Tag : real-estate

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232: How to Target Buyers on Low Budget Real Estate Campaigns

In July of 2019, Facebook changed its rules about advertising employment, financing, and real estate to comply with federal anti-discrimination guidelines. When that happened, we advertisers lost the ability to target real estate ads to specific demographics like age, gender, wealth, occupation, home value, hobbies, affiliations, etc. That left us with eight kinds of audiences we could still use. For the most-targeted audiences, though, the best option requires purchasing a list from a database broker.

The problem is that sometimes our real estate value or seller budget doesn’t give us a big enough Facebook budget to purchase a more targeted audience. Then what? How do we work around that hurdle? 

Low Budget Real Estate Ads on Facebook

Here’s what I do.

First, I build the campaign as a two-stage process. I advertise the first round to the general public, my client’s past website visitors, and/or their past Facebook interactions. Then, I have Facebook replicate either (1) the customer’s website traffic to this auction’s page—if they have a Facebook pixel installed—or (2) the people who interacted with the first round ads on Facebook. Or both. For the second round of advertising, Facebook finds the common denominators of the people who self-selected as prospects in the first round and then builds an audience of people who share those common denominators. So, it duplicates only interested parties—and that’s better than a purchased list because you can’t buy a list that’s 100% interested parties.

Second, I rely on headlines for targeting in both rounds. Facebook’s black-box algorithm wants our ads to align our content with their users’ interests. Users get less annoyed by ads that align with their interests and are thus more likely to remain on the platform where Facebook can serve more ads. So, even first-round ads somewhat adapt to the audience of those interacting with them based on the content of the ads.

The way to get people to interact with your auction ads is to show them assets they want and use headlines that speak to the benefit of acquiring that asset. Buyers want real estate—even the same kind of real estate or even the same property—for different reasons. It doesn’t take much space to bait the hook with those primal desires.

Residential

  • Great for entertaining!
  • [name] School District
  • Quiet neighborhood!
  • Enjoy wooded privacy!
  • More lake life in your life!
  • Close to [hospital/univesrity/tourist destination]
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Investment

  • Buy more cash flow!
  • Build your cash flow!
  • Ready for tenets!
  • Turnkey rental unit!
  • Expand your holdings!
  • Close to campus!
  • Real estate at your price!
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Commercial

  • Great business location!
  • High Traffic Location
  • Prime Intersection 
  • Make money here!
  • Expand your operation!
  • Next to [name] Hospital
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Agricultural

  • 2022 crop rights!
  • Premium Loam Soil
  • Fantastic Base Yields!
  • Cropland at your price!
  • Tillable Acreage Auction
  • Buy land at your price!
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

Recreational

  • Sportsman’s Paradise!
  • Prime Hunting Land
  • Long river frontage!
  • Buy scenic seclusion!
  • Buy wooded privacy!
  • Ideal Hunting Camp
  • Tag big bucks here!
  • Abundant Wildlife
  • Bring your horses!
  • Buy it at YOUR price!

The people who respond to these headlines are your prospective buyers. So are the lookalikes of these people that Facebook can find. And you can superimpose those common denominators over any geographic area you’d like. I usually save the widest geographical coverage area for the second round of real estate campaigns. That’s how so many of my clients have seen their auction properties sell to out-of-state buyers this year—and not just seasonal and recreational properties.

With Facebook’s dynamic content tools, you can test up to five headlines and five subheads per ad and have Facebook automatically adapt the ads as they run to favor the headline(s) and subhead(s) that are drawing the most clicks and other interactions. I also use a variable-image tool as well, giving the artificial intelligence engine up to 250 different versions of each ad to test, analyze, and adapt to get the most amount of clicks at the lowest-available cost per click. So, even the first round of ads can hone its content to achieve efficient traffic.

By the way, this method also works well for advertising non-real estate assets for which Facebook doesn’t have pertinent interest or occupational categories. You can market to more general audiences with asset-specific headlines that find the subset of the bigger audience that is interested in what you’re selling. Just as with real estate, you can run a second-stage ad that targets the lookalikes of those early responders.

