A primer on advertising for Internet only auctions

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.

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OpenOffice 3 RC1 released

OpenOffice.org logo

OpenOffice.org logo

UPDATE: The development community behind OpenOffice.org has created LibreOffice, which I now recommend instead of OpenOffice. Grab the latest version from libreoffice.org.

Friday saw the release of the first release candidate of OpenOffice version 3, the free and open source alternative to Microsoft Office.

The last thing an auctioneer needs when starting out or outfitting employees or workstations with new computers is to have to pay upwards of $200 for a copy of a piece of software when a clearly sufficient and arguably superior alternative is available.

OpenOffice includes Writer and Calc, alternatives to Word and Excel, respectively. Their functionality is above the basic needs of word processing and number crunching. We’ve been using Calc for inventory uploads for quite some time. The only piece of Writer that we’ve had trouble with is the mail-merge. For that process, we still have to dust off a copy of Microsoft Word.

Version 3 of OpenOffice brings a visual refresh, not to mention full-on support of Microsoft Office 2007 OOXML file formats – those annoying .docx and .xlsx formats that everyone complains about when you MS Office 2007 users forget to use save-as before you email.

OpenOffice.org is a great alternative to Microsoft Office. It’s like different brands of cars. The gear-shift may be in a different place, but a Ford and a Chevrolet both go forwards and backwards at about the same speed. If you’ve driven a Ford all your life, you may feel a little different for the first hundred miles in your Chevrolet, but it’ll take you where you want to go.

OpenOffice.org is open source and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

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About auctioneertech.com

AuctioneerTech is a new weblog dedicated to news about technology, gadgets, services, software and hardware as they relate to the auction industry. If you have suggestions about stories or wish to contribute, please let us know in the comments to any post. We hope to publish at least weekly, so we’re always looking for new content.

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Google releases Chrome browser, slow for some

Google Chrome browser logo

Google Chrome logo

Google released its entry into the browser wars Today. I’ve been playing with it all day. I like how it puts the tabs in line with the minimize / maximize / close buttons. I’ve wanted this in a browser for years. They have a long way to go to enable other features, but it’s blazing fast and minimalist, which are two big pluses in my book.

Chrome has a new Javascript engine so it’s fast. Goofy fast. Melt your face fast. It’s running on Webkit so it’s pretty. Kate Bosworth pretty. Kate Bosworth in 21 pretty. I tried to get it to run on Linux using WINE and, while I got it to load, it didn’t work well enough to render any pages without crashing. It puts Firefox to shame in the coolness category, and while it has a ways to catch up when it comes to community and available plugins, it’s still faster and sexier and what I’ll be using until Microsoft puts IE8 on the ground.

Some auctioneers, as well as my sister, have claimed that Chrome runs slower than Firefox and IE. Some speed tests have claimed that Firefox may be just as fast, though I haven’t see this behavior. If you’ve seen Chrome running slowly, let us know in the comments.

Posted in software | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Flash is bad, m’kay

Image representing Adobe Flash as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

Flash is a very bad way to build websites. It’s not only about SEO. It’s about usability. For the same reasons that mature developers don’t use “fly-out” or “drop-down” menus, you shouldn’t use Flash because it requires you to do one of two things. You can either alienate the growing minority of users using alternative user agents or you can “sniff” to find out what the user is using and deliver one site if the user is using Firefox on a Mac and another site if the user is browsing using Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile. Either option is a bad decision.

Properly designed websites keep usability in mind for 100% of possible users. They’re made with semantically valid XHTML and CSS. They don’t start animation or sound without the user clicking somewhere to request it. They don’t require the user to download something special like Flash or Java. They load faster because of the lighter page weight caused by separating the markup (XHTML) from the layout (CSS). They have a good navigational structure that doesn’t rely on drop-down or fly-out menus. They can be browsed effectively with a text-based browser or screen reader. They are very well-indexed on search engines because they’re so accessible.

Flash does have one redeeming quality. It is the current, defacto standard for video distribution. Until Silverlight gets out of diapers, it appears we’re stuck with Adobe’s pile of steam for now.

Posted in software, design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |