Tag : facebook-pixel

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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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Apple’s new privacy policy is changing my Facebook strategy.

As you may have read in the news, Apple and Facebook are battling over user privacy. In the pending update to the Apple operating system, they are introducing App Tracking Transparency. This will allow users of iPhones and iPads to opt out of website tracking. For Apple’s users who choose not to be tracked, all cookies and pixels will be disabled.

What this means for auction marketers on Facebook 

It’s safe to assume that many Apple users will choose not to be tracked, which will impact Facebook advertising in the following ways:

• Landing Page Views and Cost Per Landing Page View data will now be incomplete.
• Audiences based on pixel traffic will be based on smaller data sets and thus be less accurate.
• Optimizing ads for Landing Page Views will be negatively impacted.
• We won’t be able to capture and clone the traffic to websites that arrives from sources other than Facebook for use in Facebook ads.

Who stands to lose the most

The auction companies that will be most impacted by this change:
• those that advertise & sell in multiple asset categories at the same time
• those who do not have Google Analytics installed on their proprietary site
• those whose ads point to third party bidding platforms, where Google Analytics data is typically not available
• those using advanced conversion tracking (this applies to none of my Facebook clients)

The workaround I’ve used for years

For the past six years, I’ve advertised hundreds (if not thousands) of auctions for companies who don’t have a Facebook pixel on their website. So, I’ve got lots of experience in a workaround option. Facebook allows advertisers to advertise to people who’ve interacted with ads or posts. That allows us to advertise to lookalikes of people who responded to ads on the various Facebook platforms and/or re-market to those responders. If you advertise [1] to the same audiences for most of your auctions or [2] only one auction at a time, efficacy and efficiency don’t change much from ads based on pixel traffic.

How I plan to adapt Facebook ads for my clients

For clients who do not currently use a Facebook pixel, they will see no changes to their ad targeting or post-campaign reports.

For clients who do use a Facebook pixel (yours or mine), I will be making some adaptive adjustments to campaigns. Apple has not given a date for when this iOS change will go into effect. When the change goes live, I will change optimization from Landing Page Views to Link Clicks. Facebook allows us to combine Custom Audiences on ads. So, when I use a pixel-based audience, I can also include an interactor audience. If my client would rather see how this change is impacting traffic cost and reporting, I can also build pixel-based and interactor-based ads separately to A/B test the results. 

How to get the reporting data that will be lost

For auctioneers whose websites allow UTM codes (almost every one of my clients), every ad we create can include a unique tracking code that can be tracked in real-time in our Google Analytics. It can be found in the Source Medium column under the All Traffic section of your Acquisitions tab. The equivalent of Facebook’s “Landing Page Views” are shown in Google Analytics as “Visits.” 

My personal thoughts

This shift in user-determined privacy was inevitable. If Apple hadn’t forced its hand, this move would probably have been mandated by the legislative branch or by the results of a lawsuit. 

In some ways, this levels the playing field for family-size businesses. This change will impact Fortune 500 advertisers far more than it will small businesses that have developed their own niche. Advertisers tracking multiple conversions like bidder registrations, bidding activity, form submissions, etc. will lose far more data than any of my clients (and most of the auction industry) will. The results you’ve seen me tout here and on social media were achieved without that advanced cookie/pixel data.

Facebook allows us to update our list-based audiences at any time, even while ads are running. Auctioneers who capture the bidder data for each of their asset categories and who store them in searchable or separate databases can gain a competitive advantage over those scrambling with this transition. 

This is a seismic shift. For most people reading this, though, there is little reason to panic. We can still have incredibly targeted and efficient ads on the most pervasive social media platform in our country.

Image provided by Apple

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221: 8 Things to Cut From Your Facebook Ads to Improve Their Performance

Last year, Facebook really did the auction industry a favor. I don’t mean that sarcastically. It definitely helped me serve auctioneers better. In July of 2019, Facebook drastically reduced the amount of text that would fit into their ads and would show on posts in user newsfeeds. Facebook’s internal analytics showed that ads longer than their new limits were less effective than those with short copy. So, it forced advertisers to cut to the chase in a way they aren’t required to do in direct mail, email, and newsprint. Those restrictions made it easier for me to convince auctioneers to cut superfluous copy for only the most important sales copy.

