Tag : customization

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143: The Biggest Challenge of Variable Data Marketing

Variable data is the future of direct mail. For precision postcard and catalog marketers, it’s actually the present.

If you’re not familiar with the technology, you need to be—even if you don’t have a use for it yet. Basically, documents are designed with different versions for different audiences. You can alternate different pictures, text, or entire panels of the printed piece. A high-speed digital press prints each piece according to indicators in your mailing list.

If you’ve got an auction with farm equipment and yellow iron, you can have one portion of your mailing list receive a postcard with different images and headlines on one side and both asset categories on the back. If you’ve got a business liquidation of real estate and personal property, you can emphasize the respective asset categories to different prospects on the first impression panels and show both together on the inside of the brochure. If you’re selling a portfolio of investment properties, you can have the property on the mailer panel be the one geographically closest to the recipient. That property’s advertising can be large, while the others are smaller.

The primary benefit of variable data is that you can target while also cross-marketing different types of assets. You can appeal to a buyer’s primary need or want and then fish for potential crossover purchases. I talk about the benefits of this tool in more detail in this article.

When I talk about this technology to auction marketers, we always get to the big sticking point. The primary obstacle for auctioneers implementing this direct mail tool is data. See, the process only works, if you’ve got segmented mailing lists.

If you sell real estate, do you have separate lists for each real estate category you sell? If you sell yellow iron, do you keep track of who bought trucks or trailers but not skid steers? When people sign up for your email or direct mail lists, do they have the option to select specific asset categories or just general ones? Or worse yet: a single “get auction updates” list?

If you’ve not been segmenting, start now. Other marketers have a head start on you. Other auction companies have already been using this tool for years. Start gathering data now so that you’ll be more competitive a year from now and have more marketing choices.

In the mean time, you can still use this technology with purchased mailing lists. For instance, if you have a property that’s good for farming and hunting, both of those buyer segments are publicly available. I can pull people with a hunting license or with a minimum number of acres owned or with a tax filing as a farm. For some of those lists, my broker can even sort the results by income, gender, age, and other demographic filters.

Also, you can do this with your Facebook advertising. It’s easy to create different promoted posts or ads aimed at different audiences. If you’re still using newsprint, you can run different ads in different classified categories or newspaper sections. Billboards and signs can be designed differently and placed in different locations to attract more than one buyer base.

The key is to make your advertising as attractive as possible to as many different people as possible. The best way to do that is to create different versions of your media, where possible, so that interested buyers see only (or predominantly) what they want.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

119: There Is No Routine Auction

Hospital Billboards

Do you see any parallel headlines to our auction industry headlines?

Over the course of three days, I happened to drive through West Virginia twice. Both times, I was captivated by a short headline on two hospital billboards on I-64.

“There is no routine cancer.”

Often, hospitals tell you that they’re rated in the top ten in the country for a particular disease center or that they perform [insert number] of a certain procedure per year. Or they wrap some cliché in a font that appeals to AARP members.

But this hospital gets it. They know that a person with cancer doesn’t want to be another notch on an oncologist’s belt. My friends and family who’ve battled cancer definitely didn’t want to be a statistic. On the other end of a biopsy, the patient needs assurance of getting the best medical care possible. They’re looking for signs of two things: expertise and empathy. “There is no routine cancer” communicates the care part of the equation. That message gives the impression that medical professionals will fight to save their lives.

The same desire is true for a large portion of auction sellers—at least those with assets big enough to warrant a proposal or earn a company brochure. They want to know the auction marketer pitching to them will understand their situation, study their asset, and create a custom plan to make the best outcome possible. They want to hear, “There is no routine auction.”

Despite this, auctioneers tend to spend the majority of their pitch on what they tell every seller: “Look at my resumé; I’ve won some accolades and earned some designations. We sell lots of stuff like yours. Auctions are the best.” Most of the company brochures I’ve read express little empathy. Property analysis is usually one of the shortest sections of proposals—if it’s even in there. I’ve seen more market analysis from one meeting with my old REALTOR® than I’ve seen in probably 99% of the seller presentations that I’ve been asked to design.

The good news is that you can be the exception to that rule, and exceptional can give you a competitive advantage.

You can still leverage your experience and accomplishments. They just have to be framed within the context of the seller’s benefit. How does your bid calling competition win benefit them? What did you learn at CAI or CES that you can use for this auction? How do those marketing awards translate into better advertising for the campaign at hand? Your time as a leader in an association gave you what insight that you can implement for the challenge of this sale? How do all those years in the business make you worth that commission number they’re skipping through the proposal to find?

I got this wrong for most of my career. I stacked my plaques and auction folders to impress potential clients. I still do. It’s a hard default to reset.

I’m working toward bringing those into context with a different message: “working with assets and winning for auctioneers all over the country has given me insight that might help you.” Hopefully, I’ve given enough information away in emails & on phone calls, in blog posts & on seminar screens to let people know that I’m trying to bring them on that same learning, growing journey—even when I resort to my stats.

How ‘bout you? How could you bring empathy and customization into your presentations? What content do you need to add or emphasize, cut or edit?

A woman named Janet walked up to me after a Bible study and told me that years ago her first impression of our church was me greeting her and her husband at their car and walking them into the building. She hadn’t expected that at a church of over 3,000 people. Now, she and Randy are in environments that challenge their faith; and it started with a small gesture to make them feel comfortable and welcomed in a nervous moment.

That story and longer ones have been told multiple times about multiple people on our parking team. Some of the stories give me goose bumps. I like to tell and retell them—especially to my team mates. “What we do here matters! Our impact will never be fully known. Keep your eyes open.”

The gradual compilation of those moments makes you aware of other potential moments. The more you put yourself in another’s glasses, the easier it becomes to see out of yours.

Someday, I hope to bring the empathy to my office that I bring to my church’s asphalt.

[footer] Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. Billboard images obtained from Google Images.[/footer]