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cornfieldAbout a year ago I first heard people advising auctioneers to make their auction marketing lead titles about “what is selling” rather than “how it’s selling?”

For example, if an auctioneer was selling 5,100 acres of farm land, the advertisement should read “5,100 Acres Farm Land Selling at Auction,” rather than “Public Auction of 5,100 Acres Farm Land.”

Others have even suggested the word, ‘auction’ should be omitted altogether — “5,100 Acres Farm Land” and maybe only a phone number or website noted for more information.

I believe the contention is that with the myriad of media to which we are exposed, the marketer has maybe only three seconds to “grab the attention” of the potential buyer. Therefore, the fact it’s an auction isn’t the material issue, and rather the 5,100 acres of farm land is the issue.

Certainly I appreciate the argument — but I would add that the word, ‘auction’ is a powerful captivating word which suggests to those seeing and reading it that something is being put up for bid with the highest bidder getting it, the seller is motivated to sell, and there’s a chance of getting a deal; a bunch of good news for buyers packed in one 7-letter word.

Even a slow reader reads 100 words a minute, so in three seconds, the marketer has at minimum five words to work with; I’m not sure I find overwhelming benefit to not devoting one of those five words to describe the “how” leaving a healthy batch of four words to describe the “what.”

“5,100 Acres Farm Land” tells me what the subject is, but doesn’t give me any reason to think the owner really wants to sell, nor that I might get a deal. “Auction 5,100 Acres Farm Land” sends a significantly different message — motivation, urgency, deadline, possible deal …

Further, for those leaving the word ‘auction’ out altogether, I find that even more aberrant and ill-advised. Maybe the question should be, “Is the word ‘auction’ encouraging or discouraging?” Let me ask a rhetorical question: Does the word ‘auction’ attract attention, or dissuade it?

Electronic media is built around getting someone to click; the headline acts as the inducement. If I am looking for 5,100 acres of farm land, such a headline gets my attention. If it’s selling at auction, it actually might get more of my attention — and I might click now rather than later.

Auction marketing is unlike any other industry. Traditional real estate listings, for sale by owner, retail stores, malls, outlets, and the like are all likely better talking about the “what is selling” rather than the “how it’s selling” due in large part to the inconsequential nature of their “how’s.” In most all other sales formats, the consumer well understands the time frame, methodology and procedures … and the lack of urgency.

Lastly, there are certainly some business entities for which their names essentially mean ‘auction.’ Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, Sotheby’s, Christy’s, Ritchie Brothers and the like fundamentally say ‘auction.’ The “what is selling” and a note to contact a synonym of the word auction might well suffice.

“What is selling” is certainly paramount information. However, before you as an auctioneer decide to delegate the word “auction” to later in the advertisement — or eliminate it all together — consider the minimal cost in regard to advertisement space to include it prominently, compared with the well-established impact that word continues to have in today’s society.

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. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.