Imagine this—you’re experiencing a live auction event atmosphere that is bustling with excitement, energy, and enthusiasm. The auctioneer sets a quick, engaging pace that invites bidders to support the associated charitable cause wholeheartedly. You look around the ballroom and start to notice each guest seems to have their own bidding tendencies.
Maybe one bidder seems to always take the winning bid while others have yet to make their first one. If you’ve been to a handful of live auctions, you’ll begin to see the same bidding patterns emerge again and again. These bidder patterns or tendencies are known as “bidder archetypes” that describe common bidding behaviors you can find at a live auction event.
Just like characters in a play, each of these archetypes perform a specific role that directly impacts the other characters and the bidding scene as a whole. So, how can you keep your diverse crowd engaged? In this article, we’ll review four bidder archetypes to keep in mind and a few quick tips you can use to activate any audience—let’s dive in!
Archetype: The Competitive Bidder
The Competitive Bidder enjoys bidding wars and is always looking to top the next bid. They are usually the ones that stand out the most and bring the most auction items home at the end of the night. Although this archetype is helpful to drive up bids, they do have a tendency to shut out competition and can discourage other bidders from bidding.
Offer a wide range of higher-end auction items that appeal to this type of bidder. For example, a luxurious weekend getaway package or top-of-the-line spa day might be more up their alley. Meanwhile, other items with slightly lower price tags may be more appealing to the other bidders in the room.
Overall, The Competitive Bidder is an asset to your auction, so if you happen to run a similar school fundraising or nonprofit auction each year, look at previous auction data to identify who these bidders are in advance and procure items that would appeal to them.
Archetype: The Backup Bidder
The Backup Bidder usually comes in second place to The Competitive Bidder. They engage in bidding wars until they reluctantly have to drop out because a price becomes out of their budget or they simply lose interest.
Backup Bidders are great for driving up excitement and bids, but if they keep missing out, they could stop bidding altogether. The safest way to ensure Backup Bidders have a fair shot is by using a well-researched pricing strategy. For instance, SchoolAuction.net’s silent auction guide lists these key pricing tips:
- Set a minimum bid at 30-50% FMV (fair market value) for most auction items.
- Set a minimum bid at 40-50% FMV for unique or especially appealing auction items.
- Set bid increments at 10% of the auction item’s FMV.
- Set “buy-it-now” options at 150-200% of the auction item’s FMV.
You’ll want to be confident in your bid increments’ ability to generate increased bids and invite Backup Bidders to join in. Make sure you research the FMV, and for pricier items, consider setting increments closer to 10% FMV to keep bidders interested.
Archetype: The Opportunist
The Opportunist is the most likely to swoop in last minute with a winning bid that might seem random or out of the blue. They usually conduct research ahead of time and have their eye on a few select items that they’d like to go after.
Opportunists take calculated risks but usually do not want to pay more than what they had in mind. To appeal to this kind of bidder, you’ll want to ensure your auction item descriptions are up to par with their expectations. Here are a few ways your auctioneer can do this:
- Play into the item’s scarcity for unique, one-of-a-kind items such as a rare painting.
- Use apt comparisons and emotional language to drive home an item’s value. For example, an auctioneer might compare a spa weekend to “a dream relaxation getaway.”
- Highlight auction item benefits. For instance, a jungle safari is not just a fun trip; it can be a chance to re-connect with nature and get away from the stress of daily tasks.
By employing these strategies for communicating an item’s value, you will be more likely to pique The Opportunist’s interest and maybe even convince them to go after an item that they did not plan to bid on.
Archetype: The Teacher
Although this archetype has a school-specific name, The Teacher can be found at a variety of live auction settings. This bidder may not be as actively engaged as the other guests because of their already tight involvement with the organization, school, or volunteer team.
In other words, they might be attending just to show school spirit or watch others bid on exciting items. Many times, this archetype can make up a large percentage of the room. However, their disinterest can unfortunately rub off on other live auction guests and convince them to stand back from the event rather than actively participate.
This dilemma is why your live auction should use different methods to foster inclusivity and boost equal participation. You can do this by hosting other events alongside the main auction such as a raffle, a wine wall, or paddle raise that enable this archetype to easily join in on the fun. This way, you can keep your auction accessible and welcoming for all guests.
Strategies for Appealing to All Bidders
Although auctions can bring in a diverse crowd with differing expectations, there are surefire strategies and tools you can use to make sure everyone has an excellent experience. Here are a few your fundraising committee should keep handy in your live auction toolbox:
- Auction software. Every auction whether live, virtual, or hybrid can benefit from dedicated auction software to streamline and brand the event. All guests appreciate timely check out and a wide variety of ways to engage, from video to chat to in-person or livestreaming at home.
- A well-researched professional auctioneer. A professional auctioneer sets the tone and pace of live auction events. Therefore, to keep everyone engaged and excited, it’s important to choose one that has extensive crowd experience and can generate support in a compelling way.
- Promotion and follow-up. Without sufficient promotion or follow-up, your organization could miss out on opportunities to engage and motivate auction participants. Consider creating a digital marketing strategy to keep guests informed. For instance, you could send email outreach with auction item sneak peeks and early bird ticket pricing opportunities.
- Previous auction data. By starting with what you know about your previous auction event, including which items sold, the guest demographic, and giving capacity, you can better plan for this year’s event. For instance, if you saw a decline in competitive bidding last year, you could adjust your pricing strategy to drive up bids.
If you do not have extensive previous auction data to lean on, consider attending a few live auctions or meeting with professional fundraisers who can help you understand what to expect. Then, after you’ve gotten a few live auctions under your belt, be sure to update your event data, so you can plan more accurately.
NPOInfo’s guide to nonprofit data collection suggests tracking key event data over time, such as attendance, revenue, and overall satisfaction to start. As you learn more about your specific audience, update your database so you can find the most appealing items and create the best atmosphere for your guests.
Understanding the different live auction bidder archetypes you can expect can help you prepare for an audience of mixed opinions and perspectives. Look for the archetypes described in this guide in your own attendee list, and consider using these strategies to keep each of them engaged. You’ve got this!