Tag : audience

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198: Will Facebook’s Big Algorithm Change Hurt Your Auction Business?

I don’t know if you’ve seen this, too; but a number of my professional peers have expressed worry about the pending major changes in Facebook advertising. I’m not worried, and I’d like to help assuage any fears you might have.

A couple weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be changing their Newsfeed algorithm to emphasize “meaningful” content from your Facebook friends at the expense of publisher content. Whether or not the inventory of paid advertising will be reduced, what will definitely be on the chopping block is organic business reach—“free advertising” to the people who like your Facebook page.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs have grown entitled to free advertising. I’ve seen auctioneers complain that they shouldn’t have to pay to market their services or products on Facebook. Facebook is a business, though. Somebody needs to pay for all those coders and servers.

Zuckerberg’s initiative is just a continuation of a trend. Organic reach has been gradually dropping for years. For most business pages, unpaid reach has dropped below 50%—and in many cases below 25%—of the people who at one point liked those pages. Facebook has been testing zero organic reach in six foreign countries. It’s reasonable to assume that we’re months—not years—from zero or near-zero organic reach here in the States.

This isn’t just a money grab, though. Two other factors are at play here. First, Facebook has just about reached full saturation in the United States; and they’re seeing many users leave the platform. (I have a Chrome extension that shows me when my Facebook friends close their account, and I’ve had several friends shutter their profile just while I’ve been working on this blog post.) The algorithm didn’t serve these deserters content compelling enough for them to stay. That’s one of the reasons Zuckerberg wants to make Facebook content more “valuable.”

Second, the proliferation of fake news has brought public pressure on Facebook to remedy the problem. Whatever the motivations of foreign actors have been in giving Americans fictional, divisive content, they are sustained in part by the ad revenue generated from all that frothing traffic. One way to discourage their malignant content is to make them pay for it to be seen.

Even if zero organic reach becomes reality, there’s no reason to panic. Facebook marketing isn’t going away; they want to keep the lights on as much as we advertisers want access to Facebook’s users and its data on them. It might not even grow much more expensive, if you know how to use the platform.

How good is your content?

Facebook will continue to reward advertisers whose content achieves user interactions. That’s in both your best interest and theirs. The less annoying content there is in the Newsfeed, the more likely people are to stay. The more likely users are to stay and the longer they use the platform, the more advertising slots become available. So, if your content is compelling, the algorithm notices the uptake. If you know how to appeal to buyer needs and motivations, you’ll see less impact than your competition, who’s still pushing digital sale bills and their equivalents.

How is your marketing optimized?

Even organic posts aren’t optimized by Facebook to get people to your website. Neither are boosted or promoted posts. The stated objective of all of those options is to get you more likes, comments, and shares on Facebook; and Facebook’s algorithm serves your posts to people most likely to take those actions. That means people who don’t want to leave Facebook. In contrast, Facebook optimizes sponsored ads to actually leave their platform and go to your website. We don’t make money until people leave Facebook. So, in most cases, a sponsored ad—which isn’t going away—is your best bet, anyway.

Is your organic audience even your best audience?

The most efficient advertising is rarely to people who at one point liked your page. Are those folks your most likely buyers? The assumption by many is yes, but the reality in many situations is no. They may have hit like after seeing an event or asset or announcement that interested them. They may have bought what they wanted and satiated their need for further like-kind assets. They may have liked your page when you had an event in their area but not be interested in events in other geographic markets. They might have been friends of sellers. They might even have been people who clicked the like button on accident. So, why fight for free advertising to the wrong people?

Are you tracking bidder acquisition costs?

Finally, what happens if your Facebook actually does double or even triple in cost? It will still probably be your most or second-most efficient medium for getting bidders to your website. What’s your cost per website visitor from newsprint, signs, or direct mail? Are you even tracking that? How confident are you that your relatively-cheap email list contains the best prospects for what you’re selling? What’s your next best advertising medium when you book an asset outside your wheelhouse or an event outside your normal geographic market? Facebook will continue to be a valuable tool—if not the most valuable—in your toolbox.

