Tag : headline

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199: Why Manure Spreaders Are In Increasing Demand

Recently, I was consulting a non-auction business that had an incredible business opportunity, especially for their geographic market. I’m talking about the kind of concept I’ve seen featured in viral Facebook videos and profiled in Fast Company. I was excited for them until I heard their brand message, saw their visual branding, and learned their marketing strategy. They had adequately identified their ideal prospect but somehow totally misunderstood their prospects’ various levels of needs, habits, and expectations. I mean, like 170º in the wrong direction.

As I gently questioned these misalignments, they dismissed my concerns. They wanted to know more about the tools and tricks I use on Facebook to reach more people. They just wanted to get their bad message cheaply in front of more prospects like their ideal customer.

I see this all the time, actually—just not so drastically. I’ve seen it from people I’ve consulted in emails or phone calls, in conference hallways or Facebook threads. Entrepreneurs don’t want to improve their advertising; they just want more targeted places to put it.

Apparently, lots of folks want a more efficient manure spreader.

Dung Spreader

Knowing where to be on a platform or in a specific media outlet is important. Targeting makes advertising more efficient. But content is advertising’s linchpin, especially on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms reward ads with compelling and empathetic content by giving them lower costs per click.

The problem most auction marketers (like other small business marketers) face is our inherent bias. We wrongly assume our ideal buyers and sellers are just like us. We assume the marketplace looks at auctions and the assets in them through the same lens we do. “If we talk about us and our stuff louder and in front of more people, we’ll get more customers.” We don’t say that. We just operate from that mindset.

This can work in spite of itself, but you’ll get more efficient results from your advertising if you delve into the thing behind the thing.

What problem does your auction’s assets solve?

How will their life be easier or better after the purchase?

What aren’t they able to do that they will be able to do after a winning bid?

What dream could come true if they are willing to pay more than anyone else is willing to pay?

For instance, most real estate investors don’t want to own more property. They want more cash flow and/or more financial security. Most sportsmen already have access to a place to hunt or drive their UTVs. What they want is to avoid asking anyone permission or having to call in any favors. That twenty-year-old John Deere 9600 is easier to work on than a newer combine, even if it is less efficient and autonomous than one you have to take to the dealer for service.

A collector wants to complete their collection, find the item nobody else has, or even make their peers jealous. A young mom wants her children in the right school system. Many startups don’t care if the furniture matches or if the equipment is new, if they can operate with lower overhead. Flippers want to make money quickly with a little elbow grease or ingenuity.

When you advertise to targeted audiences, does your advertising speak to their needs and wants?

Even if your advertising doesn’t leverage this progressive, psychological analysis, you can still benefit by sticking to the asset over the event. People don’t buy auctions. They buy assets, and they hope to buy at “auction prices.” (The exception: at benefit auctions, they’re buying ego, belonging, participation, an eased conscience, and/or a sense of altruism.)

When you implement the tools for targeting but then give those prospects a faulty message, you might actually drive business away—whether from imminent or future customers. The American advertising legend John Caples posed this reality in his book, Tested Advertising Methods. “The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. . . . George Hay Brown, at one time head of marketing research at Ford, inserted advertisements in every other copy of the Reader’s Digest. At the end of the year, the people who had not been exposed to the advertising had bought more Fords than those who had.”

When we push our agenda, our brand can become seen as a source of unwanted content—white noise surrounding content consumers want.

If we’re trying to sell people something instead of meeting their needs, we become that screaming mattress or carpet or used car salesman on TV. Even if someone wants what we’re selling, current and past impressions might detract from buyer willingness to interact with our brand.

You can stick with “AUCTION!!!!!” as your headline and the date as your subhead. You’ll still have your cadre of wholesale buyers, but you could confuse or annoy your retail buyers out of the process. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer commissions on retail prices rather than wholesale prices.

Avoiding that buyer disconnect is difficult, but it’s not expensive. In most cases, it doesn’t cost more money to have the right words in your headlines than it does the wrong ones. When it does, there’s a good chance the extra cost is outweighed by the extra benefit.

Don’t get me wrong: I know how to upgrade your manure spreader to hurl waste farther or place it more strategically. It’s just that I grew up next to a farm, and I come from a family of dairy farmers. Trust me. Your buyer community already has a perception of how your advertising will smell.

