Tag : facebook

post image

Apple’s new privacy policy is changing my Facebook strategy.

As you may have read in the news, Apple and Facebook are battling over user privacy. In the pending update to the Apple operating system, they are introducing App Tracking Transparency. This will allow users of iPhones and iPads to opt out of website tracking. For Apple’s users who choose not to be tracked, all cookies and pixels will be disabled.

What this means for auction marketers on Facebook 

It’s safe to assume that many Apple users will choose not to be tracked, which will impact Facebook advertising in the following ways:

• Landing Page Views and Cost Per Landing Page View data will now be incomplete.
• Audiences based on pixel traffic will be based on smaller data sets and thus be less accurate.
• Optimizing ads for Landing Page Views will be negatively impacted.
• We won’t be able to capture and clone the traffic to websites that arrives from sources other than Facebook for use in Facebook ads.

Who stands to lose the most

The auction companies that will be most impacted by this change:
• those that advertise & sell in multiple asset categories at the same time
• those who do not have Google Analytics installed on their proprietary site
• those whose ads point to third party bidding platforms, where Google Analytics data is typically not available
• those using advanced conversion tracking (this applies to none of my Facebook clients)

The workaround I’ve used for years

For the past six years, I’ve advertised hundreds (if not thousands) of auctions for companies who don’t have a Facebook pixel on their website. So, I’ve got lots of experience in a workaround option. Facebook allows advertisers to advertise to people who’ve interacted with ads or posts. That allows us to advertise to lookalikes of people who responded to ads on the various Facebook platforms and/or re-market to those responders. If you advertise [1] to the same audiences for most of your auctions or [2] only one auction at a time, efficacy and efficiency don’t change much from ads based on pixel traffic.

How I plan to adapt Facebook ads for my clients

For clients who do not currently use a Facebook pixel, they will see no changes to their ad targeting or post-campaign reports.

For clients who do use a Facebook pixel (yours or mine), I will be making some adaptive adjustments to campaigns. Apple has not given a date for when this iOS change will go into effect. When the change goes live, I will change optimization from Landing Page Views to Link Clicks. Facebook allows us to combine Custom Audiences on ads. So, when I use a pixel-based audience, I can also include an interactor audience. If my client would rather see how this change is impacting traffic cost and reporting, I can also build pixel-based and interactor-based ads separately to A/B test the results. 

How to get the reporting data that will be lost

For auctioneers whose websites allow UTM codes (almost every one of my clients), every ad we create can include a unique tracking code that can be tracked in real-time in our Google Analytics. It can be found in the Source Medium column under the All Traffic section of your Acquisitions tab. The equivalent of Facebook’s “Landing Page Views” are shown in Google Analytics as “Visits.” 

My personal thoughts

This shift in user-determined privacy was inevitable. If Apple hadn’t forced its hand, this move would probably have been mandated by the legislative branch or by the results of a lawsuit. 

In some ways, this levels the playing field for family-size businesses. This change will impact Fortune 500 advertisers far more than it will small businesses that have developed their own niche. Advertisers tracking multiple conversions like bidder registrations, bidding activity, form submissions, etc. will lose far more data than any of my clients (and most of the auction industry) will. The results you’ve seen me tout here and on social media were achieved without that advanced cookie/pixel data.

Facebook allows us to update our list-based audiences at any time, even while ads are running. Auctioneers who capture the bidder data for each of their asset categories and who store them in searchable or separate databases can gain a competitive advantage over those scrambling with this transition. 

This is a seismic shift. For most people reading this, though, there is little reason to panic. We can still have incredibly targeted and efficient ads on the most pervasive social media platform in our country.

Image provided by Apple

post image

221: 8 Things to Cut From Your Facebook Ads to Improve Their Performance

Last year, Facebook really did the auction industry a favor. I don’t mean that sarcastically. It definitely helped me serve auctioneers better. In July of 2019, Facebook drastically reduced the amount of text that would fit into their ads and would show on posts in user newsfeeds. Facebook’s internal analytics showed that ads longer than their new limits were less effective than those with short copy. So, it forced advertisers to cut to the chase in a way they aren’t required to do in direct mail, email, and newsprint. Those restrictions made it easier for me to convince auctioneers to cut superfluous copy for only the most important sales copy.

Here’s a list of a few of the common items I regularly cut to make room for what actually attracts consumers.

