How to Locate Your Buying Community

Tips to help you identify and fulfill your customers' needs

by Janelle Elms
- Apr 16, 2009

In the last column we talked about building communities that buy and showed you some great examples of eBay sellers who are already benefitting from this style of marketing. But how do you create your own buying community?

First, you need to provide the two things that buyers always buy—no matter what you're selling: security and confidence. That phrase, hopefully, is starting to become as permanent in your brain as the "It's a Small World (After All)" song.

Security and confidence are crucial to providing the leadership respect you will need to have a community (or "tribe" if you're a Seth Godin fan). You can find these two crucial elements in multiple areas of your eBay business. Here are just a few:

  • Custom pages: This valuable resource in your eBay Store is also a great place to develop the respect of your soon-to-be community. This is optimal real estate to showcase your community. You're a seller of household items; what about a custom page of your customers' favorite recipes? You sell older car parts; use your custom page to share your customers' car restoration stories and photos. You're an artist and sell your work on eBay; your custom page is a perfect spot to showcase photos of your artwork displayed in its new owners' homes.

  • About Me: Tell them who you are. I can't stress this enough. Buyers no longer like to buy from just anyone on the Internet. They want to be able to emotionally connect with the seller. I'm not talking about a best friend emotional connect, but an emotional connection having to do with a sense of community. This is the same feeling we mentioned in the last column about why social networking has become a huge phenomenon on the Internet. We want to connect. If you feel comfortable, include a photo on your About Me page. This can include you, your family, a picture of your brick-and-mortar store, etc. Talk about why you chose to do what you do—share your vision, your goals and your dreams.

  • Allow your personality to peek through. Use stories to share a 'behind the scenes' look at your world

  • Blog: People who run successful blogs allow readers to glimpse inside their personal world to varying degrees. If you use your blog to simply talk about a new listing, or promote and pitch various business ideas and products, you won't be able to create a community. You aren't giving people any reason to invest their time with you. Instead, allow your personality to peek through. Use stories to share a "behind the scenes" look at your world: What you found at the garage sale on Saturday and the funny negotiations that took place; the juggling act you were doing with the baby, the phone and the printer when the USPS guy arrived to pick up your shipment for the day!

  • Newsletters: Consistency is the key to having a successful newsletter that will build your community. Customers will start to look forward to your newsletter that comes out each Tuesday afternoon. In fact, you'll know you've started a community when one of them e-mails you Wednesday morning and asks why the Tuesday newsletter hasn't been sent out yet.

One of the first steps, if you're going to be a successful online seller, is to answer five very important questions. We discussed these questions in a previous article. Your answers to questions three and four will help you create this type of powerful buying community:

What does your buyer want?

How can you create a connection with anyone unless you understand what the other person needs? If you can figure out what your buyers are looking for, fulfilling that need becomes so much easier.

I'm always surprised at people who sell what they like on eBay. That's equivalent to pushing a rock uphill. Why not make it easy on yourself to make money (and build a community along the way)? Sell what the people with money want. Sounds easy... but most sellers on eBay sell what they want, what's accessible to them and what they enjoy. That's great if that's what your business model encompasses. But if your business plan includes a financial statement, then I urge you to reconsider your customers' needs.

Also, your buyers don't want the actual product you're selling. Buyers don't buy fire alarms; they buy peace of mind and security for their families. Buyers don't just buy the latest gadget; they also buy their peers' awe and respect as they show off their new toy. See, if you understand what the buyers want—what they truly want—you cannot only fulfill it, you can also start to build a community on those needs.

What does your customer's world look like?

The more you fulfill a customer's need, the better security and confidence they feel toward your business

Too often people only think of their customers in terms of "selling" to them the particular product they have for sale. They forget that outside of that five-minute transaction, that customer has a life. What encompasses the other 23 hours and 55 minutes is exactly the information you need to create a buying community.

Let's say you sell pet products and currently that's all you're concerned about. But what if you knew your buyer takes their pet to the groomer twice a month? Couldn't you save them money by carrying products that would allow them to do the maintenance and only have to go to the groomer once a month? What if you created a custom page and a newsletter with grooming tips and invited your customers to share theirs as well? What if you offered to include them on your Web site along with a picture of their pet? What if you started a blog where your buyers could participate in that conversation?

Ah… now you're starting to see why knowing what your customers (and their worlds) look like is profitably beneficial to your business. The more you understand how their world looks, the better you're able to fulfill their needs. The more you fulfill a need, the better security and confidence they feel toward your business.

One of my favorite books on delving into what your customer's world looks like is "Duct Tape Marketing" by John Jantsch. It's by far the most read and reread book in my library.

About the Author

Janelle Elms is a best-selling author, inspiring educator and Visionaire of the OSI Rock Stars. You can hear her on wsRadio every Wednesday on Ask Janelle Radio. Learn the success information you need to grow your business at For step-by-step training on how to set up an eBay Store for maximum exposure and profit, visit One Percent Coach.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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