You’ve got the estate sale business part down. You’ve observed and attended several estate sales in your area to see how they work. You’ve taken appraisal courses. You’ve brushed up on your customer service skills. You’ve joined an estate sale company networking group. You’ve even established a client list.
But it’s 2016. And that means you need to establish an online presence. Your digital presence encompasses everything from how you appear to the Search Engines (Google, Yahoo & Bing), to your followings across social media, and, of course, your website. This guide will show you how to get started.
The first big thing is to know yourself an be honest when assessing your resources. Two big factors go into establishing a solid web presence: time and skills.
If you’re juggling three kids and a full time job in addition to your estate sale business, chances are you’re strapped for time. Don’t overcommit and set yourself up for failure. Don’t shoot for daily posts to your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts. This is unrealistic! Instead, prioritize. Which accounts can you consistently maintain? Are there any social networks you already use and enjoy?
Start small with one or two accounts before adding something else to the mix. And strive for quality over quantity. Then you’ll want to maximize your time. Here at EstateSales.org, we use a content calendar on a spreadsheet to plan our strategy across all networks. If you’re a planner, this may work for you. But it’s not the only way. Some people prefer to be led by inspiration, and some estate sale companies post on the fly.
Your skill set is the next thing to consider. If you hate writing and did horribly in high school English, don’t stress yourself out trying to start a blog. Likewise, if you don’t know the first thing about taking good estate sale photos, Instagram might not be your most successful channel.
Of course you can always learn new skills (see: time). Programs like Canva make it easy to do design work and already have a lot of the social network formats pre-made.
Get inspired: We love this blog by Lisa Kroese, who keeps it updated with with interesting, relevant content. Her open, conversational style makes it easy to read. We also love the photos on this Instagram account from Brown Button Estate Sales. They take the time to make sure each photo focuses on a single item and the filters they use give their account a vintage-y feel.
Know Your Audience
If you’ve been in the business for long, you’ve gotten to know your estate sale buyers. You know your regulars and what interests them. Now it’s time to meet them where they are.
Are they already on social media? If you know they’re on Facebook, then it’s a no-brainer. Create a Business Facebook page and remind customers to “Like” your page at your sales. You can even ask them what kinds of social media they use. The more you know about them and what they like, the better you’ll be able to reach them. . . online as well as in person.
Know Your Competition
Was it Sun Tzu who said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt”? While he was referring to the art of war, the same wisdom can be applied to estate sales (why not?) Put simply: study your competition. Does a certain estate sale company have an entertaining Facebook page with a huge following?
Don’t get intimidated—get educated. Study their tactics. You can learn the best lessons (including the important lesson of humility) by seeing what your competition does well. Then tailor your content to fit your unique style. In the end, be grateful for your competition. They push you to be better, which is a good thing for the estate sale industry.
Know Your Basics
1. Get On Google. Google is kind of a big deal on the Internet. Get in good with Google, and you’ll have clients find you via Search. The quickest way to show Google you exist is to register your company with Google My Business. It’s a pretty straight-forward process that will walk you through all the right steps. And guess what? It’s free.
2. List Your Estate Sale Online. Long gone are the days when people picked up the Greensheet on Saturday morning to map out the weekend’s estate sales. Like everything else now, people use the Internet to search for things (and more often than not, the Internet via their mobile phones), so you’ll want your sale to be easily found online. Not only that, you’ll want your sale to be found where people are searching for sales, so it’s a good idea to get listed with an estate sale directory like EstateSales.org.
We offer a free trial month, a leads referral program, cross-posting on other websites, and a mention in our daily newsletter that reaches almost 1 million subscribers. Many estate sale companies like to cover their bases by joining more than one estate sale listing website, as well as their local Craigslist or Classified ads.
3. Get Reviewed. Chances are, if you’ve bought anything in the past few years, you’ve done some online research beforehand. You’ve compared prices or looked up User reviews. Your potential estate sale clients are no different. When it comes to having an estate sale, people are already highly emotional. They want to find a company they can trust. Besides being listed with trusted organizations like NESA or ASEL, you’ll want to rack up online reviews, preferably good ones.
