Tag : company-promotion

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Why I Don’t Create Auction Company Promotion

This year, I’ve received a bevy of requests for the same thing. I’ve read the shared inquiry in emails, transcribed voicemails, Facebook messages, and even a comment on a blog post. The question?

“Do you help auctioneers promote their business—or just their auctions?”

The short answer is, “Just their auctions.” Since auctioneers are asking this a lot, it might be good for me to explain why. So here are my top 6 reasons why I no longer build this kind of Facebook advertising.

(1) You don’t need to promote your company to buyers.

The best way to promote that your website as a prime place to shop is to constantly show buyers what you’re selling. And the best way to do that is to show them the assets in your auctions. If you’re dead-set on spending company money to promote your marketplace, I’d add that money to your auction advertising budgets. In almost every auction campaign I build, I use an audience that targets people who’ve interacted with the past year of posts & ads from that client’s company. In most of my campaigns, that ad earns the most efficient traffic of any ad we create—often as low as 4¢ or 6¢ per click. Without company promotion ads on Facebook, I’ve helped multiple clients grow that audience to 200,000 people. Even without Facebook ads touting their buyer marketplace, I’ve seen clients double their annual revenue and quadruple their bidder registrations.

(2) Seller promotion on Facebook requires a lot of content.

If you’ve targeted your company promotion campaign to those most likely to need your services, you can’t just serve the same ad or two to your prospects. It might take years before a prospect is in need of your services—not the few days or weeks it takes for a buyer-based auction campaign to pay for itself. The needed diversity and quantity of content proves quite daunting, which explains why “social media manager” (the person in charge of brand awareness online) at most companies is a part-time or full-time job. Thankfully, regular auctions in their social feeds show prospective sellers that others trust you often. They see that “if you want something done, give it to someone already busy.” If your auction-based ads and posts look more professional than what’s out there, even better.

(3) Auctioneers haven’t been able to help me help them.

I have started the process of company promotion ads on Facebook with a few auctioneers. I think I’ve only ever had one make it all the way to Facebook. All the rest of the campaigns quietly fizzled out when the answers to the following questions never arrived in my inbox:

  • What problem(s) do you solve for potential sellers?
  • How do you solve those problems uniquely better than those prospects’ other options?
  • What evidence (stats, quotes, case studies) do you have that you reliably deliver those solutions?

“Sold!” isn’t enough for sellers. Sellers are looking for more money, faster money, and/or easier money than their other options. Which of those fits you’re brand? How can you prove that?

(4) Auctioneers don’t have sales funnels in place.

Even if I could reliably get traffic to the auctioneer’s website, I’ve found that the bid callers asking me for company promotion would lose the fish before they reeled them into the boat. What I mean is that if they even have a page for sellers on their site, it’s rarely set up to net the fish on the line. It’s usually just one of the long, boilerplate lists that the auction industry copies and pastes from each other. “The most transparent way to sell” … “online bidding brings in more buyers” … blah, blah blah. It doesn’t address the questions asked above or their answers. It doesn’t offer hope and solutions—just a method of sale. The seller program on their site is not built as a succession of multiple, brief-content pages which can be tracked to see where people jumped out of the sales process. Few have forms for requesting a free consultation, downloading a seller guide, or submitting a consignment. 

(5) My personality isn’t compatible with the timelines.

I don’t have the attention span to watch a folder languish on my desk for six months or a year. I like getting from order to fulfillment to payment in as few days as possible. In 2021, auction folders have lived on my desk for an average of 17.3 days, and I get paid an average of 21.1 days after I send the invoice. Thanks to Facebook, that first number is steadily dropping. I’m still trying to figure out how to get that second number lower. Haha.

(6) I don’t need the extra work.

I’m on pace to advertise 743 auctions this year. My wife, my daughter, and I can all affirm that’s more than enough work to keep me busy—to keep me coming into the office as early as 5:00 A.M. and shutting down as late as 11:00 P.M. Seller marketing requires more creativity and mental acuity for me, and it’s far harder to estimate time and thus invoices in advance. 

I promote my company on Facebook, and those ads have brought me scores of inquiries and dozens of clients in the past two years, but I have tons of content at my disposal and a solid awareness of the problems I solve uniquely better than auctioneers’ other options do. I’m not saying company promotion couldn’t or doesn’t work for auction companies. I’m just not the right vendor to build those campaigns, and I don’t want to waste auctioneers’ valuable time and resources proving that I’m a poor fit.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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192: You Want More Sellers, But What Do Sellers Want?

