Tag : facebook

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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.

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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

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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

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212: Facebook Data That Will Improve Your Direct Mail

In August of 2019, Facebook cut the visible text available above an ad’s photo, slideshow, or video from seven short lines to just three. Don’t reach for your calculator. I’ll save you the trouble. That was a 57% cut in usable messaging in that space.

Why would they do this? Text is almost free in terms of server space. Their algorithms uncovered the fact that ads which said less got a more efficient response. Shorter text created better results. For those in the back: less was more.

This coincided with their findings that the most successful video ads were 15 seconds or shorter and that the best of those videos landed their hook within the first seven seconds. So, it’s not just a matter of consumers unwilling to read, though social science studies back that up. It’s a matter of time and attention. People respond to their first impressions far more than they do the tertiary details. 

Your first few seconds are either pass or fail.

If there was a negative impact of this change, it wasn’t drastic. I started keeping a spreadsheet of my Facebook advertising results the week of this change. Across all asset categories, I’ve seen these more succinct ads average just 9¢ per click over the span of 300± auctions. 

Publishing these results in (short) Facebook ads has brought me a new client per week or two instead of a new client every few months. All those new clients have helped me weather the pandemic’s hit on the auction industry. So, I’m not surprised Facebook was right. Algorithms trump human intuition all day every day. Facebook’s artificial intelligence, in particular, has adjusted my assumptions. I’m talking guesses that had been educated by more than 7,000 advertising campaigns.

There’s an interesting assumption in the auction industry that people have shorter attention spans online than they do in print. Don’t believe me? Grab almost any winning direct mail piece in any state or national auctioneer association’s advertising contest. I’d bet you what I’d charge to design it that there’s more text on any one side of it than what Facebook allows visible in a full ad. In many samples of auction direct mail I’ve seen, there’s more text in the terms & conditions on the mailer panel than in a successful Facebook ad. 

The problem is that we view people like we view search engines. We assume that the more information we feed them, the more results we’ll get. Instead of relying on our targeting, we throw as much spaghetti against the wall as we can and hope some of it sticks. It’s the old “more is more” approach, which is inefficient at best and expensively ineffective at worst. 

As Facebook proved earlier, less is more.

In the Internet age, our buyers are more educated than ever—especially if we’ve targeted well. We don’t need to list everything on the grocery aisle, if (1) the hanging placard shows the top four items or (2) the end cap has something yummy. If the customer doesn’t like the sizzle, they won’t like the steak. If they don’t want what’s in the headlines, it doesn’t matter what’s on the bulleted list. Frankly, if they don’t take notice from what’s in the pictures, it doesn’t matter what any of the text says.

Even if all of this weren’t true—even if human attention spans were growing instead of shrinking—you’d want to follow Facebook’s lead just for strategic purposes. Saving all the details for your website adds incentive for people to go to your online marketplace, where you can track advertising efficacy, capture interested parties for pixel-based marketing, and possibly get people registered to bid. Minimizing your text gives your headlines and photos more breathing room and your call to action more impact. 

Big, artistic, detailed direct mail pieces assuage our sellers, stroke our egos, and win awards. If we’re lucky, we impress future sellers and hold the attention of would-be buyers. Those aren’t necessarily wrong reasons for verbose postcards and brochures. If you want to get people to bid right now, though, I recommend relying on humility and the trillions of data points collected from 2.6 billion Facebook users, including the 72% of U.S. adults who use the platform.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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210: Why Facebook Blocked HiBid

Last week, some of you saw my post in the Auction Technology and Marketing group on Facebook. For those who didn’t, I showed the screenshot you see below. To save you some squinting, it was a notification from Facebook that my pixel was turned off on all HiBid sites on which it was installed.

Facebook Blocked Data HiBid

This notification came after I had rebated hundreds of dollars to clients when their ads didn’t perform. I hadn’t noticed, because there were no Facebook notifications to warn me. There were no notifications—because the ads weren’t rejected. My ads weren’t turned off. Just my pixel was. So, any ads based on web traffic were running—just to nobody.

The pixel was deactivated because of inappropriate content on the platform. That could be alcohol, tobacco, pornography, marijuana, or any of the short list of items Facebook doesn’t want to be legally responsible for promoting. My guess, though, is that it was firearms; but I don’t know that for sure.

What I do know is that I’ve been warning for several years now that this day was coming. The Facebook advertiser platform analyzes not only the content of the ads but also the content of the pages to which they’re linked. In this 2017 post, I showed in writing from a Facebook employee that this policy would include entire sites. I advised to get guns off auction websites onto their own, dedicated sites or at least out of the same catalogs. Not wanting to take drastic measures, most did the latter. Others stopped using me for Facebook services for any assets.

Now, some can’t use Facebook’s full suite of tools because of that partial remedy.

What's Next sticky note

This isn’t an I-told-you-so post, though. This is a call to fully adapt sooner rather than later. We’ve all got more time on our hands right now—more than usual for this time of year. This is a great time to buy some URLs like [company]gunauction.com or [company]firearms.com or [company]secondamendment.com. This is a convenient few weeks to watch a couple YouTube videos and then build a Squarespace or Word Press website for your gun sales or to hire that work to be done. We all have time now to go back through our archives and remove all gun auctions or firearm lots from our current site. Your web developer can do a quick and cheap find-and-replace for all mentions of those banned items.

