Tag : press-release

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135: The Magic Formula for More Efficient Advertising

For years, I’ve been saying that there’s no silver bullet in auction advertising. I’ve taught in my seminars that there’s no Ronco “Set it, and forget it” strategy, because the one constant in marketing is that there are few constants.

It’s time, though, that I come clean.

There is a foundational formula that applies to all auction advertising, including yours. Using it can transform your sales pitches & seller proposals, your media spends & overall budgets. The number in its answer trumps all the numbers in your Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Mail Chimp reports.

Very, very few auction companies that I’ve consulted are using this formula, but the ones who are have a competitive advantage over the ones who aren’t.

I’m talking about Cost Per Bidder Per Medium.

Knowing your generic cost per bidder would be interesting—discovering how much it costs you on average to get a consumer to register to bid; but it wouldn’t be much in the way of actionable data. Knowing how much it costs you per bidder per medium, though, goes beyond interesting. That knowledge is incredible marketing power.

Here’s the basic formula:

Cost Per BidderNow, repeat that for every medium or every media category you use in your advertising: signs, direct mail, newsprint, paid search, social media, public relations, etc. Save that information, and repeat this process every auction. After a few months, you should start to see patterns on the aggregate. You’ll discover that some media are less efficient than other ones.

If you sell more than one type of asset or the same asset in more than one geographic area, you may want (1) a larger set of samples or (2) separate spreadsheets for each market.

Once you get enough of a sample size collected, you can use it to start adjusting your budgets to favor the most efficient source of customers. For example, if Facebook costs you $5 to acquire a bidder, and newsprint costs you $50 in bidder acquisition, then you can start shrinking the size or frequency of ads to send money over to social media.

You can have hundreds of people click to your website from your email blast or thousands from social media. If the only people who show up at your auction are the ones who saw the sign, though, that traffic is empty. If your YouTube video went viral or your phones have been ringing off the hook from a press release that’s hit all of the local news, but most of your bidders all brought your direct mail piece to the auction, then the buzz didn’t bring you buyers.

Buyers trump traffic.

Speaking of buyers, you can take this formula one step further to separate the tire kickers from the paying customers. In the formula, you can replace “bidder” with “buyer.” If you want to know how much you spent per buyer, the formula looks like this:

Cost Per Buyer
The formula is simple, but the data collection tends to be the hard part for auctioneers. The spend side of the equation should be easy to capture, since you already have invoices and probably a formula-driven Excel budget. You can add a couple columns to that budget to do this math for you and then link to those result fields in a master spreadsheet.

Then, all you have left is asking bidders where they saw or heard about the auction. (It’s okay if they choose more than one.) You can poll them at on-site auctions, and you can create a toggle-list question for those who register to bid online. Using some tools currently taught in the Auction Technology Specialist designation curriculum, you can even track online bidders passively from their first interaction with your online AND offline media all the way to the bidding page.

If this seems like a lot of work, think about how much more work this information could help you book. Imagine if you and another auction company were vying for the same auction, but you alone could show the seller exactly where they can spend their money the most efficiently. Do you think you’d look a step ahead of your competition with a summary from the past year’s advertising effectiveness in their asset and geography markets?

That’s a rhetorical question.

It will probably take you six to 12 months to build reliable statistics. So, you’ll want to start as soon as possible. Don’t wait. I can name auction companies with more than a year’s head start on you.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

106: 4 Things Every Business Proposal Should Say

Even if you haven’t watched reality television or romantic comedy movies, you know some of the standard visual and verbal ingredients of a marriage proposal. There’s a guy (or sometimes a gal) on one knee. At some point, he goes through an awkward narrative around the following four basic points:

1.    “I love you.”
2.    “I want to spend my life with you.”
3.    “I got you this ring.” [usually non-verbally communicated]
4.    “Will you marry me?”

Image Used With Permission Through Purchase From iStockPhoto.comThese steps prove so common, they smell of cliche; but there aren’t too many ways around that outline. That’s just how marriage proposals work.

Believe it or not, those same four steps work well for business proposals, especially auction proposals to sellers.

“I love you.
“
Translation: “I value what you bring to this relationship.”


Sellers know we want a commission and that we wouldn’t be offering our services without a price tag. What they’re hoping is that we care about their assets—and not just another pay check—and that we’ll handle their sale with the care we would give our own sale.

One way to communicate this is to discuss the attributes of their assets that will interest buyers—what makes them unique or valuable. Follow this with explaining what part of your plan is connected to these attributes. Here are some examples:

“Due to the location of your property, signs will be more critical to the advertising campaign than our typical campaign. We recommend spending a higher percentage of the budget on banners that cover your building to attract attention.”