Seller Name

Unless the seller is (A) a celebrity or (B) a vendor from which our target audience already purchases the items you’re selling, your seller’s name is not sales copy. Sure, a buyer might pay more for a tractor because they knew that specific farmer always took care of his stuff; but they don’t care about the condition of a gravity wagon unless they’re already interested in a gravity wagon. That minister or teacher or veterinarian may be a beloved member of your community, but nobody outside of their family will buy their three-bedroom ranch because they owned it. Put the seller name and even an auctioneer’s note about them on your website. But do that seller a favor, and get people to that website first.

“Estate”

Facebook’s bots often flag this word to make ads comply with their real estate restrictions. That alone is worth avoiding this word. But we don’t sell estates. We sell items. Kill phrases like “an estate filled with” and use that space to add more item or category mentions. On your website, I’d replace “estate” with a substitute like “lifetime collection” or just “collection” to keep those bots at bay and let your personal property ads use the full gamut of Facebook’s targeting tools.

“Real Estate”

If you have to tell someone the asset you just adequately described is real estate, they aren’t a likely buyer. Even if (1) you’re selling both real estate and personal property and (2) the Venn diagram of the likely buyers of both is the same, you should be advertising the real estate and equipment separately. If you’re advertising a business liquidation in which the intellectual property, real estate, and contents sell together, use “commercial building” or “retail location” or “3,250±SF facility,” or “warehouse” instead of “real estate.”

“Only”

On the text below the photo, slideshow, or video in a Facebook ad, every single character counts. Even if that weren’t true, you don’t need the “only” in “online only auction.” If it’s a simulcast auction, I use “Bid on-site or online.” If the bidding happens exclusively online, the absence of a mention of offline bidding says “only” for you.

“-“

I just straight refuse to hyphenate online to on-line for clients. When you look at the Google Trends comparison of the use of “online” vs “on-line,” you would never use “on-line” ever again. It’s 2020, we’re all online. Even people still using AOL email addresses.

Open House/Inspection Information

The date of an open house often influences when I schedule ads to run, but I don’t mention previews & property tours in the ads. People don’t care when they can view something if they don’t first know what they want to view. Sell them thoroughly on the assets, and get them to your website. If they don’t have enough motivation to click to your website for a few seconds, they don’t have the motivation to drive to your inspection. If you want more people at your open house, take better pictures and headlines, and then get that better content in front of the right people. Trust the interest of the buyer, and leverage it with actual sales copy. 

Auction Time

Whether you’re advertising an online or offline auction, stop your Facebook ads before the auction ends. Then, you don’t need to wedge the time into your ads. I could argue that you don’t need the date at all (and I have clients who agree with me), but I won’t die on that hill. An auction’s opening or closing time is needed only by interested parties, and every interested party should have visited your website before registering to bid. “Now” is more important and more effective than date or time. I’ve been told my whole career that auctions create urgency. They absolutely do. Ironically, auctioneers trust that urgency in their auctions but not their auction advertising.

“Auction”

Dozens of auctioneers reach out to me every year to help them get results for their Facebook ads and their auctions like they see my clients get. I’ll tell you one of my secrets, and you don’t have to hire me to benefit from it. I use the word “auction” in less than half of my ads and in hardly any of my ads that achieve cost per click below 9¢. I don’t hate auctions. I just know that “bid now” is the closest thing auctioneers have to ”buy now” in the fast-paced consumer culture in which we live. Most of my best-performing ads also use “Buy it at YOUR price!” as the bold headline below the photo, slideshow, or video. We don’t sell auctions, because people don’t buy auctions. They buy items.

After you get used to cutting these eight things from your Facebook ads, I’d consider weaning most of these from your other advertising—especially your outdoor signs and classified newspaper ads. I’d edit most of these out of your direct mail, too. The objective for every offline media you create and distribute for an auction is the same as for Facebook ads: get people to your website. That’s where we can capture data. That’s where you can pull buyers into your sales funnel, where you can learn about them in your Google Analytics, where interested parties can trigger your Facebook pixel for re-marketing and lookalike advertising. Oh, and where they can bid or register to bid. Your website has practically-infinite room for all the tertiary content you’re currently trying to shoehorn into your advertising.

If I had to choose between my instinct and the billions of advertising impressions that fed Facebook’s seismic shift in available text space, I’m going to rely on the behemoth’s deep and wide sampling of our buying culture. Advertisers don’t make the rules. Consumers do. We advertisers either break ourselves upon those rules or play within them for more and better traffic to our auctions.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

post image

220: How I Optimize Facebook Ads to Get the Results I Do

Most marketers understand that Facebook is unmatched in its ability to connect advertiser content with consumers’ unique concoctions of interests. Almost every conversation I’ve had with clients and prospects about Facebook targeting revolves around finding the right prospects by demographic and interest categories. That’s surely valuable information, and those conversations should happen with every auction. (With niche assets, those conversations should precede signing the auction contract.)

Marrying the right text and visual content with this targeting is the next biggest challenge. Thankfully, with A/B testing or Facebook’s new “Dynamic Content” tool, we can test and adapt the bait on our hooks as we fish amongst those prospect groups. For years, though, Facebook has offered another way to get more bites on our lines. Maybe only one or two clients have asked about it in the past five years.

Optimization. 

Facebook knows more than just our likes & dislikes, demographics & interests. It also knows how we’re likely to engage with paid advertising. To continue with the fishing analogy, Facebook’s artificial intelligence engine doesn’t just get us to the right lake; it knows which fish are likely to bite and even which are likely to steal the bait and swim off. For every ad or promoted post I’ve created for a client, I’ve been required to choose how I wanted the content to be optimized—how we want Facebook to cast our line and reel it. It’s required. You can’t run an ad or promoted post without selecting one of the options below. I choose different optimizations for different situations. Here is a list of when I use each of those options.

Landing Page Views

A landing page view is usually my primary objective. Auctioneers pay me to get potential bidders to their websites. A landing page view means someone left Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, or a site on the Audience Network and then stayed on the auctioneer’s website long enough for the first page they visit to completely load. The algorithms know which slice of our target audience is likely to visit your site for at least that length of time. It stands to reason that these prospects are also the most likely to bid online or to investigate details regarding bidding at an offline event. 

Link Clicks

This is the objective I choose the second most often. Candidly, I use it only because landing page views require a Facebook pixel to be installed on my client’s site. Almost half of my clients have no pixel—theirs or mine—on their sites. So, I have to resort to the next best thing: link clicks. This is a definite step down from landing page views, though, because a lot of people who click on links immediately click right back to the Facebook platform without letting the page load. I’ve seen campaigns where this happened for more than 30% of the clicks.

Daily Unique Reach

Most of my campaigns have a reminder ad that starts three to ten days prior to the auction. It targets those who either visited the website (if my clients have installed a Facebook pixel) or interacted with their Facebook content during the marketing period (if they don’t have a pixel). This might be a slideshow, video, or promoted photo album. I want to show these proven prospects the auction in a different way than they saw it the first time. I usually switch up the text, too. For these folks, I set the optimization to daily unique reach so that they see this reminder every day on whichever part of the Facebook platform they use.

Impressions

This selection means “show this ad to this audience as many times as possible.” I’ve seen this result in viewers seeing the ads at an average of more than 20 times. As you could imagine, that makes the response rates highly inefficient. It also makes the ads feel obtrusive, which can annoy your prospects. I use this option for what I call “poaching”—when we target attendees at a home, car, or farm show or bidders at a competitor’s on-site auction of similar assets. (I’ve also used this for my ads to auctioneers at NAA conventions.) Outside of those instances, this is only an “in case of emergency, break glass” option.

Post Engagements

This is another “last resort” option. Believe it or not: I still have clients who don’t have auction information on their website. There’s nowhere for me to link an ad, and Facebook requires links in ads. So, my only option is to post a notice on the business’ Facebook page, promote it, and optimize it for engagements. What that means is that Facebook will serve the ads to those most apt to like, comment, or share the post. A couple weeks ago, this worked really well for a rural horse auction, where more than 1,000 people shared the post and we had more than 20,000 engagements with the content. I’d still prefer to have 20,000 people come to my website than interact with a Facebook post, but it’s a good option when the infrastructure isn’t there to move leads through a sales funnel.

None of these options are inherently right or wrong. Your situation will dictate which one you use and when you use it. For many of my campaigns, I use more than one—because I’m not always fishing in the same lake for the same fish.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

post image

219: A Safety Net for When I Guess Wrong

Within the span of several weeks, I’ve advertised not one but two complete liquidations of antique stores (for different clients in different states). Both had quality vintage items. Both had catalogs brimming with a large number of lots. But only one became a prime example of why I prefer to advertise with a safety net.

