Tag : google-analytics

post image

Why You And I Must “Uneducate” Ourselves

Has someone ever asked you why what you do is even necessary?

That’d be a “yes” for me. The most recent time was in a booth at a small-town Applebee’s. One of my auctioneer friends asked why my brand management module at the Auction Marketing Management (AMM) designation is included in the course. He softened the question by adding “as a friend” and “no offense,” but he didn’t need to do so. I didn’t take offense to it. In fact, that’s a question I’ve asked myself, which made it easier to answer.

AMM has gotten the reputation that it’s a Facebook seminar, when less than 25% of the content addresses Facebook. Others (particularly the graduates) have expanded AMM’s description, calling it advanced marketing education. While we do teach tools and technology like Google Analytics and Facebook re-marketing, the bulk of the education is actually spent on advertising principles that were true during both the Reagan and the Lincoln administrations. The resource mentioned most often from the front of the room was written in 1932.

I can’t speak for John and Robert, the other AMM instructors; but I would contend that we spend much of our time uneducating the room. By that I mean that we have to lead people out of counterproductive advertising strategies and practices that have become engrained into the industry. We do that because using new technology with old approaches just multiplies the audiences for bad advertising.

So, the simple answer is that rebuilding a holistic approach to marketing has to start with replacing or upgrading the footers. That’s where my module comes in handy. That’s also why my content comes first—before the fantastic tools and tactics that John, Robert, and I demonstrate. It’s not that my module is the best. (It’s not even my favorite.) It’s that brand management determines what auctioneers do with the rest of the content.

For those who haven’t attended my AMM module, it can be summarized with one sentence: every business decision is a brand decision.

What you sell is a brand decision that leads to marketing choices and specific advertising selections. Whether your auction is online, simulcast, or offline will change your calls to action, your advertising timelines, and maybe even your target demographics. Your online bidding platform will determine your goals in Google Analytics and create interesting strategic conversations about links in digital ads. The ethos of your brand will influence how much you spend on design and photography—and the visual styles of both. The personality of your brand will guide your headlines and advertising copy. Your personal and company goals will impact the systems and priorities of your business development, including your social media and marketing roles.

In short, brand management gives you the filters through which to view everything else in your business. It’s healthy for all of us—me included—to be regularly reminded of that truth and shown how to apply it.

I recently got a visual representation of my AMM module’s role. Two exterior walls of my house had sunk into Virginia’s “shrink swell” soil and created substantial damage on the interior of my house. Before we could resurface the concrete floors, repair the drywall, and repaint the walls, we had to make sure my house wouldn’t sink any more. Last week, RamJack installed nine helical piers under my foundation. After securing my house, the crew then used jacks to recover some of the distance my house had dropped. 

We had to get the foundation back where it should be before we could work on the aesthetics of our home. Knowing that this process was coming, my wife and I have held off of some of curb appeal projects for our house—how our house is advertised to passers by, if you will. The professionals recommended that we now wait six to nine months before making interior changes, too. Apparently, it takes that long for our house’s structural components to settle into their new normal. In other words, we can’t do the advanced things until we’ve got the underpinnings re-secured.

The same is true of our businesses, our marketing models, and our advertising—advanced or rudimentary. That’s why I teach a brand management module at AMM, and that’s why I hope to see you in my class someday.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

post image

282: 5 Ways to Know If Your Offline Media is Working

Thanks to Google Analytics, it’s both free and easy now to track individual banner ads, listing pages, and social media posts. For auction companies with certain kinds of online bidding platforms, it’s also now possible to decipher which of those digital media directly produce bidders and buyers.

But how do you know if your physical media is working? How do you A/B test to know what headlines and photos and layouts make your offline media more effective?

Tangible media like signs, print ads, and direct mail can be tracked, but it’s less scientific. Like email reporting, uncontrollable variables make accurate reporting all but impossible. Collected data might be insightful and potentially representative, though, even if it’s not exhaustive or proportional.

