Tag : auction-marketing

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210: Facebook Wants Advertisers to Cut to the Chase

Last week, Facebook began rolling out a new advertiser restriction, which has already impacted my clients’ accounts. It will most likely be the biggest change in years for marketers on the platform. After Facebook’s analytics showed audiences responding poorly to verbose ads, they cut the visible amount of text available in an ad. Now, audiences will see three lines of text instead of seven above the photo, slideshow, or video content. (The character limit of the headline and subhead underneath remain the same.) That’s 57% less text above the image area!

Advertisers will have a choice between getting their copy to fit neatly into three lines of Facebook text or having a two-line preview with a “Read more…” link underneath those two lines that will expand to the full seven lines of text. This has been how the ads have shown on Instagram for more than a year. So, now both platforms will incentivize advertisers to hook consumers in two or three short sentences—like Google has been doing for two decades.

Who This Benefits

With less text to read, advertisers will be pressed to fit the American consumer attention span. Those who adapt to this space will hold a competitive advantage over those who don’t. For auctioneers who focus on the asset’s benefits and the audience’s perceived need, this will help them get more and cheaper clicks than bid callers who lead with “AUCTION!” Online auctioneers will benefit, because they can shorten auction information and calls to action to just “Bid now,” or “Bidding now open.”

Who This Hurts the Most

Auctions with a diverse quantity of asset categories will feel this pinch more than any other auction type. Large estates, business liquidations, and tax-delinquency auctions will prove the most difficult to describe in the short space. Offline auctions will have to choose between selling the event or selling the assets well.

How to Minimize the Limitation  

THINK LIKE A SIGN MAKER.

Ask yourself what would be most important to say if you had only three to five seconds—because you do. Use only enough text to generate a motivation to click. If someone’s not hooked on the headline, the secondary and tertiary details won’t sell them anyway.

LEVERAGE COLLAGES.

For the past four years I’ve been using collages instead of single images to maximize my advertising copy, especially on auctions with a variety of assets. Facebook’s image window is 1,200 x 628 pixels. I’ve created templates for three, four, five, and six photos to appear together. Facebook allows advertisers to select up to six of these collages per ad. Facebook’s artificial intelligence engine determines which collage(s) will get the most clicks and most efficient traffic for each audience and then adapts the ads to display the top-performing one(s). Having spent almost a million dollars on Facebook advertising, I’ve found that these collages outperform slideshows and videos just short of 100% of the time.

DON’T PUT TEXT ON YOUR PHOTOS.

You can’t cheat the system by putting text somewhere else. Facebook penalizes performance of ads with text embedded in the images—if they approve the ads at all. If you put text in your videos, use it only as captions. Facebook has revealed that you have seven seconds to hook 75% of their users and less than fifteen seconds on the rest. Show the property instead of headlines, your company logo, or a cameo of you talking about the property. 80%of Facebook users view videos on mute.

USE MORE AUDIENCES

Rather than generic text that tries to attract a range of different buyer interests, write succinct copy to each buyer group in separate ad sets. I’ve seen success with this tactic. With a brick ranch, for instance, you might target audiences of:
• investors with “Buy more cash flow.”
• brokers with “We pay buyer brokers.”
• end users with “Buy a home on YOUR budget!”
• flippers with “Make quick sweat equity.”

While this change is inconvenient for almost all of us, it creates another Darwinian opportunity for professional marketers to separate themselves from those unwilling to adapt. Commissions are at stake, if not business models. Whether you outsource your social media or handle it in-house, you’ll be best served by viewing the asset through your buyers’ eyes instead of your own—and then using as few words and characters as possible to sell them.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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189: Are You Gambling With Your Future Commissions?

Last Monday morning, I released a controversial take on the firearms portion of Facebook’s advertising guidelines. Several in the auction industry wrote it off as a Chicken Little screech, a tinfoil-hat projection. Others wrote to tell me how they had found my assessment true for them.

