Kingston’s Strategic Symphony #6

Six Steps To Maximize Your Live Auction Bidding

bid-cards-in-the-air-kathy-kHow do you turn your auction guests into loyal “power bidders” at your Live Auction? I’m often asked this crucial question as a benefit auction strategist and fundraising auctioneer. My answer: Do six things right to become a maestro of your auction success.

First, did you know that bidder behavior markedly changed in the last few years? Consider this. No longer do people attend your auction with an expressed purpose to bid on or buy auction items. Don’t leave bidding to chance.

You must be more strategic.

Our fundraising auction clients continue to break revenue records. Live Auctions are a key part of our booming benefit auction industry of over $16 billion annually, according to the National Auctioneers Association. Hot items continue to be unique trips, wine, multi-course dinners and fantastic experiences that are curated to your unique guests. This spring, our auction fundraisers are reveling in new bidding records. For example, Head of School for the day just sold for $15,000 twice and I auctioned a Chocolate “Navy” Cake at dessert frenzy for $1,000 – doubling up carbs and cash!  But, big bids require far more than just great items.

1.  Obsess On Inviting the Right Guests

Make audience development your top priority. Filling your venue with the RIGHT bidders is doubly critical to your success. Create an “Audience Development Team” and go beyond just mailing invitations. Remember the first rule of fundraising: “People give to PEOPLE for causes they care about.” So conduct a personalized laser-targeted plan. Deputize your board, key auction committee members, volunteers and staff and ask them to personally and individually contact all of your sponsors, donors, prospects and potential major donors. Be strategic and use the table captain method and ask your top bidders to invite one more could just like them. Ask for their involvement, invite them to attend your auction.

2. Highly Curate Your Live Auction Items

Waste no time or space on Live Auction items that do not bring a high return of at least 85% of value or more! Remember: less is more – that means fewer items with higher values will fetch more profit. Hand select premium items. Act and think like a top marketer: match your auction items to your guests. Study your Live Auction results each year and only procure items that are incredibly successful for you. Make a chart calculating item, retail value, high bid, percentage of value achieved. Study what your group loves to bid on.  Go get more of these top revenue producers! Solicit Live Auction items that are personal and unique: once-in-a-lifetime experiences, exclusive, handmade gifts, one-of-a-kind, travel, sold out and unique group experiences.

 3. Pre-Promote Your Live Auction Items Personally

To get bid more cards waving higher you must prepare your guests in advance to bid generously. Insure that every guest is informed and excited about your Live Auction items. This means creating a specialized marketing campaign before the event to showcase and build excitement about your Live Auction. Send out an auction catalog in advance to all guests. List the Live Auction items and descriptions and links on your Auction Webpage. Send out teasers of Live Auction items in emails to all invitees.  Celebrate your success and promote your Live items on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs etc. Invite all your supporters to help you promote you on their social media contacts too!  And most of all “talk up” your Live Auction items. Personally speak to your previous top 20-30 bidders and let them know about hot Live Auction items that they will love!

4. Hire an Excellent Professional Sound Company

Be sure not to make this costly mistake. Often overlooked or downplayed, high-quality professional sound will only make you money. Remember, if all your guests can not hear–they will not bid! Benefit auctions require unique sound staging, different from any other event. High-quality sound is one of most overlooked areas for auction success. Auction are noisy events, guests are encouraged to bid, cheer, applaud, eat, drink and have fun too! If your guests cannot hear or understand above all the regular noise— they will not bid which is a predictable significant loss of money for YOU. Do NOT use the in-house sound system aka the round speakers in the ceiling. Insist that you have high quality amplified speakers on stands that surround your audience. A professional sound company that provides independent auction quality sound will pay for itself many times over in just one bid!

5. Spotlight WWH: Why We’re Here?

Immediately prior to your Live Auction, deliver a brief inspirational “WWH” Why We’re Here. (Limit to 2 minutes MAX.) Pick a prominent, well-loved person to deliver compelling remarks right before the live auction: Insure that he or she communicate the IMPACT of your guests’ bid. Try this: “We are here tonight to raise as much money as we can!  Here’s how YOUR generous bidding makes a difference.Thanks in advance for your generosity. Now it’s auction time!” Introduce your auctioneer and immediately start the Live Auction. (Remember No BS!  No Boring Speeches.)

6. Retain a professional fundraising auctioneer who specializes in fundraising

Do not leave money in the room. An experienced benefit auctioneer understands how to advance “Your Great Cause” and inspire your audience’s generosity. She or he builds rapport with your guests, understands your cause, and reminds bidders the impact of their gift. A skilled professional fundraising auctioneer will excite your guests, entice them to pay more than the value, and have them looking forward to returning next year and to bring their friends!  A volunteer auctioneer could be the most costly expense of your entire event. Volunteer and celebrity auctioneers often don’t know when your guests are bidding and if they will bid again. While you may think anyone with a strong voice and a sense of humor can lead an auction, a professional auctioneer sets the tempo and makes a huge difference in revenue for the evening. A professional auctioneer knows when to spur on bidding and the exact moment to say “sold.”  Remember, an experienced benefit auctioneer does not cost money – you make more money. (PS: Consider retaining an auctioneer with the professional designation: BAS Benefit Auctioneer Specialist. A recent National Auctioneer Association study revealed that BAS auctioneers raised TWICE the funds for their clients compared to an auctioneer without this specialized training and expertise.)

Ok Maestro, as you intentionally choreograph your fundraiser auction, use my symphony of six success strategies for your Live Auction. You and your auction committee will be ahead of the power curve by acting months before your auction date, which eliminates stress and burnout for you and your volunteers. Your goal is to increase more net profit per live auction item and to increase the number of guests who bid on each item. By acting strategically you can catapult your cause and your bottom line.

Super Bonus ~ thanks for reading, I hope you found this valuable. As a special gift, please contact me for your complimentary 30 minute “Auction Clarity Consultation.” Please email me kathy@kingstonauction.com to request your phone consultation date. Note, you must sign up for this bonus by May 15, 2014.

What other ideas do you have for profitable Live Auctions?  I’d love to hear your suggestions and comments.

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