There are five basic ways to track your offline media’s performance. Each comes with at least one drawback to compliment the data it provides. You can use several of these at once per medium to get a bigger, better picture of their efficacy and efficiency.

Custom QR Codes

QR codes are free to generate. You can create custom URLs with Google URL Builder that allow you to tag the media type (or publication), the campaign name, and more. You can create multiple custom URLs for the same campaign—one each per advertising expression. You can then convert each of those URLs into different QR codes to place in different advertising media. Google Analytics will then report their results separately.

The downside to this tracking method is the QR code itself. In the time it takes to find their QR code reader app on their phone and then scan the code, the recipient is more likely to just Google search your company or asset—or ask Siri to search for them. Then, your recipient shows up in Google Analytics as an organic search result. Nobody, even Google, can tell you what medium led someone to search for your assets, events, or services.

Alternate URLs

URLs are cheap, especially in proportion to most of the hundreds of campaign budgets I see each year. The idea here is to use different web addresses in different media. When the recipient types in that address, they are redirected to your website (or a landing page on your site). Google Analytics shows this as a referring site in your audience acquisition list.

Believe it or not, but my clients and I have been able to easily find great URLs to use. One of my clients uses the same URLs for the same individual media across all campaigns. I also have clients who buy URLs for specific auctions, especially when they’re working outside of their normal asset category or normal geographic area.

The biggest mistake I see made with this method is choosing long or complicated URLs. There are a lot of options, if you use the word “bid” instead of “buy” or “auction.” Once you make it easier to Google your company name, these URLs become less likely to be used—let alone accurately trackable.

I’ve talked to entrepreneurs worried about diluting their URL branding with this method. If you do a good job branding your media and crafting your online user experience, though, consumers will remember your brand. Every day, we click on tons of links with a gazillion characters. Alternate URLs will not be a consumer deterrent.

Multiple Phone Numbers

For half a century, advertisers have used different phone numbers in different media to track interactions. Multiple service providers now allow you to plug multiple phone numbers into an online tracking system. On top of recording phone calls and showing you at what point in your phone tree they hung up, some of these companies can even tie these phone call statistics into Google Analytics.

The Internet has nurtured more and more of Western Culture into self-helpers. A large portion of Americans would rather text than engage in a phone call. An even greater percentage of people would rather grab information online than ask a sales representative, especially over the phone. So, you might not get enough phone traffic to give you actionable intel.

Personal URLs (PURLs)

This variable-data technology creates a URL with custom codes at the end of a branded URL. Often times, advertisers use the recipient’s name as the part that follows the “/“ in the web address. You can point these URLs to custom landing pages or to websites with variable data that conforms to a subscriber’s stated interests. (Universities use this when mailing to high schoolers, since the motivations for college life are diverse.) Service providers offer both proprietary reporting and integration with Google Analytics.

Again, the challenge here is to make the URL as short as possible or as appealing as possible. You have to sell the recipient’s personal benefit of that destination enough to overcome the cumbersome amount of typing. Otherwise, the user is likely to Google search around your extra effort.

Transactional Polling

For onsite events and live transactions it’s easy to ask bidders and buyers how they heard about your auction. It can also be a required multiple-choice toggle for online bidding. Since purchasers are more valuable than online viewers, this is the most important analytic to capture.

The problem is that self-reporting has proven to be suspect at times. For one thing, bidders or buyers sometimes can’t remember where they learned about your auction. (One of my clients had bidders report a medium he didn’t even use.) For another, some people will inadvertently report the medium they prefer. If your other media tracking runs parallel with your polling results, this data is valuable, though.

In a digital world, print media has the potential to be a tangible disruptor and a more personal interaction. Direct mail allows a broader range of sizes and formats than online media. When produced and placed well, signs are often the leading medium for obtaining auction buyers. Just because it’s more difficult to track them doesn’t mean they are necessarily less effective.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

post image

272: 2 Questions Every Seller Needs Answered

My wife and I recently closed on our old house. It had been on and off the market for about two and a half years. After trying to sell it myself a couple years ago and after months on the market with different, hard-working, accomplished agents, I had some questions for our family friend who listed it. Within a couple weeks of her convincing answers, the house was under contract to a couple moving here from North Carolina.