The potential of that post didn’t wait any longer than the following Tuesday night. I arrived home around 10:30 to find my Ads Manager on lockdown. My advertising account had been shuttered without warning and with no explanation. All of my clients’ ads had been paused.

Facebook shutdown

This was bigger than an ad not being approved. This was a total inability to advertise on Facebook without creating a new user account, getting all of my clients to update their access permissions, and re-creating all of the custom audiences I’ve made. From what I read online by others who had suffered this fate, even those steps were sometimes not enough to get back up and running, as Facebook has measures in place to protect against serial offenders.

One Facebook advertising vendor wrote a detailed article specifically on this situation, noting that even the appeals process was a long shot. Apparently, many advertisers don’t even get specific explanations of what caused their account closure. The appeals process could take days just to get a response, let alone resolution.

The worst case scenarios would’ve cost me significant time and money. I was looking at losing the fastest-growing segment of my business, the only cost-effective tool I have for some auctions. I stood to lose confidence from my clients, prospects, and the professionals in my continuing education classes.

The exceptions from the horror stories I was reading came to those with a long track record with Facebook advertising, large Facebook spends, and a humble appeal. Thankfully, all of those criteria applied to me. My appeal email also explained how I had recently written a blog post to exhort others to comply with their advertising guidelines.

I went to bed at 1:30 Wednesday morning, anticipating tough conversations and difficult work when I returned to the office. Five hours later, I awoke for some urgent pro bono work before breakfast. Before I got out of bed I checked my Facebook Ads app on my phone to discover that—miraculously—not only had my account been reinstated, but my clients’ ads had all resumed.

I jogged upstairs to my office. My inbox held two emails from Facebook: one welcoming me back to good standing and the other explaining why my account had been shuttered. I kid you not: firearms violations.

Ironic, right? I still don’t know what post or ad triggered the closure. It might have even been my unpromoted post of last Monday’s article. Apparently, the situation struck Facebook’s evaluators as bigger than just an unapproved ad, which I’ve encountered multiple times for clients. My activity was unacceptable behavior.

So, hear me again. Putting firearms in your farm, estate, and liquidation auction catalogs has the very real potential of hijacking your Facebook advertising for your non-firearm assets.

If you believe in Facebook as a marketing tool, consider playing by their rules. If you acknowledge that culture is moving away from newsprint to digital media, understand that adaptation is more than just a format issue. If you want to keep cost-efficient mass promotion in the tool box, consider how you use your tools.

While my company will gladly still design direct mail, newsprint ads, and banner ads for auctions with firearms, I will no longer create Facebook advertising for auctions with guns in the catalog. The stakes are too high for me. Take time to evaluate whether they are for you, too.

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177: Is the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising Costing You Money?

Our culture uses the words advertising and marketing interchangeably. So does the auction industry in which I work, even though they should know the difference more than most industries.

Most people see the Venn diagram of these two words as this:

Assumption Venn

In actuality, the Venn diagram looks something like this:

Venn Reality

Let me explain.

Marketing is the strategic pursuit of qualified prospects.
Advertising is the media through which marketing decisions are communicated.

In other words, advertising is just a part of marketing. It’s the louder, more flamboyant part; but it’s only a part.

3 real-world examples of this differentiation:

Marketing is my alma mater importing palm trees, lining walkways and roadways with them, and paying us grounds crew guys to insulate the non-native trunks so that they’d make it through the winter. Marketing is putting a palm tree in the college’s logo. Advertising is all the media that includes said logo and is sent to Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—the states from which a large percentage of our student body came.

Advertising includes all the direct mail, newsprint, and signs my former employer dispersed before one of our multimillion dollar land auctions. Marketing is the multi-parcel system they used to get maximum value out of a property. Marketing is the software they wrote for that system when the personal computer was first invented. Marketing also includes all the lender luncheons they held in the new geographic markets they pursued.

