Last Will and Testament

89: The Ebay Rule for Advertising Estates

Pederson Estate

It might sound macabre, but one of the least volatile segments of the auction industry seems to estate liquidations.  I can’t imagine how awkward it must be for auctioneers to advertise and sell estate liquidation services, as family emotions and situations are bigger than the inanimate balance sheets that drive many of other auction segments.

So, I understand when an auctioneer tries to honor their sellers and/or their loved ones by headlining their advertising with “The Estate of John & Jane Doe.”

I get the request for such on a regular basis by well-meaning auctioneers, and I usually push back against the request.  It’s not that I don’t want to honor lives with well-earned legacies.  It’s not that I don’t understand that my design fees and the cost of the media I’m designing are paid by the sweat of their lifetimes.

It’s just that I’m paid to design the most effective media possible.

Krause CatalogSee, we only get a few seconds to land our marketing message; and that means we have to put information in the order of importance to the buyer—not the seller.  Unless who owned the property is more important than what the property is, the seller’s name shouldn’t be the headline.  If we give consumers information they don’t care about at the outset, we’re wasting their time and squandering precious chances that they’ll keep reading.

I call it “the Ebay rule for advertising estates.”  It works like this: if you were to list what you’re selling on Ebay [or Google or Amazon, etc.], what would be your headline?

If you’re selling a car from Jay Leno’s garage, you leverage his fame in the headline.  If you’re selling the typewriter that Edward R. Murrow used to write his news briefs, you lead with his name.  If you’re selling the garage tools for a beloved, local high school English teacher, you headline the line of matching DeWalt equipment.

“Well, this isn’t an auction the whole country would care about,” or “This guy was well known in his community,” you might retort.  If that’s the case, the local community probably already knows about their passing.  If not, a retrospective press release might be a gracious gesture and even an effective marketing tool to increase interest in your ensuing auction.

Yes: a previous owner’s reputation can influence the price items bring.  And this important moment in their legacy deserves to be recognized—just not headlined in the advertising.  My clients often include pictures of their sellers, regularly with kind words about their contribution to the community and the care of their belongings.  You should consider doing the same, when space and budget allow.

Fellows PostcardOne exception to “the Ebay rule for advertising estates” that I’ve learned to appreciate is the person with niche notoriety—typically a well-known collector.  I’ve worked for an auctioneer marketing a multi-million-dollar automotive collection [not an estate] from the founder of car and collecting magazines.  I’ve recently helped two auction companies jointly auction literally almost an entire town, owned by a family known for almost a century for the unique inventory of their multiple specialty warehouses.  (The auction companies even brought in historians to have displays on site at the three-day auction to answer questions and relay the rich history not eh auction block.)  I’ve assisted an auctioneer selling a mass of very specific estate items from a philanthropist known for his collection of hunting and fishing items.  At all of these auctions, people showed up in droves to purchase something that had higher value because of the reputation of the seller.

If your audience would investigate a collection because of who owned it, by all means use the seller’s popularity to their advantage.  But if the seller isn’t the selling point, stick to the facts important to the buyers in your advertising headlines.

Taking It Personally

I play basketball at the YMCA for 60 to 90 minutes just about every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—and have for the past three years.  I love it, even though I’m frustratingly not as good as my height should allow.  I still haven’t learned the pick and roll; I struggle to know when to help on defense and when to stick with my defensive assignment.  Embarrassingly, my layup percentage is probably in the same ballpark as Shaq’s free-throw efficiency.

Jesus couldn’t trust me with athletic talent.  I would’ve been a punk.

That’s why I have a great respect for Christian athletes who have received more than their fair share of dexterity, strength, and speed—and handled it with grace, humility, and candor.  I particularly applaud the star athletes of the I Am Second campaign.  They are actually leveraging their sports accomplishments for the One who made them possible.

I aspire to follow in Colt McCoy’s example with the modicum of talent I have with my words and my business.  I would love to leverage my accomplishment for the kingdom.  This section of my AdverRyting posts is just a small step in that direction.

What could you be doing to leverage your strengths for the One who gave them to you?

Stock image of menu image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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