If you were a publisher like Buzz Feed or Fox News, you should be worried by the loss of free distribution. A savvy marketer like you, though, has no reason to lose any sleep over Facebook’s pending changes.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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191: How an Embarrassing Failure Led Me to Marketing Success

Back in 2004, I became an author. I released a book of 41 discussions of interesting Bible characters. In 2003, it was the highest-rated manuscript on a service that faith-based publishers use to find authors without agent representation. At the one publisher who legitimately considered it, the editorial staff loved my writing and the compilation; but their accounting and marketing teammates did not. I ended up using a self-publishing service to print the manuscript.

By commercial standards, the book was a flop.

Failure to Success WOTS7,904,412 different book titles have sold better on Amazon. A horrible salesman, I’ve sold fewer than 200 copies across all retailers; and many of those were copies I’ve bought to give to people. My church, where my wife is on staff and where I’ve lead multiple environments, sold one whole copy of Word on the Street during the years it was on their bookstore’s shelf. That wouldn’t be so embarrassing, except that more than 3,000 people attend our church on most Sundays.

Oh, it gets better: that bookstore’s manager found a signed copy of my book—at Goodwill. When Amazon showed a “collector’s edition” of the book, my curiosity pushed me to buy it. When the box arrived, I learned that someone else with a signed copy had hocked it. So, I had probably bought that same book twice.

My book’s failure became one of the most important marketing lessons of my life. It cemented an unpopular platform from which I’ve taught auction professionals for the past decade. It became one of the underpinning premises of the Auction Marketing Management designation program. See, one of the primary reasons my book failed turned out to be the reason so much auction marketing doesn’t reach its full potential.

The audience determines what gets read.

If the people we want to interact with our content don’t like it or engage with it, our message will not get heard. That applies to both authors and advertisers. No matter how much of ourselves we put into the creation, we don’t determine what people like, what gets absorbed, or whether something sells. No matter how much we believe in something, we can’t make the world want it.

Also, it doesn’t matter what our peers think of our work or how many industry awards we win. Editors loved my prose, but they got to read it for free. My capstone writing portfolio became the first to earn a perfect score from the Dean of Education at my alma mater, but she didn’t buy a copy of my book. I won an adult poetry contest in high school and a medal for writing achievement in college. My undergrad internship included authoring a magazine cover story about the first school administrator to participate in Florida’s voucher program. None of that mattered.

Thankfully, I got to see the big, fat failure.

I’m grateful it was so obvious. Many auctioneers don’t get that same opportunity. They don’t know how many postcard recipients didn’t become bidders but would have with different messaging or design. They don’t see how much money they didn’t make off Facebook scrollers who might have clicked on a better ad. They don’t know how much their auctioneer-centric email subject lines kept them from bigger commissions.

For auctioneers, the auction method is their instinctive headline. Auction and open house dates are the rhythm of their lives and get most of the real estate on their advertising media. I’ve even seen auctioneers put their office’s address in prominent or multiple locations—not the auction site’s address but their return mailing address.

The problem with all of these emphases is that those aren’t priorities to consumers. It’s not that this content isn’t important. It’s just that people only need that information after they already want what you’re selling. That tertiary information can be shown in smaller font lower on the piece—or on your website.

By the way, the same holds true when prospecting for sellers, who don’t primarily care how many years you’ve been in business. They don’t care if your chant won a bid calling contest, especially if you’re selling their asset online. They don’t know what those letters behind your name mean and don’t really want you to take their time explaining them. They don’t want clichéd, ambiguous tag lines or unsupported claims. They want empathy to their specific situation, their pain points. They want evidence that you consistently solve the problems of other sellers in their same situation.

Our audience wants the book to be about them.

Our prospects will give us only a few seconds to prove it’s about them. If we don’t connect to their need or want in that time, we may not get more time. It doesn’t matter how pretty the inside of the brochure is behind a horrible mailer panel. It doesn’t matter what’s in the email hidden behind an “AUCTION!!!” subject line. It doesn’t matter how robust the content is on the other end of the link from an uninteresting Facebook ad. All we’re trying to say doesn’t get said, if nobody reads it.