Two weeks after that, I heard my two questions again—this time from someone else, someone looking to sell their property at auction. I had the privilege to accompany a client, as they talked with a seller’s family. As I heard the questions, it hit me that they’re probably the same for almost every seller. I know other auctioneers field the same two questions, because my clients regularly ask me how to answer them.

How are you going to get it sold?

I don’t know about other sellers, but I felt that I had more to lose than the commissioned agent did. At the end of a standard 180-day agreement, they might be out the time they invested and whatever they spent in advertising; but I was going to be out $9,000 plus my time doing all the tasks related to selling a 25-year-old house. Like sellers that my clients serve every day, I wanted to know what skin the listing agent was going to put in the game.

Our agent agreed to a 30-day contract. She gave a pre-listing makeover punch list (with some surprising but intuitive suggestions). She supervised a contractor doing an install, while we were on vacation. She staged the house at no additional cost. She scheduled multiple open houses in the span of a week. Those are the kind of moves that show motivation and empathy.

I don’t know how you answer that question. Maybe it’s showing your successful sales rate. Maybe it’s illustrating your average differential between sale price and assessed value. Maybe it’s offering to buy the asset(s) or some sort of promise. Maybe it’s a marketing plan with a year’s worth of detailed analytics that show how many bidders and buyers you bring to an average auction and what media brought them.

Each seller will need something different to convince them. So, it’s a good idea to develop materials that offer as many convincing reasons as possible. Collect a range of anecdotes and testimonials that cover various seller situations. If you’ve sold your own assets in similar fashion, create a case study that details how what you do for sellers is what you did for yourself.

What are you going to do to market this asset?

This is a slightly different question. Here, the seller wants to know your competitive advantage. More specifically, they are looking for what makes your marketing plan superior to those of other vendors. Where will you advertise that they wouldn’t have considered? What tactics do you employ that your competitors don’t? If your sellers are like me, they’ll want to know what you’ll do differently for this promotional campaign because of specific aspects of your asset and current market conditions. Sellers want to know that you’ve done your homework, that you’ve done more homework than anyone else.

How do you prove that?

Again, this is where robust advertising analytics become a tremendous competitive advantage. If you’re leveraging Google URL builder, multiple URLs, and Google Analytics, you’re already ahead of 95% of the auction industry. If you’re also tracking your time by task, the attendance at inspections, and your cost per bidder per medium, you’re in the top percentile of the trade. If you can illustrate this data with charts or graphics, you’re almost untouchable.

If you leverage professional photography, staging, or other service, demonstrate how that adds value (or at least the impression of value). If you have a custom bidding platform or unique live event techniques, explain how those benefit the seller. If your terms make your auctions more approachable for a wider buyer base, unpack that concept for them.

If you can’t prove any of these competitive advantages, be ready to offer your services for a lower commission—or to take the auctions your competition isn’t fighting to get. If you can’t answer these two primary questions, you might want to brush up on your answers to different questions—the kind employers commonly ask during job interviews.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

post image

258: 5 Ways to Generate More End User Bidding

There are essentially only two ways to grow your business: get more transactions or get bigger transactions.

For auctioneers, there are two ways to accomplish bigger transactions: book auctions for assets with a higher intrinsic value or create more demand for the assets we already sell.

This is usually the part where a bid caller will interject that an auction inherently creates a higher demand because of the competitive nature of price realization at an auction. I’ve been to enough auctions to know that to be true. At the same time, you and I both know that even this very real dynamic sometimes isn’t enough to achieve reasonable reserves (or decent absolute auction prices). I know this, because—when auction prices don’t match their reasonable estimates—auctioneers turn around and ask me what more we could’ve done to acquire bidders.

