Tag : signs

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Reach the Bidders You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

There’s a sneaking suspicion in many auction marketers—and definitely in their sellers. We wonder if there was a stone unturned, a motivated bidder that wasn’t reached by our advertising.

Did we cast a big enough or tight enough net?

Missing Bidders PosterWhat people weren’t in our mailing list broker’s database?
Who didn’t read the newspaper during the weeks prior to the auction?
Who didn’t drive past our sign out on the highway?
Did any emails go unopened or straight to junk folders?
Did we choose the right demographic selectors on Facebook?

The auction community prides itself in bringing the whole market to bear on an asset at once. We tell potential sellers that we’ll deliver true market value. We rightly trumpet our concentrated advertising campaigns.

Still, there’s that whisper, that gnawing question—especially when the auction price is low and even more so when it was an absolute auction. Did we find everybody?

One of the biggest developments in advertising over the past couple of years has been a partial solution to that mystery. This development has made mailing lists more powerful, web traffic more valuable, and Facebook just short of necessary for finding buyers.

Big Data for Small Businesses

In addition to the vast amount of data users give Facebook about themselves, Facebook also buys data from outside sources and matches that information to its user base. Bank and mortgage lender records. Vehicle ownership. Purchase histories. Web site visits. As a result, this data gets woven into an astounding web of connected dots. Using advanced algorithms, Facebook can then match people with common denominators.

So, after you find the people you think are likely buyers, Facebook can find people who look just like your intended audience. With Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool, both purchased lists and in-house lists can be matched with people just like them for use in Facebook ads.

With the free Facebook Pixel code installed on your website, you can also now direct Facebook ads to people who recently visited your auction’s page or the page of a similar auction on your site. Then, with the Lookalike Audience tool, you can advertise to people who look just like the people who came to your website.

Over the course of your advertising campaign, as more and more people view your auction’s page on your site, Facebook can learn more and more about the people coming to your site and hone the audience of your Facebook ads.

Facebook Loop

So, whether you start with just a Facebook list of demographics [B] or if you upload lists to Facebook [A], you can create a set of ads that learn and improve their effectiveness over time. You can access an automated database that keeps getting more robust. Your advertising can reach people in the cracks between the groups of people you can find yourself.

An Impressive But Imperfect Solution

Is this Facebook solution circle a silver bullet? No. This is just one medium that reaches less than 80% of the population. Does this mean you’ll definitely find more and better bidders? No, but it’s a superlative start. It’s a more robust solution than what you’ve got now.

Could this concept confront our ignorance? Absolutely.

Recently, I’ve noticed that several of my clients’ Lookalike Audience ads have significantly outperformed not only their uploaded lists but also the Facebook audiences built with the demographic selectors we chose for prospective buyers. In other words, Facebook knew who would visit these websites better than I or my clients did. For the decades of auction marketing experience between all of us, that’s humbling.

It’s also exciting. Now, our lists of past bidders and email subscribers are more valuable. Now, our web traffic can be more meaningful. Now, purchased lists don’t have to be exhaustive. We just need to find a critical mass to get the ball rolling.

Now, we can find the people we weren’t finding—even with our best laid plans.

Illustration built by request from Fiverr.com
Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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172: YouTube Has Revealed What It Knows About Your Auction Buyers

YouTube is now the second largest search engine in North America. Web surfers watch almost five billion YouTube videos every single day.1 It’s a safe bet that Google, who owns the video streaming service, is learning a lot from all of the data it’s collecting. That data must be valuable enough for Google to lose $1.8 billion a year to keep YouTube up and running.2

One of the things YouTube knows from that data is the approximate average length of our collective attention span. To acclimate to this, they’ve made many of their advertisers’ ads skippable after five . . . long . . . seconds. That span of time even comes with a countdown clock to assure YouTubers that their wait is almost over.

YouTube 4 Seconds

To get their full message across, advertisers must make the first five seconds of their commercial compelling enough for viewers to avoid that skip button. At the average rate of an English speaker, that’s about 12 words—assuming words start immediately.

Five seconds. 12 words.

YouTube Skip

Many auctioneers don’t believe Americans have a short attention span.

