Tag : mailing-list

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211: Will Facebook Handcuff Your Real Estate Advertising?

Last week, Facebook released its new advertising restrictions for residential real estate. This applies only for residential properties and will not impact land, commercial, or industrial properties. It will probably affect farms and recreational properties but only for ads showing or mentioning a residence. As you can see in the screen capture below, marketers can no longer:
• target geographically in less than a 15-mile radius
• limit age of audience in any way
• use lookalike audiences
• use past saved audiences

The greatest lost for my clients will be the lookalike audience. Auction marketers will not be able to replicate a list of past bidders, a purchased list of people based on specific qualifications, or the traffic visiting an auction. All of these are now considered discriminatory practices by Facebook thanks to the influence of legislators, judges, pundits, and possibly plaintiffs. (Google will likely follow Facebook’s lead because of these factors.)

This will radically impact how residential real estate advertising can be targeted and may significantly change your cost per click and cost per landing page view. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to handcuff you. Here are three ways to adapt to this change to gain a competitive edge over those who don’t.

Don’t Panic.

Most residential real estate is bought by someone local. In my weekly experience with residential real estate auctions on Facebook, my untargeted ads to just anyone living within a radius regularly outperform most of my targeted ads. At some point, Facebook will disallow any uploaded list and maybe even people who like your Facebook page. Until that day, take advantage of the options still on the table.

Buy Bigger Lists.

Advertisers are still allowed to purchase lists, upload them, and have Facebook match as many of the people on the list as possible. So, you can still target people who own specific amounts of acreage, people with certain wealth criteria, and people who work in industries related to real estate (developers, builders, real estate investment trusts, etc.). Now, instead of buying a small list and having Facebook multiply the lookalikes, you might need to buy bigger lists. So, your Facebook budgets will need to reflect that cost. Before uploading those lists to Facebook, remove all columns except first name, last name, city, state, zip, phone number, and email address. Facebook is scanning the lists for discriminatory information. Also, several data brokerage companies offer a service to create lookalike lists of your in-house lists for a fee.

Write Targeted Copy.

Since certain buyer pools are off the table from an audience perspective, use the advertising text that appeals only to your intended recipients of each ad. You can still write to investors, brokers, and end users. (See a residential real estate example of this here.) Facebook’s new text limit will require succinct writing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thankfully, all of your competition has to play by the same rules. So, learning how to play within them can give you a leg up on other auction and real estate companies. Even with these restrictions, Facebook will continue to be more efficient than newsprint and direct mail—and probably television, radio, and web banner ads, too. The sky isn’t falling. It’s just a little more likely to rain on your parade.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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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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203: Two (Misguided) Questions Auctioneers Ask About Facebook Advertising

At the end of July, a Wall Street selloff knocked $119,400,000 off Facebook’s market capitalization. Over two days, the Silicon Valley giant lost almost 20% of its estimated value (though only back to its stock price as of April). Hunted by European litigators and questioned by the United States senate, the company has spent the summer rebuilding its brand.

Facebook stock price

With the largest social media platform in the news almost every day this summer, I’ve seen auctioneers asking two questions:
• What are you doing to ensure you don’t have all your eggs in the Facebook basket?
• Where will you advertise if/when Facebook goes away?

Facebook Market Cap

As someone who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on Facebook advertising and makes a third of my income from Facebook marketing services, you’d think I’d be asking these questions, too. I’m not. Here’s why.

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon.

Even with the big drop, Facebook is still one of the wealthiest, most profitable companies on the planet. This isn’t a MySpace situation. For one thing, even a fraction of Facebook’s market share would make it the most robust platform on which to pursue clients. LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter combined have only as many users as Instagram, Facebook’s secondary platform. 1 Almost one out of every three people on Earth have a Facebook account. That’s amazing by itself but even moreso when you consider that only 54% of the world’s population uses the Internet. 2 In the United States, more adults check Facebook each day than read all American newspapers—combined—during the course of a week.

Facebook comparison

The next thing will be easy to spot.