I launched the ads for the first antique store auction on a Thursday afternoon. When I checked my Facebook analytics the next morning, I did a double take. One of the ads was getting results at $1.10 more per click than the other ads in the campaign. I screen captured the stats and emailed my client. I asked if they’d like me to shift some of its budget to the other ads or if it was worth paying extra for these prospects’ clicks. I rarely hear how the estate and antique auctions I advertise fare, and often big-fish buyers in other asset categories are worth the extra cost to get them on the line. (Also, I didn’t have a lot of personal property experience in that part of their state.) So, I leaned on the client’s experience.

The answer came back to let the ads run as they were originally budgeted. When the campaign closed, that ad finished with a cost per click 19.5 times that of the other ads and a cost per landing page view of 20.3 times all of the other ads. The click-through rate finished at a meager 0.66%, while the other ads averaged 7.65%.

So, who were we targeting with that expensive, inefficient ad?

People with occupations connected to antiques. The line of thinking: the prospects most likely to purchase a store full of high-end antiques are people who already own or work in another antique store. We guessed wrong. Thankfully, the other ads carried the day; and the campaign averaged 7¢ per click, even with the expensive ad in the mix. In fact, the most efficient ad for that auction didn’t target any interest categories related to antiques or collecting.

My client wouldn’t have guessed that. But Facebook’s artificial intelligence engine would. And did.

Robots to the Rescue

The longer I advertise on Facebook, the less I trust my strategic instincts and the more I lean on data. I get surprised just about every week by which ads do better than others in the same campaign. Same photos. Same headlines. Just different audiences. Audiences I expected to jump on ads don’t. Prospects that would make sense to most people with any marketing experience prove themselves indifferent to the quality items shown in professional pictures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve A/B tested images and been shocked by what pictures proved the best bait. Hint: they weren’t the “money shot,” the brochure cover photo, or the main image on the client’s website.

A global artificial intelligence engine, fed by tens of thousands of impressions and thousands of clicks per auction, regularly surpasses my educated guesses. Three days of machine learning can outperform strategy informed by almost 8,000 auctions advertised over 20 years across 49 states. It’s humbling to be proven wrong. At the same time, it’s exciting. That means we as marketers can now adapt our advertising in real time to fickle realities and head-scratching trends. 

Robot Consultants for Print Media

I still have clients who refuse to leverage paid social media advertising. Others only throw spare budget at it. They either don’t believe it can bring them buyers or have yet to see a buyer come from it. I can’t argue against their experience or results, but I offer this counter thought: what if you used Facebook to learn what kind of audiences respond to your ads, what kind of headlines work best, and what images get the most people to your website? What if you then adapted your other media to what’s working in your Facebook ads? Your print media, signs, and email marketing could grow more effective because of the immediate feedback that social media ads provide.

Recently, a client asked for my opinion on a change to a tiny plat map in several small newspaper ads. I told her that I wouldn’t recommend using plat maps at all—particularly small ones—in newsprint. I’ve learned from Facebook ads that people typically respond to ground photos, drone shots, and oblique imagery at higher rates than plat maps, orthogonal aerials, and multi-parcel outlines. (Tract layouts are tertiary information for buyers; they don’t need to know boundary shapes until they decide they are interested in what’s inside them.)

It’s just opinion until you have data. 

Train Your Own Robot

I’m not telling you to avoid using aerials. I’m suggesting that you A/B test them yourself. Test photos vs videos, collages vs slideshows, ads vs promoted posts. Test headlines. Test spending more in the first half of a campaign vs the second half. Test whether you should advertise to past web traffic or past Facebook interactors or neither.

This pragmatism most helps the auctioneers who focus on the same one or two asset categories. It’s easier to see trends when most of your auctions are like-kind. If that’s not you—if you are a generalist or your specialty is a geographic area more than an asset type—I highly recommend you team up with a specialist. That can be a broker, a dealer, a journalist, a collector, a vendor, or another auction company. The added expense on your current auction could give you tremendous insight for future auctions. It might even pay for itself on the auction at hand because guessing wrong can be expensive. 

Thankfully, Facebook’s robots can make mistakes less costly—if we let them do their work. If we’re humble enough, we can have a safety net for the high wire act of advertising auctions. 

