Tag : data-collection

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235: What do you do when data scares you?

I received a Facebook Message early on a Saturday morning. It was from an auctioneer who was getting angry comments on the Facebook ads I’d created for him. Rather than just not clicking on the ads, people complained that they wouldn’t click on an ad that didn’t show the location of the items for sale or the date of the auction. They’d click to comment and write—but not to go to the auction catalog.

The auctioneer was concerned he was losing buyers. He wasn’t. (He told me after the auction that he thinks he set new records for this auction’s equipment.) But it was a big auction for an enterprise-level seller. I’ll tell you why I didn’t think he would lose a single buyer in a minute; but first, you need to know that the date and location were in every ad I built for him. 

Sort of.

Concerning Facebook Data

Almost every Facebook ad I create for auctions uses variable data headlines and subheads. I feed Facebook up to five different headlines and include up to five supporting subheads for each ad. For the ads in question, the location was one of those headline options; and the date was in three of the five subhead options.

Facebook’s variable content tool tries all of the options on each of the audiences the ads target. (On this campaign, we had six different audiences in the first round of ads.) As prospects respond to some content more than others, Facebook adjusts the distribution of those options daily. In this way, the headlines and subheads that work best gradually get the most distribution so that your best-performing bait is what is on your hook. And you might have different winning content in one ad than you do in another due to the preferences of each ad’s respective audience.

So what had happened in the campaign in question is that the vast majority of respondents had clicked on ads whose headlines and subheads contained something other than the date and location of this auction. We were getting a fantastic cost per click and lots of traffic to the auction catalog, but the auctioneer asked me to shut down the ads, put the auction location in the non-variable text where I had put the sales copy, and restart the ads. He told me he was willing to have less-efficient traffic as long as the comments didn’t scare his seller representative.

I get it. I look at hard data daily and often don’t follow what it shows to be the reality. That’s true in my business and my personal life. Trusting a machine, an algorithm, or artificial intelligence is not natural for human beings. That’s one of the primary tensions that inventors, engineers, and technology executives face every day. 

When Facebook Data Scares You

My client wasn’t losing a single bidder. Anyone truly interested in what he was selling would’ve clicked on the ad to see more photos, more asset information, and auction details like ending time and pickup location. People who complain on a Facebook ad instead of just scrolling by it have an axe to grind and just need an outlet for that rage. If the location and auction end time would’ve been in the ad, they would’ve found something else to complain about in the catalog or auction terms.

Still, the thousands of website visits those ads had efficiently generated couldn’t reach the volume of a couple of angry comments. That’s also part of human nature. We’re humans, and so are our sellers. Humans unevenly trust automation, algorithms, and other perceptive technology. So, I don’t fault the auctioneer for moving away from data-driven content to what would assuage his client; and I immediately made that change to his ads.

What to do with Facebook data

Here’s how I try to convince auctioneers to trust the expressed preferences of the buying public—particularly in terms of variable data in Facebook ads. Look at it like a poll. If 90% of your bidders said they wanted your advertising to use a particular headline, would you switch and use it? If 80% of the people who came to your website said certain information wasn’t important to them, would you still make it a headline? If after seeing these patterns over hundreds of auctions, you refused to adapt to the buying culture, I have one more question for you. What’s more important to you: your comfort or your commission?


Images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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175: A New Tool to Learn More About Your Offline Bidders

Facebook recently launched a new tool called Offline Events that auctioneers can use to gain insight on their offline bidders.

Business Manager Mini-menuHow it works

When you create an ad on Facebook through Business Manager, you now have the option to tie the ad to a specific offline event (an auction in our case). After the auction, you can upload a list of auction attendees to Facebook’s database; and it will match as many of its users as possible and tell you how many of the attendees saw one of your Facebook ads.

You can categorize the list as Purchase (buyers), Lead (bidders), and Other (attendees). In fact, Facebook requires you to pick one of those fields per list. For most auctioneers, it will be easiest to just upload all registered bidders; but it’s good to know you can get further analytics, if you want them.

