Tag : google

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209: 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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172: YouTube Has Revealed What It Knows About Your Auction Buyers

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

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

YouTube 4 Seconds

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

Five seconds. 12 words.

YouTube Skip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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2 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use “Auction” in Your Headlines

Every year, the percentage of retail transactions that occur online versus in a brick-and-mortar rises.

If you’ve ever purchased anything online, you know that most of those transactions started with a search engine. So, if we’re selling assets—especially if we’re selling them online—it makes since to discover how people are searching for what they want to buy.

Google gives this information away for free. Anyone can type in any term and see its use over time.

This interactive graph from Google Trends shows the proportional use of five search terms related to online purchases.

If you’ve been in the auction business for any length of time, this might hurt your ego. Worse, it might give you pangs of regret for how you’ve advertised your assets for the past decade.

At the most recent iteration of the Auction Technology Specialist course, one of my fellow instructors asked a room full of auction professionals what they would type into Google to buy a Ford F-150. Not a single one of the 28 industry insiders suggested the word “auction.” He wasn’t picking on them. I don’t type “auction” into a search bar, either, unless I’m researching something for a talk or blog post.

So, if a room full of auction people don’t search for auctions, why would we expect the buying public—many of whom don’t have experience with the auction process or positive associations for the word “auction”—to look for auctions? Sure, there’s a small community of folks who frequent auctions and regularly participate in them; but that quantity pales in comparison to just the people who’ve visited a Walmart this week.

If we want to claim that auction brings true market value, then we need to bring the full market to our sellers’ assets. To bring the full market, we’re going to need to adapt to two truths:

  • People don’t search for auctions. They search for assets.
  • People don’t buy auctions. They buy assets.

Our advertising headlines and subject lines and supporting text needs to focus on the assets being sold. While the marketing vehicle of an auction does connote important information the buyer needs to know, that buyer doesn’t care about those realities until they want what’s being sold. If we have only a few seconds to capture attention and then call to action, it would make sense to focus on what’s important to the buyer. Our fiduciary responsibility to our seller is to sell their assets, not our events.

My guess—and I don’t think it’s possible to acquire more than anecdotal data on this—is that more people search for just the asset in question with none of the words in the Google Trends graph shown above. Buyers might use descriptive terms, product categories, concrete attributes, or brand names; but they’re starting with the asset in some way.

I work with auctioneers who have removed the word “auction” from everything in their advertising except their URL and terms. That might be too extreme for you. (It’s not for me.)  It’s not hiding reality or being ashamed of auctions. It’s not deceit. It’s adaption.  

We can advertise auctions. Or we can sell assets.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

105: Working With a Changing Newspaper Landscape

Image purchased from iStockPhoto.com, cropped, and blurredThe death knell of the newspaper business has been ringing for a decade now.

Newspaper syndicates are laying off literally hundreds of staff. Across the industry, the workforce has plummeted almost 30% in the past five years. [ref]”LinkedIn: Newspaper Industry Shrinks at Fastest Rate” by BtoBOnline.com. March 19, 2012.[/ref]  Some publications are closing their doors entirely, their company obituaries listed here. Others are selling out to conglomerate ownership groups and sharing editorial and advertising content, hoping efficiencies of scale keep them in the black.

Most of the advertising money draining from newsprint is flooding to Internet advertising outlets like Google, whose 2011 revenues totaled $4 billion more than the cumulative revenues of all newspapers in the country. [ref] “6 Trends for Newspapers in 2012, from a Sunday Boom to an Executive Bust” by Rick Edmonds, Poynter.org. March 19, 2012.[/ref] While large-circulation newspapers are developing traffic and advertising revenue from their websites, smaller newspapers are relying on home town news and photos of local citizens to keep the presses rolling.

These changes directly impact the businesses whose analytic measurement shows buyers still responding to their newsprint advertising. [You are measuring where your customers heard about your sale items or events, right?] Knowing a few of the new realities will help you better adapt to them.

Multi-Paper Conglomerates

The newspapers that have survived thus far are owned by fewer and fewer companies. Some of the syndicates are national entities that cherry pick seemingly-random cities to cover. Most, though, are regional corporations that start or buy publications in the same county or part of a state.

When I research publications in an area new to me, I regularly ask the salesperson if their company publishes other papers. That question has saved me a lot of time by not having to research other papers individually. It also puts asset-based publications like real estate inserts on my radar, as these subsidiary media aren’t typically listed in newspaper directories (even online ones).