Here’s a list of a few of the common items I regularly cut to make room for what actually attracts consumers.

Seller Name

Unless the seller is (A) a celebrity or (B) a vendor from which our target audience already purchases the items you’re selling, your seller’s name is not sales copy. Sure, a buyer might pay more for a tractor because they knew that specific farmer always took care of his stuff; but they don’t care about the condition of a gravity wagon unless they’re already interested in a gravity wagon. That minister or teacher or veterinarian may be a beloved member of your community, but nobody outside of their family will buy their three-bedroom ranch because they owned it. Put the seller name and even an auctioneer’s note about them on your website. But do that seller a favor, and get people to that website first.

“Estate”

Facebook’s bots often flag this word to make ads comply with their real estate restrictions. That alone is worth avoiding this word. But we don’t sell estates. We sell items. Kill phrases like “an estate filled with” and use that space to add more item or category mentions. On your website, I’d replace “estate” with a substitute like “lifetime collection” or just “collection” to keep those bots at bay and let your personal property ads use the full gamut of Facebook’s targeting tools.

“Real Estate”

If you have to tell someone the asset you just adequately described is real estate, they aren’t a likely buyer. Even if (1) you’re selling both real estate and personal property and (2) the Venn diagram of the likely buyers of both is the same, you should be advertising the real estate and equipment separately. If you’re advertising a business liquidation in which the intellectual property, real estate, and contents sell together, use “commercial building” or “retail location” or “3,250±SF facility,” or “warehouse” instead of “real estate.”

“Only”

On the text below the photo, slideshow, or video in a Facebook ad, every single character counts. Even if that weren’t true, you don’t need the “only” in “online only auction.” If it’s a simulcast auction, I use “Bid on-site or online.” If the bidding happens exclusively online, the absence of a mention of offline bidding says “only” for you.

“-“

I just straight refuse to hyphenate online to on-line for clients. When you look at the Google Trends comparison of the use of “online” vs “on-line,” you would never use “on-line” ever again. It’s 2020, we’re all online. Even people still using AOL email addresses.

Open House/Inspection Information

The date of an open house often influences when I schedule ads to run, but I don’t mention previews & property tours in the ads. People don’t care when they can view something if they don’t first know what they want to view. Sell them thoroughly on the assets, and get them to your website. If they don’t have enough motivation to click to your website for a few seconds, they don’t have the motivation to drive to your inspection. If you want more people at your open house, take better pictures and headlines, and then get that better content in front of the right people. Trust the interest of the buyer, and leverage it with actual sales copy. 

Auction Time

Whether you’re advertising an online or offline auction, stop your Facebook ads before the auction ends. Then, you don’t need to wedge the time into your ads. I could argue that you don’t need the date at all (and I have clients who agree with me), but I won’t die on that hill. An auction’s opening or closing time is needed only by interested parties, and every interested party should have visited your website before registering to bid. “Now” is more important and more effective than date or time. I’ve been told my whole career that auctions create urgency. They absolutely do. Ironically, auctioneers trust that urgency in their auctions but not their auction advertising.

“Auction”

Dozens of auctioneers reach out to me every year to help them get results for their Facebook ads and their auctions like they see my clients get. I’ll tell you one of my secrets, and you don’t have to hire me to benefit from it. I use the word “auction” in less than half of my ads and in hardly any of my ads that achieve cost per click below 9¢. I don’t hate auctions. I just know that “bid now” is the closest thing auctioneers have to ”buy now” in the fast-paced consumer culture in which we live. Most of my best-performing ads also use “Buy it at YOUR price!” as the bold headline below the photo, slideshow, or video. We don’t sell auctions, because people don’t buy auctions. They buy items.

After you get used to cutting these eight things from your Facebook ads, I’d consider weaning most of these from your other advertising—especially your outdoor signs and classified newspaper ads. I’d edit most of these out of your direct mail, too. The objective for every offline media you create and distribute for an auction is the same as for Facebook ads: get people to your website. That’s where we can capture data. That’s where you can pull buyers into your sales funnel, where you can learn about them in your Google Analytics, where interested parties can trigger your Facebook pixel for re-marketing and lookalike advertising. Oh, and where they can bid or register to bid. Your website has practically-infinite room for all the tertiary content you’re currently trying to shoehorn into your advertising.