Everybody’s looking for more sellers. I know this, because auctioneers constantly ask me to help them get more.

Some of the emails I procrastinate most to answer are the ones in response to the materials those auctioneers send me to assemble into direct mail. I don’t like telling people that sellers don’t care about what they think is important.

Sellers don’t need to know how long you’ve been in business, how many employees or offices you have, or in what trade associations you’re a member. Sellers don’t care that you won a bid calling contest in 2007 or won some advertising awards (they’ve never heard of) in 2012. Sellers rarely care how many sales reps you have or how much combined experience they hold. Outside of institutional sellers, your prospect base doesn’t care in how many states you have licenses.

Sellers want to know you’ll get them the best deal possible.

It’s not enough to tell them you get stuff sold. Few of your prospects would be surprised auctions end in transactions. What they doubt is that sellers get the good end of the deal.

Americans see house flippers buy houses at a bargain on TV. Many hear about companies going bankrupt and banks trying to get what they can. They know that car dealers make money off cars they buy at auction. I’ve even seen an ad claiming that its readers could “Buy at auction prices!” So, “SOLD!” doesn’t mean as much as you think it does.

Sellers want as many of the following as possible.

Most Cash

Bottom line. Will you net them a bigger payday? Can you show comparable sales from other marketing methods or a track record of surpassing assessed value? I’m not talking guarantees—just a pattern of strong prices. You don’t have to offer a buyout, either. The number one obstacle you’ll have to overcome is the fire sale perception of auctions. If you can’t prove that you reliably achieve market value for your assets, (1) don’t use clichés that imply that you do; and (2) emphasize one of the other two selling points.

Sellers want fast cash

Fastest Cash

Auctions are not always or necessarily the fastest way to get money for their assets. In a world with Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Ebay’s Buy It Now, an auction can seem like too long to wait. In real estate markets like mine, where sellers get multiple offers within 24 hours of listing, it can be hard for sellers to forego the bird in the hand for the two in the bush. If your past sellers go on record about the speed of their closing or if you have statistical evidence of your quick turns, leverage that. Otherwise, emphasize one of the remaining two selling points.

Sellers want easiest cash

Easiest Cash

Consumers (including your sellers) are willing to part with money if it means less pain or inconvenience. They probably don’t know that they want or need is an auction. They just want a solution. Short, topical testimonials typically work best, if this is your best selling point. Be careful on the length, since the American adult attention span has weakened now to less than that of a goldfish. No, really. That’s what social scientists have found in clinical studies.

If you talk abut the auction method or “accelerated marketing,” do so only in context of how it generates the kind(s) of money they seek. If you can’t prove that you can provide more money, faster money, and/or easier money, don’t waste your hard-earned dollars on company promotion. Instead, spend your institutional advertising budget to beef up your auctions’ asset advertising to look better than your competition’s campaigns—and let potential sellers make their own assumptions.

If you can prove any or all of the above, sell the heck out of them to people who look just like your past sellers. Don’t shoot one piece into the ether and wait for the Brinks truck. Create a systematic series of digital and/or print touches, and brand them with a consistent look and familiar message. If you come across as empathetic and competent, you’re more likely to grab the sellers everyone wants. That means you’ll get the deals that your competition inside and outside the auction industry won’t.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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4 Cheap & Easy Ways to Leverage Your Buyer’s Self Interest

I received a translucent envelope in the mail, through which I could see a greetings card. What was odd about the card is also what captured my attention: a screen capture of my website.

I thought, “Why is my website on the front of this card?”

Intrigued, I opened the card and followed its prompts to a website about an impressive tool for client prospecting. I even scheduled what became a 45-minute conference call with a sales representative. Due to the nature of my clientele, it wasn’t a good fit; but I will never forget something their sales rep told me.

“People will always open something when they see themselves on the cover.”

In almost a decade of teaching and writing about making advertising consumer-centric, I had never heard the concept described that way. This salesman told me how their reps searched Google Images for the prospective company or their targeted contact to pull up a publicly-available photo. If there wasn’t much there, they pulled a screen capture of the prospect’s website.

It worked on me. I signed up for a sales pitch, and I hate sales pitches. I was that intrigued.

I know what you’re thinking. “That wouldn’t work for selling my services and definitely not for selling assets.”