Conglomerates organize their multiple advertising sections three ways:

  1.  Each publication has its own classifieds section but dollar amounts or percentages are deducted from the unit costs of the second, third, etc. paper you add to the mix.
  2.  Publications are grouped by geographic zones. If you want one paper, you have to pay for that ad to appear in multiple newspapers in a region (usually several suburbs or areas in a county) but not all the publications owned by the corporation.
  3.  All papers share the same classifieds. If you want one paper, you have to pay for all of them. The bigger the group, the scarier this can be. If you were planning to hit all of the publications anyway, though, the unit price value can be good.

Typically, you don’t have a choice in which of these models are available. So, it’s important to know which one you’re facing before submitting a marketing plan to your seller. Because these groups regularly acquire and sometimes close newspapers, it’s good to keep your rate cards up to date.

Column Size Shell Game


In addition to cutting costs, newspapers are looking for ways to increase revenues from the same advertiser base. One method they use is changing their column format. This works two ways.

  1.   They add a column or two to the page, which shrinks each column; but they charge the same price for that column. Example A (below) illustrates this. The advertiser gets 11% less square inch area for the same price. In other words, the newspaper raises their rates 11% without changing the price they quote you per column inch.Column Sizes: Narrower
  2. Or, as I’ve seen in the past year, they drastically drop the quantity of columns as in example B below. The publication then raises the price per column inch, justifying it as paying for the additional space. If you measure the actual cost per square inch—as opposed to cost per column inch—you might be surprised to find the rate increase is not proportional to size increase.Column Sizes: Wider

Not only does this tactic jack with your newspaper ad templates [You do have print ad templates, right?], it can cause embarrassing situations after the marketing plan has been approved. Sadly, I know this from experience. The ad size and/or price you had in the budget ends up looking very different than expected during the marketing period. This newspaper ploy gives another reason to verify advertising costs and sizes in the proposal stage—at least if you haven’t used a publication in more than six months.

High Staff Turnover Rates


With tight margins, most newspapers are paying their sales representatives somewhere between burger flipper and day laborer rates. Okay, it’s more than that but not much more. And with all the stress of coordinating literally hundreds of advertisers each week, it’s understandable that classified departments burn through employees as fast as NASCAR drivers burn through tires.

This means that if you pull up an email address from your contacts list or an old email to copy, it might not get answered. Sadly, it’s not enough any more to email before the space reservation deadline to make it into the issue. Combat this by emailing the advertising representative as soon as you know you’ll have some kind of advertising—even if you don’t know the size or all run dates yet. If you don’t get a quick answer, call the department. What I like even better is asking the paper for a generic department email address to which I can carbon copy advertising emails, something I regularly do here in Virginia.

As backup, I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet of my most regularly-used newspapers that shows the best day of the week to run, deadline days & times, column or unit sizes, pricing, and contact information. One of the information fields shows the last date I updated the record. If that date is more than six months old, I know to inquire about price changes, sales representative updates, etc.

Statewide Classified Networks


Most states have newspaper associations, and most of those associations offer distribution of classified advertising in all of their member publications for a nominal fee.  All states with this service offer in-column line ads; most also offer two-column by two-inch displays ads; and some even offer two-column by four-inch display ads. You can tell your sellers that you canvased the state for about the cost of one metro print ad.  The rep from your home state can place ads in any of the other state association networks as well.

The major drawback to this product is not knowing where that ad will appear in those publications. When you deal individually with publications, you can request specific sections or classified categories. While many network papers might go to the work of putting your ad in the appropriate column, your ad might also end up in a grouped statewide section with erectile dysfunction and “make thousands working from home” ads.

Also, if you skip an online distribution service for press release submission and want to focus on media within a particular state, many of these state networks offer press release distribution not only to their print media members but also to the broadcast news media members (for an extra fee).

All media is adapting to technological advancements and changing audience habits, but the newspaper industry seems to have the toughest road to relevance. An observant eye will help us as advertisers take advantage of the deals and restrictions that stem from this newspaper landscape to best serve our customers.
[tip]

My first published piece of writing that I can remember came in my dad’s weekly column in the Queen Anne’s County Record Observer, now part of an 18-publication media group. Dad kindly and generously ran two or three of my didactic pieces. The quality of the writing proves less embarrassing than the clichéd content. It’s been years since I perused those, but I have little doubt the paragraphs proved that they poured from an unrehabilitated fundamentalist—an extremest regurgitating talking points between Bible verses.

Every year or so, I reread parts of the book I wrote a decade ago and feel similar embarrassment at some of the things I stated or asked—even though written with prayer and intention for God’s use. While part of me wants people to know I wrote a book, a large part of me hopes they never read it. In fact, I’ve got three free copies sitting on my desk awaiting shipment to Facebook connections; and what’s been keeping me from shipping them are those sections that no longer ring true inside of me.

That old ignorance is why I don’t plan on writing another faith-premised book in my lifetime. I hope I will constantly be growing, constantly seeing Christ’s heart more clearly. I hope that, even next year, I look back with gratitude at the ignorance shed from my August 2, 2012, self.

