AuctionVcommerce.com is working to help the wholesale automotive auction industry transition from 'in lane' to 'online'. We provide infrastructure support for our Auto Auction Members in the form of customer service, technical support, marketing, and consulting. Our blog serves to provide direction to auctions who are not just looking to take their business online, but to actually build an online business!
Online Auction Software gives you the opportunity to have a turn-key operation for only a fraction of what it would cost you to open a new facility. However, let's not get carried away with the description 'turn-key'. You still need to attract customers, and for most established brick-and-mortar auctions, marketing is unchartered territory. I'm not referring to on-premise promotions, branded swag, or local sponsorships. I'm talking about attracting, and maintaining an onlinecustomer base. Remember, you are approaching a new market segment. Here are some general guidelines to get you started...
Invest in Your Online Presence
Websites used to function as nothing more than a basic informational brochure. Now they are living, breathing entities that talk about your business all over the virtual world. Therefore, it is important to focus on creating a site that is aesthetically pleasing, simple to navigate, engaging, rich in content, and optimized for performance. By focusing on all of these elements you will attract potential customers who are actively entering keyword searches to find businesses just like yours!
SEO, PPC, Social Media
Establishing a beautifully optimized online facility accounts for about 30% of what is called Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, this refers to your ability to create website notoriety, which is measured by your 'organic' ranking. This is your position based on popularity alone - without the assistance of paid advertising campaigns. As more and more people are drawn to your site, search engines will begin moving you higher up in the search results. To increase your popularity, you will want to have other sites link back to yours. The key is to make sure the sites are relevant to your industry. The more credibility they have, the more you will gain.
Since it generally takes a significant amount of time to see any traction from an SEO campaign (6+ months), you can typically jumpstart your initiative by paying for online advertising. To put things in perspective, online campaigns only cost about 1/3rd of traditional media advertising (print, radio, television), and has a much further reach. Also, with traditional advertising methods, you cannot segment a b2b market. Online ads are extremely targeted. Notice this the next time you are on Google or on a social media site. What ads appear on your page? Are they relevant to your search? Are they relevant to your life?
Speaking of Social Media... the fact that you are reading this should say it all. However, I will proceed... Social media is free, and it gives you an opportunity to engage with your customers. It also helps with your SEO initiative if used properly. The key with Social media is to post content that appeals to your audience, refrain from selling, and update consistently. You will want to establish a social media strategy ahead of time, and monitor your efforts. It may sound like a lot of work, but once you get into a good rhythm, it equates to about 15 minutes a day.
Everyone is familiar with email marketing, but where most businesses fail is in their inability to use it effectively. The most common strategy is to send as much information possible to as many customers as possible. Put yourself in your customers' position. What do you do when you get information-packed emails that come at you daily? Delete, right? Which ones do you keep? Is it the ones that are entertaining? The ones that have a call to action? What make you flag an email, and save it for further viewing? When you come up with the answer, give that to your customers.
These are just a few things to consider when marketing your online auction, but collectively, they can have a tremendous impact on building your virtual business. Also, keep in mind that, while extremely important, marketing is only one component to your overall success. Marketing will bring the customers to your site, but the experience has to keep them there!
When you decided to take your business online, was it to satisfy the requirements of a consigner? Did you feel that you needed to change with the times? Or did you outline a new segment for growth, develop a plan, and are currently monitoring online profit and loss statements as we speak?
If you are among the majority, your response is probably the first or second selection. Many brick-and-mortar auto auctions began with a good intention to provide more solutions for their customers, but when they decided to take their business online, they forgot to create an online business. Simulcast was seen as a novelty item, and the perception was, if people want to come online, they will. There was no need to market. In fact, there was actually a fear that, by telling dealers you had live simulcast, they would clear the lanes, and only appear on the Internet.
Discouraging online attendance became more of the objective than attracting new online customers. Auctioneers would override Internet bids, demonstrating their partiality to the floor. Their usual response to this practice was, "I am going to back the guy who got in his car and drove here today!" However, the online business was not designed to accommodate lazy dealers. It was designed to allow the auction a virtual expansion into other geographic markets. It was designed as a revenue-generating opportunity, not merely a 'value-add'.
With higher monthly expenses attributed to online operations, Owners and General Managers seem to find themselves becoming a little more interested in how their business could benefit from putting some effort into their online sale. They are finally asking, "What can we do?" The simple answer is..."find your customer base, and earn their trust". Ok, I have obviously left out some minor detail here, but I couldn't reveal all the trade secrets in one little blog.
Now I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts, questions, experience, or any other general feedback you might have!