82: Long Distance Marketing

Signs to Multiple StatesOn a regular basis, I talk to auctioneers who are proposing and contracting auctions across state lines—in some cases across multiple time zones.  Whether these auctioneers are selling for distant estates with local heirs or for banks with holdings in multiple states, they are faced with the same dilemma: how do we find buyers in geographic areas outside of our expertise?

I hear that question a lot on the other end of the phone and read it in emails on a regular basis.  While specific geographic areas and specific assets often require a custom plan, here are the five general tips I give for these long distance situations.

Join the local chamber of commerce.
Competing now with online social networking, chambers of commerce are often struggling to gain new members and retain the financial inflows that help them serve current members.  I’ve found the organizers of these groups to be very welcoming to out-of-state firms.  Almost all will allow you access to their membership list for direct mail—some even for free with membership dues.  Some even offer email blasts, publication inserts, and event promotion.  Reaching these member roles is an efficient way to introduce your brand and your auction to an area’s leading business people (many of whom are also community investors) and to get community buzz generated for an auction.

Saturate brokers, dealers, and/or consultants with direct mail.
If you want to get the word out to buyers, you’ll benefit from reaching out to their agents and consultants.  It’s fairly easy and relatively inexpensive to grab direct mail lists of brokers, dealers, and consultants within a radius of your auction.  A side benefit to reaching this audience is that they might have sellers down the road; making a good first impression here will help you compete for business against their local options—for auctions that you would not have been otherwise considered.  Some auctioneers I know also include a radius of lenders for real estate auctions, as they regularly have prequalified clients looking for properties.

Partner with a local auctioneer, broker, dealer, or consultant.
Not all pies are big enough for sharing.  When they are, their expertise can enhance yours and help you reach movers and shakers within their social sphere.  This doesn’t have to be an auctioneer.  It could be a consultant, dealer, or broker.  And it may not be someone local to the auction; it could be a national entity with a narrow specialty and a national database for a specific kind of asset.  With the rising number of affiliate and referral groups in the auction industry, finding a reputable partner is growing easier and easier.  And don’t forget that auctions like these prove part of the value for attending National Auctioneer Association education events—to establish relationships with people who might someday enable you to have a successful sale far from home.

Look for asset-based and trade publications.
When researching new geographic markets, it’s easy to just grab the local daily and weekly editorial publications in an area, overlooking real estate inserts, tabloids, and total market coverage (TMC) publications.  Google search the type of asset and the state or city.  The ensuing search results can lead you to websites and/or print publications that reach a more targeted audience than the shotgun targets of metro papers.  Don’t forget business journals and trade publications—for the same reason you’d reach out to chamber of commerce members.  While the deadlines and publishing dates of some trade publications often make it difficult for auction marketing to be a good fit, these organizations often offer email blasts and/or direct mail lists for more immediate access to their membership.

Look for community events.
Almost all cities and counties list online their community events.  It’s good to know these, so that you don’t schedule inspections or auctions during perennial staples.  These gatherings also make for great times to promote your auction as an insider by attending them and/or advertising your auction at the event or in its materials.  One auctioneer I know obtained permission to post giant posters of their brochure cover (of a waterfront lots auction) at the checkout line of a famous, annual Tennessee fish fry and gave water taxi tours from the dock over to their property, where they had signs facing the boat traffic.  The auction was a huge success in an area that had recently seen similar auctions fail.

Sometimes, extending your brand into a new geographic area is a gamble, but you can make it less of a risk by establishing rapport with the local movers and shakers.  Ask yourself, “What would give me confidence in an out-of-state vendor conducting business in my town?”  Then make sure your marketing plan includes tactics based on the answer to that question.
[tip]

As Christians, we are called to take our hope to the world.  Literally.  But no one person, church, mission board, or denomination can canvas the entire planet for Christ.  Does that mean we shouldn’t try?  That our mandate is an impossible one?

No, it’s an indirect call to unity—unity of purpose, of message, of spirit.  I’ve heard multiple pastors from different churches express this in a rhetorical question, when feeling called toward new global burdens: “Why would I start something new, when I can come alongside an organization already doing that work?”

Whether it’s evangelism, rescue of sex slaves, or disaster relief, the work of restoration is bigger than any of us—bigger than all of us.  It will have to be a God thing, not a God-helping-us thing.  After natural disasters and terrorist attacks, it’s common to see political opponents unified in spirit and actions for recovery.  That should always be true of the church, the body of one Christ.

My takeaway: as I see efforts to rebuild Haiti and Japan, as well as U.S. areas damaged by floods and tornadoes, doing my part means helping those already there.  And if I get the chance to physically be of assistance, I’ll be looking to connect with those who’ve been sacrificing far more than their post-disaster weeks and months.

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

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