You don’t need huge budgets to get efficient traffic to real estate auctions. Headlines are free. Good photography can be free or cheap. When you don’t waste space on auction details and focus on asset details and selling points, you find your prospects more efficiently and in greater quantity.

More and better traffic leads to more bidders. More bidders lead to more bidding. More bidding leads to higher sale prices and bigger commissions. And you can generate a lot of that “more,” higher,” and “bigger just by making your headlines more aligned with your buyer’s interests.

Images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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230: The Real Estate Shots That Get the Most Clicks on Facebook

Three years ago, I went fishing for the first time in my adult life. My buddies wanted to introduce me to fly fishing. So, we booked a weekend of guided fishing in drift boats. On the first day, I caught more fish than anyone and netted all four types of trout known to inhabit the rivers of Paradise Valley. Meanwhile, the experienced fly fishermen in the boat with the other guide couldn’t match my beginner’s luck. They groused later that their guide didn’t adapt his bait to the conditions as our guide did.

The next morning proved their assertion correct. We surrendered our guide to the other boat and got a new one, who happened to be a solid guide too. We caught enough fish to stay engaged with the river, but the boat with our former guide absolutely smoked us. My brother-in-law caught 16 fish, including the full Yellowstone Grand Slam.

The guide from our first day and their second day could look at the grass on the banks and tell when to switch lures. An hour later, he knew to switch to something bigger or smaller—and where to cast to take advantage of that adjustment. He knew the insect shapes and sizes that accompany specific weather and seasons. He’d drifted the rivers of southern Montana so long that the cracks in his weathered skin seemed like maps of the watershed in which he worked.

real estate imagery Ryan George underwater

I’m no river sage, but I’ve spent almost $2 million on Facebook advertising. Thousands of auctions into this livelihood, I’ve tried all different kinds of lures while fishing for bidders. Thanks to gracious and patient clients, I’ve been able to test different headlines, different imagery, and different ad delivery formats. One thing I’ve discovered is that prospective real estate buyers don’t respond equally to the various types of visuals in your ads. In fact, there seem to be defined strata in terms of efficiency of results. 

From my experience here are the four types of imagery from worst cost per click to best.

#4 Video

I don’t know if video performs so poorly for my clients’ ads because of the production quality of the video, because the videos typically don’t follow Facebook’s recommendations for video ads, or because of something else. But video ads typically have a cost per click multiple times that of photo-based ads. They’re usually not even close.

#3 Aerial

Generally, my clients use aerials when they don’t have ground shots of the subject property or when winter snow hides valuable details. Sometimes, they use aerials because the properties are in dire need of—well—redevelopment. I can’t tell you why aerials perform worse than the next two options, but my guess is that the detail that makes aerial imagery valuable is mostly lost at the scale in which it’s seen on our newsfeeds.

#2 Drone Shot

It makes sense that images from drones outperform aerials because they’re usually captured closer to the subject property. Also, they put the property in context with an oblique view. Property lines pop with a more dimensional perspective, and the height of capture makes the surrounding scenery look more beautiful thanks to that horizon line. If a property is close to a beach, a lake, a commercial area, or other landmarks, a drone shot shows proximity you don’t have to mention in the ad’s restricted text space.

#1 Eye-Level Photo

Humans are accustomed to seeing properties at eye level. We also want a close-up view—especially within the tight confines of a social media ad. Buyers want to know as much what they’re in for before they click that link. That doesn’t mean the photos need to be boring MLS inventory shots. Show that sweeping view from the porch or along the fence line. Take the photo from the top floor of that commercial building or the top of the grain elevator. Snap a field picture through the windshield of the combine or from the deer stand. Take a picture from a canoe looking back at the lake house or at sunset with all of the lights on. There are lots of ways—even with our phones—to take interesting images that will capture attention. But even the mundane standard photos will typically outperform aerials, videos, and even drone shots.

It’s good to try new lures. I recommend it, actually—as long as you’re testing it and measuring it against your baselines. The differences between properties can make it tough for an auctioneer or REALTOR® to get enough apples to compare with other apples. From the scale of my time on the Facebook river, though, I can highly recommend your imagery tackle box holds more eye-level and drone phots than other lures.