  1. Their signs and newspaper ads are compressed brochures, not teasers to their websites.
  2. Their headlines are generic, throwaway labels like “real estate” and “farm equipment” when a picture of the asset(s) makes the asset category obvious.
  3. They talk about the buying method (auction), the date of that auction, the type of bidding in that auction (online and/or on-site) and the presence or absence of a reserve before they talk about the asset.
  4. Their company brochures would take several minutes to read.
  5. They mail tabbed brochures with the most attractive panels on the inside and the terms, directions, and open house dates on the outside.
  6. They put their logo at the top of their emails instead of at the bottom.
  7. They lead with the name of an estate—a name that doesn’t belong to a celebrity that would be the reason why someone wants the asset.
  8. They duplicate the content from the front of their postcard to the back, crowding the impression on both sides.

How do I know the above realities are true? Because I get paid to design auction advertising media in these ways. Every week. Because auctioneers post scans of their fliers and post them on Facebook. Because even some of the pieces that win national auction industry awards violate the laws of attention span.

By the way, those five seconds for YouTube seem long, because our attention span for other media is even shorter than YouTube or Google demonstrate with the five-second countdown. For social media like Facebook, you’re looking at less than half of that. For people sorting through their mail, two seconds would be a long time to capture their attention. Same goes for email subject lines.

Social commentators speculate that the trend to shorter attention spans is attributed to smart phone usage. Mobile Internet use might be causation or correlation, but your own Google Analytics will show you that the trend is only growing. There’s no putting the attention span genie back in the bottle.

So, how do you adapt to this shrinking attention span? For starters, get off the bulleted list you just read. Second, before you post any information in any format for your advertising campaign, work on the 10 words or less to use as the talking point for the auction. (We teach a whole module on how to do this well at the Auction Marketing Management designation course.)

If you get really courageous, cut everything out of your advertising media except this tease, the most necessary information, and a call to action. Then put the rest of your content on your website.

1YouTube Company Statistics” Statistic Brain, September 1, 2016.

234 Mind Blowing YouTube Facts, Figures, and Statistics — 2016” Danny Donchev, FortuneLords.com, September 21, 2016.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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152: 5 Ways to Know If Your Offline Media is Working

Thanks to Google Analytics, it’s both free and easy now to track individual banner ads, listing pages, and social media posts. For auction companies with certain kinds of online bidding platforms, it’s also now possible to decipher which of those digital media directly produce bidders and buyers.

But how do you know if your physical media is working? How do you A/B test to know what headlines and photos and layouts make your offline media more effective?

Tangible media like signs, print ads, and direct mail can be tracked, but it’s less scientific. Like email reporting, uncontrollable variables make accurate reporting all but impossible. Collected data might be insightful and potentially representative, though, even if it’s not exhaustive or proportional.

There are five basic ways to track your offline media’s performance. Each comes with at least one drawback to compliment the data it provides. You can use several of these at once per medium to get a bigger, better picture of their efficacy and efficiency.

Custom QR Codes

QR codes are free to generate. You can create custom URLs with Google URL Builder that allow you to tag the media type (or publication), the campaign name, and more. You can create multiple custom URLs for the same campaign—one each per advertising expression. You can then convert each of those URLs into different QR codes to place in different advertising media. Google Analytics will then report their results separately.

The downside to this tracking method is the QR code itself. In the time it takes to find their QR code reader app on their phone and then scan the code, the recipient is more likely to just Google search your company or asset—or ask Siri to search for them. Then, your recipient shows up in Google Analytics as an organic search result. Nobody, even Google, can tell you what medium led someone to search for your assets, events, or services.

Alternate URLs

URLs are cheap, especially in proportion to most of the hundreds of campaign budgets I see each year. The idea here is to use different web addresses in different media. When the recipient types in that address, they are redirected to your website (or a landing page on your site). Google Analytics shows this as a referring site in your audience acquisition list.

Believe it or not, but my clients and I have been able to easily find great URLs to use. One of my clients uses the same URLs for the same individual media across all campaigns. I also have clients who buy URLs for specific auctions, especially when they’re working outside of their normal asset category or normal geographic area.

