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The Psychology Behind the Bid: Getting Inside the Mind of Your Silent Auction Bidders

Our last blog How to Write an Effective Auction Item Description outlined the mechanics of writing a description that truly “sells”. To continue the conversation, in this blog article we will delve into why people place bids.


Marketing psychology is the incorporation of psychological principles into your content and marketing strategy. In other words, it’s about understanding the thoughts and mindsets of your particular target audience. Even though you can apply marketing psychology to any number of marketing-related areas of your organization, our focus in this blog entry will be on silent auction bids.



Remember, when you put an item up for auction at your next fundraising event, your job is to market that item to the best of your ability. It’s your job to tell your audience why they will want to place bids on your items. With all this in mind, it’s time to get inside the mind of your bidders to get a better understanding of the psychology behind the bid.


Get Inside the Head of Your Bidders


Ok, it’s time to take a trip inside the mind of your potential bidders for a second. In this example, let’s say a person is checking out the item description of an autographed baseball jersey. Once a person has taken the time to carefully read through the item description, it’s safe to say that they are most likely hooked.

There’s a reason people take the time to read through the description of a particular item. Something about the item is catching their eye. Maybe this person loves baseball. Or maybe their kids love baseball. Or maybe this particular player is a local legend. Whatever the reason may be, you have this guest exclusively interested in purchasing this product.


Now that your guest has acknowledged and accepted the price that you advertised, it’s your job to help them check off any concerns they might have on what is referred to as the “mental checklist.”


Addressing the Mental Checklist

When a person is trying to decide about purchasing an item, there is a mental checklist that shows up. This mental checklist is something people use to see if an item is worth purchasing. We all use this mental checklist. You may even use it without realizing it in some cases. Sometimes, the checklist is short. For example, when you go to buy a gallon of milk at the store, the checklist is probably pretty short. The only question might be, “Am I out of milk at home?” However, if you go to buy a new car, that mental checklist will be made up of a lot more questions.


Let’s take a look at some of the questions that often make up mental checklists:


● Is this item something I would like? Or even better, is this an item I have been looking for?

● Is this something I can brag about winning to my social group?


● Does this item have the specific feature(s) I’m interested in? *Tip: You must highlight the features and make sure they are front and center. This is where you add value to your item and encourage overbids.


● How much am I willing to pay? *Tip: This is where the words you use in your description can be the difference between $10 dollars vs. $100 (or even thousands) depending on the items.

As you can see from some of the above-mentioned questions, it’s so important to address the mental checklist of your bidders. In doing so, you are disarming any of their concerns. Writing up your descriptions should be a careful process that considers this kind of marketing psychology. The psychology behind the bid is a concept that will surely help you better prep your items and their descriptions at your next silent auction.


If you need help creating item descriptions, elevating your auction, or further developing your fundraising event marketing strategies, contact the American Fundraising Foundation. Our team of experienced development and fundraising experts can help make sure your next event a success. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!

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