by Paul Wengert, CMIRF
Marketing surplus assets, regardless of the items, begins with knowing exactly what the assets are. It involves knowing the internal circumstances around the decision to sell, determining the market (potential use) for the assets, and then deciding on the method or strategy for selling. Sounds simple and straight-forward, right? It is, except for the much-over-looked fact that no two assets are the same, and no two markets are the same. Anyone can take pictures, write up a bid document or sales offering without descriptions or inventory, or write a vague description and tell people to “Come look and make us an offer.” That is not marketing. . .and it certainly is not an example of investment recovery best practices. Let’s look at a recent actual example of one company’s surplus marketing effort to illustrate.
The assets are not described. The actual items offered for sale are not specified. The lots contain mixed commodities and potential buyers have to include, in their bid, items they do not want. And
the time frame from inspection to sale is restrictive to the point that only buyers within close proximity would even care to spend the time to inspect the assets. Obviously, the value received from this lackluster effort will be substantially lower than if this sale were approached more professionally. This is not marketing and it is not proper Investment Recovery. If your advertising document reads like a rummage sale, it is. If IR Marketing is the process of obtaining the optimum value for our companies

and clients, let’s look at where marketing begins: gathering the “knowledge information factors.”

Knowing what you will be offering for sale involves inventorying or cataloging the assets. Providing detailed, accurate specifications and complete descriptions reduces buyer uncertainty and

consequently increases the price they are willing to offer. In our example above, none of the descriptive data is available that would allow a prospective buyer to offer fair market value. Pictures are very important and become especially valuable when combined with detailed specs and descriptions.

By not providing the descriptive data needed, and by restricting the bid period to just four days, the seller above practically guaranteed that the buyers would be local. Plus—since the seller does not
even remotely know what is being offered for sale—there is really no way to assess the fair market value (FMV) either, thereby almost guaranteeing low offers. Get quantities and the specifications

the buyer will need to offer fair market value (e.g., motor and pump specs, steel sizes and pipe grades). For larger pieces of equipment, try to get maintenance records and any record of refurbishment or preservation. Never forget—the value is in the details!

Managing and understanding the stakeholder expectations and requirements for the sale are imperative. In most cases, management’s value expectations are based on original cost, depreciated
book value, or an anecdotal incident of what a similar item supposedly sold for at some other time. For assets that are installed and sold “as is, where is,” the seller must understand that removal and

transportation costs are calculated in the buyers’ value assessment and price offering. Even with major assets that are going to be removed and scrapped, the removal, preparation, and transportation costs are all calculated by the buyer in determining the price offered. It makes good business sense to try and manage the expectations of your management as early in the process as possible.


There are numerous qualifying stipulations that can impact the marketing process. The questions that need to be asked are
  1. Do you have the resources in time and people to do it yourself?
  2. Is time a factor in the sale and removal?
  3. Are there limitations at the site, such as lack of power or access restrictions?
  4. Are there abatement or contamination issues that will affect the value of the asset?
  5. Will the buyer be responsible for expenses associated with disconnecting, dismantling, removing, loading, and transporting the assets?
Each of these factors must be considered by the buyer in determining what they can afford to pay and still make a profit, and must be acknowledged by the seller in establishing what the realistic expected value of the asset should be.

Successful marketing involves knowing the target market—in this case, who are the likely prospects for a particular asset. Is it an asset that your company would purchase from another company in your industry? If not, then an end user sale is not probable. Is it a highly engineered item that will require design evaluations by a potential buyer? If so, then engineering firms, project planners and the like in your industry are potential markets. Is it an item that must be refurbished and recertified before a
buyer can be found? If so, then re-builders and other intermediaries may be the best market. The key here is to know where the qualified buyers are for your assets— qualified in the sense that they

are able to pay a fair price for an asset.

Knowing the market potential for the assets being sold is important. Is the market being flooded with like items? Have shortages of particular items occurred in the past like with oil field tubulars, pumping

units, drilling rigs, etc? The basic law of supply and demand will have a significant impact upon the FMV.
Choose the Right Marketing Strategy and Techniques

Once you have gathered the “knowledge Information factors”- descriptions, expectations, restrictions, target market and current demand—you are ready to decide on the best methods to reach the target market with the detailed information on the assets that you have for sale. These factors will determine, first, whether you do it in house with your current staff or utilize outside resources to gather the necessary data. Once that is determined, select an advertising/marketing medium that will reach the target market in the time frame with which you have to work.

  • Advertising in industry publications has some advantages, but most of the workload remains in house and will be ongoing.
  • Direct mail, email and to a lesser extent faxes can be very effective but only once you have established a comprehensive and qualified buyer database. Obviously, these communications must include accurate asset descriptions.
  • Post it on the Internet and they (the buyers) will come—once the great hope of the “dot com era—is certainly not the panacea hoped for, and should be recognized as another broad-reach general advertising approach that still requires active follow-through.
Remembering our example above, professional marketing of investment recovery assets is not accomplished by taking a few pictures and offering up to a limited number of potential buyers,
miscellaneous lots of items that are uncatalogued and undescribed. As in any business, effective marketing and sales require the continuing application of effort, resources, and commitment to be

To market your saleable assets successfully, you must do your homework, gather the needed information, conduct market and opportunity assessments, and choose the most efficient strategies

for reaching the broadest potential buyer population. Only through this process can you hope to ensure optimum value of your assets for your company. Remember; best-practice marketing
begins with gathering the information that will make it easier for the buyer to buy at Fair Market Value (FMV). The harder it is for the buyers to determine value, the lower the price they will offer.

Reprinted from ASSET 2.0, the Investment Recovery Business Journal, Vol. 1, 2008

© The Investment Recovery Association