Today, it’s HiBid. Tomorrow it could be Proxibid or Auction Services, MarkNet or United Country. It could even be your proprietary site. Despite the negative impact of this cultural shutdown, we have an unprecedented opportunity to head off a future problem at this pass. You can say some words about Facebook that can’t be aired on broadcast television, or you can gain a competitive advantage on other auctioneers. 

We can have bigger conversations down the road about creating a firearm-centric platform for all auctioneers, maybe even one with a shared email system. Time and money spent on lobbying lawmakers probably won’t change this. We’ll only break our tiny selves on the rocks of protest. We’ll save future commissions best by investing in adaptation.

Please know this isn’t a political platform for me. I design advertising for legal weapons—just not on the Facebook platform. Just two weeks ago, an East Coast client emailed this about my campaign for her gun auction:

“The email lists and blast for the firearms was a huge success! We had 130+ bidders from all over the US; 72 buyers! Sale brought 10K more than the sellers precaution estimate.”

So, I want to help you make the most of firearms in your estates and consignment sales. More so, I want to help you make bank on real estate and equipment auctions. We all make way more money on the latter than on weapons. For me, it’s an easy math problem. Either we (1) pass on the deals with guns, (2) partner with gun shops to take on deals we need, or (3) adapt our marketing to avoid changing what we sell. Gun auctions account for a small fraction of one percent of my income. The same holds true for many of my clients

Online Payment

If that’s not true for you, I implore you to consider what your gun auctions might cost you. More importantly, if you use a shared bidding platform, I’d ask you to consider what commission you might be risking for your professional peers. Like with this Coronavirus reality in which we’re living, the person you’ll save with your precautions is probably someone else. For all of my auctioneer friends who’ve been posting about getting the economy going again to save businesses, I’d look at your potential to help the auction industry do just that in the long term.

This isn’t a matter of if but when. We’ll have to make these changes now or later. If you “shelter in place” your gun content now, we’ll all get back to a new normal sooner.

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209: Facebook Wants Advertisers to Cut to the Chase

Last week, Facebook began rolling out a new advertiser restriction, which has already impacted my clients’ accounts. It will most likely be the biggest change in years for marketers on the platform. After Facebook’s analytics showed audiences responding poorly to verbose ads, they cut the visible amount of text available in an ad. Now, audiences will see three lines of text instead of seven above the photo, slideshow, or video content. (The character limit of the headline and subhead underneath remain the same.) That’s 57% less text above the image area!

Advertisers will have a choice between getting their copy to fit neatly into three lines of Facebook text or having a two-line preview with a “Read more…” link underneath those two lines that will expand to the full seven lines of text. This has been how the ads have shown on Instagram for more than a year. So, now both platforms will incentivize advertisers to hook consumers in two or three short sentences—like Google has been doing for two decades.

Who This Benefits

With less text to read, advertisers will be pressed to fit the American consumer attention span. Those who adapt to this space will hold a competitive advantage over those who don’t. For auctioneers who focus on the asset’s benefits and the audience’s perceived need, this will help them get more and cheaper clicks than bid callers who lead with “AUCTION!” Online auctioneers will benefit, because they can shorten auction information and calls to action to just “Bid now,” or “Bidding now open.”

Who This Hurts the Most

Auctions with a diverse quantity of asset categories will feel this pinch more than any other auction type. Large estates, business liquidations, and tax-delinquency auctions will prove the most difficult to describe in the short space. Offline auctions will have to choose between selling the event or selling the assets well.

How to Minimize the Limitation  

THINK LIKE A SIGN MAKER.

Ask yourself what would be most important to say if you had only three to five seconds—because you do. Use only enough text to generate a motivation to click. If someone’s not hooked on the headline, the secondary and tertiary details won’t sell them anyway.

LEVERAGE COLLAGES.

For the past four years I’ve been using collages instead of single images to maximize my advertising copy, especially on auctions with a variety of assets. Facebook’s image window is 1,200 x 628 pixels. I’ve created templates for three, four, five, and six photos to appear together. Facebook allows advertisers to select up to six of these collages per ad. Facebook’s artificial intelligence engine determines which collage(s) will get the most clicks and most efficient traffic for each audience and then adapts the ads to display the top-performing one(s). Having spent almost a million dollars on Facebook advertising, I’ve found that these collages outperform slideshows and videos just short of 100% of the time.

DON’T PUT TEXT ON YOUR PHOTOS.

You can’t cheat the system by putting text somewhere else. Facebook penalizes performance of ads with text embedded in the images—if they approve the ads at all. If you put text in your videos, use it only as captions. Facebook has revealed that you have seven seconds to hook 75% of their users and less than fifteen seconds on the rest. Show the property instead of headlines, your company logo, or a cameo of you talking about the property. 80%of Facebook users view videos on mute.