Yes and no. While this specific application of appealing to buyer self-interest wouldn’t work for most of us, its underlying principle can be applied in multiple ways to what we do. Here are four of the easier ways to incorporate this approach to your everyday marketing.

Variable data names

The one thing we already know about most recipients is their name, and names are very personal. One of the things my clients are doing now, using variable data technology, is incorporating the recipient’s name into a call to action. Since each piece is printed digitally, every single postcard has its recipient’s name on the photo. If there is no name for the address, the software knows to delete the name and comma of address. (It takes me about 5 minutes longer per postcard to set it up and costs us a fee of only $20 to $30 at the print shop.) My first client to try this used a unique URL to measure his postcard response and saw an immediate jump in web traffic from his postcards of 100%. You read that right: 100%.

Grafe Sample

Variable data images

If you sell multiple categories of assets in your auctions, you can have each category of buyer receive a piece where the big image on the mail panel is from their asset category. This technology shows your prospects their interests first. So, if you sell rolling stock, yellow iron, farm equipment, and contractor machinery, potential buyers can see all of the assets elsewhere in the brochure but their asset category on the first impression panel. (Your mailing list of past bidders is segmented by purchase history and asset categories, right?) If you sell real estate portfolios, you can have the property nearest the recipient emphasized over the others on the piece.

Stock Image of FarmerDifferent stock images

Usually, when small businesses advertise their services, they show pictures of their staff, their events, their brick-and-mortars, etc. If they show asset images, they typically represent the high end of the value spectrum of their preferred asset categories. These images are typically not items from past auctions but stock photography of dramatic staging and/or brand-new assets. What these marketers typically don’t show is other sellers—or stock images of people who look like their typical sellers. One of my clients has used an image I love, when mailing to farmers with options about what to do with a life’s worth of assets. Can you see why this image would draw a pending rural retiree into the sales pitch?

Different headlines

The easiest and cheapest way to adapt any advertising to take advantage of buyer self-interest is changing your prominent text. Most auctioneers lead with “AUCTION,” because auctions are how they see their projects, their schedules, and the assets they sell. In fact, bid calling is even part of their identity and self worth.

The problem is that buyers don’t buy auctions. They want or need assets. They will visit multiple venues and/or websites until they find what they want at the price they want. Auction only factors into that decision, if they think they can get their item more quickly, more easily, and/or more inexpensively at your auction. If you’re not offering timed online bidding or the option to “buy it now” at a reserve price, “auction” might actually be the least convenience purchase method. Then, you’ll be left having to hope for either a patient buyer or for auction day bidder frenzy to overcome the presumption of low sale prices—since that will be their motivation to wait to purchase, if they’re in immediate need or want for the asset.

So, sell the asset first. Use most of the text selling items (or for benefit auctions: the cause or organization). Only then, tell them how and where they can bid and whether there is a reserve on the asset(s) or not. It’s not deceit. It’s adaptation to the realities of our culture’s consumer base.

If we’re not adapting to buyer self-interest, then whose self-interest is guiding our advertising?

Unless we as the advertiser are also the ones buying our services or assets, why should we expect that strategy to work?

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127: Subtracting Your Way to More Effective Advertising

Next to the highway on one of my recent road trips, I saw a brilliant billboard. It had only three words and a phone number.

In black letters on a white background: “We shred files.”

That’s it. No stock photo. No picture of their staff, their equipment, or one of their fleet vehicles. No slogan. No website address. Not even a company name.

The advertiser knew the person in need of their service only needed to know one thing: “We shred files.” They understood the brevity of time a billboard has to communicate and the benefit of simplicity.

Not all advertising needs to be that terse, but most advertising can learn from that succinct approach. We in the auction industry, especially, need to learn the art of saying less in our print promotion.

On a very regular basis, I use the digital equivalent of a shoehorn to cram content into ads, direct mail, and company promotional pieces. Extraneous words and paragraphs crowd the pictures, covering them or leaving less room for them. Redundant information is repeated on multiple panels of the same piece. Content that should be relegated to a website obscures the more necessary sales copy. Advertising whose primary function is to attract and hold attention is busy with competing points of emphasis or distracting tertiary content.

In addition to making advertising media less attractive to advertising contest judges, the pieces are also less attractive to prospects. Thankfully, the attractive power of the asset to someone who wants it will help them push through the mess; but we need to trust the asset more.

