10 Mistakes to Avoid With Your Next Auction

Gavel resting on pile of money to show successful auction

Auctions can bring in considerable amounts of money when you run them correctly—but mistakes can be costly, and they’re easier to make than you might think. Fortunately, others have made auction errors long before you, and by learning about their missteps ahead of time, you can avoid falling into the same pitfalls when it comes to your event.

We designed Bid Beacon to make auctions simpler, more streamlined—and, most importantly, more successful for hosts and their organizations. Let us share our experience of what works and what doesn’t so you know how to make your event a success!

Without any further ado, here are 10 mistakes to avoid at your next auction.

Auction Mistake #1: Missing Item Descriptions

Your guests need to know what they’re bidding on—and, more importantly, they need to know why they should be excited about each item. Concise, specific descriptions help your audience see the value of each item at your auction. The right narrative is always a powerful tool for arousing interest.

Auction Mistake #2: Starting the Bidding at Zero

Make sure not to undervalue the items that have been donated to you for the event. Setting the right starting bid is the best way to let your guests know what’s reasonable, so make sure to consider each item’s retail value carefully. It also helps to know who’s coming to your auction—the right audience might be willing to pay more for certain things.

Auction Mistake #3: Allowing Guests to Bid In Too Small Increments

Letting guests bid in $1 increments might provoke a lot of competition, but it will also prevent your items from seeing real fundraising growth. Setting the minimum bidding increments to $5 or $10 can keep your bidders vying for victory, while also creating proceeds that make the auction worth it.

Here’s another tip: make the bidding increments for each item proportional to its value. For instance, if you have a big-ticket item worth thousands of dollars, up the minimum bidding increment to hundreds instead.

Auction Mistake #4: Not Bundling Items

Generally, there are two types of items you want to bundle at auctions to help encourage higher bids: small items that are unlikely to provoke much excitement on their own, and easily-valued ones that people are unlikely to bid more than a certain amount for. But by putting these items with others, you can increase their value in the eyes of your guests.

Here’s an example: people probably won’t want to bid more than $100 for a $100 gift card. However, putting that card with something harder to value—like event tickets, a home decor item, or a liquor basket—could encourage people to bid $300 (or more!) on it.

Auction Mistake #5: Items That Don’t Match Your Audience

You have to know what type of event you’re holding, and who’s going to be there. For example, if you’re holding a golf auction, you should have at least a few items that are golf-related—tee times, golf-lessons, or a set of clubs are likely to attract more attention (and raise more money) than a pair of tennis shoes. Cater to your audience’s interests!

Auction Mistake #6: Poor Images

Just like descriptions, images tell the story of your items and make them compelling to your guests. It’s vital to have high-quality photos or graphics that make your items look professional and appealing.

It’s also a good idea to keep images for your items consistent—it makes your entire event seem more professional. Either take high-quality photos of each item against similar backdrops with similar lighting, or use free software like Canva to easily design graphics for each one using a clean and professional template. With Bid Beacon, you can even include video to go along with an item’s images!

Auction Mistake #7: Too Many Items

Having too many items for the guests at your auction results in less competition by making it less likely for people to bid on the same things. When you’re planning your auction, aim to have a 2:1 ratio of bidders to items to avoid a situation where every guest bids on something different and wins it with their first bid.

Auction Mistake #8: Poor Communication

You want to make sure people show up to your auction, which means you have to be clear with them about important information. For example:

  • What type of auction is it? 
  • What kind of items will be on display?
  • Where is the auction taking place, and for how long?
  • How will people pick up their items after the auction?

It’s also critical to invite people to the auction across multiple platforms—use all your different social media accounts, send emails, and even consider putting together physical mailouts with postcards or pamphlets! You’ll also want to send reminders, since they can majorly drive up attendance rates (as much as 79% for virtual events when sent correctly).

Auction Mistake #9: Limiting the Event to In-Person Guests

On the heels of that last suggestion, we also suggest opening your event up to people who can’t be there physically. The more people who can come to your auction, the more competition you can encourage and the more proceeds you can raise! Allowing people to join the auction virtually via an app like Bid Beacon is also a fantastic way to connect with a wider audience and build support for future events.

Auction Mistake #10: Not Running for Long Enough

The longer you make your auction (within reason), the more time you have to attract guests—and the more time they have to outbid each other. Even if your auction is tied to an event with a limited duration, it’s always a good idea to open the bidding a few days in advance, which helps spread the word and whips up some excitement.

The average auction duration on our platform is 9 days, but Bid Beacon auctions can run live for up to 365 days if using our Ultimate Risk-Free auction plan. This will give you more than enough time to keep the action going if your guests are really competing for your items.

Auction Mistake #11 (Bonus): Not Using Your Sponsors

Sponsorship isn’t just about finding companies to donate gifts to your event. You can also use sponsor recognition as a way to attract more guests and lend your auction a greater sense of legitimacy. Make sure to thank your sponsors during the event to highlight your associations—or, better yet, place their URL links or banner ads in the app so users see them when they’re browsing your auction.

Get the Auction Results You Deserve

You’ve worked hard to organize your auction, so make sure the conditions are in place for it to produce the kinds of proceeds you want! Use what you’ve learned above to avoid common mistakes, attract more guests, and keep them bidding in the right amounts so that you can raise the money your organization needs. To learn more about how Bid Beacon can help, contact us with your questions.

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