In October's edition of Business Eye our Marketing Manager, Andrew Dickinson and PR Executive, Jen Higgins spoke to editor, Richard Buckley about how the dedicated marketing department has helped to grow the knowledge of the company on a global scale.
Andrew Dickinson has a clear message of intent in his role as Marketing Manager at Wilsons Auctions.
"There are still some people out there who think that Wilsons Auctions is a car auction in Mallusk," he says. "But we're a much bigger operation than that these days."
In fact, Wilsons Auctions extends to 18 sites across Northern Ireland, the Republic, Scotland, England, Wales and Spain as well as some 400 employees and puts a mind-boggling array of goods under the hammer every day.
Car auctions still form an important backbone to the company's activities, but Wilsons Auctions has won a series of contracts from government agencies and UK police forces to process and sell off the proceeds of crime.....ranging from luxury houses through to boats, sports cars, jewellery and watches.
Andrew Dickinson started his career after university as a marketing manager with a County Antrim motor dealership, moving on from there to take on a similar role with a Mallusk based Commercial Vehicle dealership
He went on to land the top marketing job at Wilsons Auctions, where his role is to oversee a busy central marketing department looking after all of the company's locations.
"We centralised the marketing function a few years ago to co-ordinate how we get a consistent message out right across the growing business, and it's important to us that the marketing team is accessible to our other branches just as we are to our staff here in Belfast.
Andrew is joined in the team by three Marketing Executives, an in-house graphic designer and PR Executive.
The marketing role at Wilsons Auctions has changed beyond recognition over recent years. The full marketing mix is utilised, embracing both digital and traditional, with particular focus on an extensive online marketing programme, measured and managed to ensure it is tailored to each auction and the continual company expansion of Wilsons Auctions, not only across the UK and Ireland but further afield.
"The use of digital is important because, increasingly, this is an international operation and the ability to accurately measure and manage campaigns is essential. Whilst we are firmly physical auctioneers, our auctions are all live online these days, and we frequently have specialist auction events, so our customers can come from anywhere in the world.
"This is reflected in our social media followers which continues to flourish. In recent months we reached over 100,000 likes on our Facebook page, a growth of 41.5% since December 2017 and traffic to our website has doubled since 2016."
It's the ever-increasing influence of digital marketing that encouraged Andrew to enrol for CIM Digital Diploma in Professional Marketing with Belfast Academy of Marketing where he is currently completing his studies and developing his knowledge.
"The sheer range of items that we are selling has changed a lot over recent years as we've built up a global reputation in the world of asset recovery, but for us as a marketing team, that means that we've got to deliver tailored messages to different target audiences.
"One day we could be focusing on something very specific like earth-moving or quarry equipment and the next we could be looking at planning and implementing a marketing campaign for supercars, properties, watches or jewellery. We even sold off a unique collection of movie memorabilia in the last year and all of this is in addition to our regular auctions."
PR Executive, Jen Higgins joined the marketing team two years ago to provide dedicated PR support to the group while ensuring the profile of the corporate brand was raised across the UK and Ireland.
Bringing almost 10 years of experience to the role as well as a CIPR member, Jen has worked alongside marketing to grow the knowledge of the company through media coverage. Over the past year, press coverage achieved an average reach of 689 million which was a massive increase in the four years since the marketing department was established.
Building up a relationship with journalists outside of Northern Ireland has helped in the growth of coverage across the UK and Ireland, which has resulted in Wilsons Auctions making it onto the pages of national newspapers like the Daily Mail, The Times and The Independent as well as hitting the broadcast news across the regions and hitting the news globally.
The interest in what Wilsons Auctions does these days is huge, especially with the company's asset recovery auctions and work with police forces. The BBC documentary series Ill Gotten Gains is a prime example of that interest, as well as on a number of different TV programmes which Jen works closely with during their production.
Elsewhere, Jen has been working to grow the corporate profile through the submission of various business and industry awards across the board which has resulted in success at last year's UTV Business Eye Awards and the South Dublin Business Awards and this year sees the company shortlisted in the TRI (Turnaround, Restructuring & Insolvency) Awards, Commercial Motor Awards and Ayrshire Business Awards.
Despite the considerable international growth over the past few years, the company is still very proud of where it has progressed from.
"But, at our heart, we're still very much a Northern Ireland family-owned company, and that's very important to us," adds Andrew
"I see my role as a strategic one," he says. "Technology is constantly evolving and our marketing strategies need to be flexible enough to adapt, embrace and maximise the potential that this evolution brings. The task is made easier with the help of a talented marketing team in which individual skillsets complement each other to create an effective and enthusiastic team that I'm proud to be a part of."