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229: Facebook’s Current Real Estate Targeting Options

In July of 2019, Facebook changed targeting options for real estate, employment, and financial product advertising to comply with federal anti-discrimination policies. (It has since added political advertising to the list of Special Ad Categories.) While that shift removed some valuable demographic and interest categories from our toolbox, the remaining options prove robust enough for the vast majority of auction properties I’ve advertised since then. Here’s a list of targeting options still available for sponsored ads and promoted posts.

Local Residents

Most real estate is purchased by local residents, and this audience does the heavy lifting—and often gets the lowest cost per click—on most of my real estate campaigns. Because targeting a small area or a specific zip code could be discriminatory, Facebook’s minimum radius for all real estate ads is currently 15 miles. We cannot target counties, and the maximum radius for all Facebook ads is 50 miles. Facebook does allow adding additional radii, but I typically don’t recommend that for this specific audience.

Current Visitors

This is a great option for vacation and recreation properties, particularly during seasons when visitors are likely. The most likely non-local people who would buy a property as an end-user or an investor are those who’ve at least visited the area. The minimum radius for the area visited is also 15 miles. 

Recent Visitors

If you missed a holiday weekend, opening day, or other critical high-traffic time, Facebook will allow you to target those who recently visited the area in question. The minimum radius for the area visited is 15 miles.

Website Traffic

If you have a Facebook Business Manager pixel installed on your website, you can serve ads and posts to people who visited your website for up to 180 days prior. You can narrow that source traffic to those who stayed on your site for a designated length of time, those who visited a specific page (like a similar property), and those who performed specific actions on that site. In order to generate a larger group from which to generate lookalikes, I usually leave this option as just those who visited the auction and/or catalog page. 

Third-party platforms like BidSpotter and Proxibid do not allow pixel installation, and I’ve only seen HiBid allow them in a couple of situations. In my experience, BidWrangler and MarkNet Alliance are the platforms that make adding a pixel easy.

Facebook Interactors

This option has more subcategories than the others shown so far. Just one of the submenus is shown below. Basically, you can target people who interacted with your Facebook content. Rather than getting in the weeds on some of these options, I generally use only one of two options: (1) “Everyone who engaged with your page” and (2) “People who engaged with any post or ad.” For my clients who don’t have a Facebook Business Manager pixel installed on their site, I use this audience as a proxy for website traffic.

Customer Lists

Facebook allows you to accept the indemnity for targeting by uploading customer lists to their black box for distribution. That list can be past buyers, past bidders, past sellers, direct mail recipients, and email subscribers. These lists comprise “warm” prospects: those familiar or at least acquainted at one time with your brand. The lists must have all pieces of information in separate columns (first name, last name, city, state, email address, etc.). The more columns of information in the CSV file, (1) the easier it is for Facebook to match the list with its database and (2) the smaller the list it needs to build an audience. We can’t know in advance how many records it will take for Facebook to find its minimum number of matches, but we can always upload a list to find out. Generally, it takes several hundred records for them to find the minimum number of matches. 

Purchased Lists

Using the customer list loophole, you can upload any list you purchase. For real estate auctions, you can purchase at least four types of lists. First, you can buy a consumer list based on demographics like income, net worth, home value, and even a few interest categories (like equestrian enthusiasts and those with hunting licenses). Second, you can buy business records with highest-ranking known employee based on an industry’s SIC code. Phone numbers and emails are often available for an extra fee and help with the match rate. Third, you can buy lists of landowners, sorted by contiguous acres owned and whether they live on that land or not. Consumers cost less per piece than businesses, which cost well less than landowners. At my list broker, the minimum list costs are $100, $100, and $250, respectively for these lists. Fourth, I’ve also had clients purchase lists of members from a state or national trade association. Those are typically more expensive, where available.