Facebook will not give you the names or further information about the Facebook users it matches. It only aggregates the data for comparison. Also, it will match only as many as it can with the data you collect. The match rate will vary depending on how much contact information you gather.

Why it’s useful

While it might not be able to match every registered bidder whose information you collect, the good news is that it will never over-report. If someone saw advertising in another medium as well as on Facebook, this information can supplement current auction polling with real data. This tool is especially useful for those who don’t have proprietary online bidding platforms for which the Facebook Pixel can do all of this (after initial setup).

While I’ve not yet got to play around with this tool, its potential is exciting—especially for auctioneers who issue post-auction reports to sellers. The more data point you can use to validate your marketing strategy, the better.

Offline Events Overview

Who it benefits most

This will especially benefit those who sell the same asset categories over and over again and/or those who sell multiple asset categories but in the same geographic area all the time. It will be easier to find trends in this data, if you have bigger bidder pools (typically personal property and commercial equipment) or many auctions per year.

If you’d like to experiment with this tool, you can get a free, quick tutorial here.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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144: Relearning How to Fish for Auction Buyers (and Sellers)

H-E-B is the largest privately-held grocery chain in the United States. Last year, Forbes ranked the company as the fifteenth largest privately held company of any kind in America. If you talk to someone who has emigrated from Texas, H-E-B is one of the things they miss most about the Lone Star State.

I spent some time with a former vice president of the company, while he was working as a consultant where I live. On a weekend road trip with him, he told me about his unique and impressive career path and what he learned from his time at the company. (He has since moved onto Fortune 500 consulting, media ownership, and other successful entrepreneurial ventures.)

One of the things he attributes to H-E-B’s growth and success was how it decided what to put on the shelves and where. Apparently, the grocery industry used to include a lot of supplier lobbying. Food companies would wine, dine, and all but bribe grocery chains to put their items on the shelves, especially on end caps and other prominent positions. Early into the barcode era, H-E-B started tracking what customers actually purchased. They learned what varieties and brands sold more than others, what size packaging outperformed other configurations, and what price points created the most transactions.

Then, they adjusted their store layouts and product lineups accordingly.

Store and chain managers may not have enjoyed the same gifts and junkets, but they soon benefitted from higher sales volumes. Joe said a little store named Walmart adhered early to the same track-and-adjust strategy. It seems to have worked out well for them, too.

I would imagine that sales analytics are standard practice now for major retailers—and far more comprehensive than what H-E-B and Walmart first used. They got to those trends early, if not first; and it has led to market share domination.

The auction industry is at a similar place as the grocery industry was in the 1980’s. Most auction companies keep marketing the way they have for decades, just with more media expenditures. As a graphic designer, I like it, because it means more work for me. As a consultant, it scares me, because there’s only so much I can help a company without analytical data.

Relatively few auction companies are leveraging the tools available for actionable data. Not even the free tools, let alone the $10-per-year ones. I know this because I ask. As the industry evolves and transitions online, we have the potential for even more data points that will offer even better strategic intelligence.

Like a 1980’s food supplier, I currently benefit in the short term from my clients’ ignorance. It frees me from adapting, from changing my skill sets and value propositions. If I want to sell more volume with more longevity, though, I’ll need to adapt to my clients’ customer’s patterns.

Here’s the rub: I can’t get that knowledge for them, and I can’t get it without them. That’s why I’m educating myself with instructional videos, online seminars, and offline courses like the Auction Marketing Management curriculum. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to teach my clients how to fish, even if that might mean fewer fish heading my way.

In the current marketplace, there’s no excuse for relying on instinct. Our marketing mix should include more experimentation but less guesswork. Our customers on the aggregate are telling us how and where and when to advertise and conduct transactions. The buying public is always right, whether we like it or not; and they’re generating the data to prove it.

American statistician and author, W. Edward Demings, said it best: “In God we trust. All others must bring data.”

 Image from this source.

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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.