Advertising got the registered bidders to an on-site auction, where one of my clients was selling his own farm. Marketing showed up when, after chatting up the attendees, he phoned a friend to get a sight-unseen starting bid by the acre.

Auctioneers make a marketing decision when they choose between live, simulcast, timed online, or sealed bid platforms. Same goes for when they choose whether to offer a buyer broker commission and, if so, at what percent.

Marketing determines who the prospects are, what they want to know about the asset or service at hand, and where to go to connect with these prospects. Advertising just executes that plan, and advertising decisions are easier once the marketing strategy has already been made.

Why do I make this distinction?

Because often, auctioneers ask me to recommend and/or execute advertising campaigns without that marketing foundation. I regularly seem to surprise auctioneers, when I ask them, “Who is your buyer for this asset?” or “Why would someone want this asset, or how would they use it?” The same goes for similar questions, when chasing auction sellers. (For the record, I also have stellar marketers as clients who start our correspondence with this information or answer these questions with dexterity.)

A marketing plan and an advertising budget are two different things. We can spend money on a standard media program that crosses a lot of t’s and dots a to of i’s. Or we can target prospects through the filters of cultural trends, asset appeal, market demand.

I gladly generate media all day. That’s how I make my money. But it behooves auctioneers to think bigger than just the box of advertising. Because marketing is how you make your money.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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172: YouTube Has Revealed What It Knows About Your Auction Buyers

YouTube is now the second largest search engine in North America. Web surfers watch almost five billion YouTube videos every single day.1 It’s a safe bet that Google, who owns the video streaming service, is learning a lot from all of the data it’s collecting. That data must be valuable enough for Google to lose $1.8 billion a year to keep YouTube up and running.2

One of the things YouTube knows from that data is the approximate average length of our collective attention span. To acclimate to this, they’ve made many of their advertisers’ ads skippable after five . . . long . . . seconds. That span of time even comes with a countdown clock to assure YouTubers that their wait is almost over.

YouTube 4 Seconds

To get their full message across, advertisers must make the first five seconds of their commercial compelling enough for viewers to avoid that skip button. At the average rate of an English speaker, that’s about 12 words—assuming words start immediately.

Five seconds. 12 words.

YouTube Skip

Many auctioneers don’t believe Americans have a short attention span.

  1. Their signs and newspaper ads are compressed brochures, not teasers to their websites.
  2. Their headlines are generic, throwaway labels like “real estate” and “farm equipment” when a picture of the asset(s) makes the asset category obvious.
  3. They talk about the buying method (auction), the date of that auction, the type of bidding in that auction (online and/or on-site) and the presence or absence of a reserve before they talk about the asset.
  4. Their company brochures would take several minutes to read.
  5. They mail tabbed brochures with the most attractive panels on the inside and the terms, directions, and open house dates on the outside.
  6. They put their logo at the top of their emails instead of at the bottom.
  7. They lead with the name of an estate—a name that doesn’t belong to a celebrity that would be the reason why someone wants the asset.
  8. They duplicate the content from the front of their postcard to the back, crowding the impression on both sides.

How do I know the above realities are true? Because I get paid to design auction advertising media in these ways. Every week. Because auctioneers post scans of their fliers and post them on Facebook. Because even some of the pieces that win national auction industry awards violate the laws of attention span.

By the way, those five seconds for YouTube seem long, because our attention span for other media is even shorter than YouTube or Google demonstrate with the five-second countdown. For social media like Facebook, you’re looking at less than half of that. For people sorting through their mail, two seconds would be a long time to capture their attention. Same goes for email subject lines.

Social commentators speculate that the trend to shorter attention spans is attributed to smart phone usage. Mobile Internet use might be causation or correlation, but your own Google Analytics will show you that the trend is only growing. There’s no putting the attention span genie back in the bottle.

So, how do you adapt to this shrinking attention span? For starters, get off the bulleted list you just read. Second, before you post any information in any format for your advertising campaign, work on the 10 words or less to use as the talking point for the auction. (We teach a whole module on how to do this well at the Auction Marketing Management designation course.)

