How will you take your business to the next level? With a new year just beginning, there's no better time to sit down and plan out how you'll tackle your selling strategy for the coming year.
We all know that doing a little planning can prevent a lot of headaches down the road, so get your notebook and your calendar ready; we have some tips you can use to start 2010 on the right foot.
You might also want to read our Auctiva Blog about how Auctiva Product Analyst Rebecca Miller aims to be the best seller she can be this year. There's no such thing as being too prepared, we say. Now onto the tips.
Look ahead on your calendar
While you may still be catching your breath after the whirlwind of the holidays, you should start thinking about the next big selling days and mark them on your calendar. Take a few minutes to circle the major holidays: Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas. Colored markers work really well for this, Miller says. She personally marks holidays in one color, blocks off days she'll begin listing items for that holiday in another color and IDs shipping days in a third color. This color code lets her know what tasks she should accomplish on particular days when the busy seasons hit.
You'll be glad you have this plan already laid out when you're busy selling and shipping items
"It's nice to have something to look at so you're not just lost," she says. "And it helps you focus on selling during key days since you've already set up a plan."
It's also a good idea to note days on which you should e-mail past buyers, reminding them of the upcoming holiday, and of all the great items and gifts you have for sale.
Also, start identifying possible ending dates for your listings. It may seem like overkill right now, but you'll be glad you have this plan already laid out when you're busy selling and shipping items. You can adjust the dates later if you need to, just be sure to keep in mind possible delivery times. Remember, these items may be gifts for someone special. Buyers want to get their items before the big day, not after it.
Restock your inventory
As holidays pass, keep your eyes open for seasonal items you could resell during another holiday. In the coming weeks, for instance, perfumes and jewelry will go on sale as Valentine's Day nears—which gives you the chance to stock up on inventory for this gift-giving time. These items are popular gifts on Mother's Day as well, so if you don't sell out of them in February, you'll have another opportunity in a few short months. And if you happen to stop by a yard or estate sale, look for products that lend themselves to particular holidays.
However, this doesn't mean you can stop monitoring trends. You should continue to do this throughout the year. Be on the lookout for "hot toy" and "top gifts" lists. Tuned-in sellers learned as early as last June through trade publications and news reports that Zhu Zhu Pets would be the must-have item for the holidays. By Thanksgiving, the mechanical hamsters were selling on eBay for as much as 500 percent over retail. So research, research, research!
Organize your workspace
During the holiday selling season, you no doubt recognized whether you had allotted enough space to store your shipping materials, packing supplies and inventory—and you also learned if you had stockpiled enough of these materials. So if you need to make adjustments, now's the time to do it.
That stuff isn't making you any money sitting there in a box
But there's more to organization than just physical space. You'll also want to arrange your products in groups so you know at a glance what you have available to sell.
Miller separates her items into four categories: items currently listed; items already sold that are awaiting payment; items ready to be listed; and other items that don't fit into one of these categories. She uses the drawers in her desk to separate small products. However, depending on the size of the items you sell, and the volume, you may need something bigger to house your inventory.
Sorting your items may also be an unexpected source of selling motivation, Miller says.
"When you can no longer see the top of your desk, or when you have tons of boxes of unlisted eBay stuff, you know it's time to get busy," she explains. "It's not making you any money sitting there in a box."
Check the competition
Research is also key to having a good selling year. Take an hour to look at your competitors' listings, noting the keywords they use and where they show up in search results. Also compare prices and note if they're offering buyer incentives, such as free shipping. Then take a look at your own listings to see how they measure up. Are you giving buyers enough information about your items? Do you need more pictures, or do your images provide enough details? These are all important questions to consider. And while you're reviewing your listings, go over your seller details, shipping information, etc. It may be a while since you last checked these, and they may need updating.
Test the waters
Finally, since it's the start of a brand new year, why not venture out a bit and try selling a few items you don't typically offer? If you ordinarily sell commodity items, but you have an interest in antiques and collectibles, try selling a few one-of-a-kind goods. Or if you want to increase the volume of your sales, consider experimenting with a wholesaler or supplier that dropships. But if you decide to go this route, be sure to do plenty of research first to ensure you choose the right supplier for your goals. Look for a well-established company, and see what other sellers think of them.
Remember, preparation is key to having the best selling year yet. We hope that after reading this article you feel recharged and ready to tackle the new year with a revved up selling strategy. Happy 2010!