Tag : email

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172: YouTube Has Revealed What It Knows About Your Auction Buyers

YouTube is now the second largest search engine in North America. Web surfers watch almost five billion YouTube videos every single day.1 It’s a safe bet that Google, who owns the video streaming service, is learning a lot from all of the data it’s collecting. That data must be valuable enough for Google to lose $1.8 billion a year to keep YouTube up and running.2

One of the things YouTube knows from that data is the approximate average length of our collective attention span. To acclimate to this, they’ve made many of their advertisers’ ads skippable after five . . . long . . . seconds. That span of time even comes with a countdown clock to assure YouTubers that their wait is almost over.

YouTube 4 Seconds

To get their full message across, advertisers must make the first five seconds of their commercial compelling enough for viewers to avoid that skip button. At the average rate of an English speaker, that’s about 12 words—assuming words start immediately.

Five seconds. 12 words.

YouTube Skip

Many auctioneers don’t believe Americans have a short attention span.

  1. Their signs and newspaper ads are compressed brochures, not teasers to their websites.
  2. Their headlines are generic, throwaway labels like “real estate” and “farm equipment” when a picture of the asset(s) makes the asset category obvious.
  3. They talk about the buying method (auction), the date of that auction, the type of bidding in that auction (online and/or on-site) and the presence or absence of a reserve before they talk about the asset.
  4. Their company brochures would take several minutes to read.
  5. They mail tabbed brochures with the most attractive panels on the inside and the terms, directions, and open house dates on the outside.
  6. They put their logo at the top of their emails instead of at the bottom.
  7. They lead with the name of an estate—a name that doesn’t belong to a celebrity that would be the reason why someone wants the asset.
  8. They duplicate the content from the front of their postcard to the back, crowding the impression on both sides.

How do I know the above realities are true? Because I get paid to design auction advertising media in these ways. Every week. Because auctioneers post scans of their fliers and post them on Facebook. Because even some of the pieces that win national auction industry awards violate the laws of attention span.

By the way, those five seconds for YouTube seem long, because our attention span for other media is even shorter than YouTube or Google demonstrate with the five-second countdown. For social media like Facebook, you’re looking at less than half of that. For people sorting through their mail, two seconds would be a long time to capture their attention. Same goes for email subject lines.

Social commentators speculate that the trend to shorter attention spans is attributed to smart phone usage. Mobile Internet use might be causation or correlation, but your own Google Analytics will show you that the trend is only growing. There’s no putting the attention span genie back in the bottle.

So, how do you adapt to this shrinking attention span? For starters, get off the bulleted list you just read. Second, before you post any information in any format for your advertising campaign, work on the 10 words or less to use as the talking point for the auction. (We teach a whole module on how to do this well at the Auction Marketing Management designation course.)

If you get really courageous, cut everything out of your advertising media except this tease, the most necessary information, and a call to action. Then put the rest of your content on your website.

1YouTube Company Statistics” Statistic Brain, September 1, 2016.

234 Mind Blowing YouTube Facts, Figures, and Statistics — 2016” Danny Donchev, FortuneLords.com, September 21, 2016.

Stock image 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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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

116: Where Are Our Marketing Jet Packs?

Photo purchased form iStockPhoto.comOn March 6 at 8:36pm, one of my auctioneer friends posted on Facebook, “Anyone got anything new to share? Any new marketing ideas this week? Any good success to share? What’s working, what’s not?”

Two of his words grabbed my attention: “this week.”

In the age of Moore’s law, there’s this belief by marketers that eventually we’ll find some advertising silver bullet, that some new media will make all others obsolete. In a competitive marketplace, the hungry and aggressive are hoping to find it first—to dominate it after early adoption.

Someone’s got to tell all of the companies sending me email that social media replaced it in 2008. I guess it’s good that email hasn’t been replaced because, twenty years into it, we’re all still waiting for it to make direct mail obsolete. Eighty years into TV, commercial radio is still selling hours of advertising a day—despite it’s other heralded replacements (satellite radio, streaming services, and MP3’s) offering commercial-free music. Sure, we have fewer newspapers; but we actually have more specialty magazines.