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

post image

218: The Achilles Heel of My Facebook Ads

Every Friday afternoon this summer, a new series of Facebook ads have launched, running until the following Tuesday morning. They’re the only Facebook ads I’ve built that don’t promote an auction. Instead, they’ve touted stellar auction sale results or brag-worthy statistics from auction campaigns. Both sale results and traffic stats have proven to be good bait when fishing for new auctioneer clients. 

Usually, the large crowds of efficient traffic to my clients’ sites eventuate into successful auctions and plump commissions. Here’s the dirty secret, though: sometimes they don’t.

I remember one auction south of the Mason-Dixon line a couple of years ago. I had used audiences, photographs, and headlines similar to ones that have consistently worked like catnip in adjacent states. The targeted ads worked. Well, kinda. They drove thousands of people to the auctioneer’s website. Despite that, the auction bombed. If I remember right, the auction was stopped early because of frightfully-low sale prices. The auctioneer wasn’t just disappointed. Livid, he told me of his new goal to “warn people I care about” never to use my services, never to trust the stats I publish. It was a high-profile failure for him. So, I can understand the emotion.

Candidly, I have auctioneers inform me regularly that people aren’t registering to bid, that traffic isn’t turning into bids, or that bids are weak. “Are the ads running?” they ask. Sometimes, the email beats around the bush with the question, “How are the ads doing?”—even though almost every ad I build can be tracked both in real-time and historically in each of my clients’ Google Analytics. Those subject lines are code for me to ask a client what would make them feel more comfortable or what changes they’d like me to make to help them feel less anxious.

If you’ve been in the auction business long enough, you know that you can sell a property at ridiculously-high prices on mediocre advertising; and you can get a no sale out of incredible web traffic. Market conditions, perception of asset, seller reputation, proximity to a 1031 exchange deadline, and a prospect’s comfort with the auction method can swing sale prices in both directions from average.

That said, I have found a few limitations beyond my control that often neuter efficient traffic from Facebook ads or well-earned clicks from direct mail. If you’d like to convert more of your website traffic into bidders, you’ll want to avoid the following choke points.

Limited Content

I can’t tell you how many times an auctioneer has asked me to send people to a page that has no photos, no description, and/or no details on how to bid. As a holdover from decades ago, auctioneers want to alert the buying public as early as possible so consumers can “save the date.” With their website not yet ready to conduct business, my job is to send interested parties straight into frustration. Not only is that a bad brand image, that makes the prospect less likely to click on future ads—for the auction at hand or subsequent ones.

Wrong Content

Sometimes, I’m asked to link to pages that say nothing of the asset(s) being sold. There’s just a generic title, auction date & time, and terms & conditions. Unfortunately for our industry, people don’t buy auctions. They buy assets. Some auctioneers have preview dates & times listed before even one sentence or headline about what’s being sold. Like Area 51, we’re asking people to show up for a mystery. We waste their time. In so doing, we waste our opportunity.

No Way to Start the Buying Process

You can refuse to participate, but we all live in a world with Amazon Prime, grocery pickup, restaurant apps, and “Press Button. Get Mortgage.™” The American buying public has expectations about being able to at least bid immediately. The best calls to action I’ve got in the tackle box are “Buy at YOUR price,” and “Bid now.” Few people will remember to bid later. You’ve got to have a way for prospective buyers to place an online bid or a pre-bid on the page where they land. Even if you’re advertising an offline real estate auction, you need to have a prominent link to a form or email generator that lets people get their skin in the game. Immediate registration beats nothing, and a bidding catalog beats both.

No Facebook Pixel

Most online buyers don’t make a transaction on their first visit to your page. (If you don’t have online bidding, that’s a guarantee.) So, how do you make sure they get second touches with your content? A Facebook tracking pixel. Half of my clients have no way to capture this valuable consumer data because they lack that free pixel on their site. In addition to not capturing those who respond to their ads for remarketing, they can’t replicate that traffic to find more bidders like them. They forego Facebook’s powerful artificial intelligence engine and all of the prospects it could bring them in the second wave of their advertising.