For asset or auction promotion, we need to know that if someone isn’t interested in the headline attributes of an asset, they don’t need to know any more. We need to know that if someone isn’t motivated enough to go to our website for unabbreviated terms, room dimensions, or serial numbers, they probably aren’t motivated enough to attend a property inspection, register for the auction, or participate in bidding.

For company promotion, the same rules apply. If we’ve done our homework in polling past clients, we’ll know what our headlines should be. If those headlines need to be different for different clientele, I’d recommend separate, smaller, more targeted pieces rather than a bigger, more generic one.

Trust the steak. Sell the sizzle. Then get out of there.

Taking It Personally

We’ve all heard that less is more. In design, it’s the cultural standard. In everyday life, it makes a lot of sense; but it’s hard to implement. Advertising tells us that more is better. Insecurity tells us that more is safer. Social media tells us that more is popular. Materialism tells us that more is more.

Being busy is the new American status symbol. It means we’re in demand. It says we’re important, more productive. I struggle with that pull. I’m not as likely to add more physical stuff to my life as much as I am more experiences, more commitments, more friendships, and more aspirations. By themselves, they are mostly good things. Combined, they can lead to a life too crowded to each one them fully.

As I push back against the pressure, each “No” gives me more permission and confidence to say “No” to something else on my plate. Each sunset I watch allows me to exhale. Each morning run makes my waiting inbox seem less urgent. And each blog post gives me one fewer that I have to store in my cranium.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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“We Do It for the Next One.”

In my seminars and consulting sessions, I’ve regularly betrayed my graphic design industry by declaring that it’s more important to have consistent branding than creative advertising. And I’ve shot my personal livelihood in the foot by candidly admitting that in auction marketing, you’re better off paying for high-end photography than for premium page layout. So, you might think it’s ironic or incongruent that I also teach the various reasons that quality design matters in asset marketing.

Consistency and quality aren’t mutually exclusive, though. Granted, consistent quality does cost more; but its return on investment has a much higher potential than inconsistent creativity or consistent mediocrity do.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from one of the most successful auction marketers in the country, a vice president of an auction company that regularly posts sales above $100 million per year. We were talking about his company’s direct mail strategy, and he hit me with one of the most important pair of sentences I’ve heard during my 15-year career.

“Ryan, we don’t make the fancy brochure to sell this auction. We do it for the next one.”

He unpacked that a bit for me, and it has stuck with me ever since. The big idea was that an asset—with exposure to the right audience—will sell itself, but potential sellers are looking at this campaign and the campaigns of your competitors to determine how they want their asset and auction to be marketed.

In other words, your auction promotion can be your best company promotion.

This concept was substantiated by a conversation with an auctioneer from a much smaller auction company. He said that prospective sellers actually brought his old direct mail pieces to him and asked if their farm auction could be advertised like those shown in his past brochures.

See, if you have an amazing company video, but your ads are unreadable, sellers know your priorities are skewed. If you have die-cut metal business cards, but your property information packets look disheveled, that sends a message, too. And if you have a shiny, expensive pocket folder, but your brochures look like they were designed at a local copy center, sellers know that you take promoting yourself more seriously than promoting their assets.

Seller polling will tell you how they found you and why they chose you. Spend your company promotion dollars wherever those answers lead. I wouldn’t be surprised that in many cases, if not most cases, sellers will point to your auction marketing or auction event as their introduction to your brand and then their eventual trust in that brand. If that’s the case after you’ve interviewed your sellers, spend a significant portion of your annual company promotion budget infusing value-added elements to your auction campaigns. Even if that’s not the case, I’d still spend the money on quality auction promotion—because you don’t know what sellers you don’t have because of unfavorable impressions.

Before your next sales presentation, ask yourself if your auction advertising samples are on the same level as your company collateral. If not, know that other auctioneers—maybe even your competitors—can say, “Yes.” And they’re probably grateful that you have a disparity that shows sellers where your priorities are.

Taking It Personally

Consistent quality isn’t just a high goal for businesses and brands. For those of us who want a life of influence, we have a similar objective.

In church world, a person’s personal brand is often called their testimony. And most of us are taught to leverage that package of choices, personality, and resources to attract others to a relationship with Jesus.

The challenge is that this is expensive. Demonstrating hope and compassion often requires a difficult response in challenging situations. Exemplifying authenticity and mercy can cost you relationships or reputation. Obeying words in an old book can cost you credibility and even a career.

But that moment when someone says, “I saw Jesus in you, and I wanted that”? Wow! There are few things in life, if any, as rewarding as that.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.