USE MORE AUDIENCES

Rather than generic text that tries to attract a range of different buyer interests, write succinct copy to each buyer group in separate ad sets. I’ve seen success with this tactic. With a brick ranch, for instance, you might target audiences of:
• investors with “Buy more cash flow.”
• brokers with “We pay buyer brokers.”
• end users with “Buy a home on YOUR budget!”
• flippers with “Make quick sweat equity.”

While this change is inconvenient for almost all of us, it creates another Darwinian opportunity for professional marketers to separate themselves from those unwilling to adapt. Commissions are at stake, if not business models. Whether you outsource your social media or handle it in-house, you’ll be best served by viewing the asset through your buyers’ eyes instead of your own—and then using as few words and characters as possible to sell them.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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208: Get More Wealth-Qualified Bidders to Your Real Estate Auction

Just about every week, I get a humorous answer to the question, “Who would you like to target with the auction advertising?” 

The answer goes something like, “Someone thinking of buying a vacation home” or “Someone interested in 40 acres” or “Someone who wants a hobby farm.”

Rich Real Estate Prospects

Those answers are funny because we can’t buy a list of people who have wants, wishes, and dreams. Even Facebook with all of its big brotherness and artificial intelligence doesn’t have a category for people thinking about buying real estate. Even as an advertiser, I’m cool with that. I mean—I don’t know about you—but I’m glad our thoughts aren’t harvested, cataloged, and sold to advertisers.

We can advertise where people search for these kinds of properties—both search engines like Google and asset sites like LoopNet.com, LakeHouse.com, or LandAndFarm.com. One of the downsides of that approach, though, is that in most cases your auction property can be found only when the prospect is actively searching or subscribing to emails. While those searchers are highly qualified prospects, not every potential buyer is searching during an auction’s short marketing timeframe. And some dreamers and wishers and wanters haven’t started digitally searching yet.

So, we’re left with disruptive advertising methods, aimed at people who are qualified to bid but more obliquely interested. The primary qualification we as an industry have typically leveraged is income or net worth. That’s because interest in a property without the financial ability to purchase is of no value to us or our sellers. We don’t want a lot of unqualified web traffic, especially since it can negatively interfere with our remarketing efforts.

Well then, how do we reach wealth-qualified prospects? Here are the four ways my clients and I find them.

Buy some secret sauce.

On August 2, 2018, Facebook withdrew third party data from our advertiser options. This included the valuable credit bureau criteria like net worth, income, home value, and mortgage applications. Those third party sources like AccuData, Acxiom, Equifax, Experian, and InfoUSA still have that data available for purchase. (One list I’ve found very valuable is the absentee acreage owners list, which can be sorted by county and even by various acreage thresholds.) We can use the lists we purchase for direct mail, Facebook, and Google audiences. Facebook and Google allow us to create lookalikes of the uploaded list. So, we don’t have to purchase huge lists to advertise to huge audiences. What’s been amazing to me over the years is how much more effective those lookalike audiences are than the original lists.

Use a time machine.

If you do a lot of auctions in a particular real estate segment, one of the best ways to find new buyers is to generate lookalikes of your bidders from past auctions. Several data companies can match your in-house list to their database and find lookalike profiles to the people they could match. You can then purchase that list for mailing and in some cases even emailing. If you’re not looking for an email or direct mail list, I’d go the free route. You can also upload you past bidder list to Facebook and Google to create lookalike audiences for your digital advertising. You don’t pay for that service, just the ads targeting the final audience.

Change the headline instead of the audience.

When we don’t have budget or access to the above audiences, I have tried Facebook’s real estate investor categories. “But this isn’t an investment property,” my clients have emailed me. They’re not wrong. But what do real estate investors have? Capital. Or access to financing. The headlines change from “Buy more cash flow” to “Own the home you deserve” and from “Make money with this unit” to “Luxury living on your budget.” In our flip-this-house culture, not all real estate investors are liquid; and not all are looking for their long-term home. But a subset is in our target audience; and we’re almost always chasing a subset of whatever audience we’re targeting anyway.

Exploit the power of cloning.

Once you’ve deployed any or all of the three options above, finding wealth-qualified prospects gets easier. Using the (free) Facebook and Google pixels on your website, you can have the world’s largest marketing engines find people who look just like those who investigated your auction’s page on your site. If you’ve attracted the right people in the early stages of your campaign, the artificial intelligence will multiply your best prospects. For advertising to sellers, this Google option can be valuable. For short-term auction campaigns, I recommend the Facebook platform—again, for the disruptive nature of its ads. Like Google, Facebook ads show on other news and pop culture sites; so, your prospect doesn’t have to be checking their Facebook app or newsfeed to see your ads.

For all of these audiences, you can sort them further on Facebook by interest categories. So, you can take any of these lists and sift them by people who like horses or hunting or boating or whatever pastime connects with your property. All of these lists can be sorted by age, though Facebook will soon be doing away with age sorting on real estate ads

Never in human history has targeting thousands of wealthy people been so easy or inexpensive. Thankfully, that means we can get better results for our sellers in shorter time frames and on smaller budgets. And now more of us small business professionals can look like marketing geniuses to our sellers.

Stock photos purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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