It’s important to know that neither you nor I can purchase a list of investors. We can query based on income, net worth, or acres owned but not on whether someone is a known real estate investor. We can query real estate investment trusts, property management firms, and real estate development corporations but not individuals who do this work. In fact, we can’t target anyone based on profession (like farmer or developer)—only the highest-known employees at companies from our selected designated SIC codes. I don’t recommend buying farm lists based on SIC codes. (1) Most farmers want to buy properties within 15 miles, and (2) a landowners list provides a more accurate data set.

Special Ad Audiences

If you’d like Facebook to replicate your web traffic, Facebook interactors, customer list, or purchased list, you’ll need to use the Special Ad Audience tool in Ads Manager. The process for creating this is identical to creating a Lookalike Audience for ads that aren’t designated for a Special Ad Category.

Which and how many of these audiences I recommend depends on the asset category, budget, and data resources at my client’s disposal. (I don’t give recommendations for what client budgets should be, by the way. I just anonymously show what my other clients have spent and achieved on their campaigns of similar assets.) 

Across almost $2 million of Facebook ads, I’ve seen sponsored ads outperform posts more than 99% of the time in getting people off Facebook to client websites. I’ve also found that photo ads outperform video ads, especially when using Ad Manager’s Dynamic Content tool. Facebook data shows that (1) more than 80% of video ads are played on mute and (2) ads with videos need to communicate their hook within the first 7 seconds. In fact, Facebook recommends that videos in ads be 15 seconds or shorter. 

If any or all of this seems confusing or overwhelming, you aren’t alone in that sentiment. Thankfully, you know a guy who creates almost 500 Facebook campaigns a year; and I’d be happy to take the complicated work of advertising real estate on Facebook off your hands.

Stock photo purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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225: The Easiest Way to Lower Your Facebook Costs for Personal Property Auctions

In July of 2019, Facebook changed its advertiser policies to align with federal anti-discrimination guidelines for employment, finance, and real estate. From that moment forward, we’ve not been able to target real estate ads toward people based on occupation, wealth categories, relationship status, education, and interests (like turkey hunting or riding equestrian). Our minimum geographic radius for real estate ads expanded to 15 miles to prevent using geography as a proxy for wealth or race. 

Facebook Ads Manager debuted Special Ad Audiences, a system for building lookalike audiences for ads in these Special Ad Categories. Over the last 24 months, we’ve been able to replicate past Facebook interactors, past website (pixel) traffic, in-house lists, and even purchased lists. While we can’t target real estate as narrowly as we can personal property, I’ve found that with some extra time we can still get efficient traffic within these parameters.

Special Ad Category

For personal property ads, though, we bump into no such hurdles or restrictions. If we want to target people who like Ritchie Bros and Machinery Trader, operate an excavator, and purchase used items, we can still target them. If we want to target middle-aged men who like kayak fishing but not deep sea fishing, we can serve ads to that specific audience. If we want people who like estate sales, Antiques Roadshow, and barn finds, we can easily serve ads just to those people. If we want farmers who like John Deere and TractorHouse but not FFA and The Progressive Farmer, we can narrow that tightly.

I wouldn’t, but you can.

Well, you can if you put your personal property auction on web pages that don’t mention real estate.

See, Facebook’s automated approval system doesn’t check only the content of the ads. It also evaluates the content of the pages to which you’re sending people who click on your ads. First, it checks for items and services on Facebook’s list of prohibited advertising content. Then, it checks to see if any of the content would fall under a Special Ad Category: real estate, finance, employment, and now political topics. If any of those contexts apply, so do the restrictions that come with them. Those Special Ad Category restrictions hamper the efficacy and efficiency of personal property ads far more than they do real estate.

So, the easiest way to make personal property ads more efficient is to list personal property and real estate auctions separately on your website. Even without Facebook, this should be your standard practice. The buyer pool for personal property is almost always larger than the real estate where it’s housed. That’s true of farm equipment, commercial machinery, estate collections, and business liquidations. Yes, there’s a little overlap in prospect markets but not as much as you might think. The Venn diagrams look more like binoculars than Olympic rings.