Jetson Food MachineWe don’t have the Jetsons’ food machine yet, and we definitely don’t have our own jet packs. What we do have is an evolving media landscape that keeps adding more ways to do the same thing. Whether you’re using Google AdWords or outdoor signage, the marketing strategy is the same:

  1. Determine the people who might want what you’re selling.
  2. Go to where they are—their preferred media and/or geographic locations.
  3. Show them what they want to see—first and only (not what you want to show).
  4. Tell them how to get what they want.
  5. Analyze the results and interactions to tweak for next time.

Let me drill down one more layer to the auction community for which I’ve worked the past 14 years. After developing more than 15 hours of seminars, I’m annually asked to write and design new ones on new topics. For the last couple of years, I’ve debated turning that request down; but those seminars are the primary way that I introduce potential clients to my value as a vendor.

Candidly, I don’t think there’s a lot more out there that I’m comfortable teaching. With hundreds of auctioneers ignoring what I’ve taught in the past, I wonder what’s the point of creating more content to be ignored. I’m not talking about artistic, subjective suggestions; I’m talking about hard and fast rules to guide advertising, regardless of industry.

As an industry, we struggle to get the basics right.

To the public, we’re still selling events instead of assets. To sellers, we’re still selling auctions instead of marketing; and we’re talking about our method rather than our asset analysis and customized plan. (I know, because I read the proposals.) We are still crowding advertising with tertiary or redundant information that should wait online. We don’t put information in order of audience needs or wants. Readability looks like an afterthought. We’re still treating social media like broadcast outlets instead of conversation environments. We don’t segment our in-house mailing lists by asset category—let alone spend levels or time since last bid registration. We’re still not recording polling data from every auction to determine which media worked best for us in each asset and geographic market. We still don’t understand that the best branding is more consistent than it is creative—and that our brand is more than our colors or logo.

I say “we,” because I’m preaching to myself, the choir, and whoever’s still in the pews this far into this post.

I don’t know a lot of people—me included—who are ready for the next thing, because we’re not doing the things we should already know. “This week” or any week.
[tip]

As a preacher’s son who attended four church services a week and then a Bible college that required an average of 12 Bible-teaching environments (and four prayer circles) per week, I’ve heard my fair share of Bible verses and applications. I know a lot of Jesus’ instructions, and I still disobey them somewhere between hourly and daily. From what I hear, that’s not exclusive to me.

So, it’s interesting to me that so many of us, me included, “want to hear something fresh from God.” I like what my pastors say about this: “Why would God give us new instructions, when we aren’t saying ‘Yes’ to the ones he already gave us?”

That doesn’t mean that we withdraw ourselves from teaching or that we stop trying to grow in new environments. It just means that we can’t always expect to get our dessert before we finish our vegetables.

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10 Tips for Better Marketing Emails—Part 2: Dont’s

Email as Part of Marketing MixSometimes, improving your marketing means adding to what you’re doing—improving and honing your craft.  In my last post, I discussed five positive ways to upgrade your promotional emails.  Below are five constructive ways to renovate your email media by stopping some common unhealthy practices.

DON’T scan printed materials—especially partial scans—and send them via email.  
I’ve seen this from two different auction companies in the past month.  Not only is the presentation unprofessional, it’s actually more time-consuming to notify prospects this way.  Don’t be afraid, though, to have your graphic designer take certain value-added images (aerials, captioned photos, etc.) and convert them natively to JPG format to use in your email template.

DON’T bury the lead.  
With only a few seconds at best to grab the recipient’s attention, it’s critical to put the most important information in the top few lines of text and/or top 200-300 pixels of an email.  Remember that this priority space is not about what’s important to you but, instead, what’s important to the reader.  Those are typically two different things.  Leave your logo and contact information for the bottom of the email; the recipient already saw the email was from you before they opened it.

DON’T forget about the text version of emails.  
While many users get their email with HTML-enabled applications, many are using their mobile devices or browser-based inboxes. Most email services will create text versions from your HTML emails, but it’s wise to check the text versions for irregularities from the automatic conversion.

DON’T use images more than 800 pixels wide in your emails.  
The vast majority of email programs aren’t going to show images wider than 800 pixels.  Even if they do, larger images take longer to download.  Download speed is critical, especially for mobile email users.  Programs for resizing photographs to this size are free or inexpensive.  The person who designs your other media can probably reduce your images in a matter of seconds; so, you might want to ask them for web-size versions of the images they used in your print campaign.

