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Ford F-150This is a Ford F-150 pickup for any of the remaining auctioneers who haven’t searched for one lately.

At a class recently held by the National Auctioneers Association, an instructor asked auctioneer attendees what they would search on the Internet (type into Google.com) to “buy a Ford F-150.” Apparently the responses from those auctioneers included a number of words, none of which were the word “auction.”

Auctioneers not searching using the word “auction?” How can that be? And further, consumers aren’t using the word “auction” either? The statistics apparently say so.

I’m fairly sure if I was asked, “What do you type into Google to buy an F-150?” I wouldn’t have thought of an auction either.

Find here the Google Trends for the search terms “For Sale,” “Buy,” “Auction,” “Bid,” and “Price” for the month of January for the last 10 years.

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10Yr
Change
5Yr
Change
For Sale 51 53 62 73 75 80 83 85 86 92 +80% +15%
Buy 49 53 60 57 68 69 65 64 59 61 +24% -13%
Auction 7 7 7 6 7 6 5 5 5 5 -29% -17%
Bid 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0% 0%
Price 28 29 33 32 36 36 39 40 44 47 +68% +31%

It appears the terms “For Sale,” “Buy,” and “Price” are used far more than the terms “Auction” and “Bid” when someone is looking to buy a Ford F-150 pickup, or anything else for that matter.

Our first question is two-fold: Are we as auctioneers to attract bidders to our products, or are we to find those bidders likely to want our product? Technology allows auctioneers to find bidders as well as bidders to find auctions; auctioneers should probably do both.

  • Many auctioneers are using technology to find bidders — push marketing — and this new technology can push to specific ages, locations, interests and the like with products like Facebook.
  • Many auctioneers have been using technology to allow bidders to find them — pull marketing — with sites like AuctionZip.com, Global Auction Guide and others.

The push marketing continues to work for most — putting auction advertising in front of specific potential bidders. But with apparently less people searching for auctions, maybe the pull marketing isn’t working as well anymore particularly for people using Google to search? What’s the solution?

I think auctioneers, collectively, can take one of two strategies. It seems with less and less auctioneers using the word “auction” the less it will be found, and the less people will search for it and search in other fashions.

Or, on the other hand, the more it is used (with campaigns like #AuctionsWork) the more it appears, and the more people will recognize the seductive power and potential of auctions.

However, it may we worth considering that with less and less people searching for auctions, it may not matter how we as auctioneers advertise them or attempt to trick people to consider them.

The buying public isn’t easily duped — if they don’t want to buy at auction, they aren’t going to suddenly be open to it when they find the property first, and then at the last second are told it’s an auction.

Who is searching less and less for auctions? Maybe the younger folks? I’m not convinced the so-called “younger generation” is anti-auction necessarily. On the contrary, they tend to favor efficiency and immediacy. There’s no type of auction that really fits that profile precisely; just ask the folks at eBay.com

For those unfamiliar, eBay.com’s Auction-to-Buy-it-Now ratio went from nearly 100%-0% in 2003 to 13%-87% in 2013; interestingly, the desire for auctions on eBay.com fell nearly 85% in the same ten year period where people searching for auctions via Google.com fell only 29%.

It is well known that people search for items (property) and not necessarily auctions given certain circumstances. I search for items myself if I need it right away and am willing to pay retail — in fact, if I need it now, I search for a retail store (the how) before I search for the item (the what.)

But if I’m looking for a possible deal (and/or my desire isn’t sold retail) and willing to wait three, four, five days … maybe even a week, an auction is generally a good solution and I include the word “auction” in my search and/or search auction databases.

In other words, the how it is selling in many cases can become just as important as what is selling. This seems to be the central discussion item — is it the how or the what? In many markets and for many people, it’s both. In light of that, maybe context is important?

“What do you type into Google to possibly get a deal on a used F-150, taking delivery in a week or so?

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.