Your Facebook ads should use their limited text space only for the content of interest to each targeted audience. Hopefully, you have separate email lists for real estate and personal property (if not subcategories beyond those two main headings). If you’ve sorted your bidder database by asset type, you can use variable data printing to send postcards with different emphases to different prospect pools. Sure, mention the real estate on the equipment version or vice versa; but give more space to what each list wants to see first.

The better you match the content of your advertising to a buyer’s interest, the more likely they are to visit your website. When they get to that website, you want them to see primarily what drew them in the first place. Anything less gives them cognitive dissonance and makes you look less professional. Facebook is just pushing us to best practices.

Let your competitors throw everything together as though an auction is just a community event. Let them cram everything into one ad or email or sign. On your auctions, market each asset category to its likely buyers—and then grin as you cash those bigger commission checks from more motivated bidders.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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179: How to Build a Brand When Your Auctions Vary Greatly in Value

This is the second of two posts about advertising strategies from resort areas. (Here’s the first one.)

I had about an hour to kill before a meeting with an auctioneer in Camps Bay, a bustling community wedged between the mountains and the ocean at the southernmost tip of Africa. So, I did what I normally do in vacation destinations: I stopped by a few real estate offices to look at their advertising.

Every listing there was significantly more expensive than my house back in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but there was a wide range of prices—from $500,000 to $15,000,000. Despite that disparity, there wasn’t a wide range of design from one listing’s advertising to the next or even from one agency’s materials to the next.

Varied AssetsThe homogenous feel matched what I’ve seen in other resort or urban destinations but stood in stark contrast to what I’ve seen in the auction community.

Most auction companies book deals with a great disparity of values. And not just in real estate. Estates, business liquidations, and farm packages come in all shapes and sizes. So do their advertising campaigns.

Part of that makes sense, right? When a budget scales, why shouldn’t everything in the campaign get bigger and more expensive?

The answer to that question depends on what you’re trying to say to potential buyers and future sellers.

Uniformity makes your smaller listings look more valuable.

“Yeah, it’s easy when it’s luxury real estate,” you counter. First, tell that to a luxury asset broker. Second, proportions work regardless of the number of decimal places in the price. In Camps Bay, the top and bottom properties were separated by a factor of thirty. That means you can use this homogenous model, if you sell estates that range in value from $5,000 to $150,000 or farm equipment from $15,000 to $450,000 or real estate from $50,000 to $1,500,000.

Your biggest auctions won’t look shoddy, if they follow the consistent minimalism leveraged by premium global brands. Quite the contrary. Your small and medium auctions’ assets will look more valuable by association with your halo projects. That won’t go unnoticed by potential sellers of future small and medium auctions.

Trust a succinct first impression.

All advertising media apart from our website—our marketplace—should be treated as first impressions. It’s easier to have a premium and consistent advertising presence, when you simplify all advertising to the most intrinsic sales pitch and no more than a handful of supporting images.

Driving people to your website allows you to better track advertising response rates. After consistently collecting traffic data and comparing it to sales data, you’ll be better able to reach bidders and buyers and predict outcomes for future auctions—all because you forced yourself to say and show less with your first impressions. (One of my clients can predict within 5% the quantity of registered bidders his auctions will have based on Google Analytics the morning of his simulcast auctions.)

Consistency builds your brand more efficiently than fluctuation does.

If your brand’s impressions are inconsistent, the consumer either doesn’t connect current media to past ones they’ve seen; or they connect your brand with inconsistent asset values. So, that farmer on your mailing list who gets three different size postcards and two different-size brochures from you will wonder how you’d choose to advertise his assets, when it’s his turn to sell.

Also, buyers will assume the stuff crammed into small print media must not be valuable. Rather than send mail (or place newsprint ads) of different sizes or templates, distribute the exact same media layouts for every auction but to varying quantities of people (or different quantities of publication placements). Use Facebook’s Audience and Lookalike Audience tools to hit the folks you had to trim from direct mail.

Your advertising can grow cheaper.

If all your media requires just a few copy-and-pastes and a couple photo swaps, your pieces will become much cheaper to build. If in-house staff create your media, this saves you hourly wages and/or frees that staff to handle a wider bandwidth of projects. If you outsource, efficiency empowers you to negotiate lower design charges. You can spend that cost savings on professional photography or larger mailings or bigger Facebook audiences.

