis. Yes, that’s more work. Yes, that’s a completely different skill set than a silky auction chant or a well-executed sales pitch. Yes, it’s not the way your dad did it.

Over the next two decades, conglomerates and aggregate sites are going to put hundreds of bid callers and even auction marketers out of business. They’re going to pay people to do this data curation work. Instead of trying to buy data, they’re going to mine their own. Those of us who follow their example will most likely be the ones in 2035 who are still advertising auctions at all. 

Because I don’t manage websites, host online bidding, or run auction software for my clients, I will be dependent on auction professionals like you to procure, store, and query this data. Thankfully, most current auction software and platforms make this doable, if not easy. That gives me hope, and I’m glad to be in your good hands.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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