The biggest misconception about Internet only auctions is that an item will sell to someone other than the person to whom it would have sold had you used a live auction. It very well may, but if you move completely from a local advertising campaign to a completely Internet-based advertising campaign, you’re bound to see a big drop in participation. Using the Internet to take bids doesn’t mean that the item will sell to Guam or Kansas. The Internet is simply an easier way for customers to participate than driving and spending time at a live auction. If the assets you’re selling are of general use, then they’re more likely to sell to someone across the street than across the state because of the lower cost in transportation or shipping. Unless you’re selling niche items, make sure you have your local and existing possible buyer base covered before you expand your reach to include farther away customers.
The key is to supplement your existing campaign with additional advertising. If your current customers find out about your auctions through paper – brochures and newspaper ads – then you shouldn’t quit using those mediums all together. While it may be an arguably good idea to migrate away from paper ads and postcards in general, doing so only because of an Internet only auction will only mean that your existing customers won’t participate.
The first place to advertise your auction and the items in it is on your website. Whatever Internet bidding platform you select, be sure that the auction and all relative information is posted on your website first. This strategy ensures that you simply have to place lead-generation ads in newspapers and other old-media venues with a link to your website rather than an item-level listing.
Once the users come to your website, do your best to capture their information before pushing them off to your Internet bidding provider. Get their email address. The bigger your email list, the less important other means of advertising become and the less you’ll have to spend on traditional media.
Internet auction calendars are probably the best initial place to post your items. The new NAA auction calendar supports item-level listings, so when you’ve cataloged your auction for Internet bidding you can upload that inventory to the NAA calendar at the same time you upload it to your Internet bidding provider. Other calendars worth mentioning are the calendar for your state association and globalauctionguide.com. They don’t support item-level listings yet, but they will syndicate your content to other listings and many other calendars actively scrape content from them.
Other good places to post auction listings are craigslist.com and Google AdWords. The latter costs money, but if what you have is fairly specialized it can return much more than you invest. Forums related to the product you’re selling can also be a good place for niche items. If you’re selling an antique tractor, there are several websites with forum sections that specialize in antique tractors.
The take-home message is that you should advertise every auction you have, regardless of bidding method, to customers with whom you have a preexisting relationship. They’re much more likely to pay attention to your ads and to purchase from you again. The next most important place to advertise is in venues where someone is looking for items in auctions – namely the Internet auction calendars and the auctions section of the newspapers in the area of the assets. After that, if you still need more, look at places where customers may be looking for items in general – like Adwords and craigslist.com – and try to convince them that an auction is a better place to buy.