To start, solicit family and friends who have actually observed one of your estate sales and speak to your expertise (preferably with a different last name!). Then solicit reviews from actual clients as soon as possible. Don’t be shy! While it might feel awkward to ask for a review, it really is the best way to start establishing your online presence. Of course, you only want to ask clients who were pleased with your service – so use that as an incentive to do the best job possible.
What to do when you get a bad review? Putting yourself out there opens you up to bad reviews, and this is one of the downsides to the Internet. In this case, it’s best to respond (wait 24 hours until you’re not angry anymore). Then explain your side of the story as succinctly as possible, then move on. And remember the cardinal rule of the internet: anything you type and publish is there forever, so be wise.
4. Get Listed. Many estate sale companies have had success with listing their business on Angie’s List. This website verified the credibility of companies and is available to subscribing members. Registering with the Better Business Bureau is another way to get your name on the cyber map.
Know How to be Social
Social media is a great way to find and engage customers, so you’ll want to take advantage of these free platforms. These days everyone’s using social media, from Baby Boomers to big brands like Coca Cola. And it’s not just Facebook. The social networking landscape is changing faster than ever and even small businesses need to keep up.
With Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Periscope, Snapchat, and more, it’s hard to keep track of the social network du jour. Luckily, the key to success isn’t in the number of networks you maintain, but in the quality of the content you share and the connections you make—connections who hopefully become customers at your estate sales.
+Pros: Everyone’s on it. It’s easy. Most people have a personal network, so they already know how to use it. It’s also really easy to share sale photos.
-Cons: Everyone’s on it, so it’s hard to break through the noise of the constant stream of updates. Also, sometimes you have to pay to play. What this means, is you can reach a targeted demographic (people in your area more likely to become actual estate sale customers) by paying for Facebook ads. However, this is not required.
Case study: McNeil Liquidations
McNeil is a bigger estate sale company that primarily deals with high end sales, so they have a bigger budget to spend on Facebook promotions (between 10 and 15,000 dollars in the last 3 fiscal years). They also budget for professional photos of their sales, which they then use on social media. They use their Facebook page to promote their estate sales, local businesses, and other estate sale companies.
+Pros: Easy to use. Big vintage selling market already. It offers the ability to search by hashtags – so people can find your content. If you take good photos or know graphic design, even better, since Twitter posts with a graphic or image get more attention.
-Cons: Like Facebook, it can be hard to break through the din of content. It can also take a lot of work and engagement to gather a following.
Case study: Fine Estate Sales
— Martin Codina (@FineEstate) January 17, 2016
It’s clear owner Martin Codina has a lot of fun being creative with his marketing, and this shows on social media. We love his unique customized graphics that advertise his different sales, which he uses on social media – and so do his followers.
+Pros: It’s primarily a visual medium which lends itself to well to sharing and showing off your estate sales. It’s also mobile, so you can do it from anywhere. Another benefit is that unlike Facebook and Twitter, all your posts get shown to everyone in your feed. Facebook and Twitter use algorithms that decide when and where your posts get shown, but Instagram doesn’t.
-Cons: Some people don’t have an eye for photography. If this is you, you probably won’t enjoy using Instagram. Another drawback is Instagram doesn’t offer free analytics, like Facebook and Twitter, so won’t know how your posts are performing, other than by the number of likes and comments.
Case study: Lucky Rabbit Estate Sales
“We don’t do any paid ads on social media, but my time is worth a lot of money,” said owner Paul Dunn who enjoys posting to social media and does all his updating from the comfort of his couch. And while he has no marketing background, he stays on top of Google’s algorithm changes via Google Webmaster’s emails and updates his website accordingly.
+Pros: Great way to show photos of your sale. If you have a blog, you can promote it here. Pinterest can be a great way to drive traffic to your sales.
-Cons: It takes time to pin and repin, and build your audience. You may have to join group boards to get any traction. Photos need to be professional looking and the correct vertical size.
Case study: Xcntric Estate Sales
“The information and news we share is different from account to account because the audiences are different. So listen and watch what each audience is having fun with and share the information that keeps them engaged,” says Kim Soria of Xcntric Estate Sales, who learned social media by just jumping in. Their Pinterest board is a combination of business and personal and their audience gets to know them as people better, which helps make a connection.
Want to learn more? Read this Beginner Guide to Social Media!
Got any tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below!