George Bernard Shaw summed it best: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Stock images 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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155: Why Businesses Advertise Backwards

When someone says “Super Bowl commercial,”  your mind probably imagines one of the whacky or sentimental spots that Forbes reports costs $5 million per 30 seconds in this year’s Super Bowl. This creative ad, though, won’t be shown Sunday night. It’s a commercial about Super Bowl commercials.

The moral of this short story is that Super Bowl commercials are big gambles for the vast majority of brands in our country. Most of us get that; so, the ad plays as an inside joke.

That said, I regularly see auctioneers fall for the same line of thinking: that a bigger audience is a better audience. I’ve seen auction marketers try to hedge their bets with the assumptions that a bigger mailing list is better than a small one, that a metro newspaper with 300,000 subscribers trumps the local paper with fewer than 5,000 weekly readers, or that a boosted Facebook post to everybody in a radius beats a demographically-targeted post to 1,200 people.

Maybe sometimes. Not usually, though.

Media is typically sold to advertisers using a measurement called “cost per mille.” The basic idea is to take the cost of an advertisement and divide it by the quantity of potential audience impressions. So, if you pay $500 to reach 10,000 subscribers, you’re looking at cost of $50 per thousand.

In the auction industry, my clients are regularly marketing to smaller audiences.

So, I like to take that one step further and determine the cost per person. In the example above, you as an advertiser would be looking at an investment of $.05 per person. This number can be helpful, when budgets are tight; and you’re looking for the most efficient media possible. We all want the most bang for the buck.

The problem with both cost per mille and cost per person, though, is that they distract from a more important metric: cost per prospect. Cost per mille asks, “How many people can I reach with my money?” Cost per prospect asks, “Who are my most likely buyers (or sellers)? What will it cost to reach them?” Cost per mille promotes scale. Cost per prospect promotes efficiency and effectiveness.

Size of the audience is less important than relevance of the audience.

Whether it’s a mailing list or a publication, a website or a social media platform, the primary question marketers should ask is not, “How big is its reach?” but “Are these the right people?” It’s the difference between spectators and participants. (Helpful tip: we want participants.)

Once you know you have the right people, divide your budget by the number of those prospects to determine what you can spend per potential client. If you don’t have a budget big enough to make a good impression to all of the prospects, maybe sift those prospects down to a quantity you can. Some auctioneers work it the other way, cutting the size or impact of the media. So, they send a postcard instead of brochure or an email instead of direct mail.

For company promotion, I’d keep sifting until I can make an impression that can’t be ignored. It’s not uncommon for me to spend $150 to $500 of my time and resources per potential client I pursue, but I only work for 15-30 auction companies per year. I’ve helped auctioneers spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on a single proposal presentation to a single client. The nuclear company in my area probably spend tens of thousands of dollars to convince a power company or municipality to buy one of their eight- and nine-figure reactor systems. Your effort should be proportional to the value of their business.

That might mean you’re looking at mailing a package instead of a postcard, arranging a free seminar instead of an advertorial in the business journal, or drafting hand-written notes instead of form letters. Discover what would impress a client; then do it.

A media sales representative can’t tell you your cost per prospect.

Only you can do that. Whether you’re actually taking a calculator or spreadsheet to it is less important than operating from the prospect mindset. Start with the audience and work backwards. If you’re going to gamble, improve your odds. Work to find the valuable few instead of the risky many. No matter how many people see your advertising media, you want the ones who do interact with it (1) to relate to the content and (2) to be impressed.

Feature image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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142: Keep Your Mission Statement to Yourself

I don’t understand the fascination with mission statements—at least not for businesses.

Communicating these goals within your organization can be valuable for training and vision-casting. When teammates are unified on mission, customers notice; and that’s a good thing. The puzzling part of mission stating, though, is why anyone would find value in communicating that to potential customers.

If you’re living up to your mission, you don’t have to tell people. If you’re not consistently hitting those goals, why create expectations in the marketplace that you can’t meet? If, like many firms, you’re filling that part of the business plan outline with mushy cliches that give you a lot of leeway, what are you communicating with those vapid words?

Thankfully, I’m not sure people read mission statements, anyway. When was the last time you did? Probably a long time ago. Even if it was yesterday, that mission statement didn’t have a “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button beneath it. People don’t pay for mission statements. They buy goods and services.