Most of these remedies can be implemented for free. Some don’t take any additional time—just patience. All of them will increase (1) the professionalism of your brand and (2) quite possibly your commissions and sell-through rates. When a client doesn’t have these ducks in a row, it actually relieves some of the pressure I feel to deliver them high-performing ads. That relief comes in the truth that I charge the same fee to send crowds of people to an active marketplace as to a dead end.

post image

This Summer’s Effect on Facebook Advertising Budgets

Tomorrow, my wife and I will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. Almost a dozen times this summer, I’ve fielded a question via email or Facebook Messenger that takes me back to the months leading up to when I popped Crystal the big question. Actually, these summer inquiries have been several variations of the same question:

  • How much money would be enough for Facebook ads for this auction?
  • What Facebook budget would it take to get this stuff sold?
  • How much should we budget for Facebook to get good results?
  • Can I get a price quote on a moderate Facebook marketing campaign?
  • What would you suggest we spend on a property like this?
  • How much are we talking to find the buyers we need for this auction?

Before Facebook was invented and before my girlfriend said yes to “Crystal, will you marry me?” I wrestled with a version of this same question. Many of my friends and dorm buddies also wondered what expenditure would be enough—for our engagement rings. We couldn’t have Googled the answer, even if Google were a thing back then. We couldn’t have asked social media, even if MySpace had been online yet. Social convention said we should’ve spent two months’ worth of salary on it, but we were broke college kids. (I hung my wet laundry from the top bunk to dry it just to save the change that the clothes driers required.)

I can’t speak for other dudes, but I wasn’t worried that the value of the ring would change my girlfriend’s answer. I just didn’t want her yes to be in spite of what I handed her. I wanted her to know that I’d done the best I could do and that my best would be the precedent for her life with me. It’s the same for our sellers on every auction campaign, whether the advertising plan includes Facebook or not. We want those sellers to feel like we did the best with what we had, that the highest bid couldn’t have been improved upon. For reserve auctions—proposals where they could say no—we want them convinced they got the best the market could give them at the moment of sale.

So, how much advertising on Facebook or other media is enough to do that?

It depends on the girl. It depends on the guy. I know a coed who said yes over a ring for which her boyfriend went door-to-door in our dorm asking for donations before heading over to Walmart. I also know women who demanded rings worth more than cars currently in my driveway. I tell my clients it’s a math problem and then ask “How many website visitors would it take you to feel comfortable?” I can’t answer that question for them—or for anyone. I can help them only with the math. 

Over the past year, my Facebook campaigns have averaged 9¢ per link click across all asset categories. I usually email the auctioneers asking the questions above a spreadsheet of my past Facebook campaigns so they can see the range of variation from that average. Then, as the 1988 Delaware Association of Christian Schools fourth grade state math champion, I guide them through the equation of multiplying the web traffic they want by .05 and then by .15. That’s the range I typically use for budgeting for many asset categories. 

We can’t know what Facebook will charge in advance. The finite ad spots are sold via automated auction. The cost depends partly on how many other advertisers are vying for the same prospects at the same time. That varies from week to week and definitely from one geographic area to another. Also, the quality of the asset and the photography matter, too. Facebook will end the auctions early in your favor if your content is getting a strong response. The market and its demand for what you’re selling fluctuate, too. You can sell the exact same thing with similar imagery and headlines at a different time and get different results. Prospect density—the number of people within the geographic area who’d be interested in what you’re selling where you’re selling it—is hard to know in advance without a long and recent track record for which you can query analytics. And even knowing how big that radius should be is subjective.

Nobody can tell you in advance what your ads will cost. Not Facebook. Not me. No guru with a series of YouTube videos. What I can tell you is that right now, my clients spend about $770 per auction on Facebook ads (plus my posting fee). That’s down from an average of about $810 pre-COVID. 

I bought Crystal’s ring with the inheritance check I got from a great uncle I never met. On May 17, 1999, she said, “Yes.” On September 9, 2000, she said, “I do.” Seven anniversaries into our marriage, I bought her a serious upgrade package to the ring. Eleven more anniversaries later, I bought her a matching ring for her right hand and proposed to her again. I tell you all of that to say that you can always start modestly and add more budget later. Because we can track all ads in real-time via both Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics, we can determine if we want to pour more gas on the advertising fire. 

Surprising my wife during her girls trip in Italy.