The biggest mistake I see made with this method is choosing long or complicated URLs. There are a lot of options, if you use the word “bid” instead of “buy” or “auction.” Once you make it easier to Google your company name, these URLs become less likely to be used—let alone accurately trackable.

I’ve talked to entrepreneurs worried about diluting their URL branding with this method. If you do a good job branding your media and crafting your online user experience, though, consumers will remember your brand. Every day, we click on tons of links with a gazillion characters. Alternate URLs will not be a consumer deterrent.

Multiple Phone Numbers

For half a century, advertisers have used different phone numbers in different media to track interactions. Multiple service providers now allow you to plug multiple phone numbers into an online tracking system. On top of recording phone calls and showing you at what point in your phone tree they hung up, some of these companies can even tie these phone call statistics into Google Analytics.

The Internet has nurtured more and more of Western Culture into self-helpers. A large portion of Americans would rather text than engage in a phone call. An even greater percentage of people would rather grab information online than ask a sales representative, especially over the phone. So, you might not get enough phone traffic to give you actionable intel.

Personal URLs (PURLs)

This variable-data technology creates a URL with custom codes at the end of a branded URL. Often times, advertisers use the recipient’s name as the part that follows the “/“ in the web address. You can point these URLs to custom landing pages or to websites with variable data that conforms to a subscriber’s stated interests. (Universities use this when mailing to high schoolers, since the motivations for college life are diverse.) Service providers offer both proprietary reporting and integration with Google Analytics.

Again, the challenge here is to make the URL as short as possible or as appealing as possible. You have to sell the recipient’s personal benefit of that destination enough to overcome the cumbersome amount of typing. Otherwise, the user is likely to Google search around your extra effort.

Transactional Polling

For onsite events and live transactions it’s easy to ask bidders and buyers how they heard about your auction. It can also be a required multiple-choice toggle for online bidding. Since purchasers are more valuable than online viewers, this is the most important analytic to capture.

The problem is that self-reporting has proven to be suspect at times. For one thing, bidders or buyers sometimes can’t remember where they learned about your auction. (One of my clients had bidders report a medium he didn’t even use.) For another, some people will inadvertently report the medium they prefer. If your other media tracking runs parallel with your polling results, this data is valuable, though.

In a digital world, print media has the potential to be a tangible disruptor and a more personal interaction. Direct mail allows a broader range of sizes and formats than online media. When produced and placed well, signs are often the leading medium for obtaining auction buyers. Just because it’s more difficult to track them doesn’t mean they are necessarily less effective.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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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

66: Mug Shot Marketing

State Farm BillboardOn the way home from a North Carolina airport Monday, I passed a vibrant-red billboard (similar to the one above) with a giant human head pictured next to an insurance company logo and white letters that spelled something like, “You’re a name not a number.”

I found it ironic, since the appeal was made impersonally to a bunch of cars probably sold to the advertiser as “traffic count per day.” It was trite—a line entrepreneurs have made meaningless right next to “We specialize in customer service.”

But it got me thinking about a question I’ve been asked multiple times from small business marketers: “Should I put my picture in my advertising?”

The answer to that question depends on your profession and sometimes—hard truth—how attractive you are.

So, who CAN market themselves with portraits?

Politicians & Professional Speakers
Politics is big business, and your brand is wrapped around your personal image. That doesn’t mean all political materials need to have your likeness to be effective; but you get a pass on marketing with your pearly whites. If you have ever earned a sizable appearance fee, your audience already knows you like the spotlight. In either case, selling your face won’t make you seem any more arrogant—I mean, confident (sorry)—than you already are.

Athletes & Famous Chefs
If you’re trying to extend your financial security in your free time—and leverage your personality or body of work, your image might help sell your product or service. It has already been sold by TV networks and other appearances. You’ve got a photo excuse, even though your name may be enough to sell what you’re selling.

Media Celebrities & Personalities
If you’ve appeared regularly or significantly on screens or through speakers, pictures of you might help sell your work. More than likely, though, you’re not making the advertising decisions and answering the phone, as someone else is marketing your appearance. But if you’re pushing a post-reality-TV career, help yourself to public face time. And if you’re Chuck Norris—well, just know that everyone is too scared to buy what you’re selling.