Without a public mission statement, you are free to have open-ended marketing with which to guide customer perception. Cutting that paragraph from your marketing gives angry tweeters less fodder and disgruntled Facebookers less to quote.

Instead of publishing a goal checklist, you should be telling your brand’s authentic, unique story. By that, I don’t mean your company history as much as your organizational culture, the heart of your brand.

For many entrepreneurs, brand means logos and colors and slogans. A brand is much bigger than those elements, though. Brand is the sum of every marketing choice—even small decisions like voicemail recordings and employee attire, company vehicles and return policies. The consistent, intentional stacking of these small stones atop each other eventually draws the outlines and nuances of your brand’s public perception.

In the social media age, it’s easier than ever to narrowly define your brand, find its audience, and converse with its fans. While it might be more difficult than ever to stand apart from marketplace noise, better tools and distribution options make it easier to target, test, and analyze your message and marketing.

If you communicate your brand story well enough, others start telling it for you—multiplying your audience. Even if they don’t, you’ll be more likely to sell people on your successes and eccentricities than on your intentions and goals. So, spend less time wrestling with your mission statement and more time crafting and communicating your core brand identity. Get that brand story right, and you’l enjoy “mission accomplished.”

Stock image purchased form iStockPhoto.com

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A Powerful New Use for Your Bidders’ Email Addresses

Most auction companies maintain a list of their registered bidders—for email and direct mail. Some go further and sort those lists of buyers according to spend levels, frequency of auction participation, and/or particular asset categories. Those segmented lists become almost mandatory tools for attracting a company’s core auction buyers.

The rest of their auction budgets then typically go to educated guessing, trying to find more people who are (1) interested in what we have to sell and (2) comfortable with the auction method of transaction. That educated guessing might or might not prove efficient, depending on whether or not past bidders have been asked what media informed them about the auctions in which they participated.

Now there’s a tool, though, that falls in between your proven bidder lists and your educated guesses. It’s called a lookalike audience, and it’s a service of Facebook.

Here’s how it works. (You can watch the introductory video here.) Start with your in-house database of email addresses and/or phone numbers. Export any part of that list into a .CSV or .TXT file—with each prospect’s information on a separate line. Under the Ad Manager area of your company’s Facebook business page, you can then import that list. Facebook then takes from 30 to 120 minutes analyzing the profiles they find for the people on that list, comparing them across thousands of datapoint Facebook users create with their likes, shares, and posts. When that data crunching is complete, you will have a unique list of people who share a lot of common denominators with the people who already bid at your auctions. You can tell Facebook how strict you want to be with the sifting. In other words, rather than being connected by a few generic common denominators, you can require more datapoint to match.

Here’s the cool part: you can then have your Facebook advertising targeted to that list. More importantly, you can apply that demographic profile to any geographic area. So, if you want to find more people like your current bidders in the area you already cover, you can go after them more efficiently. If you’re conducting an auction in a new geographic area, you can overlay those common denominators there, too. You can pick a radius from a single city or multiple cities. You can select entire states, if you want to canvass a wider area.

John Schultz, one of my clients and one of the instructors for the new Auction Marketing Management designation, has found that Facebook can locate about 40-50% of the people on his bidder lists (because people like me use different emails for their Facebook than they do other purposes). From that 50% of your list, Facebook can find common denominators about 50% of the submitted contacts. So, you’re looking at roughly 20-25% of your list that will become the basis of your Facebook list. That means that the bigger your initial list is, the more accurate Facebook will be at finding matches. That low percentage isn’t a hurdle—unless your in-house list is small—because you’re going to be multiplying it later, anyway.

If you sell different asset categories, you can create and save different lists for each one. You can use the lists as often as you want, and you don’t have to pay extra for this service. Facebook looks at it as just another list selector.

You can still run your promoted posts for the general population, since Facebook makes finding outliers cheaper than in newsprint, direct mail, and other media. Now, though, you don’t have to rely on guessing through the demographics you individually select—for Facebook ads or for purchased email and direct mail lists.

Another benefit is that people who already see your marketing message in email will probably see reinforcing impressions when they check their Facebook. That’s one more interaction that could trigger a click to your website and eventually a bid.