One of the reasons huge corporations overshadow small companies in advertising is that their wide reach forces them to simplify to consistent impressions. Simplification isn’t patented by big companies or luxury brands, and consistency doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want to grow your auction business or have more deals from which to choose, why not adopt some of that restraint?

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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4 Stats REALTORS Use That Auctioneers Don’t

A lot of airports use their interior billboards to advertise their respective metro area’s appeal. Usually, the signs tout the city’s hospitals, higher education, technology, entertainment district, or headquarters of international corporations. Walking through Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, I saw one that fit in none of these categories.

The headline: “Within 500 miles of 43% of the US population.”

I turned to my wife and asked, “What do I do with that information?” I mean, what difference does it make how many people live within 500 miles? That had to be the first time I’ve seen anyone bragging about 43% of anything. So weird.

I’ve actually seen an auctioneer do something similar, advertising a property as only 300 miles from a metro area. I’ve also seen a local real estate agent list Colonial Williamsburg—170 miles from here—as a “local attraction.” (I’ve lived here 13.5 years and never been there.)

Statistics can be powerful tools, though—especially when they support your assertions. I’ve seen small businesses take big sales away from large firms by capturing, sorting, analyzing, and explaining data their competition either didn’t have or didn’t use.

Seller Stats Postcard

Seller StatsMy wife and I live in a fast-growing subdivision in my area. People who don’t live in our subdivision get on our neighborhood’s Facebook page to ask if anyone’s thinking of moving. It’s in high demand because it’s the closest new subdivision to the schools in a coveted district. Also, we have the lowest property tax rates in the area. So, buyer agents are looking for sellers; and one local REALTOR tried to use statistics to tease us to leave.

If you’re auctioning real estate, you should consider using the statistics leveraged on this postcard in your seller presentations. In the seller proposals and presentations I’ve been asked to design over the last 13 years, I don’t need all of the fingers on one hand to count the times I’ve seen any of these used.

Number of Nearby Properties Sold

Only an absolute auction guarantees a sale, but you can give all sellers confidence in the market to bring buyers—if this number is significant. If it’s a low number, you can use that to educate sellers and massage their expectations. If you have a breakdown of properties auctioned vs. properties listed, this stat increases significantly in value.

Local Market Sales Rate

This information is apparently easy to find, because I’ve had multiple REALTOR friends show me this data at different times. This number compliments the first statistic and can give context to expectations. While a metro area or county might be trending one way on the aggregate, a specific slice of it may not. This is true of commercial, industrial, and agricultural real estate, too—even though the statistics might be harder to find or less concentrated than residential numbers.

Average Days on the Market

If this number is high, the time benefit of an auction will seem that much more valuable. If this number is low, the timeline of an auction is actually longer. In that case, you have to sell the competitive-frenzy aspect of auctions. Also, knowing this number might help you in your due diligence to know whether you should take the auction in the first place. (This number might be skewed a bit for our neighborhood, since builders often list their homes very early in the construction phase.)

List Price to Sale Price Average

This stat can indicate that sellers have good sales agents and/or that local comps are reliable, or it can suggest the opposite. If the number is above 100%, you can make the case for the value of a competitive-bidding marketplace. If it’s drastically below 100%, you can discuss how well-marketed auctions—not comps and appraisals—determine market value.

Auctioneers regularly tell me how much they want to work with REALTORS. Maybe they should first pursue working with their statistics.

Postcard scanned. Stock cover image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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137: 5 Ways to Generate More End User Bidding

There are essentially only two ways to grow your business: get more transactions or get bigger transactions.

For auctioneers, there are two ways to accomplish bigger transactions: book auctions for assets with a higher intrinsic value or create more demand for the assets we already sell.

This is usually the part where a bid caller will interject that an auction inherently creates a higher demand because of the competitive nature of price realization at an auction. I’ve been to enough auctions to know that to be true. At the same time, you and I both know that even this very real dynamic sometimes isn’t enough to achieve reasonable reserves (or decent absolute auction prices). I know this, because—when auction prices don’t match their reasonable estimates—auctioneers turn around and ask me what more we could’ve done to acquire bidders.

