Do you wish your storage auctions looked more like those on reality TV, with crowds of buyers vying to outbid each other, win a unit and put more money in your pocket?
If so, consider tapping into the power of online marketing to bring more bidders to your facility. Using the Internet to get the word out about your auctions can be cheap, or even free, and can pay off for your business.
Here are five ways to promote your storage auctions online.
1. Hire an auctioneer.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a professional auctioneer is that you get auction promotion as part of the deal, said Rich Schur, chief operating officer and champion auctioneer at Storage Auction Kings, which handles auctions at self-storage facilities in four states.
“They do the bulk of the marketing for you,” Schur said, allowing you to piggyback on an online promotional network that an auctioneer already has built.
For example, Storage Auction Kings has its own email lists, social networking presence and SEO strategies, Schur said. “When we post a storage auction, it gets picked up all over the Internet,” he said.
But all auctioneers are not created equal: Make sure you hire one who’s good at marketing, Schur said. To find out, do a search for the auctioneer and look at his or her online presence—for example, the website, blogs and social media networks. “That will be indicative of the kind of marketing they do,” Schur said.
2. Send e-blasts.
Facility managers for Universal Storage Group, an Atlanta, GA-based storage operator with more than 50 facilities, make weekly marketing visits to retailers—such as antique shops, junk dealers and flea markets—as well as apartment complexes, real estate agencies and schools, said Anne Ballard, president of marketing, training and developmental services at Universal Storage Group. The managers collect business cards, then enter the email addresses of people they met into a contact database, Ballard said.
To promote upcoming auctions, Universal Storage Group sends email blasts to its list, Ballard said. “It works pretty well, and we get a pretty good turnout, and it’s practically free,” Ballard said. “It’s a good, easy way to market the auctions.”
3. Put ads on auction sites.
One of the best ways to promote your auction is to place an ad on an auction listing website, Schur said, because that’s where buyers look.
For example, on StorageTreasures.com, you can place an ad for free or upgrade for $199 a year, said James Grant, president and CEO of StorageTreasures.com, which offers auction listings that reach more than 900,000 bidders across the country. The upgrade lets you upload your logo, photos of units being auctioned, and information such as your auction rules.
Universal Storage Group uses StorageTreasures.com to promote auctions at facilities, Ballard said. For live auctions, an ad on the site might bring in five to 20 bidders, she said. “They do a great job of marketing the auctions,” Ballard said.
Another option: Put an ad on EstateSales.net, which offers packages that cost from $10 to $100 a month. “That’s a great place to advertise,” Schur said.
4. Go local.
Most buyers don’t sift through the classified ads to find auctions, but it can’t hurt to advertise your sale on local online classifieds, Schur said.
5. Get social.
“Social media is good as long as you don’t bombard your audience,” Schur said.
Notices about upcoming auctions should be mixed with other types of content, especially information that would be useful to your social media followers, Schur said.
Targeted Facebook ads can be an inexpensive way to bring in bidders, he said. But the down side is that it’s hard to quantify their effectiveness, he said. Schur said he uses these ads regularly, and he recommends paying by click rather than by impression.
Universal Storage Group doesn’t use Facebook ads but does post notices about upcoming auctions on a facility’s Facebook page and, in some cases, its Twitter account, Ballard said. “We like to build audiences organically,” she said.
When the big day arrives, don’t let bidders leave without learning how they found out about your auction so you can pinpoint what works and what doesn’t, Schur said.
And get specifics. “Some people just say ‘Internet,’” he said. “But you have to drill down.”