Tag : polling

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“We Do It for the Next One.”

In my seminars and consulting sessions, I’ve regularly betrayed my graphic design industry by declaring that it’s more important to have consistent branding than creative advertising. And I’ve shot my personal livelihood in the foot by candidly admitting that in auction marketing, you’re better off paying for high-end photography than for premium page layout. So, you might think it’s ironic or incongruent that I also teach the various reasons that quality design matters in asset marketing.

Consistency and quality aren’t mutually exclusive, though. Granted, consistent quality does cost more; but its return on investment has a much higher potential than inconsistent creativity or consistent mediocrity do.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from one of the most successful auction marketers in the country, a vice president of an auction company that regularly posts sales above $100 million per year. We were talking about his company’s direct mail strategy, and he hit me with one of the most important pair of sentences I’ve heard during my 15-year career.

“Ryan, we don’t make the fancy brochure to sell this auction. We do it for the next one.”

He unpacked that a bit for me, and it has stuck with me ever since. The big idea was that an asset—with exposure to the right audience—will sell itself, but potential sellers are looking at this campaign and the campaigns of your competitors to determine how they want their asset and auction to be marketed.

In other words, your auction promotion can be your best company promotion.

This concept was substantiated by a conversation with an auctioneer from a much smaller auction company. He said that prospective sellers actually brought his old direct mail pieces to him and asked if their farm auction could be advertised like those shown in his past brochures.

See, if you have an amazing company video, but your ads are unreadable, sellers know your priorities are skewed. If you have die-cut metal business cards, but your property information packets look disheveled, that sends a message, too. And if you have a shiny, expensive pocket folder, but your brochures look like they were designed at a local copy center, sellers know that you take promoting yourself more seriously than promoting their assets.

Seller polling will tell you how they found you and why they chose you. Spend your company promotion dollars wherever those answers lead. I wouldn’t be surprised that in many cases, if not most cases, sellers will point to your auction marketing or auction event as their introduction to your brand and then their eventual trust in that brand. If that’s the case after you’ve interviewed your sellers, spend a significant portion of your annual company promotion budget infusing value-added elements to your auction campaigns. Even if that’s not the case, I’d still spend the money on quality auction promotion—because you don’t know what sellers you don’t have because of unfavorable impressions.

Before your next sales presentation, ask yourself if your auction advertising samples are on the same level as your company collateral. If not, know that other auctioneers—maybe even your competitors—can say, “Yes.” And they’re probably grateful that you have a disparity that shows sellers where your priorities are.

Taking It Personally

Consistent quality isn’t just a high goal for businesses and brands. For those of us who want a life of influence, we have a similar objective.

In church world, a person’s personal brand is often called their testimony. And most of us are taught to leverage that package of choices, personality, and resources to attract others to a relationship with Jesus.

The challenge is that this is expensive. Demonstrating hope and compassion often requires a difficult response in challenging situations. Exemplifying authenticity and mercy can cost you relationships or reputation. Obeying words in an old book can cost you credibility and even a career.

But that moment when someone says, “I saw Jesus in you, and I wanted that”? Wow! There are few things in life, if any, as rewarding as that.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

116: Where Are Our Marketing Jet Packs?

Photo purchased form iStockPhoto.comOn March 6 at 8:36pm, one of my auctioneer friends posted on Facebook, “Anyone got anything new to share? Any new marketing ideas this week? Any good success to share? What’s working, what’s not?”

Two of his words grabbed my attention: “this week.”

In the age of Moore’s law, there’s this belief by marketers that eventually we’ll find some advertising silver bullet, that some new media will make all others obsolete. In a competitive marketplace, the hungry and aggressive are hoping to find it first—to dominate it after early adoption.

Someone’s got to tell all of the companies sending me email that social media replaced it in 2008. I guess it’s good that email hasn’t been replaced because, twenty years into it, we’re all still waiting for it to make direct mail obsolete. Eighty years into TV, commercial radio is still selling hours of advertising a day—despite it’s other heralded replacements (satellite radio, streaming services, and MP3’s) offering commercial-free music. Sure, we have fewer newspapers; but we actually have more specialty magazines.

Jetson Food MachineWe don’t have the Jetsons’ food machine yet, and we definitely don’t have our own jet packs. What we do have is an evolving media landscape that keeps adding more ways to do the same thing. Whether you’re using Google AdWords or outdoor signage, the marketing strategy is the same:

  1. Determine the people who might want what you’re selling.
  2. Go to where they are—their preferred media and/or geographic locations.
  3. Show them what they want to see—first and only (not what you want to show).
  4. Tell them how to get what they want.
  5. Analyze the results and interactions to tweak for next time.