Facebook isn’t the first company to offer this demographic extrapolation and replication service. They are, however, the first to do it for free. Also, with more than a decade of consumer data and more than a billion users, they have more datapoint to use for comparison.

Photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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111: The 4 Steps to Advertising Success

I’ve learned that one of the first questions I need to ask a client on a campaign is, “Do you have a mailing list?”

I can’t tell you how many times that a client and I have been corresponding about the final changes to a direct mail piece, when I’ve asked if they had their mailing list ready to send to the print shop. “Oh, we don’t have one; could you find one for us?”

By this point of the campaign, the budget is pretty much set; the website and newsprint distribution is already in play; and we have to adjust the direct mail audience to however many we can reach with what’s left in the budget. If analytics have proven that direct mail won’t be a primary or secondary media for a particular asset or geographic category, this would be more understandable. So often, though, we are highly dependent on a mailing list to reach the most likely prospects.

I don’t mind working with my mailing list broker to build lists for my clients, but the mailing list being unsettled at this point means that the campaign was planned backward. The marketing plan started with a dollar amount rather than a defined audience.

This problem is bigger than mailing lists or even budgets. Most successful campaigns require four strategic stages in this specific order: audience, then medium, then message, then production.

1: Audience

You can have an amazing, award-winning piece of advertising; but if the right people don’t see or hear it, they won’t know to transact with you. The first question of a campaign should be, “Who would be the best prospect—the best buyer, seller, or referral agent—for this campaign?”

2: Medium

Once you have that profile in your head, you can then ask, “How or where would this prospect most likely need to see or hear our notification?” It’s at this point, when you should start researching mailing lists along with applicable websites, print publications, and other media. You can then adapt the size or reach of each respective media to match the quantity of prospects that you can reach with your budget. This mix could vary from one asset market to another and from one geographic market to another, and polling bidders at your auctions will let you know how to manage that mix for the next similar auction. Similarly, you can survey sellers and referral agents for similar campaigns to them.

3: Message

You can successfully get your advertising in front of the right people; but if it doesn’t speak to their needs or wants, you’ve only annoyed the best prospects. We have only a few seconds to appeal to what the seller values.

 

So, lead with facts. Explain the benefit of the facts, only if you have room. (Most of your audience is smart enough to decipher their benefit from the facts.) Leave information like preview dates, terms, and company information at the end of your medium—not in places of prominence. Nine times out of ten, “auction” should not be the headline, because it’s very rarely the primary benefit for the buyer or seller. And if your logo is at the top, please go back to Go. Do not collect $200.

4: Production

You can be in the right place in front of the right people, saying the right message; but if you’re there at the wrong time, you can still fail to connect with the prosper. If you have the right words but also have images that look like they came from a security camera, your pitch will lose punch. If the design of the print piece or production of the broadcast piece is shoddy or distracts from the asset(s) for sale, that will be the impression of your brand and, by extension, what you’re selling. Spelling and grammar matter. Readability (or ease of inferring from a broadcast) matters. Sometimes, even creativity matters.

There are no universal marketing guarantees, but starting from our audience’s perspective helps us ask the right strategic questions throughout a campaign. It’s not always easy to look through our audience’s lens, because we are often in a different head space than our prospect. When we do, though, we improve your chances of a successful campaign.

TAKING IT PERSONALLY

I find that people get the whole Jesus thing out of order—even more often than marketers get their strategy backward.  A lot of people think they have to clean up their mess before Jesus can come into their space, that they have to complete a certain amount of self-improvement or lifestyle detox to invite him into their lives.

The truth is that any movement toward perfection is still short of perfection.  Jesus wants to join us in the chaos, destruction, and dysfunction of our lives in order to display what he brings to the table.  He wants us to realize how much we need him, how much he has done and keeps doing for us.  The Bible says all of our righteous attempts without him are like used menstrual rags—not exactly impressive gifts to give him or our world.

Jesus doesn’t need us to do anything but surrender to his sovereignty.  Once he’s the one steering our lives, his power changes us from the inside out.

Stock images purchased from iStockphoto.com.

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