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marketresearchThe National Auctioneers Association (NAA) per its own website:

    Founded in 1949, the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to professional auctioneers. The NAA was built by auctioneers, for auctioneers. Headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., the NAA represents the interests of thousands of auctioneers in the U.S., Canada and across the world.

    The NAA also represents the individual auctioneer and a range of auction professionals servicing a variety of industries. The association is dedicated to providing its members with educational programming and resources to help them advance themselves as professional auctioneers. Members of the NAA abide by a strict Code of Ethics and are connected with an extensive network of professional auctioneers. As a member of the NAA, auctioneers have access to several benefits developed specifically to help them grow professionally and advance their auction careers and businesses.

Generally speaking, NAA would be considered a professional association. Professional associations typically focus on:

    1. Oversight of the legitimate practice of an occupation
    2. Safeguarding the public interests
    3. Representing the interests of the professional practitioners
    4. Developing and monitoring professional educational programs
    5. Certifying qualification in a certain subject areas

In contrast (in some respects) is a trade association. Trade associations typically focus on:

    1. Public relations activities such as advertising, research and publishing
    2. Political donations and lobbying efforts
    3. Collaboration and standardization between members
    4. Hosting conferences, seminars and classes

While certainly professional associations adopt select roles typically found within trade associations, and trade associations adopt select roles typically found within professional associations, members would generally identify their association as one or the other.

Recently, there has been some discussion about the National Auctioneers Association and if it should become a trade association. Primarily, that discussion has centered on NAA doing more to represent the industry as a whole, and periodically researching and publishing industry statistics.

I concur. I think NAA should do more to represent the industry as a whole, and periodically research and publish industry statistics. In fact, I find periodically researching and publishing industry statistics likely leading to eventually being called upon by the media for comments and questions, and thus causing the public to view the NAA as representing the industry as a whole.

In other words, be the source of auction-related data and a frequent distributor of such (and other articles, white papers, and the like,) and NAA becomes an authority on auctions and auctioneering in the eyes of the public and media. Once that perception firms, NAA becomes re-quoted, referenced, sourced, questioned …

However, does such a change in focus require NAA to become a trade association. On the contrary, NAA can maintain all its current focus on education, certification and code of conduct while augmenting this with research and reporting of auction industry statistics.

For the most part, the NAA membership would be able to supply all the data needed for this additional undertaking. NAA’s membership is a very clear cross-section of the auction industry overall.

I would suggest less than one staff member would be needed for compiling and publishing this research; this same person could be the media contact for follow-up questions and requests. This same staff member could (and should) do other tasks for NAA as well — thus adding value — to keep abreast of the association’s inter-workings and the membership conversation.

The salary and benefits for even a full time position would be less than paying for an outside firm to do the same. And even more importantly, the position would pay for itself with increased membership — if the research and public relations were beneficial.

In particular, I think NAA should seize the opportunity to produce the “State of the Auction Industry 2014” and thereon. This would be an annual report of maybe only 2-3-4 pages, with high-level charts and summary on the number of auctioneers, demographics, auction categories and percentages of sales volume, etc., noting how it has changed since the year prior.

This State of the Auction Industry would be sent out to all the major media wire outlets thus reaching television, radio, newspapers and other Internet-media. A “Top Ten” list of some sort, such as the top ten auction industries (similar to content in the Morpace studies completed several years ago) could become a highly anticipated annual list like so many other “Top …” lists which garner media attention.

In fact, the 2005 NAA Morpace study noted this research in total as “critical:”

A Critical Need

Prior to the NAA undertaking this groundbreaking study, the auction community had no official method for gathering, comparing or assessing information about even the most basic aspects of our now $200 billion industry. According to a recent article published by Forbes.com, even those who attempted to assess activity within a single category, such as art auctions, found the lack of consistent, authoritative information troubling: ‘The results of their calculations are served up in the form of reports, which highlight the trends that may have emerged. None of these reports is perfect, and even though the figures come from the same raw data, their results are quite different, but they are the closest thing to an objective, statistical analysis of the art market.’

Hopefully, the information confirmed in this, the first of many planned assessments and economic indicators, will lay the groundwork for a systematic evaluation of our industry as a whole. The NAA remains committed to just such research, and with your support, will continue to commission independent reports such as those outlined in these pages. We trust you’ll find the information as useful, relevant and eye-opening as we did. And, as always, we welcome your feedback.

Many members (including me) apparently think it’s still critical. And, a sustained research and publication policy would — in a very short time — put NAA back in the front of the media; members would help with links to the research from their websites and blogs, furthering the impact. NAA would be the only source for this information.

Should NAA become a trade association? No. NAA should become more like a trade association in this respect. It’s important for NAA, important for its members, and important for the auction industry.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.