There’s a case to be made that social media as a media category might decline someday when people grow tired of the comparison game it represents. Facebook, being the biggest player, would probably take the biggest hit. Nothing happens in a vacuum, though. If you remove social media from daily practice, something new will grow to fill that space. What won’t occupy that space is traditional media. It definitely won’t be newspaper, as the American attention span continues to shrink. Nobody confidently knows what’s next or when it will get here, but it will require at least as much adaptation and intuition to operate there as Facebook demands now. Whatever moves into that space will approach with lots of buzz and probably fanfare much like Facebook did more than a decade ago.

Facebook isn’t monolithic.

Facebook isn’t just Facebook. It’s not just Instagram and WhatsApp and Messenger, either. Facebook’s Audience Network spans scores of the prominent news and entertainment sites on the Internet. Like Google’s display ad network, Facebook ads appear all over the web to visitors with Facebook accounts. So, even if someone deletes the Facebook and Instagram apps from their phone or just never uses them, they can still be targeted by Facebook’s ads. In fact, on a per-ad basis, Facebook daily analyzes from which of its platforms people are most efficiently coming to your website and adjusts your daily spend proportionally. If you’re eggs are all in one Facebook basket, it’s a lot bigger basket than you might realize.

Facebook isn’t the only go-to pitch now, anyway.

There are some rare auctions where I advise a campaign to have at least 90% of the budget allocated to Facebook, but those represent the exception and not the rule. What you’re selling, where you’re selling it, and how you’re selling it influence the media mix. This is also true of the resources available to you like (1) email subscribers and (2) past bidder registrations for the same asset category being advertised. Sometimes, a public relations campaign does your heavy lifting on a truly unique auction. Sometimes, a purchased mailing list is the most targeted tool available. There are even a handful of newsprint outlets I still recommend. Often, media choices aren’t based on efficiency or efficacy but on assumptions and perceptions the seller has to feel like you covered all of your bases. If you are avidly tracking all media individually in Google Analytics for every auction, you’ll know what media you use for buyers & sellers and which ones you use for branding or showmanship. You’ll also be able to see trends as they happen.

When I look at the Facebook accounts of the auctioneers asking these questions, I typically find people who aren’t well-versed in Facebook advertising. I wonder if they are hoping for the seemingly-complicated reality of Facebook’s paid advertising to go away so they can get back to the set-it-and-forget-it nature of traditional media. If they got the efficient results my clients do on Facebook, I’m not sure they’d wish for this strike-out pitch to disappear. Even if their wish came true, though, it would be a long, slow decline.

The more important questions to ask are:
• How am I adapting to the changing buying culture?
• What have my experimentation and analytics shown me recently?

Marketers who don’t continually ask themselves those questions will eventually be replaced by those in companies who do. That should worry every auctioneer far more than the future of Facebook.

1 “Top 15 Most Popular Social Media Sites and Apps [August 2018]” by Priit Kallas, Dreamgrow.com, August 2018.

2 “Internet Users in the World by Regions” by Internet World Stats.com, December 21, 2017.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. All other images linked to their respective sources.

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175: How to Get National Advertising on a Local Budget

Have you ever been asked to market anything that had a national appeal, but the asset value didn’t allow a national advertising campaign? It happens to my clients on a regular basis. My advice for that situation has recently changed, as a burgeoning technology helps solves part of that problem.

Let me give you an example.

One of my high-volume clients just booked a deal to sell the furniture, fixtures, and equipment from a two-year-old frozen yogurt shop near Buffalo, NY. Having limited experience with this niche asset category, John called me for ideas on how to attract the most amount of bidders to assets that together were worth only about as much as a new pickup truck. (I had zero experience with this asset type; so, I actually had more questions for him than he had for me.)

Before John called me, he had reached out to our mailing list guy and found a list of thousands of frozen yogurt stores in the country. National List Research was able to split the list into chains and independent operators and even provide the name of an executive for many of them. The bad news: a mailing even just to the independent operators would break his budget.

After a couple phone calls, we hatched a plan.

First, John bought the full mailing list of just the independent frozen yogurt shops along with their phone numbers. At 13 cents per person, that was a small expenditure.