If you get really courageous, cut everything out of your advertising media except this tease, the most necessary information, and a call to action. Then put the rest of your content on your website.

1YouTube Company Statistics” Statistic Brain, September 1, 2016.

234 Mind Blowing YouTube Facts, Figures, and Statistics — 2016” Danny Donchev, FortuneLords.com, September 21, 2016.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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166: Get Better Results From Your Facebook Advertising

I talk to auctioneers who don’t see Facebook as a vital marketing tool, because it hasn’t worked for them. After asking a few questions, it’s clear why their Facebook campaigns have reaped subpar results: they’re advertising to the wrong people.

“I posted the auction on my Facebook.”

While it probably doesn’t hurt for you to share your auction with your Facebook friends, few people on your friends list are potential buyers or even referrers to potential buyers. Also, Facebook doesn’t show your posts to all of your friends, anyway—only the ones who interact most with your content.

“I did a Facebook post on my business page.”

This is a baby step forward, but it makes several incorrect assumptions.

  1. Those who like your Facebook page are likely buyers.
  2. People who liked your page in the past because of a specific auction or asset are interested in others.
  3. Facebook shows your business post to more than 10% of your page likes.

For more successful campaigns, you will most likely need to post multiple paid ads. Each will have its own headline and copy, its own photo(s) or video, and it’s own audience. Here are some audiences my auction clients use to see fantastic results from their Facebook ads.

Locals (general public nearest the auction or asset location)

Most real estate—especially farm real estate—sells to someone local. The same holds true for estate sale assets. Facebook allows you to circle your advertising around a specific address. If you know the neighbors or locals won’t be buyers, Facebook also allows you to exclude specific geography.

Current or recent visitors

If you’re selling something to tourists—vacation real estate or boats, for instance—you can target people in a geographic area that don’t live there but are currently visiting. You can also target those who just left that area.

Demographic selectors

Facebook gives you scores of options from net worth and household income to pastimes and priorities. You can pull people who like specific brands, who work in specific trades, who speak specific languages, or who collect specific items. You can also exclude any of the selectors, like recent home buyers (who probably won’t respond to your real estate ad).

Fans of publications

Don’t want to pay to advertise in expensive publications? Can’t make an early deadline? Does the magazine publish after the auction? Does the publisher allow only the advertisers who use their online bidding platform? Then target people who have liked or mentioned the publication. That won’t equal the total circulation, but it’s a lot better than nothing. Not all publications are available, but the current selection comes in handy for a number of asset categories.

Business executives

Whether you’re selling commercial real estate or business liquidations, you can target people based on their executive status. That goes for positions like president, vice president, CEO and others; but it also works for business owners and founders. You can also target executive and management positions in educational institutions and government offices. Facebook won’t grant you 100% saturation, but even a fraction is a good start.

Brokers, investors, and management professionals

Because you can target specific job titles, you can appeal to those who would benefit by bringing you real estate buyers. You can also select Facebook users who attach to the national associations for REALTORS, home builders, and mortgage lenders. For you commercial real estate pros, yes: you can select CCIM members, too. You can also target the investor class to supplement your end-user campaign.

Past bidders and lookalikes

Upload your list of past bidders’s email addresses or mobile numbers, and Facebook will allow you to serve ads to those it can match. You can take that one step further, and let Facebook find you people who look demographically just like your past bidders. This is a free service from Facebook. You pay only for the ads, not the matching.

Email subscribers and lookalikes

Likewise, you can match up to 50% of your email subscribers and direct ads to them. This allows you to reinforce your email and/or direct mail campaign with Facebook promotion, giving potential buyers more interactions with the asset and its headlines. Facebook can build a lookalike audience from these folks, too—again at no charge for the matching, just the ads.