DON’T acquire and/or use email addresses illegally.  
If someone doesn’t give you their email address, it’s most likely a prosecutable offense to send them bulk emails.  Great places to garner email addresses legally: business card bowls or drawings, subscription boxes on your website, links in email signatures, and bidder registration forms.  If I’ve been corresponding with someone, I often just ask, “Would you like to get my articles delivered to your email inbox?” Usually, they respond with a “yes.”  When they don’t, I know I would’ve been wasting my emails on them, anyway.

Email should be an important component in every marketing campaign you create.  Because the medium is free or very inexpensive, the temptation is not to place as much effort into it as with more tangible and public media.  Beware of that pitfall.  Surpass your competition’s emails by doing the small things right.
[tip]

For most of my life, I measured my standing with God by the things I didn’t do at least as much as by the things I did do.  The problem is that both were worthless measurements, because the focus of both centered around “do.”

As I’ve been traveling through the book of Romans with God chasers in my church, it’s becoming apparent that none of us—especially me—could rescue ourselves or even keep our fates afloat by our accomplishment or restraint.  God exchanged our despondency for his hope, our nothing for his everything, our filth for his perfection.  And when he did, that was all him.  No us.

It’s hubris to think anything I could now do would earn his gifts.  But that common arrogance is embedded in my heart and needs to be regularly rooted out of my perspective.

You and I are loved and forgiven.  While that should direct our gratefulness and worship, as well as our obedience and evangelism, the prize of that unconditional acceptance shouldn’t ever become part of our to-do list.

 

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10 Tips for Better Marketing Emails—Part 1: Do’s

Spam Folder, used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.comEven if you’ve never wired money to an African banker, snagged name-brand software for pennies, or purchased a product to enlarge any part of your body, chances are good that you’ve been offered it via email multiple times—maybe even this week alone.

Thankfully, junk filters are getting better at separating the garbage from the valuable emails—both the ones we want to read and the ones we want others to read.  Even without these filters, it’s a challenge for marketers to get past the personal filters we all use to weed through our respective inboxes.  There’s no tip that will guarantee your email will get read, but these tips will raise your chances of your message getting absorbed by your prospects.

DO use headlines of 50 or fewer characters.  
When we check our email, we typically look at either the “sender” or “subject” fields first.  Neither of those fields contains a lot of space.  If you use a lot of characters in the subject line, the extraneous characters simply won’t be seen.  So, spend characters wisely on what would matter most to the recipient.  Avoid adjectives, multiple exclamation marks, and unnecessary words.  Know that abbreviations like “BR,” “BA,” “SF,” “HWY,” etc. are acceptable and still professional.

DO condense email content and use links to more detailed content.
An email, especially a marketing one, doesn’t need to be exhaustive.  The reality is that if the recipient doesn’t have the motivation to follow an offer or story to the other end of the link, they wouldn’t be motivated to make a purchase, place a bid, read a story, or share your content on social media.  So, sell the sizzle; and link to the meat of your content.

DO use an email service like Vertical Response, Mail Chimp, iContact, or Constant Contact (instead of your computer’s email software).
We can tell when we’re just a BCC—or far worse: a CC—on a group email you typed in Outlook.  Online email systems allow you to upgrade the look of your emails with custom or pre-made templates, helping you build your brand through consistent formatting.  In addition, email services enable you to schedule your emails in advance, include social sharing buttons, and even stream RSS content from your blog.  On top of that, they offer analytical tools to help you evaluate your email strategy and execution.

DO use custom mail-merge fields, where appropriate.  
This makes your emails more personal; and we all take notice when an email has our names in them.  Most online email services provide this ability.

DO create a separate email address for your bulk emails.  
In the event that people mark your email address as junk or that online servers flag your email address, you don’t want it to be the address you use every day.  Definitely avoid using your personal email address, too.

If these suggestions seem like common sense, know that I’m still not seeing them used as common practice by many small business owners—auctioneers in particular.  For all you do to sell your professional brand in the marketplace, don’t sabotage that work and expense with cheap and lazy email marketing.
[tip]

It’s true that a successful life requires sorting through our junk while pursuing our talents and dreams.  Those with both a good filter and a healthy amount of determination tend to accomplish their goals.  That seems common sense to people on the other end of a goal accomplished, even as the disgruntled (who may or may not occupy a public park) look at the results as products of chance or fate, privilege or fortune.

