Writing auction descriptions for online buyers is different than live auction buyers. Many auctioneers fail to include the basic information to get active online bidding. There are three basic elements to build a quality description: make, model, and serial number. Not all items have these components, but when available they should always be included. This is the foundation of a quality description.

The first part of a quality description is the make or manufacturer—who made it? Many people seek out specific brands; and some brands hold their value better. Expensive brands like Rolex, Stickley or Milwaukee will sell for much more than their generic equivalents. Many generic products are designed to look just like the name brand, so providing the name of the manufacturer will guide the buyer in bidding, and likely make the buyer feel more comfortable. Our goal is to get buyers to commit to bidding their hard earned dollars. Making them comfortable is very important. The manufacturer information is generally only a word or two and can be found on many higher quality items.

The second key is the model. For example: Caterpillar D6, Apple iPhone 4, Ford Model T. A model further informs the buyers of the information they need to learn specific details about what you are selling. Certain models may be more desirable or more collectable. Sometimes the model will identify certain features that are not obvious just by looking at the item. It only takes a few seconds to find and include the description of the model of an item and it provides much needed information for the buyer. Models also help expose your items online when buyers do keyword searches. Serious buyers will search for items they are interested without paging though the entire inventory.

The final building block to descriptions is the VIN or Serial Number. A VIN or serial number is unique to that item. It can give the history of the item, and tell the buyer key facts like the item’s age. With the serial number buyers can contact the manufacturer and get a repair history. Most importantly, a serial number provides the buyer with the peace of mind about what she is buying. With a serial number they are bidding on a unique item, not a generic description. As professional auctioneers we should include the serial number or VIN on invoices and in descriptions whenever possible.

Those are the building blocks to a good description. Using just make model a serial number is a great start. Including this information can be done quickly with minimal experience or effort. Auctioneers selling higher value items need to build their descriptions to include features, hours, weights, specifications and more. Many times higher dollar items are major purchases for your buyers. They need information to feel comfortable bidding, sellers relay on the professional auctioneer to provide that.

Note: I understand the argument that short descriptions reduce the likelihood of lawsuits from a disappointed buyer. That logic doesn’t work online. Buyers need information or they will not bid. Frankly that argument is unprofessional. If you know what you are selling it should not be an issue. Fakes, reproductions and mistakes are facts of life. Quality terms and conditions will protect you and you seller if that happens. Most buyers will not attend a live preview, so it is up to the auctioneer to make them feel comfortable bidding. As marketers of assets it’s our job to provide as much information as is reasonable. If you owned the item being sold what would you want buyers to know to maximize the value? If someone called you and wanted an appraisal what would you ask them? Are you including all that information in your auction descriptions?

There are some examples for Poor, Better and Great descriptions.

Delta Welder
Poor: Welder
Better: Miller Welder Model Deltaweld 452 Serial Number LC301221
Great: Miller Deltaweld 452 Constant Current AC/DC Arc Welder. Serial Number LC301221 250 Amp Rated Output at 40% Duty Cycle, TIG Torch, Remote Foot Switch, Ground Clamp, Cart Mounted, 200/230/460 Volt Single Phase Approx Dimension 36″x55″x47, Weight 450 lbs.

Dell Computer
Poor: Laptop
Better: Dell Latitude E5500 Serial Number 6LQ6L91
Great: Dell Latitude E5500 Notebook Serial Number 6LQ6L91,15.4 inch Screen, 4 GB RAM, Windows 7, 250 GB disk Hard Drive, Intel CPU, 2.53 GHz CPU, With DVD Drive, Intel GPU – 1280 x 800, Touchpad, Widescreen, 6.4 pound

Ford Truck
Poor: Ford Truck
Better: Ford F150 Truck VIN: 1FTRW12W06FB04636
Great: 2006 Ford F150 King Ranch Truck VIN: 1FTRW12W06FB04636 Engine: 8-Cylinder
5.4, 4X4, CREW Cab, Trans: AUTO 4X4, Fuel: Gasoline/E85, Color: Black, Interior: Black, Miles: 101587 VIN: 1FTPW14V86KD84521

Thanks for reading. Please pass this on to someone you know who could improve their auction descriptions.