Tag : marketing-plan

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194: The Right Marketing Questions at the Wrong Time

I need to get better at asking questions of my clients earlier in the advertising process. Sadly, I often struggle to focus on the marketing strategy instead of billable tasks.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a direct mail piece designed for a client and then asked them for the mailing list—only to learn that they do they not have a mailing list and don’t know to whom they will mail it. Or right before I dive into some Facebook ads, I’ve realized I forgot to ask, “Who do you want to target?”

I’m apparently not alone in my absentmindedness, because a common response is: “I don’t know. What do you think?”

On the times when I’m actually on my marketing game early in the process, I’ve asked the auctioneer, “Who’s our buyer? What’s our prospect profile?”

“Well, I was hoping you could help me with that.”

Mind you, this is after the auction contract was signed. That means auctioneers are booking deals in new asset and/or geographic markets without knowing who their prospects are, let alone which media they need (and in what proportion) to reach targeted potential buyers.

The problem with this tardiness is that the buyer determines the advertising campaign.

The prospect guides where we have to advertise—in terms of both media type and geographic area. That profile dictates what kind of impression we need to make, and that (along with asset value) governs the budget.

So, how is it that so many auctions are booked and budgets are set before anyone asks, “Who is the buyer?”

Right Questions at the Wrong Time

Some of it might be too much trust in “the sound that sells”—the idea that auctions in and of themselves get stuff sold, regardless of asset. While an auction is a great vehicle for transactions of a myriad of items, there is no auction without bidders. So, the most important part of the auction marketing process is the attraction and accumulation of bidders.

To do that, we have to stop thinking like auctioneers or real estate agents or salespeople—or graphic designers. We have to get into the heads of the people who would want what we’re selling. Often, that’s the most difficult part of the process—for both my auctioneers and their advertising vendor. If we personally wouldn’t buy that asset, we have to research who would. We need to have a good idea what they need, and what motivates them.

Why would someone want farm equipment with this age and these hours?
Do hunters check their Facebook during hunting season? (And when is deer season where this land is?)
What kind of consumer is looking for an unfinished condo unit?
Where do subdivision developers search for new opportunities?
How far would someone travel to purchase from an on-site estate auction or pick up from an online auction?
What would convince a real estate investor to buy farmland instead of residential properties?
How much disposable income would someone need to purchase this asset?
For what other industries could this commercial equipment or real estate be used?
Are we building any media only to impress the seller instead of buyers?

These questions speak to buyer motive, media mix, and targeting options. Their answers help us write headlines and select demographic criteria. The followup questions to the examples above would further focus our advertising and make our budget more efficient—even if it means spending more money on fewer people to attract an action from them.

It doesn’t cost you money to ask these questions.

In fact, it might cost you significant money if you don’t ask these questions—especially if you don’t ask them before you sign the auction contract. Save yourself some headaches. Take the prescription four out of five TV doctors recommend: ask two of these questions, and then email your advertising vendors in the morning.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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177: Is the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising Costing You Money?

Our culture uses the words advertising and marketing interchangeably. So does the auction industry in which I work, even though they should know the difference more than most industries.

Most people see the Venn diagram of these two words as this:

Assumption Venn

In actuality, the Venn diagram looks something like this:

Venn Reality

Let me explain.

Marketing is the strategic pursuit of qualified prospects.
Advertising is the media through which marketing decisions are communicated.

In other words, advertising is just a part of marketing. It’s the louder, more flamboyant part; but it’s only a part.

3 real-world examples of this differentiation:

Marketing is my alma mater importing palm trees, lining walkways and roadways with them, and paying us grounds crew guys to insulate the non-native trunks so that they’d make it through the winter. Marketing is putting a palm tree in the college’s logo. Advertising is all the media that includes said logo and is sent to Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—the states from which a large percentage of our student body came.

Advertising includes all the direct mail, newsprint, and signs my former employer dispersed before one of our multimillion dollar land auctions. Marketing is the multi-parcel system they used to get maximum value out of a property. Marketing is the software they wrote for that system when the personal computer was first invented. Marketing also includes all the lender luncheons they held in the new geographic markets they pursued.

Advertising got the registered bidders to an on-site auction, where one of my clients was selling his own farm. Marketing showed up when, after chatting up the attendees, he phoned a friend to get a sight-unseen starting bid by the acre.

Auctioneers make a marketing decision when they choose between live, simulcast, timed online, or sealed bid platforms. Same goes for when they choose whether to offer a buyer broker commission and, if so, at what percent.

Marketing determines who the prospects are, what they want to know about the asset or service at hand, and where to go to connect with these prospects. Advertising just executes that plan, and advertising decisions are easier once the marketing strategy has already been made.

Why do I make this distinction?

Because often, auctioneers ask me to recommend and/or execute advertising campaigns without that marketing foundation. I regularly seem to surprise auctioneers, when I ask them, “Who is your buyer for this asset?” or “Why would someone want this asset, or how would they use it?” The same goes for similar questions, when chasing auction sellers. (For the record, I also have stellar marketers as clients who start our correspondence with this information or answer these questions with dexterity.)

A marketing plan and an advertising budget are two different things. We can spend money on a standard media program that crosses a lot of t’s and dots a to of i’s. Or we can target prospects through the filters of cultural trends, asset appeal, market demand.

I gladly generate media all day. That’s how I make my money. But it behooves auctioneers to think bigger than just the box of advertising. Because marketing is how you make your money.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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145: 2 Questions Every Seller Needs Answered

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

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

How are you going to get it sold?

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

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

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

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

What are you going to do to market this asset?

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

How do you prove that?

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

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

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

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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