While I struggle to eliminate distractions and to work diligently, I’ve found that it’s a very different type of choice that can keep me from my dreams: which dreams to follow.  I know people more talented than I will ever be who have spun their wheels for years, because they didn’t choose one or two dreams from their many potential life paths.  Candidly, I have stunted my own growth in some areas by trying to grow less significant areas.

It’s true: the jack of all trades is the master of none.

Hardest of all, is the prospect of chasing dreams that won’t matter in the long run.  I am utterly convicted by one sentence in the Bible: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  It’s a daily challenge to align my dreams with God’s, my kingdom with his, my walk with his path—even though God’s dreams for me are bigger and presumably better than my own.

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70: Getting Engaged on Your Birthday

InboxToday’s my birthday.

Apparently, it’s public knowledge.  This week, I got an email from Panera telling me that they put a surprise on the MyPanera card in my wallet.  I got another birthday email from NFL.com, showing my last name on a Ravens jersey—a nice touch.  I would be more impressed, if these actions and emails weren’t generated by a database sitting on a server in Nebraska somewhere; but I’ve got to tip my hat to these companies for putting something other than solicitations in my inbox.

It’s not just mail-merged birthday greetings I noticed this week.  Staples sent me advance notice coupons in Wednesday’s email.  (In the past, they’ve snail-mailed me invitations for Rewards-member-only store hours and sales.)  As they regularly do, American Express sent me an email with links to four articles for entrepreneurs; and Ink by Chase sent me an invitation to an upcoming small business conference.  The makers of MapMyRun, one of the few paid apps on my iPhone, emailed me articles related to health and wellness.

Birthday Emails
What these companies know is that our culture craves autonomy.  We want corporations to treat us like people, not numbers.  We’ve been burned by Enron and BP, Congress and Wall Street.  We want our voices and purchases to count.  We don’t want to be told by Madison Avenue mad men what to want.

That’s why Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites have seen unprecedented growth.  It probably explains why shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol”—shows to which we can contribute—trump the ratings of scripted shows.  Beyond self-expression and acceptance, we crave more personal interactions with people, not conglomerates.

So, the entities that engage relationally gain advantage over their peers.  It’s not just that they have a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, or a birthday list.  It’s what they do with them.  They invite conversation, respond to expressed concerns or praise, and give away products, services, and/or information for free.  Instead of a broadcast mentality, where emails and status updates are all sales pitches, they’ve found the social in social marketing, the 2 [way street] in Web 2.0.  They know the difference between radios and walkie talkies—and choose the latter.

So, how do you engage the individual in your marketing?  What special offers do you give your prospects or clients?  I’ve heard of auction companies offering MVP parking or seating, permanent bidder numbers, and bidder receptions.  What intellectual property or advice do you send their way?  Some auctioneers conduct free bidder seminars; others offer FAQ documents or how-to videos on their Web sites.  Do you have a blog or newsletter?  If so, is it solely horn-tooting; or does it contain practical content?

You don’t have to be the birthday fairy to build an interactive brand.  But if you want what you have to go viral, you have to get close enough to people—where they are—for them to catch your contagions.  Go to the events and environments where they congregate (both online and offline); authentically join the conversation.  Listen to needs, themes, trends.  And say something more than, “I’ve got something I want to sell you.”
[tip]

I’ve been in a Tuesday night study of the New Testament book of Acts, seeing things I never saw in a whole semester of Acts during college.  One of the truths that has jumped out of the narrative is how evangelism was conducted outside of the synagogue.  The apostles and disciples started with where each respective unbeliever was at that moment.  Peter and John told the lame beggar, “We don’t have money, but we have Jesus’ name to heal you.”  Philip asked the curious Ethiopian Eunuch, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”  Jesus asked a murderous Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”

Few people want to be converts, stars on a performance chart, or numbers at a “bring a guest” Sunday.  At a core level, we want to be known and understood, loved and respected.  If someone were to change your mind on faith—a deeply personal asset—what approach would most likely woo and convince you?  What would that process look like?

Knowing this, is that the approach you take to share the faith you hold dear?

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010.[/footer]

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