Stock image(s) purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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191: How an Embarrassing Failure Led Me to Marketing Success

Back in 2004, I became an author. I released a book of 41 discussions of interesting Bible characters. In 2003, it was the highest-rated manuscript on a service that faith-based publishers use to find authors without agent representation. At the one publisher who legitimately considered it, the editorial staff loved my writing and the compilation; but their accounting and marketing teammates did not. I ended up using a self-publishing service to print the manuscript.

By commercial standards, the book was a flop.

Failure to Success WOTS7,904,412 different book titles have sold better on Amazon. A horrible salesman, I’ve sold fewer than 200 copies across all retailers; and many of those were copies I’ve bought to give to people. My church, where my wife is on staff and where I’ve lead multiple environments, sold one whole copy of Word on the Street during the years it was on their bookstore’s shelf. That wouldn’t be so embarrassing, except that more than 3,000 people attend our church on most Sundays.

Oh, it gets better: that bookstore’s manager found a signed copy of my book—at Goodwill. When Amazon showed a “collector’s edition” of the book, my curiosity pushed me to buy it. When the box arrived, I learned that someone else with a signed copy had hocked it. So, I had probably bought that same book twice.

My book’s failure became one of the most important marketing lessons of my life. It cemented an unpopular platform from which I’ve taught auction professionals for the past decade. It became one of the underpinning premises of the Auction Marketing Management designation program. See, one of the primary reasons my book failed turned out to be the reason so much auction marketing doesn’t reach its full potential.

The audience determines what gets read.

If the people we want to interact with our content don’t like it or engage with it, our message will not get heard. That applies to both authors and advertisers. No matter how much of ourselves we put into the creation, we don’t determine what people like, what gets absorbed, or whether something sells. No matter how much we believe in something, we can’t make the world want it.

Also, it doesn’t matter what our peers think of our work or how many industry awards we win. Editors loved my prose, but they got to read it for free. My capstone writing portfolio became the first to earn a perfect score from the Dean of Education at my alma mater, but she didn’t buy a copy of my book. I won an adult poetry contest in high school and a medal for writing achievement in college. My undergrad internship included authoring a magazine cover story about the first school administrator to participate in Florida’s voucher program. None of that mattered.

Thankfully, I got to see the big, fat failure.

I’m grateful it was so obvious. Many auctioneers don’t get that same opportunity. They don’t know how many postcard recipients didn’t become bidders but would have with different messaging or design. They don’t see how much money they didn’t make off Facebook scrollers who might have clicked on a better ad. They don’t know how much their auctioneer-centric email subject lines kept them from bigger commissions.

For auctioneers, the auction method is their instinctive headline. Auction and open house dates are the rhythm of their lives and get most of the real estate on their advertising media. I’ve even seen auctioneers put their office’s address in prominent or multiple locations—not the auction site’s address but their return mailing address.

The problem with all of these emphases is that those aren’t priorities to consumers. It’s not that this content isn’t important. It’s just that people only need that information after they already want what you’re selling. That tertiary information can be shown in smaller font lower on the piece—or on your website.

By the way, the same holds true when prospecting for sellers, who don’t primarily care how many years you’ve been in business. They don’t care if your chant won a bid calling contest, especially if you’re selling their asset online. They don’t know what those letters behind your name mean and don’t really want you to take their time explaining them. They don’t want clichéd, ambiguous tag lines or unsupported claims. They want empathy to their specific situation, their pain points. They want evidence that you consistently solve the problems of other sellers in their same situation.

Our audience wants the book to be about them.

Our prospects will give us only a few seconds to prove it’s about them. If we don’t connect to their need or want in that time, we may not get more time. It doesn’t matter how pretty the inside of the brochure is behind a horrible mailer panel. It doesn’t matter what’s in the email hidden behind an “AUCTION!!!” subject line. It doesn’t matter how robust the content is on the other end of the link from an uninteresting Facebook ad. All we’re trying to say doesn’t get said, if nobody reads it.

George Bernard Shaw summed it best: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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An Auction Bidder’s Wish List

I’m the oldest of six children, and my wife was the first of five offspring for my in-laws.  So, I’m thankful that both of our families exchange names for “secret sibling” Christmas gifts.

