The interesting thing is that it doesn’t take much more time to use the above principles than not to use them. What they do require is courage to move away from auction industry standards toward communication principles proven to be more attractive and effective in the marketplace. It’s not about creativity—at least not in my daily work.
The irony is that Bonhams showed more restraint for expensive items than we often do with much lesser lots. Maybe it’s not ironic, since most of us sell utilitarian items instead of luxury goods. Regardless, while it’s impractical for most auctioneers to put these principles in action to the degree Bonhams did, we can all move in these directions for advertising that competes in the marketplace—not just in the auction industry.
I’m not trying to make the case that auctioneers should use repurposed cardboard to promote their auctions and their businesses. It’s just that we would all benefit from more succinct, more candid, and more restrained advertising media.
This practice can wipe some of the myopia off the lens through which we evaluate our advertising. It can also lead us to dismantle how we build our media and become more intentional with our creative processes—with both large, conceptual decisions and seemingly-small choices. The ensuing conclusions might not lead us to the best practices; but they should, at least, lead us to more self-aware and purposeful marketing.
For asset or auction promotion, we need to know that if someone isn’t interested in the headline attributes of an asset, they don’t need to know any more. We need to know that if someone isn’t motivated enough to go to our website for unabbreviated terms, room dimensions, or serial numbers, they probably aren’t motivated enough to attend a property inspection, register for the auction, or participate in bidding.
Don’t take it from me. Take it from one of the most successful auction marketers in the country, a vice president of an auction company that regularly posts sales above $100 million per year. We were talking about his company’s direct mail strategy, and he hit me with one of the most important pair of sentences I’ve heard during my 15-year career.
Now, printing five or ten folders takes only hours. Prices vary according to quantity but are very affordable for most campaigns, especially compared to the old production method’s costs. You can have a custom folder for a proposal, for an auction bidder’s packet, for a settlement folder. You could even use variable data so that different recipients’ names and/or different photos are shown on their respective pieces.