[footer]Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com (cropped and selectively blurred)[/footer]

Search & Rescue (Your Online Listings)

Search MarketingOne of the things I love about working in the auction industry is the seemingly endless supply of unique items to sell—from 1800’s cane guns to “green” condos, Putzmeisters to personal amphibious vehicles, colonial farms to nonprofit camps.

Invariably, these auction campaigns come with a common question: “Where do you recommend we advertise this sale?” And, invariably, I just google the key words my client just spoke.

That gives me a list of specialty web sites and/or print publications I can research for viability. It also shows me if anyone is buying those google AdWords® found in that right-hand margin.

Why do I start my search this way? Because that’s what the buying public does, when it’s searching for something. Collectors and power users are probably already on those specialty sites and/or subscribing to those publications. In fact, your seller might already be on those subscription lists or visiting one or more of those sites.

But other potential buyers are going to hub sites like AuctionZip and GlobalAuctionGuide, LoopNet and ebay—and many, many more. So, how do you capture bidders from those environments?

Avoid adjectives in subjects and titles.
You can often create effective headlines in direct mail or print advertising by selling the sizzle with adjectives and vivid descriptions. But in search marketing, you have to sift your headlines down to concrete attributes and proper names. For instance the “scenic retreat” on your postcard should be a “3 bedroom, 2 bath mountain log cabin home” on a listings web site.

Choose headlines based on search criteria.
Your headline should include the most important aspects of what you’re selling. How many bedrooms and bathrooms does it hold? How many square feet? What model year or famous seller? Is location the biggest asset? Rental income? Size of collection? Determine your core buyer groups and then the elements or attributes that would attract them. There are your key lines.

After the headline, describe thoroughly.
Transcribe everything you can list about a property or item. Auction Technology Specialist, Aaron Traffas, says, “Web crawlers eat text.” These crawlers, in turn, feed search engines like google, Yahoo!, and MSN. So, give them a lot to eat. The more applicable words you can include, the more likely your item(s) will be found.

Be careful not to fill the space with meaningless sales pitches, like “Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” or “Investors, take notice!” Just pretend you’d be in the market for this item. What are all the things you’d want to know? Answer those questions. Make them easy to read by formatting them as bulleted lists or at least lots of small paragraphs. Differentiate your item from other offering by addressing its unique qualities.

Look at your form fields in advance.
Many sites have non-standard form fields, some of which are required for posting. Commercial and specialty real estate sites often ask me questions I can’t answer with my clients’ base text. I highly recommend printing such site forms and answering them during your initial text writing. You’d rather be asking your seller(s) these more in-depth questions at the beginning of the marketing period than scrambling to answer them on auction day or at open house inspections.

Understand the caste system on most sites.
Many listing sites offer varying levels of visibility or priority by paying for more than the standard/basic listing. Before you promise a web site to a seller, determine whether “featured” upgrades are worth their cost—as well as your explanation for why you choose the access level for which you pay.

Know that some sites require a listing price to post your item(s).
Determine in advance how you’re going to meet this obstacle. Many sites (such as the MLS and ebay listing ads) use this price field to determine where your property will be listed in its search results. Whether you’re putting “$1” or your reserve price or your seller’s de facto “buy it now” price, decide your strategy in advance—so that your auction marketing isn’t delayed or neutered during the critical days between contract signing and auction day.

List under categories, not events.
A very small fraction of the bidding community are shopping for auctions. The vast majority are searching for items. So on community classified sites such as CraigsList, list your auction by the item, not as an event.

It’s impossible to know all of the words your buyers are going to type into their search bars, but you can capture more page views by making your listings as left-brained as possible. Sell the sizzle in your print advertising and on your own web site. At other stops on the Information Superhighway, though, play by the searcher’s rules. Sell the facts, and find as many facts as possible about what you’re selling.
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What makes you unique? What makes you who you are? What sets you apart in your family or community?

How are you leveraging that for God? He can use your physical handicap and your hobbies, your favorite sport and your circle of influence, your professional expertise and your vacation pictures. I’ve experienced enriched relationships (vertical and horizontal) through my love of the outdoors and adrenaline rushes, as car rides create authentic conversations, and hikes reinforce personal journeys. I’ve seen God take my (seemingly) Rain Man-like memory for people and their cars and blossom it in ministry within a parking team fraternity.

God allowed your story and empowered your passions to reach people for him. You could be the introduction to life that others wouldn’t expect in a church or work environment. Finding a common bond in you could help someone find a saving bond in Christ. So, keep your eyes peeled. And don’t hide your identity. What makes you special makes you that much more useful to your Creator.

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