Gynecologists & Proctologists
Some (though not all) women I know say they prefer women OBGYN physicians over their male counterparts; and maybe guys feel better about prostate rectal exams administered by other dudes—don’t know . . . haven’t crossed that bridge yet. If you work in gender-specific professions, you’ll get a pass, too. You may not always be able to illustrate exactly what you do with stock images, but you may be able to find a creative solution to illustrate the end result. Otherwise, your public proof of gender may be an asset to you.

Personal Trainers & Nutritionists
If you’re the result of what you’re selling, illustrate it. It doesn’t hurt to show the ramifications others have experienced; don’t neglect those—especially if they’re famous. But people want to see that you practice what you preach. That said, your picture doesn’t need to be the brand; so, don’t shy away from logos and other creative campaign imagery.

Baby Sitters & Nannies
Baby sitters don’t buy billboards or wrap their cars. It’s probably best for parents to use other family members or someone from a trust-fostering social group rather than strangers. But if you’re putting fliers in newspaper boxes or selling your child-supervision door-to-door, you might want to show that your face isn’t pierced too much to make it through airport security or framed in skull and evil clown tattoos.

Who should NOT market themselves with portraits?

Bench Seat
People like this local entrepreneur, pictured on a Kroger waiting bench; if you need me to explain, your friends may be carrying secret cameras for Stacy and Clinton. Faith healers who wear glasses—still don’t understand that visual irony. All ministers, actually. (If Mother Teresa wouldn’t, you probably shouldn’t either.) Divorce lawyers like this fellow. People who previously appeared in post office wanted posters. Currently-profitable drug dealers.

And probably you.

Sorry. If you don’t fit squarely in one of the above-bolded categories, your face is probably taking the place of either (1) more and better sales content and/or (2) white space to give your advertising breathing room. I know what you’re going to say: “But I’m an agent trying to sell myself, not just my [umbrella] company.” But does your face sell what you sell? Could you, instead, create a personal logo or advertising theme? Could you brand a creative URL or phone number? If you work for yourself, you hopefully passed on the chance to name your business after yourself and grabbed something memorable. This will give you more flexible branding options. (I have never regretted naming my design company after an open-cockpit aircraft.)

See the problem is that your brand should be uniform and everywhere, and we humans age faster than our logos. Your profile shot can sit next to your bio on your web site and maybe even on your business card, where people interact with it only by choice. But if people don’t want what you’re selling, more than likely, they won’t buy it because “they look like a nice person.” Don’t kid yourself: if your looks don’t get you a free lunch, they probably won’t get you business.

If you are going to market your mug shot, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Vehicle Wraps

  • Pay or barter for professional photography.
  • Have pictures taken from both right and left angles to give future advertising more flexibility.
  • Request both full body (preferably standing) and head shots.
  • Ask your photographer for high-resolution, masked images (those cut out from their backgrounds), and request both .JPG and .PSD versions of such. Even if you can’t open the files, keep them on hand to give to your designer and media outlets. (An advance thanks on behalf of whichever graphic designer you hire to handle these in your advertising.)
  • And go all in. If you do signs, billboards, vehicle wraps, brochures, newspaper ads, etc., you want your marketing to be consistent. Use the same look across all media as closely as possible, and realize that you’ll need to update your materials on an annual or biannual basis.

[tip]

I’ll just put it on the table: one of the hardest parts of the Christian life is living in full, willing understanding of the fact that our lives our meant for one purpose: when people see us, they should see Jesus. I pray for that on Sunday mornings, when I take my directional antics to my church’s parking lot. Sometimes, I even pray that over my hangar time.

But it’s too easy to work on my Ryan brand, the one I’ve so well crafted and curated for public consumption. As an often-insecure business owner, sometimes I take biplane’s image-building past healthy levels, too. My mug gets in the way.

Thankfully, we are not without example. Christ came and showed us what a self-abandoned life looks like. While people knew him for his miracles and captivating oratory skills, Jesus was able to say with heaven’s approval: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

I’m not there yet, but I hope that each year the people around me can see more and more of the one who planned my birth, my life path, and my gifts—for his glory. How ’bout you? What parts of your life are obstructing other people from seeing God alive in you?