Website visitors and lookalikes

After you install a free bit of code on your website, you can advertise to people who visited any page of your website. So, if you’re selling an asset similar to one you’ve recently sold; you can advertise to people who visited that former auction’s page. Using the lookalike audience tool, you can serve ads to people who look demographically like the people who visited that page. Taking that one step further, you can run (1) reminder ads for the auction at hand to people who already investigated it and/or (2) ads to a lookalike audience of people who’ve already visited this auction’s page.

Combinations

Finally, you can segment almost all of these lists by any of the other lists. You can also take any of these lists and sort it further by age, wealth, gender, geography, language, and much more. And you can save the lists for future use.

While there are groups or lists of people you can’t find on Facebook, there are a lot of specific audiences readily available to make your auction advertising more effective and efficient. Not all buyers are on Facebook; but there are more buyers there on any given day than in newsprint, magazines, or any TV channel. The specificity to which you can market on Facebook is unprecedented and unparalleled.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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163: Why Auctioneers Should Be Careful with #AuctionsWork (Part 1)

Sports Talk radio regularly includes variations on the above commercial. Every time I hear it, I laugh. I respect Johnny Bench, but the second-to-last line gets me: “And you won’t stink!”

Though it’s probably meant as a poke at Ben Gay and other joint relief creams, it also seems like an insecure proposition. Can you imagine if this were a closing line in an online dating profile or résumé? “And I won’t stink!” (That should be a given, by the way.)

You can learn a lot about a product or service by how it’s marketed: its brand position, its value proposition, its intended audience, its aspirational appeal, and more. You can even tell when the advertiser is trying to address unfavorable perceptions, or perhaps, when they didn’t focus group an idea enough.

Truly AsiaTake, for example, Malaysia’s tourism slogan: “Truly Asia.” Their Asianness isn’t in question. Heck, it’s the only country of the fifty nations in Asia that has a[y]sia in its name. For whatever reason, they are spending their marketing dollars trying to convince the world what continent and culture they are—when we already know. Their travel website, by the way, has much better slogans: “Immerse Yourself in Wonder,” and “A Land of Unforgettable Experiences.”

For the last several years, auctioneers have been posting their own versions of “You won’t stink!” and “Truly Asia” on Facebook. First it started in memes, comparing auctions to tag sales (yard sales on steroids). Now, it’s in the captions for a lot of pictures from auction professionals around the country.

#AuctionsWork

It’s such an odd assertion.

When we walk into Walmart or Target, there’s no sign that says, “Retail works!” When we’re scrolling through Amazon, there’s no banner that says, “Online buying works!” Likewise, auto dealers don’t push “Dealerships work!” in their social media.

Of course, auctions work.

Perhaps not all the time and not for every situation or asset, but auctions have been a viable part of our culture for at least two centuries. A decade ago, the MORPACE survey estimated the annual sales from auctions in America to be $257 billion. Though that number seems high to me, even a small fraction of that number speaks to the credibility of auctions. To put that number in perspective, the U.S. film industry by comparison grossed $88 billion last year.

I checked: there’s no sign at my local cinema that says, “#MoviesWork.”

I’m not quite sure who #AuctionsWork is meant to convince: the general public or the auction practitioners. Industry spokespeople will say that the message is for consumers, but a hashtag won’t persuade a reluctant seller or buyer. If we want to win over the auction skeptics and agnostics in culture, we must leverage sales results and statistics, anecdotes and testimonials.

If auctions are the most transparent way to sell something, we must prove it.
If auctions are the fastest way to liquidate assets, we must prove it.
If auctions obtain the truest market value for assets, we must prove it.
If auctions generate superlative buzz and competition compared to other sales methods, we must prove it.

If we—individually and collectively as an auction community—can’t prove that auctions work, maybe we should stop regurgitating cliches about them.

You know who doesn’t use #AuctionsWork? Ritchie Brothers, Christie’s, Barrett Jackson, Sotheby’s, and eBay. They don’t need it. Neither do we.

