Tag : auctioneer

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195: Auctioneers Are Braver Than I Am

On the day this post publishes, I’ll be in Antarctica—hopefully ascending an ice-covered mountain. Right before I left home, one of my closest friends was praying aloud for my journey and declared, “This trip is so Ryan.” Not only do I think heaven already knew that, but most of you probably do, too.

What you probably don’t know, though, is that my clients are braver and more adventurous than I am. First: most of them are parents. That’s some high-stakes stuff bigger than any bungee jump or sky dive. Second, most have employees. After my wife developed a successful staffing agency years ago, she confirmed that I’m not cut out for that adventure. More to the point: all of my clients work on speculation. They take projects not knowing how big their paycheck will be or, in some cases, whether there will even be a paycheck on the other end of the deal.

That takes some serious guts, a risk-taking ability I don’t have.

Even though I’m not brave enough for that gamble, I try to grasp the weight of that, the stress of that. Frankly, I’m amazed at the grace many of these auctioneers show in the process—especially when there are two commas in the estimated gavel price.

Between you and me, I absorb some of that stress. I recognize that my clients are performing on a high wire that’s exposed to swirling, cultural winds. They have to be more efficient than ever in a marketing landscape with more media outlets, more subcultures, more competition, and more educated buyers than ever in human history. Along with that, my contribution directly impacts their livelihood. That responsibility makes me really want their advertising to work.

Sadly, though, I can’t always make their advertising work. Here are four of the reasons that sometimes happens.

What works might be something neither of us knows yet.

There are a lot of media and technologies with which I don’t have experience. Same goes for my clients. That includes options already in the marketplace and the ones that demand will soon bring to the marketplace. Some are niche outlets for unique assets. Others are entire platforms that will change how we interact with prospects. Yet others are entities in a particular asset or geographic market that our prospects know but we don’t.

Google can help some with the ignorance, as can interviewing the seller. Oftentimes, adding capability will mean adding vendors, who each specialize in their niche craft. Discovery of new techniques and new media requires experimentation, but that exploration may not help the auction at hand. That’s why almost every auction budget should include some testing of new techniques.

What works might cost more than we have budget to execute.

Sometimes, the best way to reach potential buyers isn’t feasible because of the asset value and the ensuing advertising budget. We can’t take the asset on a world tour like Christie’s can with a nine-figure painting. Maybe a mailing list and postage are out of reach, maybe high-profile billboards, maybe telemarketing, maybe the magazine or news site the right prospects read. Surprisingly enough, I’ve regularly seen where there was somehow no money in the budget even for Facebook, one of the least expensive tools in today’s advertising tool box.

To avoid all of this, the potential buyer needs to be identified before contract signing; and the media necessary to reach them needs to be determined before the budget is set. If you sell the same asset category on a regular basis, you can do that by consulting your buyer acquisition formulas.

What works often isn’t what I’m asked to create.

Regularly, I can’t help an auctioneer find motivated bidders because they aren’t asking me to do so. They’re asking me for something else. I’m not offended by that. I make a significant part of my income each year, generating media that:
• isn’t independently tracked for efficacy or efficiency,
• has little-to-no distribution plan [not even kidding],
• is a last-ditch, hail Mary pass at the end of an unsuccessful or even non-existent campaign, or
• is less likely to work because of its messaging, visual content, and/or emphasis

The tension for me is the balance between (A) submissively making money and (B) pushing back or asking questions that would cost me income. I’ve swayed often from one side of that continuum to the next, and I’m still trying to find the right balance.

The market may not want what we’re selling right now—or at least at the price we’re attempting.

Even the best advertising doesn’t work, if there isn’t a buyer in the marketplace to respond to it. Buyers drop out when the market is flooded with cheaper alternatives, when technology has moved on, when repair or maintenance makes even a free asset expensive, or when location of the asset or the likely buyer is a liability. Finally, there may be potential buyers but none who are comfortable with the terms and/or the process of an auction purchase.

So, market evaluation before signing an auction contract may be the most important part of the promotional campaign. Sometimes the best advertising for a brand is the advertising not wasted on projects that should be declined.

Thankfully, these four scenarios are more exception than rule; and we’re surprising sellers with superlative results on a regular basis. The desire to maintain that success challenges me to keep learning and adapting and passing along what I learn. The residual results provide for me to chase the smaller adventures you see in my Facebook posts—while I try to keep up with your professional example.

104: Natural Disaster Advertising?

Image purchased from iStockPhoto.comOn the night of June 29, my house went black.  My neighborhood went black.  Most of my city, too, while we’re at it.

I later learned that a storm had wreaked havoc from Indiana to the Atlantic Coast.  I heard that one of my local Walmart Supercenters lost over a million dollars worth of perishable food; restaurants lost thousands of dollars of freezer inventory; hospitals went to triage mode with backup generators; lines at the few gas stations that had power stretched for as much as an hour for people to pump $5 rations of fuel; and Netflix, Instagram, and Pinterest temporarily ceased operation, as their servers fell victim to the power outage.