If I had to choose between my instinct and the billions of advertising impressions that fed Facebook’s seismic shift in available text space, I’m going to rely on the behemoth’s deep and wide sampling of our buying culture. Advertisers don’t make the rules. Consumers do. We advertisers either break ourselves upon those rules or play within them for more and better traffic to our auctions.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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220: How I Optimize Facebook Ads to Get the Results I Do

Most marketers understand that Facebook is unmatched in its ability to connect advertiser content with consumers’ unique concoctions of interests. Almost every conversation I’ve had with clients and prospects about Facebook targeting revolves around finding the right prospects by demographic and interest categories. That’s surely valuable information, and those conversations should happen with every auction. (With niche assets, those conversations should precede signing the auction contract.)

Marrying the right text and visual content with this targeting is the next biggest challenge. Thankfully, with A/B testing or Facebook’s new “Dynamic Content” tool, we can test and adapt the bait on our hooks as we fish amongst those prospect groups. For years, though, Facebook has offered another way to get more bites on our lines. Maybe only one or two clients have asked about it in the past five years.

Optimization. 

Facebook knows more than just our likes & dislikes, demographics & interests. It also knows how we’re likely to engage with paid advertising. To continue with the fishing analogy, Facebook’s artificial intelligence engine doesn’t just get us to the right lake; it knows which fish are likely to bite and even which are likely to steal the bait and swim off. For every ad or promoted post I’ve created for a client, I’ve been required to choose how I wanted the content to be optimized—how we want Facebook to cast our line and reel it. It’s required. You can’t run an ad or promoted post without selecting one of the options below. I choose different optimizations for different situations. Here is a list of when I use each of those options.

Landing Page Views

A landing page view is usually my primary objective. Auctioneers pay me to get potential bidders to their websites. A landing page view means someone left Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, or a site on the Audience Network and then stayed on the auctioneer’s website long enough for the first page they visit to completely load. The algorithms know which slice of our target audience is likely to visit your site for at least that length of time. It stands to reason that these prospects are also the most likely to bid online or to investigate details regarding bidding at an offline event. 

Link Clicks

This is the objective I choose the second most often. Candidly, I use it only because landing page views require a Facebook pixel to be installed on my client’s site. Almost half of my clients have no pixel—theirs or mine—on their sites. So, I have to resort to the next best thing: link clicks. This is a definite step down from landing page views, though, because a lot of people who click on links immediately click right back to the Facebook platform without letting the page load. I’ve seen campaigns where this happened for more than 30% of the clicks.

Daily Unique Reach

Most of my campaigns have a reminder ad that starts three to ten days prior to the auction. It targets those who either visited the website (if my clients have installed a Facebook pixel) or interacted with their Facebook content during the marketing period (if they don’t have a pixel). This might be a slideshow, video, or promoted photo album. I want to show these proven prospects the auction in a different way than they saw it the first time. I usually switch up the text, too. For these folks, I set the optimization to daily unique reach so that they see this reminder every day on whichever part of the Facebook platform they use.

Impressions

This selection means “show this ad to this audience as many times as possible.” I’ve seen this result in viewers seeing the ads at an average of more than 20 times. As you could imagine, that makes the response rates highly inefficient. It also makes the ads feel obtrusive, which can annoy your prospects. I use this option for what I call “poaching”—when we target attendees at a home, car, or farm show or bidders at a competitor’s on-site auction of similar assets. (I’ve also used this for my ads to auctioneers at NAA conventions.) Outside of those instances, this is only an “in case of emergency, break glass” option.

Post Engagements

This is another “last resort” option. Believe it or not: I still have clients who don’t have auction information on their website. There’s nowhere for me to link an ad, and Facebook requires links in ads. So, my only option is to post a notice on the business’ Facebook page, promote it, and optimize it for engagements. What that means is that Facebook will serve the ads to those most apt to like, comment, or share the post. A couple weeks ago, this worked really well for a rural horse auction, where more than 1,000 people shared the post and we had more than 20,000 engagements with the content. I’d still prefer to have 20,000 people come to my website than interact with a Facebook post, but it’s a good option when the infrastructure isn’t there to move leads through a sales funnel.

