START YOUR BIDDING @ . . .
AG AUCTIONS FIND A PLACE ON THE WEB
Auctions are a mainstay in the agricultural community. But just like everything else, farm auctions are evolving with today's technology. Agri Marketing talked with two entities that have embraced technology to improve auction capabilities. Here are their stories:
The farm category of eBay Business is home to more than 7,000 farm listings at any given time and conducts transactions of more than 4,200 pieces of farm-related equipment parts and supplies per week. eBay Business offers its buyers great deals on high-quality new and used products, while offering sellers access to a whole new customer audience.
Ben Hanna, farm category manager for eBay Business, says that both buyers and sellers find eBay to be a cost-effective marketplace. "We offer buyers a wide selection and great prices," Hanna says. "For the seller, we allow them to extend reach beyond the local marketplace."
This is demonstrated by the 120 percent growth that the farm category experienced year-over-year from 2002 to 2003. Hanna attributes part of this growth to the increasing awareness that anyone can find great deals and products on the Web. "The agriculture community is increasingly coming to eBay to purchase equipment and supplies for their farms, particularly when there are not many available choices in the local community," he explains.
This is an intriguing opportunity for many local retailers to take advantage of eBay as a way to advertise equipment and supplies beyond the local customer base. For example, with a minimal fee, a retailer in Georgia can now sell equipment to producers across the United States with no hassle at all.
The fact that there is a myriad of products and deals on eBay is evident, but can the average Joe use it? Hanna says that anyone can go to www.ebay.com/farm to search for his or her favorite brands and ag-related products. He explains that the straightforward browsing structure has received much community input, and skeptics can even contact the seller to ask specific questions about a product up for bid. Farm buyers and sellers can connect and swap information and expertise about agriculture topics on the general eBay community boards.
How is the word getting out? eBay Business is putting more resources into traditional marketing, says Hanna, which means you may see an advertisement in your favorite farm magazine or even a presence at agriculture trade shows. But one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to the farm category has been to leverage eBay's more than 75 million registered users, making them aware of the wide selection and great deals for agriculture industry buyers.
Hanna says the e-commerce giant is also open to partnerships with existing agriculture companies and manufacturers, beyond the retail level. Although eBay has not yet announced any alliances, Hanna says, "We are always looking for good equipment and supplies to bring to eBay buyers."
FARM AUCTION GUIDE.COM
There are still many people who like to experience auctions the old-fashioned way. But with increasing pressure from new technology, traditional auctioneers have found a Web-based method to market themselves and advertise their events.
With Farm Auction Guide.com, auctioneers can list sale bills, dates and locations, which provides great exposure to farmers and others who may be looking for a particular item or just where to find a good auction in their state.
Dwayne Leslie, president of Global Auction Guide Media Group, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, says advertising is often the biggest expense for auctioneers and isn't always effective. "With Farm Auction Guide.com, auctioneers really increase exposure and get better use of their advertising dollar."
Part of this exposure is generated through the syndication partnerships that the service has formed with different media entities, such as the High Plains Journal and AgriAmerica Network. The partnership provides the newspaper or Web site with content in print or electronic form and increases the reach and exposure of the farm auction listings.
For example, High Plains Journal has a weekly listing of auctions in its print version as well as the complete listing displayed online at www.hpj.com. This generates fresh, timely copy each week at no charge to the Journal. At the same time, Farm Auction Guide.com experiences benefits, such as increased traffic to its site and an alternative outlet to reach customers who aren't on the Web.
Leslie gives an example of how much reach the print listings generate. He tells of a Manitoba-based auctioneer who received an inquiry from a Kansas resident that was generated from the High Plains Journal listing. This shows that even without online transactions, Farm Auction Guide.com is generating business for its auctioneer-customers.
One customer, Geri Paul of Steffes Auctioneers Inc. in North Dakota, says, "Since listing with Farm Auction Guide, we are getting calls and e-mails from interested customers from all across the country. The links that are provided, plus the many search engines that Farm Auction Guide sends information to, give us worldwide exposure."
AgriAmerica Network, Indianapolis, an Internet portal for the Indiana farm community, makes it easy for its agriamerica.com users by listing all of the Indiana auctions that are posted to Farm Auction Guide.com. Gary Truitt, farm director for AgriAmerica Network, says the auction listing is among the top 10 sections visited on the site.
Truitt says the Farm Auction Guide listings are a no-cost solution for Web content. "It gives us dynamic content at no cost to us and with no staff time on our part," he explains.
You may be wondering how Farm Auction Guide is making any money if they aren't charging the media outlets. The service charges auctioneers an annual fee for unlimited access to the site, but media partners aren't out a cent. In fact, those partners who push the service through marketing efforts may receive revenue-sharing benefits down the road.
So if you're looking for fresh content for a static Web site or an auction in your area, you can probably find what you're looking for at Farm Auction Guide.com. AM