[footer]Vehicle wrap images used by permission from Barbra Bannon of Cranky Creative.
Billboard image from this uncopyrighted gallery.[/footer]

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46: A Good Sign [for Auctioneers]

For 12 years, my driveway started on US-50 northwest of Ocean City, MD. From my bedroom, I could see three or four billboards trying to get beach traffic to spend some money locally. For good reason: a quarter of a million cars tripped the toll booth ticker each summer weekend—none of them from where the highway started in West Sacramento, CA.

According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), our country holds 450,000 billboards. If you were to relocate them all to US-50, that’d be one every 36 feet—for 3,073 miles. That’s a lot of advertising space!

Traditionally, billboards have been a poor fit for auctioneers, who don’t have time in their condensed marketing periods for the production schedule. Plus, most traditional billboard contracts require months or a full year of commitment and/or have periodic leases—where you have to wait until another’s lease expires.

But new LCD billboards, though currently less than 1% of available billboard space,† are changing the rules and rapidly growing in number.†† Digital billboards can now convert high traffic areas into prime auction advertising environments.

Digital billboards don’t require the printing cost or installation time of their paper or vinyl counterparts. Images are streamed via Internet or similar technology. Those images can rotate throughout the day or throughout the marketing period. (I helped an auctioneer with one digital billboard that had four different signs rotate for the same auction.)

Poll Results

Digital billboards can also be embedded with variable data, like weather indicators or forecast reports, sports scores or news headlines, date or countdown clocks—or even, as this picture from the OAAA shows from Tuesday night: election updates. So, you could have data that changes within a particular design like, “23 Days Until Auction” or “2 Open Houses Remaining.” Or you could have different auctions (or different items within the same auction) advertised on the same day. You can even have different messages in the morning than at night.

Digital billboards are more accessible to small business, because you share the sign with other advertisers, whose ads rotate with yours (typically, every 6-10 seconds††). While this means less face time per advertiser, it means more affordable packages. This system also allows the sign company to insert your ad(s) for short periods of time—perfect for event promotion like auctions.

Like auctions, digital billboards bring more action to a traditional transaction, in this case between advertiser and viewer. As more and more of these signs enter the marketplace, more auctioneers will have a chance to add value and diversity to their marketing budgets. Will you be one of them?

Watchfire, a national presence in outdoor LED signage, has this great report on 10 things to know before jumping into digital billboard advertising.

This OAA case study on a Midwest real estate company that switched from newsprint to variable billboards might interest you, too.

If your office has a prime location, you can install a smaller LED sign that exclusively advertises your content. I found this Watchfire report to contain insightful tips when considering that.

Special thanks to Ken Klein, Executive VP for the OAAA, for help with and content for this article.

Taking It Personally

Many people think they’ve got to get their junk straight before they can commit to Christ. Whether it’s kicking a tobacco habit or dropping out of the bar scene, getting back together with their estranged spouse or putting together a streak of church attendance—there are lots of self-made reasons I’ve heard people create as stepping stones to surrender to Jesus. It’s almost like it’s a time-release deal or a college course with prerequisites. “Yeah, when I settle down and clean up my act, then I’ll take another look at the church deal.”

Most people don’t know this, but Jesus doesn’t want us to clean up our acts. He wants to do that, so that he gets the glory for it. His love cannot be expressed as unconditional, if we can earn it. Like the Statue of Liberty, he asks us to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Like an LCD billboard, his work shines brightest against the backdrop of our dark lostness.

We can instantly access the Holy Spirit, the breath and presence of a living God, through instant, authentic release of our will to his holy Gospel—his sovereign Way, his saving mercy, his renewing grace. We don’t have to wait to clean ourselves with filthy rags, scouring with penance until we reach our personal limitations. We can don glowing, glimmering robes of his righteousness the moment repentance is true in our hearts.

“What is Digital Outdoor?” www.WatchFireDigitalOutdoor.com
†† “Advertising Trends: Digital Billboards,” www.The MarketingSpotBlog.com[/footer]

 

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