None of these options are inherently right or wrong. Your situation will dictate which one you use and when you use it. For many of my campaigns, I use more than one—because I’m not always fishing in the same lake for the same fish.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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218: The Achilles Heel of My Facebook Ads

Every Friday afternoon this summer, a new series of Facebook ads have launched, running until the following Tuesday morning. They’re the only Facebook ads I’ve built that don’t promote an auction. Instead, they’ve touted stellar auction sale results or brag-worthy statistics from auction campaigns. Both sale results and traffic stats have proven to be good bait when fishing for new auctioneer clients. 

Usually, the large crowds of efficient traffic to my clients’ sites eventuate into successful auctions and plump commissions. Here’s the dirty secret, though: sometimes they don’t.

I remember one auction south of the Mason-Dixon line a couple of years ago. I had used audiences, photographs, and headlines similar to ones that have consistently worked like catnip in adjacent states. The targeted ads worked. Well, kinda. They drove thousands of people to the auctioneer’s website. Despite that, the auction bombed. If I remember right, the auction was stopped early because of frightfully-low sale prices. The auctioneer wasn’t just disappointed. Livid, he told me of his new goal to “warn people I care about” never to use my services, never to trust the stats I publish. It was a high-profile failure for him. So, I can understand the emotion.

Candidly, I have auctioneers inform me regularly that people aren’t registering to bid, that traffic isn’t turning into bids, or that bids are weak. “Are the ads running?” they ask. Sometimes, the email beats around the bush with the question, “How are the ads doing?”—even though almost every ad I build can be tracked both in real-time and historically in each of my clients’ Google Analytics. Those subject lines are code for me to ask a client what would make them feel more comfortable or what changes they’d like me to make to help them feel less anxious.

If you’ve been in the auction business long enough, you know that you can sell a property at ridiculously-high prices on mediocre advertising; and you can get a no sale out of incredible web traffic. Market conditions, perception of asset, seller reputation, proximity to a 1031 exchange deadline, and a prospect’s comfort with the auction method can swing sale prices in both directions from average.

That said, I have found a few limitations beyond my control that often neuter efficient traffic from Facebook ads or well-earned clicks from direct mail. If you’d like to convert more of your website traffic into bidders, you’ll want to avoid the following choke points.

Limited Content

I can’t tell you how many times an auctioneer has asked me to send people to a page that has no photos, no description, and/or no details on how to bid. As a holdover from decades ago, auctioneers want to alert the buying public as early as possible so consumers can “save the date.” With their website not yet ready to conduct business, my job is to send interested parties straight into frustration. Not only is that a bad brand image, that makes the prospect less likely to click on future ads—for the auction at hand or subsequent ones.

Wrong Content

Sometimes, I’m asked to link to pages that say nothing of the asset(s) being sold. There’s just a generic title, auction date & time, and terms & conditions. Unfortunately for our industry, people don’t buy auctions. They buy assets. Some auctioneers have preview dates & times listed before even one sentence or headline about what’s being sold. Like Area 51, we’re asking people to show up for a mystery. We waste their time. In so doing, we waste our opportunity.

No Way to Start the Buying Process

You can refuse to participate, but we all live in a world with Amazon Prime, grocery pickup, restaurant apps, and “Press Button. Get Mortgage.™” The American buying public has expectations about being able to at least bid immediately. The best calls to action I’ve got in the tackle box are “Buy at YOUR price,” and “Bid now.” Few people will remember to bid later. You’ve got to have a way for prospective buyers to place an online bid or a pre-bid on the page where they land. Even if you’re advertising an offline real estate auction, you need to have a prominent link to a form or email generator that lets people get their skin in the game. Immediate registration beats nothing, and a bidding catalog beats both.

No Facebook Pixel

Most online buyers don’t make a transaction on their first visit to your page. (If you don’t have online bidding, that’s a guarantee.) So, how do you make sure they get second touches with your content? A Facebook tracking pixel. Half of my clients have no way to capture this valuable consumer data because they lack that free pixel on their site. In addition to not capturing those who respond to their ads for remarketing, they can’t replicate that traffic to find more bidders like them. They forego Facebook’s powerful artificial intelligence engine and all of the prospects it could bring them in the second wave of their advertising.