My side of the family makes it even easier by creating a message thread on Facebook where we post our respective wish lists for our secret sibling to use for reference in their holiday shopping.

To keep you reading, I’ll show you what I posted.

(in this order):
anything from here: http://www.gfa.org/gift/home
gift cards from iTunes, REI, or Dick’s Sporting Goods
solid-color winter beanies
Smart Wool® socks
black Crocks (size 10)
solid color fleece sweatshirts or hoodies
athletic ankle socks
100g Jetpower micro-canister

What you’ll notice is that I didn’t write, “Something nice,” (though everything on this list is nice to me) or “Great deal for the money” (though I hope my sibling finds the deal of a lifetime).  Why?  Because those are ambiguous requests—unhelpful direction.  See, when they go to a store, there won’t be an aisle for “something nice” or “a sweet deal!”  If they Google search for “something nice,” they will get these random acts of results.

This makes sense on a personal level; but, for some reason, auction marketers disregard this common wisdom when advertising the assets in their auctions.  Their headlines, line ads, and websites lead with information that buyers will not type into their search engines, apps, or wish lists.

Raise your hand, if you’ve seen an auction advertisement that said “Investment Opportunity!” Now keep that hand raised if you think anyone is searching for an office building, flatbed truck, bass boat, or 1950’s Texaco sign with those two words.  In our search culture, advertising needs to focus on the facts, not the pitch—even for offline media.  You might be able to schmooze bidders at open houses or at the auction, even though our culture is growing less tolerant of the commissioned sales schtick.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find advertising that works that way.

Recently, I was asked to rewrite some sales copy on a luxury home, since [I assume] it wasn’t getting many bites.  I couldn’t change the facts, just the adjectives and syntax.  Even if I were J.K. Rowling, I couldn’t rewrite that paragraph in a way that would change someone’s mind about that house.  Either they wanted what it had or they didn’t.  If they wanted four bathrooms and an in-law suite, only a house with those specifications would work.  If they wanted an in-ground pool, stables, and a riding ring, they were looking for those words in whatever media they’re using to shop.

Fluff text is inefficient use of space and attention.  There’s no search criteria field in Trulia for “cute,” no check box on Realtor.com for “cozy,” no ebay category for “like new.”  I just checked: LoopNet doesn’t have a menu selection for “potential.”  Pictures, dimensions, location, age—immutable, objective data—will tell someone if an asset matches their wish list; their own emotional and financial situation will translate that information into subjective evaluations.

I’m regularly amused by auctioneers telling their audience that an address is conveniently located in reference to places a half hour or more away from the subject property.  Convenience is a relative value.  Oh, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Unlimited potential!” as a real estate headline or bullet point.  I don’t have a real estate license, but I’d imagine legal boundaries and zoning commissions significantly restrict infinity.  But even if the future development of a property were somehow unlimited, who’s searching for that ambiguity?

Whether searching for Christmas gifts, farm equipment, or a strip mall, consumers will echo what Detective Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “All we want are the facts.”  It’s insulting to tell a buyer what the facts mean.  Buyers will most likely know if what you’re selling is a collectors item, if a home is designed for entertaining, if an address is a good business location—based on the facts at hand.

Does this mean advertising should be reduced exclusively to a list of bulleted descriptions?  No—even if in many media, that’d be the most efficient strategy.  Write your sales copy as long as space and budget will allow.  Emphasis, though, belongs to the facts.  Headlines should tell people if what they want might be described in the next section.  Top billing should go to the unarguable.

Make it easy for potential buyers to compare your sale item(s) to their wish list.  That ease of comparison reflects on your brand, whether they bid or purchase from you or not.

Taking It Personally

Outside of sports programming or sitting in a waiting room, I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched TV news.  Beside how partisan each of the networks have proven to be, I’m disenchanted by the 24-hour news network ecosystem’s need to fill so much of their time with commentary.  I don’t need anyone to tell me what I should feel about a congressional bill, a televised debate, an oval office speech.  I think that’s why I’m drawn to Twitter so much as a news source.  News sources there have to dump the main point and a link in 140 characters or less.

News never has been objective; I don’t know how it ever could be.  So, I don’t ask it to be.