Let me drill down one more layer to the auction community for which I’ve worked the past 14 years. After developing more than 15 hours of seminars, I’m annually asked to write and design new ones on new topics. For the last couple of years, I’ve debated turning that request down; but those seminars are the primary way that I introduce potential clients to my value as a vendor.

Candidly, I don’t think there’s a lot more out there that I’m comfortable teaching. With hundreds of auctioneers ignoring what I’ve taught in the past, I wonder what’s the point of creating more content to be ignored. I’m not talking about artistic, subjective suggestions; I’m talking about hard and fast rules to guide advertising, regardless of industry.

As an industry, we struggle to get the basics right.

To the public, we’re still selling events instead of assets. To sellers, we’re still selling auctions instead of marketing; and we’re talking about our method rather than our asset analysis and customized plan. (I know, because I read the proposals.) We are still crowding advertising with tertiary or redundant information that should wait online. We don’t put information in order of audience needs or wants. Readability looks like an afterthought. We’re still treating social media like broadcast outlets instead of conversation environments. We don’t segment our in-house mailing lists by asset category—let alone spend levels or time since last bid registration. We’re still not recording polling data from every auction to determine which media worked best for us in each asset and geographic market. We still don’t understand that the best branding is more consistent than it is creative—and that our brand is more than our colors or logo.

I say “we,” because I’m preaching to myself, the choir, and whoever’s still in the pews this far into this post.

I don’t know a lot of people—me included—who are ready for the next thing, because we’re not doing the things we should already know. “This week” or any week.

As a preacher’s son who attended four church services a week and then a Bible college that required an average of 12 Bible-teaching environments (and four prayer circles) per week, I’ve heard my fair share of Bible verses and applications. I know a lot of Jesus’ instructions, and I still disobey them somewhere between hourly and daily. From what I hear, that’s not exclusive to me.

So, it’s interesting to me that so many of us, me included, “want to hear something fresh from God.” I like what my pastors say about this: “Why would God give us new instructions, when we aren’t saying ‘Yes’ to the ones he already gave us?”

That doesn’t mean that we withdraw ourselves from teaching or that we stop trying to grow in new environments. It just means that we can’t always expect to get our dessert before we finish our vegetables.

[footer]Photo purchased form iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

109: When Is An Audience Too Big?

F150 AdThis coming Sunday, corporations will be spending roughly $4 million for each 30 seconds of advertising they obtain.  Even at these rates, available commercial slots for 2014’s big football game sold out in 2013.  It’s the most watched TV show in North America every year with an expected audience of 108,000,000 consumers.

If you’re doing the math at home, that’s 3.7¢ that advertisers spent per potential viewer.  Most media won’t break it down for you like that—instead going with cost per mil (CPM), which means cost per thousand viewers.  In this case, that’s $37.04.

Whenever I see expensive ads like these, I wonder three things:

(1) How many times someone has to see this ad before they decide to purchase?
(2) How many units does the advertiser need to sell just to break even on this commercial?
(3) How much of that product’s average price go to just this commercial?

Take, for instance, the Ford F150.  Ford sold 763,402 F150’s in 2013—the most of any vehicle sold in the US by far. If Ford Motor Company purchased only one 30-second Super Bowl spot and if this were the only ad that they ran all year, every truck’s price would include $5.24 for just this ad.  Based on the number of TV and magazine ads for the F series that I see in my limited broadcast media interaction every year, I wouldn’t be surprised if owners of new F150’s are paying for more than $1,000 in advertising.

Whatever the number is, Ford & Chevy, Verizon & AT&T, and Budweiser & Coors have found it reasonable, if not necessary, to spend so much on mass marketing.  For my clientele, too, a CPM of $37.04 would seem a good deal for their small business marketing, especially their event marketing.

That $37.04 can be deceiving, if not expensive, though.

Half a decade ago, one of my former clients—no longer in business—asked me to advertise a New Jersey construction equipment auction in the Philadelphia Enquirer and the New York Times.  I asked him, “How many people looking for an excavator look in the Sunday classifieds of a metro paper?”  If every one of the combined 2,342,631 subscribers of those papers on Sunday happened to turn to that ad’s page and also perused until they found that tiny ad—still probably only a fraction of 1% of the audience would care about its content.  And that’s the best-case scenario.

For the same amount of advertising spend, he could’ve bought sizable ads in construction equipment publications and on related websites—where the percentage of audience being qualified prospects would be exponentially higher.  Or he could’ve spent less overall for more conservative advertisements across all of the targeted media.  Sure, the CPM would’ve been significantly higher; but the value would be exponentially higher.

