Deb and I have had the pleasure of speaking with hundreds of eBay PowerSellers in researching our books. Of all the tips they've shared with us, here are 13 that really stand out now, in no particular order:
1. Don't let DSRs sour you on eBay
It can all be too much. Even eBay's renowned feedback system has been markedly changed with sellers now held accountable for shipping speed, how well they described the item, what their communication was like, etc. You can't afford to say you don't care, as items from high-DSR sellers are "advantaged" in search results, meaning; if you're a better seller, you get to sit at the head of the class. Maybe that means taking a look at your negative or neutral feedbacks to see where problems have arisen before. Are descriptions an issue? How about shipping to international countries? Do customers there complain about how long shipping takes? Now, more than ever, it's important to correct any shortcomings.
2. Keep track of those fees
Oh, oh. Things got more complicated as eBay slashed front-end (listing) charges, but in some cases raised final-value fees. They made Gallery images free too. And now PowerSellers can earn discounts. Whew! What does all this mean? Well, not only is good accounting more important than ever, but it's a great idea to try new items to sell (thanks to lower insertion fees), find what works and stick with it. That is, until it doesn't work.
3. Join a professional group
Or even two. We know, not everyone is a "joiner." But this is business, folks. Plus we've never yet met a PowerSeller who regretted her decision to join a professional group. For eBay sellers the main groups are the Internet Merchants Association, the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance and the E-commerce Merchants Trade Association. They offer access to people who may have more experience than you, and who are more likely to share what they've learned with other group members. Plus, the annual or biannual meetings they hold give you face-to-face contact with eBay executives, and, of course, your fellow sellers.
4. Embrace eBay's Web 2.0 features
Whether you like the term or not, it's these new social networking sites, blogs and other opportunities for interaction that make the Web feel more personal. On eBay, these features include Reviews and Guides, My World, and even the old-fashioned discussion boards. Basically, it's anything that gets your name out there among other eBay users and surfers of all stripes, who may come to you through search engines. It's well worth the time and trouble to use these tools. It may even add some fun to your day.
5. Don't keep your head in the sand
Know what you can expect to get for an item by checking completed listings, whether it's a good item to sell online, whether it can be cost-effectively shipped and where to get the best deal
We know you're busy. That's the life of a PowerSeller. But you owe it to the health of your business to keep up with news sources in your area of interest. For example, if you deal in rare books, you may want to subscribe to The BookThinker. Some of the PowerSellers we know are also the most avid "info hounds," constantly looking out for new blogs, or other pundits who can help them do a better job.
For example, AuctionBytes recently interviewed RedRoller.com's Mark Taylor, who probably knows more about shipping for e-commerce companies than anyone. It turns out Mark has a full-blown Web site and newsletter full of tips. Who knew?
Also, try different media. Our eyes get tired from staring at keyboards all day. When that happens, it's time to check out eBay Radio, where you only have to sit back and listen.
6. Don't sell things before you know about them
Some sellers say, "Sell what you know." For example, if you've always been a book lover, sell books. Others say, "Sell what's selling." So, regardless of your own interests, see what the public's buying and, if you can, find a way to fill that need.
Regardless, know what you can expect to get for the item by checking completed listings, whether it's a good item to sell online, whether it can be cost-effectively shipped and where to get the best deal. Do your homework upfront!
7. Think of your merchandise as a total product line
Do you sell cell phones? Then perhaps you should also sell cell-phone cases. Selling DVDs? Maybe there are cases or racks that would complement them well. So, as they taught you in Marketing 101, always go for the up-sell. You have your customer's attention; he's walked into your store. Now provide those impulse buys!
8. Go to manufacturers' trade shows
Although going to the ASD/AMD show costs Brad extra money (because of the gem show that's a part of it), we always try to make it. We've met hundreds of distributors at these shows, and where else will you have an opportunity like that? At shows like this you can meet hundreds of sellers face-to-face and forge those relationships that count for so much. Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting, and nothing is more important to your business than sourcing.
9. Pack and ship like a pro
This means doing so as carefully as if you were sending the item to yourselfor better yet, your mother. Go the extra mile. We know this is a place to save but be careful here. If you're using a recycled box, make sure it's not worn in places where it will tear right through. Put tape over the address label so the ink doesn't run in rain. Use clean packing materials. Ship as fast as you can.
We know shipping is dull. But to that person who's expectantly waiting for your item, it can be like waiting for a present to come.
10. Market yourself
Make sure people know they bought it from you, and not just from eBay
You know all about eBay now. So consider writing an eBay column for your local community paper. Teach a course about buying and selling on eBay through your local library, or sell things for other people. Be sure that, among the communities you're a part of, you're known as the go-to person for eBay information.
11. Brand yourself
You want to make sure people know they bought it from you, and not just from eBay. That's how you get those hard-to-come-by repeat buyers. Some sellers have a pretty high percentage of these, say 20 percent to 30 percent. You can too. Just brand yourself everywhere.
Pay a designer to create a logo for you and have that same designer create business cards, stationary, mailing labelsthe works. Don't know of one off hand? Try Guru or Elance.
12. You profit when you buy, not when you sell
This seems so obvious, yet it's worth repeatinga lot. It's when you're sourcing something that you determine what you pay for it and, therefore, how much of a profit you can expect to make on it. It may seem like that's determined when you sell an item, but that's only partly true. How much an item will sell for in the end is not as important as what it costs when you buy it.
13. Work against the perception that eBay is an unsafe place to do business
That means being an ambassador of sorts. You may owe your entire e-commerce start to eBay. Even if things are not going as well for you now, this doesn't mean you should turn your back on the company entirely, as part of your livelihood doesor diddepend on it.
When our own daughter, Steph, needed a battery pack for her laptop, she came to us for advice about buying one online. We suggested eBay as a first stop, but she was afraid to chance doing business on eBay because of what she'd heard about fraud. We had to hand-hold her through the process of vetting a buyer, finding the best deal, etc. Thankfully, even after checking with Amazon, she "took a chance" on eBay. The upshot? Months later the battery pack is still working fine. And she paid less for it too.
So please embrace more than the negative when it comes to eBay. Nothing is ever all bad or all good. And even companies can change.