Next, John uploaded that direct mail list to Facebook to create ads to those independent operators. Facebook matched about two thirds of those prospects. John could reach that complete national list of matches for about $20 per ad. So, we planned for a series of ads with different photos and headlines.

Then, John created a lookalike audience of Facebook users who demographically looked exactly like those independent operators.

Using a free Facebook pixel, he also created a list of Facebook users who visited that auction’s page on his website. Then, he had Facebook build a lookalike audience of people who looked just like the people who came to that page on his site. All three of these additional audiences got Facebook ads served to them—again for a small outlay. (John creates these three audiences for almost every auction.)

This YoBerry shop was in a Buffalo suburb; but the Northeast doesn’t have anywhere near as many frozen yogurt shops as the South does. Texas, especially, is chock full of them. John’s budget didn’t allow him to mail to the whole national list, but he didn’t know where the biggest demand would be. So, I recommended he run the first round of Facebook ads and then use Facebook’s and Google Analytics’ geographic reporting tools to see the aggregate data for those who visited the auction’s page on his website. That would tell him which states to select from his list for direct mail reinforcement.

The plan worked. John ended up mailing the postcard I designed to 253 of the 3,000 or so purchased names, saving thousands of dollars in printing and postage. Hundreds of people visited the auction’s page. Grafe Auction found scores of registered bidders from multiple states.

So, here were our takeaways from this low-budget experiment:

• Skip newsprint, unless it’s an asset only with local value.

• Use Facebook to help you sort your direct mail list.

• Leverage lookalike audiences to find the people that list brokers don’t have in their database.

• Implement a Facebook pixel to re-market assets to the original prospects and/or to serve ads to people who look just like your early investigators.

• Follow the data, not your instincts or industry status quo.

This complete process may not work for you, if you don’t offer online bidding of some sort. The individual tools we leveraged, though, are tools we use every day for live and online auctions. In concert, they solve a problem auctioneers regularly face.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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166: Get Better Results From Your Facebook Advertising

I talk to auctioneers who don’t see Facebook as a vital marketing tool, because it hasn’t worked for them. After asking a few questions, it’s clear why their Facebook campaigns have reaped subpar results: they’re advertising to the wrong people.

“I posted the auction on my Facebook.”

While it probably doesn’t hurt for you to share your auction with your Facebook friends, few people on your friends list are potential buyers or even referrers to potential buyers. Also, Facebook doesn’t show your posts to all of your friends, anyway—only the ones who interact most with your content.

“I did a Facebook post on my business page.”

This is a baby step forward, but it makes several incorrect assumptions.

  1. Those who like your Facebook page are likely buyers.
  2. People who liked your page in the past because of a specific auction or asset are interested in others.
  3. Facebook shows your business post to more than 10% of your page likes.

For more successful campaigns, you will most likely need to post multiple paid ads. Each will have its own headline and copy, its own photo(s) or video, and it’s own audience. Here are some audiences my auction clients use to see fantastic results from their Facebook ads.

Locals (general public nearest the auction or asset location)

Most real estate—especially farm real estate—sells to someone local. The same holds true for estate sale assets. Facebook allows you to circle your advertising around a specific address. If you know the neighbors or locals won’t be buyers, Facebook also allows you to exclude specific geography.

Current or recent visitors

If you’re selling something to tourists—vacation real estate or boats, for instance—you can target people in a geographic area that don’t live there but are currently visiting. You can also target those who just left that area.

Demographic selectors

Facebook gives you scores of options from net worth and household income to pastimes and priorities. You can pull people who like specific brands, who work in specific trades, who speak specific languages, or who collect specific items. You can also exclude any of the selectors, like recent home buyers (who probably won’t respond to your real estate ad).

Fans of publications

Don’t want to pay to advertise in expensive publications? Can’t make an early deadline? Does the magazine publish after the auction? Does the publisher allow only the advertisers who use their online bidding platform? Then target people who have liked or mentioned the publication. That won’t equal the total circulation, but it’s a lot better than nothing. Not all publications are available, but the current selection comes in handy for a number of asset categories.