Sometimes, the timing is off. By that I mean market conditions don’t match with the seller’s situation or the seller’s schedule. Candidly, there are times when we could have done something more or something better with the advertising budget. Other times, the terms of the auction limit who can bid—attracting the investor class’ cash buyers but not retail consumers.

Consumers outnumber investors. So, if we want more bidders at our auctions to create more demand, it makes sense to pursue end users. Here are several ideas to attract consumers that I’ve seen in the auction industry. Some require significant shifts for the auctioneer, but I’ve heard good results from those who have adopted them.

Implement a “Buy It Now” option.

Buy It Now option

Online retailers now mix retail and auction options.

Buy It Now buttoneBay has been doing this for years and honing how it works. Why? Because consumers often don’t have time to wait for an auction to end. Traditional auctioneers push back against this feature because it bypasses the auction process. Could the item sell higher during the auction process? Sure. Could that purchaser also not participate in the live bidding (and push your other bidders) because their need was satiated by a more prompt option? Yes. Real estate auctioneers advertise “pre-auction offers welcomed” regularly. So, this isn’t a stretch for real estate; and eBay has proven it’s a good fit for personal property. This wouldn’t need to be an option for all items, either. Also, this would make far more sense for online-only auctions where there’s less of a halo effect than at live, on-site auctions. Obviously, special language would need to be crafted in absolute auction contracts unless this is used only in minimum bid/reserve auctions.

Allow item returns.

So much for “as is where is.” This would rock the industry more than a Buy It Now button. That said, I’ve seen it done by an auction company for whom I’ve worked. The returned items get recycled into a subsequent auction, and the consumer gains confidence in their bidding. Return PolicyObviously, this isn’t for every asset category or even every item within an asset category. For those auction companies who could handle the auction terms and logistics, though, this could gain a higher price ceiling for all items on the aggregate—because consumers wouldn’t be hedging their bets.

Order & publish home inspection reports.

Real estate auction firms around the country are already doing this, but they are in the minority. Even if the terms remain “as is where is,” you can raise the price ceiling by letting the consumer know in advance what issues will need to be addressed. Consumers will compensate for the cost of remedying those issues in their bid, but that compensation will probably be smaller than the hedge on a mystery. Also, this disclosure is a good brand strategy to developing trust in the marketplace. I doubt home inspections are cheap. The question—after your own property evaluation—is whether or not it would pay for itself.

Home InspectionAdvertise where consumers congregate.

Auctioneers tend to congregate their advertising where other auctioneers advertise. I understand the defense: “We have to be in that paper, because we don’t want people to think we’re doing less business than our competition.” But what if this contest is being held where end users don’t gather? In past auction polling, one auction company for whom I’ve worked found that the paper with the largest circulation in their market brought the fewest bidders and that an inexpensive regional paper brought a lot of bidders—with a much lower budget hit. Let the other companies waste their advertising budgets, competing in empty arenas. Use Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, auction polling, and other analytical tools to find where consumers hear about you; and spend your money there.

Write advertising copy from a consumer perspective.

The vast majority of auctioneers suck at Facebook marketing and design their print media backwards, too. Their marketing message is out of order, emphasizing what’s important to the auctioneer instead of what’s important to the buyer. Consumers are interested in assets they want, not events you’re hosting. PerspectiveSo, don’t headline with auction information. Some of the most effective auction advertising doesn’t even use the word auction—or uses it only at the bottom of the advertisement. Why? If a consumer doesn’t want an item, they don’t care that there’s an auction event, let alone what date it is. If they do want that item, where they get it is less important for them that the attributes of the item they want.

The difference between wholesale and retail prices should be enough incentive to investigate changes to our workflow, terms, and marketing. Your path to consumer-driven prices might be on very different paths than these five options. That’s okay. What’s important is that we’re interacting with the marketplace, evaluating our processes based on the feedback we gather, and then making changes to our practices to adapt.

Feature image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. Others linked to sources.

×