“Because of how new your restaurant equipment is, we will reach out to our list of restaurant chain developers in addition to our recent bidder lists of three similar Outback restaurant auctions that we held last year.”

“Not all auctions are newsworthy; but with your recent interstate PowerBall win and now famous tweet about your move to a private island, the human interest part of this auction’s story can be leveraged for maximum exposure. We’re going to bring in a public relations consultant to help us craft a press release that will attract members of the media.”

“I want to spend my life with you.” 

Translation: “This could be an ongoing, mutually-beneficial reality.”


Clients, like spouses, crave long-term security. Sellers want to know that we’ll stay attentive to their project amidst our others during the marketing campaign—especially for absolute/no-reserve auctions.

Put them at ease by describing all the expectations to which your willing to be held. Show them a detailed timeline of what you’ll do and when. Note when or how often you’ll communicate with them about market response and the progress of the campaign. Explain specific actions you’ll take to make their situation less stressful, less complicated, or less prolonged.

Empathy is huge for trust. That means letting people know that we realize that this is their treasured collection, their lifetime achievement, or their financial security that’s at stake. Each situation will determine what is professionally appropriate to say; and this doesn’t have to be a verbose section of a proposal, but intentionally moving into this perspective for even one sentence can be enough to separate ourselves from the competition.

“I got you this ring.” 

Translation: “Here’s my indicative deposit on good things to come.”


I remember a dude in college going room to room in our dorm building, asking for donations to help him buy a $500 engagement ring. He must have gotten enough donations. She said, “Yes,” and he’s still married to her more than a decade later; but it wasn’t the ring that sold her on life with him. Sometimes, we get the auction in spite of the proposal instead of because of it.

If our proposals look like cheap and easy templates—especially Word documents with a few variable data mentions bolded like a mail merge letter—we communicate to sellers that they are just a number, a transaction, another notch on our belts. The amount of time and effort and even financial investment our proposal connotes (whether real or assumed) reflects on the level of individuality, creativity, and professionalism we’ll bring to marketing their assets.

One sentence that regularly makes its way into my clients’ proposals reads something along the lines of, “We hope this proposal illustrates our level of commitment not only to book your auction but also to get you the most bidders and highest sale proceeds possible for your asset.” Would you be confident enough to make that statement in your cover letter?

“Will you marry me?”

Translation: “Does this look like a good deal to you?”


A difficult reality of business proposals is that we’re asking a seller to marry us on a first, second, or even blind date. Because a history with us can’t inform the future with us, we need to build the case that it will be a good deal. By using graphs of past results, samples of advertising from similar auctions, and pull quotes from people in their shoes you’ve served in the past, you can establish a track record that casts for them a vision for the future.

Unlike a résumé, though, this all needs to be framed by their benefit. Only a fool would drop to his knee and tell his girlfriend, “I was voted ‘Least Likely to Divorce’ in high school. I graduated from college with both academic and humanitarian honors and got the lone internship offered by Mark Zuckerburg this year. I have written over 450 love letters in my dating career and have attended the Certified Lover Institute. I’m a member of the National Association of Romantic Beaus. You can trust your married life in my hands.”

How many times do auction proposals read like that?

If we talk about what we bring to the table, we need to do so in a way that gives them more confidence than it gives us. For instance: “Our membership in [national franchise/alliance/affiliate network] connects us with more industrial real estate investors and the collaboration of multiple auctioneers who have sold paper production plants like yours.” Or: “Our hundreds of state and national marketing awards mean that our sellers get the best advertising available. We want our clients not only to get the biggest-possible settlement checks but also to be proud of how their assets are shown to their peers and the general public.”

Yes, all of this means more work; but that extra work on this end might just be the difference between you getting the work on the other end of the proposal.
[tip]
Throughout the Bible’s newer testament, Christians are told that we will some day marry Jesus and be his bride.  As a dude, that’s still weird to me. At the same time, it’s utterly humbling.

The bride is supposed to be the beautiful half of the wedding and the ensuing marriage. Jesus, our promised groom, lived a perfect life, a selfless existence. He did more good than any human will ever replicate.  Everything about him is beautiful. Nobody can even aspire to the beauty of his soul, the transformative gaze of his eyes, the gentle healing of his touch.

Contrastingly, we smell of unfaithfulness. We have been muddied by sin and disfigured by guilt. Our teeth are decayed by gorging ourselves on the delicacies of selfishness. We walk our life journey with a limp.

Still he loves us. He wants us. He cherishes us. He’s preparing a wedding even David Tutera can’t imagine and then an eternal honeymoon in a magical city on the other side of the universe. And he invites all of us through an eternal proposal into his mercy, grace, and redemptive power.