All that data comes back to your comfort level, especially if the advertising comes out of your commission check. Depending on the asset value, the enigma grows even more uncomfortable. Your seller psyche can influence, that, too. Divorces and 60-year anniversary parties both occur with $200 and $20,000 rings on a bride’s hand. We’ve all seen auctions with thousands or even tens of thousands of visitors to our website that ended in a no sale or embarrassingly-low prices. I’ve seen auctions with tiny marketing budgets or ill-advised advertising result in banner commission days. 

You will never eliminate the risk or the guesswork of auction advertising. You can, however, make more educated guesses and better seller presentations based on captured, curated, and comparable data. If you don’t have those statistics, you’re welcome to borrow mine. 

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

post image

215: 3 Lists Every Auctioneer Wants But Nobody Can Buy

With the rise of big data, entrepreneurs have grown to assume that just about any kind of data is available to purchase. In many cases, that valuable demographic and purchase history is more robust than most of us would ever need. The problem is that it exists in proprietary databases. Those black boxes at best are available for blindfolded lease and at worst compete against us.

Even before Facebook’s ubiquity and Amazon’s dominance, though, auctioneers asked me for the same prospect lists they still assume I can procure. When I tell you that these lists get requested often, I mean every month—sometimes weekly. I still encounter surprise and maybe even disappointment when I can’t deliver them. To save us both from an awkward conversation later, I’ll just explain them here for you.

Real Estate Investors

As of July 19, 2019, we haven’t been able use Facebook’s real estate investor interests to target real estate ads. (I assume that’s to comply with HUD anti-discrimination regulations.) Even before that, we couldn’t target actual investors—only people whose Facebook habits showed an interest in investing. As of right now, we can’t purchase a list of individual people who invest in real estate. We can target companies whose standard industrial classification (SIC) falls under real estate development, management, or brokerage. We can ask for highest-known executives in those firms and phone numbers and legal/opt-in emails where available. In certain databases, we can pull people who own homes but don’t live in them. A list broker can sort that by net worth and/or annual household income. It’s a long shot, but that’s currently our best option.

Land (or Any Asset Category) Buyers

There isn’t a commercial source for those records. Landowners, yes. Land buyers, no. Independent auction companies should have a list of past bidders and buyers from auctions—hopefully sortable by asset category. Those lists should be queryable in order to pull only past buyers and/or bidders. Until you have critical mass, you can use that list only for direct mail. Once you do get several hundred buyers and/or bidders, you can use Facebook’s lookalike audience tool to find similar prospects. Until then, one option would be to partner with a joint venture company who does have a list large enough for lookalike audience potential. If you drive the Facebook traffic to your website, you can then start using your Facebook pixel data to create a prospect base. Using information sign-up forms and bidder registrations on those joint-venture auctions, those who do respond can become seeds to start or accelerate your own list. 

People Who Want [fill in the blank]

This is the one that makes me audibly laugh, when I open the email. Men have joked my entire life that they never know what the women in their life want. If that’s true, that takes out 50% of the people whose wants we can capture and query. Even if it’s not true, we would need a Minority Report-style system to mine this desire data. Do we really want companies to know our private thoughts? We can hit this goal obliquely through a list of past bidders or buyers on similar items, assuming their need or want wasn’t satiated since that last auction. We can purchase lists of some interests and purchase history, and we can target non-real estate ads to even more interests on Facebook directly. But the best we can do is get adjacent to wants and let artificial intelligence engines do their magic. There’s no list for people who want a mower or a Coca Cola sign or 20 acres.

That said, not having these lists and even not being able to acquire these lists doesn’t mean our advertising has to be ineffective or inefficient. It just means we need to do more homework, more experimenting, more tracking, more data analysis. Yes, that’s more work. Yes, that’s a completely different skill set than a silky auction chant or a well-executed sales pitch. Yes, it’s not the way your dad did it.

Over the next two decades, conglomerates and aggregate sites are going to put hundreds of bid callers and even auction marketers out of business. They’re going to pay people to do this data curation work. Instead of trying to buy data, they’re going to mine their own. Those of us who follow their example will most likely be the ones in 2035 who are still advertising auctions at all. 

Because I don’t manage websites, host online bidding, or run auction software for my clients, I will be dependent on auction professionals like you to procure, store, and query this data. Thankfully, most current auction software and platforms make this doable, if not easy. That gives me hope, and I’m glad to be in your good hands.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

Get these articles delivered to you.

Don't set a reminder to check the site for new content. Have new content sent to you when it posts.
* = required field

    ×