Donna MacMurray Klein, "The eBay Lady," has sold on the site since 1998. She's also worked as an eBay teacher, speaker and consultant. She now moderates the Facebook Group Let's Make Money in E-Commerce.
In Part 1 of this series, MacMurray Klein shared strategies for making your listings pop, recommended helpful Facebook Groups and discussed what she now knows about eBay that she wished she knew when starting out.
The answer to success on eBay is not about the site and its tools. It's about best practices in e-commerce and marketing
Here, she tells us how to learn about trends, how old-school resources can still be very helpful, and how a serious health scare impacted her personally and professionally.
Know business, not just eBay
Schepp: Aside from Facebook Groups, what are some great resources for eBay sellers?
MacMurray Klein: Learn about business, not just eBay, not just e-commerce. I subscribe to Seth Godin's blog, I listen to podcasts all day while I work, like Brian Koppelman's The Moment [and] I listen to unbiased news.
If you're going to be selling stuff to the public, it helps to know consumer trends and the products that people are seeking and what's out of favor.
eBay is "e-commerce," not a special, separate thing unto itself with distinct rules for selling that don't apply elsewhere. Everyone I read who is entirely eBay-centric will focus on eBay minutiae versus "e-commerce best practices" and smart marketing…
They'll tell you stuff like, "Be sure to tell your customers that the stuff comes from a non-smoking home," or, "Do (or don't!) use [insert a technique] in order for best placement in Cassini."
My point is that the answer to success on eBay is not about the site and its tools. It's about best practices in e-commerce and marketing.
It was in a general newspaper that I learned how the collectibles market has crashed due to baby boomers aging. That made me decide not to waste my time trying to sell previously [popular] but now unsalable Hummels from my parents' estate.
Read newspapers and magazines
Schepp: So you're saying to be alert for market intelligence and that sources, such as newspapers, can provide insights?
MacMurray Klein: Yes! Back when I was sourcing through garage sales, etc., I was actively reading Rolling Stone with an active eye for consumer trends.
I remember, for instance, reading a profile of a company owner who had been successfully selling licensed sports jerseys for ages. Suddenly a rapper wore one in a video and demand skyrocketed. Then the counterfeiters jumped in fast and his business crashed.
See how that is relevant to eBayers? For one thing it teaches a lesson about counterfeiting (and why you may find them in thrifts and they should be avoided at all costs). It also demonstrates how trends can spike and die. So while yesterday your sports jerseys were hot and bringing great prices, tomorrow you may not even be able to sell them for half price.
Start using Good 'Til Cancelled fixed-price listing and stop running auctions that end Sunday night [from] 6 to 9 p.m. EST—this is an old myth
The eBayers who don't understand that type of concept will hang onto that sports jersey and blame eBay or Cassini, or whatever for their inability to sell it.
If they're clinging hard and fast to the beliefs of old urban conventional wisdom, they'll waste time and money doing ridiculous things.
For instance, start using Good 'Til Cancelled fixed-price listing and stop running auctions that end Sunday night [from] 6 to 9 p.m. EST—this is an old myth—and running one-day listings, and so on.
Share your knowledge
Schepp: What advice do you have for eBay sellers who want to parlay their knowledge and create other sources of income?
MacMurray Klein: Back in about 2003, I took my education and my freelance writing experience, and created my own original eBay training programs before eBay created theirs. I got this huge PR.
I was a regular radio guest, was working with a freelancer on writing a book and was in negotiations with a video company. I was teaching and consulting, and quickly burning out.
At this time, my teens were finishing high school, and all four of our parents were getting sick and dying. I ended all of that, took care of my family and devoted myself just to e-commerce.
In 2008, I took my dreams of growth to a CPA. January 1, 2009 we turned my business into an S-Corp. That spring, I formed an LLC and bought a great house out of foreclosure and moved my business over there so I had room for expansion. I was still just on eBay and growing fast.
In around March 2010, eBay let me down. I had a spurt of bogus bad feedback that I could not get removed. My sales absolutely crashed. Suddenly I understood the "don't keep all of your eggs in one basket" advice that the more experienced sellers had been giving me.
I began working on getting a website going and it launched in April 2011. It was successful very quickly. More recently, I was approved to sell apparel on Amazon.
Get a dog
Schepp: You recently had to close your online businesses for a while. Running an online business can be stressful. How can people run their business and keep stress levels down?
MacMurray Klein: Often in groups, someone will ask, "Do you have a backup plan?" Mine was "shut down."
Step away from the computer every hour and take your dog on a walk. If you have a smartphone, turn it off when you're not on work time
When I suspected that I was going to be out of commission, I packed all orders fast and shut down all three sales channels, and put on an auto responder.
I pushed myself too hard. My business is too large to run entirely by myself, but that's what I was doing. I actually enjoyed it a lot, but it almost killed me. I am going to re-evaluate everything and sell the business and the real estate over the next year.
Advice: Visit a shelter and get a dog! Step away from the computer every hour and take your dog on a walk. If you have a smartphone, turn it off when you're not on work time. Turn off that ka-ching sound. Find a work-life balance.
Yes, recently I was hospitalized for four days following a serious health scare. My husband and kids and friends said, "I bet now you wish you had a smartphone! I bet you'll get one immediately!" To the contrary!
Those four days without Internet or email were the longest I've gone without being connected… Instead of Googling about my illness, I talked with nurses and read the book they gave me. I spent time looking out the window. I saw a sunrise for the first time in years!
Schepp: What other advice would you like to share with eBay sellers?
MacMurray Klein: Stop reading "eBay advice" and aim higher.
Schepp: Thank you, Donna.