I don’t deserve it, and I definitely don’t understand it. But, man, am I grateful for it!

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

105: Working With a Changing Newspaper Landscape

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

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

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

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

Multi-Paper Conglomerates

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

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

Conglomerates organize their multiple advertising sections three ways:

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

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

Column Size Shell Game


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

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

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

High Staff Turnover Rates


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

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

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

Statewide Classified Networks


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

93: 5 Reasons You Should Be Using Google Alerts

Image provided by OPEN Forum by American ExpressNormally, you’d find an article here for my blog subscribers.  This AdverRyting, though, is a forward to my article that published this week on OPEN Forum by American Express.  This is my first article published in this clearinghouse of information and advice for entrepreneurs and marketers.  For months, if not years, I’ve been going to the OPEN Forum to learn how to grow my own business; so, it’s exciting for me to see my work next to that of the small business experts that the OPEN Forum has assembled.

The process was a little different for me—collaborating with an editor again, but that external insight proved both a welcome benefit and constructive challenge.

The principles in this article apply not only to the auction industry and the marketing practice but also to students, parents, employees, and non-profit workers.  I implement Google Alerts for many of the potential uses shown in the article; so, I can make these recommendations based on personal experience.

With further ado, here are the “5 Reasons You Should Be Using Goodle Alerts.”

OPEN Forum Sample Email

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

3: 8 Simple Rules of Press Release Success

  1. Tired TypistDon’t be the auctioneer who cries wolf. Save the press releases for only the most newsworthy events. Newspapers are losing money across the nation; some experts/consultants suggest they be allowed to operate as nonprofits to help save them in the internet age. So, they don’t want to give away free advertising.
  2. Submit to trade publications and newsletters. Hit the collectors, traders, investors, etc. directly. The smaller publications are typically not staffed with full-time writers. They like it when you make their job easier. Plus, the potential buyer is most likely there. A local/regional news publication may not see enough readership for the story in their overall market, but the targeted periodicals will.
  3. Put blood in the water. Releases about potential trends, especially negative, will get read. I use this a lot to show a declining/negative trend trumped by the auction method. For instance, once we did a story about the soft potato market but the strong sale of potato equipment. It garnered front page, first headline in the ag publication in the region. I wrote one for the sale of 16 c-stores in the MidWest like that and had home page of their NAA-equivalent web site within hours.
  4. Write the story like a journalist would. The more it reads like a story and less like an announcement, the more likely it will get printed. Also, write it from the angle of the department/section where it will be a best fit. Send it only to that writer/editor/producer per media. You may have to write several different versions of the press release for each media outlet.
  5. Use quotes, stats, and anecdotes. Often you can make up quotes for the auctioneer, seller, or other participant and get them to approve the comment(s) for release before sending; other times, you can just interview them like the newspaper would so that you can manage their statements. Permission is important! Between the quotation marks is the only place for grammatically incorrect language, and I actually recommend it—so that it sounds more realistic, more colloquial (as few of us speak grammatically correctly).
  6. Push the angle, then the story, then the event, then the auction company. Get these out of order, and the publication (and the populace) will know this is about self interest, not public interest. Public interest makes the paper. Self interest makes the classifieds.
  7. Call the intended writer/editor/producer before and after sending the press release. Sometimes, press releases don’t go any further than the email inbox or fax machine because of oversight. Also, you might get better audience if you let them know they can be the only media outlet to get this story, if they run with it. News organizations pursue exclusives. Give that to them. Do it often enough with the same contact, and you might be able to get them to run stories they wouldn’t have grabbed cold.
  8. Post-sale press releases carry credence. If you released before the auction, follow the auction with the post-sale story. Post-sale stories are critical in brand building. So, even if you didn’t precede the auction with one–if the auction created something of public interest, by all means tell the world!
    [tip]

I’ve seen all different ways that people of faith try to share the good news of the Gospel with others—just about everything from the bombastic street yellers to hospice care givers. Regardless of the media or context, you can convince only so many people of their God vacuum with mass-marketing style evangelism; even if you do, this is not a good model on which to build discipleship. I am convinced that it’s genuine concern and demonstrated love on the individual level that will make the greatest impact on culture and reap the most devoted converts.

Few people give credence to the recommendations and sales pitches of TV infomercials and door-to-door vacuum salesmen. Why would we sell the world on Jesus, Christianity, or soul-healing that way? It seems to reach more people, which is a good goal. It can be easier. Maybe we just need a good mix of both systems, as long as we don’t “Set it, and forget it!”

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