Maybe that’s why after sitting through literally over 5,000 sermons and Bible lessons, I’m so drawn to my TruthWorks Bible study, where I’m pointed to a passage of Scripture with three questions: “What does the writer actually say?” and “What does that mean—in a big picture context?” and then “What do I do right now with this truth?”  It’s good to have wise, educated people bring light to Scripture; and I believe teachers can be agents of the Holy Spirit.  But we need to be careful not to rely on other people to tell us what to believe; we need to be like the heralded Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[footer]Stock photo used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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89: The Ebay Rule for Advertising Estates

Pederson Estate

It might sound macabre, but one of the least volatile segments of the auction industry seems to estate liquidations.  I can’t imagine how awkward it must be for auctioneers to advertise and sell estate liquidation services, as family emotions and situations are bigger than the inanimate balance sheets that drive many of other auction segments.

So, I understand when an auctioneer tries to honor their sellers and/or their loved ones by headlining their advertising with “The Estate of John & Jane Doe.”

I get the request for such on a regular basis by well-meaning auctioneers, and I usually push back against the request.  It’s not that I don’t want to honor lives with well-earned legacies.  It’s not that I don’t understand that my design fees and the cost of the media I’m designing are paid by the sweat of their lifetimes.

It’s just that I’m paid to design the most effective media possible.

Krause CatalogSee, we only get a few seconds to land our marketing message; and that means we have to put information in the order of importance to the buyer—not the seller.  Unless who owned the property is more important than what the property is, the seller’s name shouldn’t be the headline.  If we give consumers information they don’t care about at the outset, we’re wasting their time and squandering precious chances that they’ll keep reading.

I call it “the Ebay rule for advertising estates.”  It works like this: if you were to list what you’re selling on Ebay [or Google or Amazon, etc.], what would be your headline?

If you’re selling a car from Jay Leno’s garage, you leverage his fame in the headline.  If you’re selling the typewriter that Edward R. Murrow used to write his news briefs, you lead with his name.  If you’re selling the garage tools for a beloved, local high school English teacher, you headline the line of matching DeWalt equipment.

“Well, this isn’t an auction the whole country would care about,” or “This guy was well known in his community,” you might retort.  If that’s the case, the local community probably already knows about their passing.  If not, a retrospective press release might be a gracious gesture and even an effective marketing tool to increase interest in your ensuing auction.

Yes: a previous owner’s reputation can influence the price items bring.  And this important moment in their legacy deserves to be recognized—just not headlined in the advertising.  My clients often include pictures of their sellers, regularly with kind words about their contribution to the community and the care of their belongings.  You should consider doing the same, when space and budget allow.

Fellows PostcardOne exception to “the Ebay rule for advertising estates” that I’ve learned to appreciate is the person with niche notoriety—typically a well-known collector.  I’ve worked for an auctioneer marketing a multi-million-dollar automotive collection [not an estate] from the founder of car and collecting magazines.  I’ve recently helped two auction companies jointly auction literally almost an entire town, owned by a family known for almost a century for the unique inventory of their multiple specialty warehouses.  (The auction companies even brought in historians to have displays on site at the three-day auction to answer questions and relay the rich history not eh auction block.)  I’ve assisted an auctioneer selling a mass of very specific estate items from a philanthropist known for his collection of hunting and fishing items.  At all of these auctions, people showed up in droves to purchase something that had higher value because of the reputation of the seller.

If your audience would investigate a collection because of who owned it, by all means use the seller’s popularity to their advantage.  But if the seller isn’t the selling point, stick to the facts important to the buyers in your advertising headlines.

Taking It Personally

I play basketball at the YMCA for 60 to 90 minutes just about every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—and have for the past three years.  I love it, even though I’m frustratingly not as good as my height should allow.  I still haven’t learned the pick and roll; I struggle to know when to help on defense and when to stick with my defensive assignment.  Embarrassingly, my layup percentage is probably in the same ballpark as Shaq’s free-throw efficiency.

Jesus couldn’t trust me with athletic talent.  I would’ve been a punk.

That’s why I have a great respect for Christian athletes who have received more than their fair share of dexterity, strength, and speed—and handled it with grace, humility, and candor.  I particularly applaud the star athletes of the I Am Second campaign.  They are actually leveraging their sports accomplishments for the One who made them possible.