Be careful when an ad agency tries to sell you national ads for a campaign that only needs local/regional media or regional/national asset media.  Most ad agencies in the States make a commission—usually around 15%—back from the media for the advertising you buy.  Commissioned sales reps from both agencies and media alike will sell you on audience size (sometimes called “total reach”); but look, instead, at percentage of likely buyers from that audience.

Instead of CPM, I recommend evaluating media use based on cost per qualified prospect (CPQP).  It’s better to pay a lot to reach people who are likely to pay you a lot.

One of my auctioneer friend’s campaign came at a cost of roughly $65 CPQP, but he only mailed to between 75 and 80 people.  From that very small audience, though, he made over $100,000 in one year. That’s an average of almost $1,300 in revenue per prospect.  Not per sale.  Per prospect.  That’s a number that no Super Bowl advertiser can match and that no ad agency can promise.  While this might be on the high end of expectations, the principle it illustrates holds true.

On a related note, I recommend polling your bidders per media outlay to determine what your cost per bidder is from each. Tim Narhi Auctioneer & Associates do a great job of this and can show a seller what they spent per bidder per media for several years’ worth of auction advertising—including almost any one specific auction.  Those numbers trump any statistic an agency or media rep will tout.

The feather-in-your cap ads like those in the Broncos/Seahawks game might appeal to your ego, but targeted marketing will make that net proceeds check appeal to your wallet.

We live in a big world, and the religious affiliation of that population is quite diverse—so much so that I don’t know that any one faith system (or lack thereof) includes a majority of the global population.  For those of us who think the eternal stakes of believing an errant way are high, the temptation is to evangelize to the largest audiences possible.

God uses crusades and impersonal pamphlets.  I’ve met people whose life trajectory has changed from them.  He might even use television and radio programs, in spite of the characters that populate most of them.

From my own experience, though, I’ve seen the most efficient sharing to come on an interpersonal level.  Conversations in a coffee shop, book clubs in a cafe, table talk at a church environment.  Life change happens deepest when lives are rubbing against changed lives—when someone can say what the Apostle Paul did, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

[footer]Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com.
F150 image screen captured from online commercial.
Volkswagen ad frame downloaded from Google Images.[/footer]

108: How Do You Advertise an Online-Only Auction?

Written on assignment from Auctioneer, the official magazine of the National Auctioneers Association.


It seems that I’ve consistently received one question at almost every auctioneer gathering that I’ve attended over the past couple of years.

“How do you advertise an online-only auction?”

I usually answer that question with one of my own, “How do you advertise an offline auction?”

With the rise of both simulcast auctions and online-only auctions in both quantity and percentage of live auctions, there’s an assumption that an entirely separate pool of prospective bidders remains to be found.  That’s only partially true.  In some markets, the buyer demographic doesn’t frequent the Internet; and in some markets, potential bidders spend their lives online.  For the most part, though, those two groups are the outside slivers of a Venn diagram with a pretty fat overlap of online and offline media viewers.

Venn Diagram Buying Public

Whether the bidding is done with a raised hand or a clicked mouse is just a matter of auction location. Nobody asks me, “How do you advertise an off-site auction?” They don’t ask that, because they advertise off-site auctions like the way they advertise on-site auctions.  Online auctions are just off-site auctions held in a virtual venue.

Auction marketers should be covering all of the offline and online bases that their budgets can afford—for every auction, regardless of bidding platform or location.

So, then the question becomes, “Where do I advertise any auction?”

The answer to that question is, again, another question, “From which media are your current bidders hearing about your auctions?”  If an auctioneer can’t answer that, they’re losing market share to auction marketers who can.

The best way to know this answer is to query bidders at auctions. At an on-site auction, it might be a clerk verbally asking those in the registration line; or it might be written on the back of free entry tickets at a small raffle prior to the start of bidding.  For online auctions, it can be a set of multiple-choice toggles on the registration form.

Warning: polling results will most likely surprise you.  Also, expect the results to vary from location to location, from asset type to asset type, and even from one time of the year to another.  That’s why it’s important to poll every auction and not make media purchasing decisions based on only a few polls.

This polling data, when stored and categorized becomes a powerful tool at future seller presentations.  How much do you think it will impress a prospective seller to see a chart or spreadsheet and read, “Over the past 12 months, our online bidders for [type of asset] in [geographic area] have heard about our auctions primarily from these three media.  Over that same time frame, our on-site bidders have come from these three media outlets.”?

It wouldn’t surprise me if those top three media were the same for both auction types. Even if not, you’ll be able to answer the question many auctioneers—including some of your competitors—cannot: “Where do you advertise an online-only auction?”

[footer]Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]