Utility crews from around the country migrated to help literally millions of Virginians without power.  Even with all the outside help and local linemen putting in 140-hour work weeks, it took as long as eleven days for power to return to all parts of the greater Lynchburg area.  My home office was fortunate to be without power for only 112 hours.  While I had to take cold showers, sleep on my basement floor to beat the 100º daily heat, and move my office setup to my wife’s Main Street studio, those relatively small inconveniences paled in comparison to those of the people who literally lost their homes or even their lives.

The culprit for these millions of dollars of damage? A derecho—a unique kind of windstorm that doesn’t swirl in the pattern to which we are accustomed.  Instead, a slightly-bowed wall of clouds bulldozes across the landscape, pushing powerful winds in front of it.  “Unlike other thunderstorms, which typically can be heard in the distance when approaching, a derecho seems to strike suddenly.  Within minutes, extremely high winds can arise, strong enough to knock over highway signs and topple large trees.”

In about 30 minutes, probably less, my city was crippled; and roads lined with stately trees became disaster areas.

If this (Spanish) word, derecho, is new to you, know that it was new to me, too.  I have a feeling I’ll be using it long after this storm tops my local news, though.  See, the advertising that I help auctioneers leverage follows the derecho’s pattern.

Unlike private listings, consignment retail, or traditional brokerage, my clients know how long their asset will be on the market.  And that amount of time is short—days or weeks, very rarely months.  Since an auction asset’s carrying costs have a defined end and since the amount which can be spent on marketing is also known, auctioneers can concentrate their expenditures within a small window of time.  They don’t have to hedge their bets, wondering how much they’ll have to invest and for how long.  Auctioneers can multiply the impact of their event’s core message across a wide but shallow wall of media, sometimes as little as a week deep.

There aren’t a lot of message changes in auction marketing campaigns like political campaigns exhibit.  You won’t see a glut of impressions per media as with Fortune 500 branding campaigns (think: NFL game TV commercials).  There are rarely focus groups and multi-pronged audience testing like those used for product launching campaigns.  Instead of slowly spinning toward landfall like a hurricane and sitting down in areas of low pressure, auction campaigns push the market with a sense of urgency.

The risk in an auction’s concentrated marketing campaign is that the perfect buyer or strongest bidder might not be available, ready to purchase, or engaging with pertinent media during the advertising’s lifespan; but that risk applies in some degree to all advertising.  More and more, I’m convinced that the challenge of finding the right people at the right time is (1) the reason biplane productions has stayed in business and (2) the opportunity to prove the auction method’s value proposition to sellers tempted to sell their items on their own.

The danger of auction marketing derechos is that it can create incredible goals for branding outside of auction campaigns.  Despite dropping back to fewer media, we’re tempted to expect similarly-immediate results.  The honing of a core message as well as the creative representation and application of that message should take much longer than the standard assembly-line auction workflow.  While there may be occasions for media blitzes or public relations urgency, the time and effort spent in brand building and brand management should be somewhat proportional to the time it’s expected to last.

I don’t know if it’s appropriate to compare what my clients and I do for a living to a deadly, expensive natural disaster.  That said, if the advertising we generate could engulf our buying community like Derecho 2012 has my physical community, we’d all have the job security of an American Electric Power lineman.

Outside of backpacking trips, I’ve never been without electricity for as long as we endured last week—let alone during a string of days north of 100º.  People a generation ahead of me opined about how the blistering heat of their un-air-conditioned youth resembled that week every summer.  Friends from my generation talked about realizing how dependent we are on gadgets and conveniences.  Everybody else was watching a movie in an air conditioned theater, swimming in a friend’s pool, or lining Cracker Barrel rocking chairs, waiting for a table.

My takeaway from Derecho 2012 was a consideration of response.  How do we—how do I, specifically—respond to setbacks beyond our control?  I’ve long struggled with that.  Along my spiritual journey, this has been one of the main sections of road construction—one I’ve too often taken too long to traverse because of exploring my own detours and finding them dead ends.  For too long I blamed God as much or more than myself for sticky situations.  I questioned his goodness, despite the overwhelming evidence of it in the macro view of my life.

This storm gave me another test in this area.  It might sound small, but I paid attention in this challenge to small things like praying for others instead of myself, not worrying about bridge crossings until I got there, and making my social media comments humorous or journalistic instead of whiny.  Rather than worry about the billable work time lost, I embraced the lost grid with an unconstructive weekend and reconnected with friends.

Sometimes, progress is measured in inches instead of miles.  Mine, anyway.


†”Derecho,” Wikipedia.com

[footer] Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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