Most of these remedies can be implemented for free. Some don’t take any additional time—just patience. All of them will increase (1) the professionalism of your brand and (2) quite possibly your commissions and sell-through rates. When a client doesn’t have these ducks in a row, it actually relieves some of the pressure I feel to deliver them high-performing ads. That relief comes in the truth that I charge the same fee to send crowds of people to an active marketplace as to a dead end.

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215: 3 Lists Every Auctioneer Wants But Nobody Can Buy

With the rise of big data, entrepreneurs have grown to assume that just about any kind of data is available to purchase. In many cases, that valuable demographic and purchase history is more robust than most of us would ever need. The problem is that it exists in proprietary databases. Those black boxes at best are available for blindfolded lease and at worst compete against us.

Even before Facebook’s ubiquity and Amazon’s dominance, though, auctioneers asked me for the same prospect lists they still assume I can procure. When I tell you that these lists get requested often, I mean every month—sometimes weekly. I still encounter surprise and maybe even disappointment when I can’t deliver them. To save us both from an awkward conversation later, I’ll just explain them here for you.

Real Estate Investors

As of July 19, 2019, we haven’t been able use Facebook’s real estate investor interests to target real estate ads. (I assume that’s to comply with HUD anti-discrimination regulations.) Even before that, we couldn’t target actual investors—only people whose Facebook habits showed an interest in investing. As of right now, we can’t purchase a list of individual people who invest in real estate. We can target companies whose standard industrial classification (SIC) falls under real estate development, management, or brokerage. We can ask for highest-known executives in those firms and phone numbers and legal/opt-in emails where available. In certain databases, we can pull people who own homes but don’t live in them. A list broker can sort that by net worth and/or annual household income. It’s a long shot, but that’s currently our best option.

Land (or Any Asset Category) Buyers

There isn’t a commercial source for those records. Landowners, yes. Land buyers, no. Independent auction companies should have a list of past bidders and buyers from auctions—hopefully sortable by asset category. Those lists should be queryable in order to pull only past buyers and/or bidders. Until you have critical mass, you can use that list only for direct mail. Once you do get several hundred buyers and/or bidders, you can use Facebook’s lookalike audience tool to find similar prospects. Until then, one option would be to partner with a joint venture company who does have a list large enough for lookalike audience potential. If you drive the Facebook traffic to your website, you can then start using your Facebook pixel data to create a prospect base. Using information sign-up forms and bidder registrations on those joint-venture auctions, those who do respond can become seeds to start or accelerate your own list. 

People Who Want [fill in the blank]

This is the one that makes me audibly laugh, when I open the email. Men have joked my entire life that they never know what the women in their life want. If that’s true, that takes out 50% of the people whose wants we can capture and query. Even if it’s not true, we would need a Minority Report-style system to mine this desire data. Do we really want companies to know our private thoughts? We can hit this goal obliquely through a list of past bidders or buyers on similar items, assuming their need or want wasn’t satiated since that last auction. We can purchase lists of some interests and purchase history, and we can target non-real estate ads to even more interests on Facebook directly. But the best we can do is get adjacent to wants and let artificial intelligence engines do their magic. There’s no list for people who want a mower or a Coca Cola sign or 20 acres.

That said, not having these lists and even not being able to acquire these lists doesn’t mean our advertising has to be ineffective or inefficient. It just means we need to do more homework, more experimenting, more tracking, more data analysis. Yes, that’s more work. Yes, that’s a completely different skill set than a silky auction chant or a well-executed sales pitch. Yes, it’s not the way your dad did it.

Over the next two decades, conglomerates and aggregate sites are going to put hundreds of bid callers and even auction marketers out of business. They’re going to pay people to do this data curation work. Instead of trying to buy data, they’re going to mine their own. Those of us who follow their example will most likely be the ones in 2035 who are still advertising auctions at all. 

Because I don’t manage websites, host online bidding, or run auction software for my clients, I will be dependent on auction professionals like you to procure, store, and query this data. Thankfully, most current auction software and platforms make this doable, if not easy. That gives me hope, and I’m glad to be in your good hands.

Stock images purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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