Tag : bidder

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2 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use “Auction” in Your Headlines

Every year, the percentage of retail transactions that occur online versus in a brick-and-mortar rises.

If you’ve ever purchased anything online, you know that most of those transactions started with a search engine. So, if we’re selling assets—especially if we’re selling them online—it makes since to discover how people are searching for what they want to buy.

Google gives this information away for free. Anyone can type in any term and see its use over time.

This interactive graph from Google Trends shows the proportional use of five search terms related to online purchases.

If you’ve been in the auction business for any length of time, this might hurt your ego. Worse, it might give you pangs of regret for how you’ve advertised your assets for the past decade.

At the most recent iteration of the Auction Technology Specialist course, one of my fellow instructors asked a room full of auction professionals what they would type into Google to buy a Ford F-150. Not a single one of the 28 industry insiders suggested the word “auction.” He wasn’t picking on them. I don’t type “auction” into a search bar, either, unless I’m researching something for a talk or blog post.

So, if a room full of auction people don’t search for auctions, why would we expect the buying public—many of whom don’t have experience with the auction process or positive associations for the word “auction”—to look for auctions? Sure, there’s a small community of folks who frequent auctions and regularly participate in them; but that quantity pales in comparison to just the people who’ve visited a Walmart this week.

If we want to claim that auction brings true market value, then we need to bring the full market to our sellers’ assets. To bring the full market, we’re going to need to adapt to two truths:

  • People don’t search for auctions. They search for assets.
  • People don’t buy auctions. They buy assets.

Our advertising headlines and subject lines and supporting text needs to focus on the assets being sold. While the marketing vehicle of an auction does connote important information the buyer needs to know, that buyer doesn’t care about those realities until they want what’s being sold. If we have only a few seconds to capture attention and then call to action, it would make sense to focus on what’s important to the buyer. Our fiduciary responsibility to our seller is to sell their assets, not our events.

My guess—and I don’t think it’s possible to acquire more than anecdotal data on this—is that more people search for just the asset in question with none of the words in the Google Trends graph shown above. Buyers might use descriptive terms, product categories, concrete attributes, or brand names; but they’re starting with the asset in some way.

I work with auctioneers who have removed the word “auction” from everything in their advertising except their URL and terms. That might be too extreme for you. (It’s not for me.)  It’s not hiding reality or being ashamed of auctions. It’s not deceit. It’s adaption.  

We can advertise auctions. Or we can sell assets.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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An Auction Bidder’s Wish List

I’m the oldest of six children, and my wife was the first of five offspring for my in-laws.  So, I’m thankful that both of our families exchange names for “secret sibling” Christmas gifts.

My side of the family makes it even easier by creating a message thread on Facebook where we post our respective wish lists for our secret sibling to use for reference in their holiday shopping.

To keep you reading, I’ll show you what I posted.

(in this order):
anything from here: http://www.gfa.org/gift/home
gift cards from iTunes, REI, or Dick’s Sporting Goods
solid-color winter beanies
Smart Wool® socks
black Crocks (size 10)
solid color fleece sweatshirts or hoodies
athletic ankle socks
100g Jetpower micro-canister

What you’ll notice is that I didn’t write, “Something nice,” (though everything on this list is nice to me) or “Great deal for the money” (though I hope my sibling finds the deal of a lifetime).  Why?  Because those are ambiguous requests—unhelpful direction.  See, when they go to a store, there won’t be an aisle for “something nice” or “a sweet deal!”  If they Google search for “something nice,” they will get these random acts of results.

This makes sense on a personal level; but, for some reason, auction marketers disregard this common wisdom when advertising the assets in their auctions.  Their headlines, line ads, and websites lead with information that buyers will not type into their search engines, apps, or wish lists.

Raise your hand, if you’ve seen an auction advertisement that said “Investment Opportunity!” Now keep that hand raised if you think anyone is searching for an office building, flatbed truck, bass boat, or 1950’s Texaco sign with those two words.  In our search culture, advertising needs to focus on the facts, not the pitch—even for offline media.  You might be able to schmooze bidders at open houses or at the auction, even though our culture is growing less tolerant of the commissioned sales schtick.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find advertising that works that way.

Recently, I was asked to rewrite some sales copy on a luxury home, since [I assume] it wasn’t getting many bites.  I couldn’t change the facts, just the adjectives and syntax.  Even if I were J.K. Rowling, I couldn’t rewrite that paragraph in a way that would change someone’s mind about that house.  Either they wanted what it had or they didn’t.  If they wanted four bathrooms and an in-law suite, only a house with those specifications would work.  If they wanted an in-ground pool, stables, and a riding ring, they were looking for those words in whatever media they’re using to shop.

Fluff text is inefficient use of space and attention.  There’s no search criteria field in Trulia for “cute,” no check box on Realtor.com for “cozy,” no ebay category for “like new.”  I just checked: LoopNet doesn’t have a menu selection for “potential.”  Pictures, dimensions, location, age—immutable, objective data—will tell someone if an asset matches their wish list; their own emotional and financial situation will translate that information into subjective evaluations.

I’m regularly amused by auctioneers telling their audience that an address is conveniently located in reference to places a half hour or more away from the subject property.  Convenience is a relative value.  Oh, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Unlimited potential!” as a real estate headline or bullet point.  I don’t have a real estate license, but I’d imagine legal boundaries and zoning commissions significantly restrict infinity.  But even if the future development of a property were somehow unlimited, who’s searching for that ambiguity?

Whether searching for Christmas gifts, farm equipment, or a strip mall, consumers will echo what Detective Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “All we want are the facts.”  It’s insulting to tell a buyer what the facts mean.  Buyers will most likely know if what you’re selling is a collectors item, if a home is designed for entertaining, if an address is a good business location—based on the facts at hand.

Does this mean advertising should be reduced exclusively to a list of bulleted descriptions?  No—even if in many media, that’d be the most efficient strategy.  Write your sales copy as long as space and budget will allow.  Emphasis, though, belongs to the facts.  Headlines should tell people if what they want might be described in the next section.  Top billing should go to the unarguable.

Make it easy for potential buyers to compare your sale item(s) to their wish list.  That ease of comparison reflects on your brand, whether they bid or purchase from you or not.

Taking It Personally

Outside of sports programming or sitting in a waiting room, I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched TV news.  Beside how partisan each of the networks have proven to be, I’m disenchanted by the 24-hour news network ecosystem’s need to fill so much of their time with commentary.  I don’t need anyone to tell me what I should feel about a congressional bill, a televised debate, an oval office speech.  I think that’s why I’m drawn to Twitter so much as a news source.  News sources there have to dump the main point and a link in 140 characters or less.

News never has been objective; I don’t know how it ever could be.  So, I don’t ask it to be.

Maybe that’s why after sitting through literally over 5,000 sermons and Bible lessons, I’m so drawn to my TruthWorks Bible study, where I’m pointed to a passage of Scripture with three questions: “What does the writer actually say?” and “What does that mean—in a big picture context?” and then “What do I do right now with this truth?”  It’s good to have wise, educated people bring light to Scripture; and I believe teachers can be agents of the Holy Spirit.  But we need to be careful not to rely on other people to tell us what to believe; we need to be like the heralded Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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