While potty training children, parents inherently celebrate their child’s journey through the process. There are prizes and clapping and some version of “Yay!” Gradually, the rewards and celebration wane as the expectations of the child changes. In the vast majority of situations, parents are not congratulating their middle schoolers or college students for not needing a diaper. There are no graduation photos captioned with #pottytrainingworks.

The auction industry is past the Pull-Ups phase. We’re a vital, integral part of the economy; and we’re here to stay. It’s time we started acting like it. It’s time we stopped trying to convince ourselves that a hashtag proves our value to consumers. It’s time we out-marketed and outsold our competition, leaving them to wonder if their marketing methods work.

Special thanks to Gillian Zimmerman for her freelance editing help on this post!

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135: The Magic Formula for More Efficient Advertising

For years, I’ve been saying that there’s no silver bullet in auction advertising. I’ve taught in my seminars that there’s no Ronco “Set it, and forget it” strategy, because the one constant in marketing is that there are few constants.

It’s time, though, that I come clean.

There is a foundational formula that applies to all auction advertising, including yours. Using it can transform your sales pitches & seller proposals, your media spends & overall budgets. The number in its answer trumps all the numbers in your Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Mail Chimp reports.

Very, very few auction companies that I’ve consulted are using this formula, but the ones who are have a competitive advantage over the ones who aren’t.

I’m talking about Cost Per Bidder Per Medium.

Knowing your generic cost per bidder would be interesting—discovering how much it costs you on average to get a consumer to register to bid; but it wouldn’t be much in the way of actionable data. Knowing how much it costs you per bidder per medium, though, goes beyond interesting. That knowledge is incredible marketing power.

Here’s the basic formula:

Cost Per BidderNow, repeat that for every medium or every media category you use in your advertising: signs, direct mail, newsprint, paid search, social media, public relations, etc. Save that information, and repeat this process every auction. After a few months, you should start to see patterns on the aggregate. You’ll discover that some media are less efficient than other ones.

If you sell more than one type of asset or the same asset in more than one geographic area, you may want (1) a larger set of samples or (2) separate spreadsheets for each market.

Once you get enough of a sample size collected, you can use it to start adjusting your budgets to favor the most efficient source of customers. For example, if Facebook costs you $5 to acquire a bidder, and newsprint costs you $50 in bidder acquisition, then you can start shrinking the size or frequency of ads to send money over to social media.

You can have hundreds of people click to your website from your email blast or thousands from social media. If the only people who show up at your auction are the ones who saw the sign, though, that traffic is empty. If your YouTube video went viral or your phones have been ringing off the hook from a press release that’s hit all of the local news, but most of your bidders all brought your direct mail piece to the auction, then the buzz didn’t bring you buyers.

Buyers trump traffic.

Speaking of buyers, you can take this formula one step further to separate the tire kickers from the paying customers. In the formula, you can replace “bidder” with “buyer.” If you want to know how much you spent per buyer, the formula looks like this:

Cost Per Buyer
The formula is simple, but the data collection tends to be the hard part for auctioneers. The spend side of the equation should be easy to capture, since you already have invoices and probably a formula-driven Excel budget. You can add a couple columns to that budget to do this math for you and then link to those result fields in a master spreadsheet.

Then, all you have left is asking bidders where they saw or heard about the auction. (It’s okay if they choose more than one.) You can poll them at on-site auctions, and you can create a toggle-list question for those who register to bid online. Using some tools currently taught in the Auction Technology Specialist designation curriculum, you can even track online bidders passively from their first interaction with your online AND offline media all the way to the bidding page.

If this seems like a lot of work, think about how much more work this information could help you book. Imagine if you and another auction company were vying for the same auction, but you alone could show the seller exactly where they can spend their money the most efficiently. Do you think you’d look a step ahead of your competition with a summary from the past year’s advertising effectiveness in their asset and geography markets?

That’s a rhetorical question.

It will probably take you six to 12 months to build reliable statistics. So, you’ll want to start as soon as possible. Don’t wait. I can name auction companies with more than a year’s head start on you.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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