I aspire to follow in Colt McCoy’s example with the modicum of talent I have with my words and my business.  I would love to leverage my accomplishment for the kingdom.  This section of my AdverRyting posts is just a small step in that direction.

What could you be doing to leverage your strengths for the One who gave them to you?

Stock image of menu image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

54: Auction Pornography

Family Watching AuctionDuring the 1964 Supreme Court case regarding First Amendment rights related to pornography, Justice Potter Stewart wrote “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” [Emphasis added.]

The public knows what we’re selling when they see it.

If they don’t, they probably aren’t prospective bidders.

I design more brochures for real estate than any other kind of auction segment. And I can’t tell you how many times, my auctioneer will send me advertising copy that starts with “real estate auction.” To be fair, I also get text for agricultural machinery auctions that start with “farm equipment auction,” too.

If we have only three to eight seconds to communicate our core advertising message, why would we waste redundant words on what the 1,000-word picture says for us? Or are we trying to sell a commodity to someone who doesn’t know what it is?

Since people buy items—not auctions—the word “auction” and its date are secondary information to what your selling. So, “Auction” or “[Type of] Auction” should not be your headline. “WWII-era Comic Books” or “Premium Fly Fishing Lures & Tackle” should be, for example. Sell what you’re selling first; sell the auction second (or third after location or bidding platform if online-only).

Well, what if we’re selling real estate and personal property at the same auction?

First, I would consider having different mailer panels for the parts of your list going to each related mailing list. Even without variable-data printing, postcards and brochures can be printed with separate mailer panels. It’s not always cheap, but it holds potential to increase your effectiveness. The inside of the brochure or opposite postcard panel can cover both bases, while your first-impression panel can appeal to specific recipients of your respective mailing lists.

Usually, one of these commodities has a greater worth than the other and should take precedence. So, your mailer might have the factory building big and a small inset picture of a piece of equipment—with a smaller headline line like, “Also selling presses, CNC machines, and lathes.”

If you’re selling different types of commodities, your headline can be something like “2,450SF, 4BR, 2BA Home & All Contents” or “Early 1900’s Impressionist Art & 1800’s Original Manuscripts.” You can reinforce the separate markets under the “Auction: Friday, March 26th” line by listing underneath: “[Commodity A] to sell at 5pm. [Commodity B] to sell at 7pm.”

Even when a benefit auction event is a bigger draw than the items being sold, the beneficiary, cause, or even the venue will usually deserve the primary headline. Pictures from past black tie events (or stock photos) will communicate that a fund raising event with live bidding will take place.

One related, notable exception is when the breadth of sale item categories is wider than what can cleanly be demonstrated visually on the mailer or cover panel—like “Farm Machinery • Antiques • Household • Small Business Machines • Vehicles • Hunting Gear.” In that case, listing categories can be effective, alongside a picture of the biggest ticket item(s). Sometimes, it’s the quantity instead of the specificity that makes the auction unique: “170,000 Sports Collector Cards—33,000 NIB.” But even that should be accompanied by an image that communicates the size of the collection—maybe a staged shot of them stacked in the back of a box truck or on top of an announcers’ table at a sporting venue.

Your buyers will know what you’re selling when they see it. So, show it first; headline it second; and tell them about the auction third (or fourth). On the part of your sign, direct mail, ad, email, or Web page that makes your first impression, kill the words made redundant by pictures so that the words that are left get read.
[tip]

The world knows a changed life and a worshipping soul, when they see it. In the rare instances when we happen to categorize ourselves or our faith in a conversation it should seem redundant, almost unnecessary to those who observe our lives. In the least, our followship should not come as a surprise.

The world has a hope of what to expect from Christianity; and that hope isn’t in labels, badges, or Sunday suits. It’s not perfect attendance, an inked checklist, or boycotts.

If you want to know what a life expedited by the Spirit looks like, ask an unchurched person to describe Christian love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faith, etc. Their definitions will have nothing to do with liturgy, denominations, or systematic theology. The sanctifying life requires more than attendance, participation, and good citizenship. It blossoms as a pervasive, holistic lifestyle that leaves a wake of healing and hope.

[footer]Image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010[/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.
[tip]

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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