Business executives

Whether you’re selling commercial real estate or business liquidations, you can target people based on their executive status. That goes for positions like president, vice president, CEO and others; but it also works for business owners and founders. You can also target executive and management positions in educational institutions and government offices. Facebook won’t grant you 100% saturation, but even a fraction is a good start.

Brokers, investors, and management professionals

Because you can target specific job titles, you can appeal to those who would benefit by bringing you real estate buyers. You can also select Facebook users who attach to the national associations for REALTORS, home builders, and mortgage lenders. For you commercial real estate pros, yes: you can select CCIM members, too. You can also target the investor class to supplement your end-user campaign.

Past bidders and lookalikes

Upload your list of past bidders’s email addresses or mobile numbers, and Facebook will allow you to serve ads to those it can match. You can take that one step further, and let Facebook find you people who look demographically just like your past bidders. This is a free service from Facebook. You pay only for the ads, not the matching.

Email subscribers and lookalikes

Likewise, you can match up to 50% of your email subscribers and direct ads to them. This allows you to reinforce your email and/or direct mail campaign with Facebook promotion, giving potential buyers more interactions with the asset and its headlines. Facebook can build a lookalike audience from these folks, too—again at no charge for the matching, just the ads.

Website visitors and lookalikes

After you install a free bit of code on your website, you can advertise to people who visited any page of your website. So, if you’re selling an asset similar to one you’ve recently sold; you can advertise to people who visited that former auction’s page. Using the lookalike audience tool, you can serve ads to people who look demographically like the people who visited that page. Taking that one step further, you can run (1) reminder ads for the auction at hand to people who already investigated it and/or (2) ads to a lookalike audience of people who’ve already visited this auction’s page.

Combinations

Finally, you can segment almost all of these lists by any of the other lists. You can also take any of these lists and sort it further by age, wealth, gender, geography, language, and much more. And you can save the lists for future use.

While there are groups or lists of people you can’t find on Facebook, there are a lot of specific audiences readily available to make your auction advertising more effective and efficient. Not all buyers are on Facebook; but there are more buyers there on any given day than in newsprint, magazines, or any TV channel. The specificity to which you can market on Facebook is unprecedented and unparalleled.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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6 Reasons Facebook Hasn’t Yet Killed Direct Mail

I got a big surprise in the mailbox yesterday. The cover of Auctioneer, the auction industry’s international trade journal, teased a story about the Auction Technology Specialist (ATS) program. Since I was on the panel that rewrote the curriculum for ATS and have been one of the instructors of the course since last summer, I was excited to see the coverage.

The surprise, though, came in the opening paragraphs of the article, when it was declared that the instructors had ditched all print media and used print advertising only to prove to sellers that it was a waste of advertising dollars.

You’d be surprised, too, if—on the same day you read that story—you had also designed three different postcards for one of those instructors and had consulted about a brochure with the other instructor. In fact, I designed 139 postcards last year for Grafe Auction, the company used as the case study throughout the course. Plus 15 already in 2016 (more than I have for any other client).

John Schultz, Robert Mayo, and I spend the vast majority of the course talking about digital media and analytics of all media. So, I understand if direct mail might seem like a tumbleweed ghost town to the casual observer.

I make money creating advertising for both Facebook and direct mail. Facebook is the biggest innovation in advertising ever. I truly believe that and am thankful for the times it bails me out of tough strategy situations with my clients. While Facebook collects a mind-boggling amount of data about its users, there are still audiences it can’t reach that direct mail can.

Your In-House Bidder, Banker, or Attorney Lists

Sure, you can email your registered bidders, biggest hitters, and referral agents; but we all know that direct mail is more disruptive. It has to be physically touched at least once, even to be tossed in the garbage. While Facebook can match 40-50% of your email addresses, that leaves 50-60% in limbo. With email open rates averaging in the 15-25% range, are you willing to take the chance that a number of your proven prospects won’t be bidding?

Acreage Owners (Including Absentee Owners)

I can buy direct mail lists of people who own specific amounts or ranges of acreages in many locations around the country. This is a critical list for farm real estate auctioneers—both in acquiring new sellers and in appealing to farmers looking to buy more land. Facebook doesn’t have any data remotely close to this category.