Sometimes, the timing is off. By that I mean market conditions don’t match with the seller’s situation or the seller’s schedule. Candidly, there are times when we could have done something more or something better with the advertising budget. Other times, the terms of the auction limit who can bid—attracting the investor class’ cash buyers but not retail consumers.

Consumers outnumber investors. So, if we want more bidders at our auctions to create more demand, it makes sense to pursue end users. Here are several ideas to attract consumers that I’ve seen in the auction industry. Some require significant shifts for the auctioneer, but I’ve heard good results from those who have adopted them.

Implement a “Buy It Now” option.

Buy It Now option

Online retailers now mix retail and auction options.

Buy It Now buttoneBay has been doing this for years and honing how it works. Why? Because consumers often don’t have time to wait for an auction to end. Traditional auctioneers push back against this feature because it bypasses the auction process. Could the item sell higher during the auction process? Sure. Could that purchaser also not participate in the live bidding (and push your other bidders) because their need was satiated by a more prompt option? Yes. Real estate auctioneers advertise “pre-auction offers welcomed” regularly. So, this isn’t a stretch for real estate; and eBay has proven it’s a good fit for personal property. This wouldn’t need to be an option for all items, either. Also, this would make far more sense for online-only auctions where there’s less of a halo effect than at live, on-site auctions. Obviously, special language would need to be crafted in absolute auction contracts unless this is used only in minimum bid/reserve auctions.

Allow item returns.

So much for “as is where is.” This would rock the industry more than a Buy It Now button. That said, I’ve seen it done by an auction company for whom I’ve worked. The returned items get recycled into a subsequent auction, and the consumer gains confidence in their bidding. Return PolicyObviously, this isn’t for every asset category or even every item within an asset category. For those auction companies who could handle the auction terms and logistics, though, this could gain a higher price ceiling for all items on the aggregate—because consumers wouldn’t be hedging their bets.

Order & publish home inspection reports.

Real estate auction firms around the country are already doing this, but they are in the minority. Even if the terms remain “as is where is,” you can raise the price ceiling by letting the consumer know in advance what issues will need to be addressed. Consumers will compensate for the cost of remedying those issues in their bid, but that compensation will probably be smaller than the hedge on a mystery. Also, this disclosure is a good brand strategy to developing trust in the marketplace. I doubt home inspections are cheap. The question—after your own property evaluation—is whether or not it would pay for itself.

Home InspectionAdvertise where consumers congregate.

Auctioneers tend to congregate their advertising where other auctioneers advertise. I understand the defense: “We have to be in that paper, because we don’t want people to think we’re doing less business than our competition.” But what if this contest is being held where end users don’t gather? In past auction polling, one auction company for whom I’ve worked found that the paper with the largest circulation in their market brought the fewest bidders and that an inexpensive regional paper brought a lot of bidders—with a much lower budget hit. Let the other companies waste their advertising budgets, competing in empty arenas. Use Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, auction polling, and other analytical tools to find where consumers hear about you; and spend your money there.

Write advertising copy from a consumer perspective.

The vast majority of auctioneers suck at Facebook marketing and design their print media backwards, too. Their marketing message is out of order, emphasizing what’s important to the auctioneer instead of what’s important to the buyer. Consumers are interested in assets they want, not events you’re hosting. PerspectiveSo, don’t headline with auction information. Some of the most effective auction advertising doesn’t even use the word auction—or uses it only at the bottom of the advertisement. Why? If a consumer doesn’t want an item, they don’t care that there’s an auction event, let alone what date it is. If they do want that item, where they get it is less important for them that the attributes of the item they want.

The difference between wholesale and retail prices should be enough incentive to investigate changes to our workflow, terms, and marketing. Your path to consumer-driven prices might be on very different paths than these five options. That’s okay. What’s important is that we’re interacting with the marketplace, evaluating our processes based on the feedback we gather, and then making changes to our practices to adapt.

Feature image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. Others linked to sources.

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