Although most of us don't want to consider turning our businesses into quick-cash machines (long-term, perpetual, cash machines, sure), every business will have a dry spell.
As a new seller, you're unlikely to make a sale when a more experienced seller has failed
We wondered what some successful e-merchants do when the cupboard begins to look a little bare, so we set out to find some strategies that could help sellers through the hard times. As you might guess, experienced sellers had some interesting tips.
They were kind enough to share some, for both merchants who are just building their online businesses and those who have been at it for some time. Let's start with the strategies for newer sellers.
Raid your house
"Round up anything you think is saleable," advises Katherine Terrill of NYC Fitness Family & Finds on eBay. These include iPods, clothes, books, DVDs, collectibles or anything you have that you don't need, but someone else might like, she says.
But before you list, search each item on eBay. She recommends using Advanced Search to filter for only sold items. "Don't waste your time," Terrill advises, adding that you shouldn't list items that didn't sell.
As a new seller, you're unlikely to make a sale when a more experienced seller has failed, but you will get a good education about what is selling and the realistic prices you can expect for the items you are going to list, she adds.
Once you see what items have sold for, go for the lowest price or tie your competition for the lowest rate.
"List it at lower or lowest [price] of anyone on eBay," Terrill continues, "and list it as Buy It Now with immediate payment."
Terrill reminds newer sellers that if their goal is to sell fast and make immediate money, both of these tactics will help. Experienced e-merchant Martin Frank, who was launching a new site, Offerama, when we spoke, agrees about the pricing.
"If I pick 10 $150 items and mark them down to $99.99, it would be very possible to turn that inventory in 24 hours versus a typical 90 days trying to get the higher margins," he says.
Those who lacked the initiative to sell the items on their own have gladly paid me for my years of experience, sterling reputation and professional approach to the customer base
Where will new sellers find these bigger-ticket items around the house? "For any newbie, the garage is a great place to start looking for those $100-plus items," Frank says.
Gather up old tech
Other sellers remind us not to overlook used tech gadgets, from smartphones to gaming systems, to computer equipment. Just because you may not be using it anymore, doesn't mean no one else in the world would find it useful.
"I just did it on eBay because I had to, except I was shooting for $1,000 and it turned out to be nearly $2,000!" says Tony Cicalese of Wegotthebeats on eBay. "On eBay, you can list items as Buy It Now and get paid in minutes."
According to Cicalese, fixed-price allows you to have cash coming in right away, but you can stand to risk a little more on regular seven-day auctions. "You can get surprised with things that go higher than you expect," he continues.
Cicalese had two quick-cash sales he told us about. He sold a Doors poster for $338 when he'd hoped to get $10 and a Bizzy Bone promo cassette tape for $82 when he'd hoped for $4.99!
"These two items I had been sitting on for probably two years, unsure if they were worth the listing fees," he says.
Of course, competitive pricing can also play into the quick-sales strategy of more established sellers.
Offer your services
Another tip: "Sell your inventory," onfair's Brandon Dupsky says. "So many of my coaching clients are sitting on a ton of inventory that's getting older each day. Money sitting on a shelf doesn't make you more money!"
If you have a business that's chugging along, but you just need a quick cash flow, you can also turn to your own network for help.
"I would recommend soliciting others for high-value items, which those parties wish to sell but lack the necessary framework to do so," recommends veteran eBay seller Drew Friedman. "Then charge 40 to 50 percent consignment fees for selling them."
Your list of past customers is like an ATM. Anytime you need money, you just hit the ATM, but you need to nurture and water that garden
Over the years, this strategy has worked well for Friedman, who has sold things ranging from a 28-foot sailboat to collectible guitars worth thousands, and other expensive and rare collectibles.
"Those who lacked the initiative to sell the items on their own have gladly paid me for my years of experience, sterling reputation and professional approach to the customer base," Friedman explains.
As we've long agreed, experienced e-commerce merchants have many assets beyond their inventories to use for profit, and Friedman reminds us not to underestimate those!
John Lawson, of ColderICE, also likes to look at the long-term type of growth and effort that will give all sellers more options to make the money they and their businesses need. Lawson believes strongly in customer relationship management.
In his recent book, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs (and you know, since Deb is the co-author, we especially love this book), Lawson explains how using Facebook can be a great way to build a long-standing relationship with your customers and allow them to come to know you as a business person and individual. Then you've got a garden to tend that can provide a perennial source of riches.
"Build a list," Lawson recommends. "Your list of past customers is like an ATM. Anytime you need money, you just hit the ATM, but you need to nurture and water that garden."
But, overall, Lawson eschews the idea of turning to eBay or Amazon to make quick money. "To make good money, you need to be a skilled business person or you will lose your shirt," he warns.
So, sure, every now and again a business can turn to a quick-cash strategy. Just remember, it's a short-term solution to cash flow, and keep building your business beyond the next crisis on the horizon.