Owners of Fishing & Hunting Licenses

Facebook can give me fans of Realtree and Mossy Oak, Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s. I can tap into lists of people who like kayak fishing, bow hunting, and trophy whitetail deer. If I want people with actual hunting or fishing licenses, though, I have to use direct mail. Also, since Facebook doesn’t allow the overt advertisement of guns and ammo, you’re going to need other disruptive media to advertise those wares.

Every Door Direct Mail

If your property needs the attention of everyone on a United States Postal Service (USPS) mail route, Facebook can’t match direct mail. No digital or other print media can, actually. With some ingenuity (that my mail house uses) this USPS tool can be expedited to almost first class delivery times.

SIC Code Businesses

Facebook can match a lot of professional roles—more than any medium I’ve found. What it can’t grab yet are businesses. For instance, today I was working on a proposal for a self-storage facility. I can get a direct mail list of those; Facebook didn’t have that category for entities, employers, or professions.

Chamber of Commerce Members

Facebook can’t tell you who takes part in offline groups like Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, or other trade associations. If you’re lucky, you might have access to your group’s email database, but that’s usually not an option. Since most groups don’t have daily or weekly (or even monthly) print publications, how do you reach those movers and shakers?  Hint: it rhymes with “correct sail.”

As my clients and industry peers can tell you, I’m an evangelist for almost everything in the ATS course. It was a game-changer for my business and for the firms I serve every day. The part it didn’t change, though, is my belief that a tactile medium holds more value than ever in a digital world. For me and my clients—including both of my fellow ATS instructors—Facebook and direct mail are complimentary tools, not zero-sum competitors.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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143: The Biggest Challenge of Variable Data Marketing

Variable data is the future of direct mail. For precision postcard and catalog marketers, it’s actually the present.

If you’re not familiar with the technology, you need to be—even if you don’t have a use for it yet. Basically, documents are designed with different versions for different audiences. You can alternate different pictures, text, or entire panels of the printed piece. A high-speed digital press prints each piece according to indicators in your mailing list.

If you’ve got an auction with farm equipment and yellow iron, you can have one portion of your mailing list receive a postcard with different images and headlines on one side and both asset categories on the back. If you’ve got a business liquidation of real estate and personal property, you can emphasize the respective asset categories to different prospects on the first impression panels and show both together on the inside of the brochure. If you’re selling a portfolio of investment properties, you can have the property on the mailer panel be the one geographically closest to the recipient. That property’s advertising can be large, while the others are smaller.

The primary benefit of variable data is that you can target while also cross-marketing different types of assets. You can appeal to a buyer’s primary need or want and then fish for potential crossover purchases. I talk about the benefits of this tool in more detail in this article.

When I talk about this technology to auction marketers, we always get to the big sticking point. The primary obstacle for auctioneers implementing this direct mail tool is data. See, the process only works, if you’ve got segmented mailing lists.

If you sell real estate, do you have separate lists for each real estate category you sell? If you sell yellow iron, do you keep track of who bought trucks or trailers but not skid steers? When people sign up for your email or direct mail lists, do they have the option to select specific asset categories or just general ones? Or worse yet: a single “get auction updates” list?

If you’ve not been segmenting, start now. Other marketers have a head start on you. Other auction companies have already been using this tool for years. Start gathering data now so that you’ll be more competitive a year from now and have more marketing choices.

In the mean time, you can still use this technology with purchased mailing lists. For instance, if you have a property that’s good for farming and hunting, both of those buyer segments are publicly available. I can pull people with a hunting license or with a minimum number of acres owned or with a tax filing as a farm. For some of those lists, my broker can even sort the results by income, gender, age, and other demographic filters.

Also, you can do this with your Facebook advertising. It’s easy to create different promoted posts or ads aimed at different audiences. If you’re still using newsprint, you can run different ads in different classified categories or newspaper sections. Billboards and signs can be designed differently and placed in different locations to attract more than one buyer base.

The key is to make your advertising as attractive as possible to as many different people as possible. The best way to do that is to create different versions of your media, where possible, so that interested buyers see only (or predominantly) what they want.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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