Donna MacMurray Klein, aka "The eBay Lady," has sold on eBay since 1998. She's also worked as an eBay teacher, speaker and consultant. She moderates the Facebook Group Let's Make Money in E-Commerce.
In Part 1 of a two-part series, she discusses her start selling on eBay, shares excellent strategies for making your listings stand out and gives recommendations for Facebook Groups. MacMurray Klein also discusses what she now knows about eBay that she wished she knew when starting out.
Don't sell your very best stuff when you are a newbie without a clue what you're doing
Then and now
Schepp: Tell us how you got your start.
MacMurray Klein: I come from a business background. I left the corporate world (I was assistant vice president at the First National Bank of Chicago in industry analysis) when my first daughter was born.
As [my kids] grew older, I stayed home with them. I started and then sold an in-home cat-sitting business and worked as a freelance writer. When I suddenly found eBay in 1998, I was hooked fast.
I had been a packrat forever. Also, I had kind of a "collectibles" bug, so I started with junk from the basement and stuff that I had bought over the years, hoping to sell it for a profit. I moved on to my and my kids' old clothing, books, toys, and so on.
I already went to garage, estate and rummage sales for fun, so I started going to them with a new eye for stuff to flip.
Schepp: How has selling on eBay changed since then?
MacMurray Klein: Back then, e-commerce was this whole new thing. Those of us who used eBay were pretty much making up the rules. Many people didn't even have computers back then. It was all fast and loose.
Schepp: What do you know now about selling on eBay that you wish you knew back in 1998?
MacMurray Klein: Don't sell your very best stuff when you are a newbie without a clue what you're doing. I made gigantic mistakes by selling valuable stuff before I knew what the heck I was doing.
Back in the '80s, I had bought an original Disney charcoal sketch from Lady and the Tramp. I had also bought a genuine production cell (that the studio used to sell at Disneyland gift shops, not a reproduction). Unfortunately, I sold those on eBay before we could even put pictures on easily! I hate to think of what I could have gotten later. I sold other collectibles I had been holding onto also, again, no pictures.
How to stand out
Schepp: What are some ways for sellers to distinguish themselves from the competition?
Stand out by making yours look and read like an ad from the very top e-commerce sites out there
- Study basic marketing concepts so you know how to "sell" an item.
- If your store is loaded with all kinds of stuff that never sells, understand that those are "non-earning assets" that are costing you money and dragging you down mentally. Have a garage sale or donate them.
- Read about mobile optimization and make sure that your listings are fully compliant—that they look wonderful on a smartphone.
- When I search eBay, I see that most listings are tedious and trashy, loaded with eBayish language that you'd never see anywhere else. Stand out by making yours look and read like an ad from the very top e-commerce sites out there!
Schepp: What tips do you have for more advanced sellers?
MacMurray Klein: Just about every long-term seller is stuck in old-school ways: those old templates, the hostile verbiage, the control-freakish wording. That's what we all did 12 years ago. Get rid of it!
Yes, back in 1998, we did have to say "payment must be received in x number of days." We were sending each other checks. Today? No. Same with all that tedious old language.
Get rid of disclaimers and replace them with facts. Freshen up everything, streamline. Macys.com doesn't tell people "if you don't like our terms, don't buy it," and neither should an eBayer.
E-commerce changes every day. Not changing those beloved old templates works against you.
Look for positive groups
Schepp: You're the moderator for the Facebook Group Let's Make Money in E-Commerce. What are some of the most effective ways to use Facebook Groups?
MacMurray Klein: I gained knowledge when I was new from the experienced sellers who shared their know-how on eBay boards. I read the really experienced, positive, and successful sellers and avoided being dragged down by the complainers and blamers.
Find a group of successful people, where you can openly ask questions and freely participate in interesting topics
Even sellers who never intend to leave eBay will do best by learning e-commerce best practices. Focusing just on eBay is the way to stay trapped in old thinking.
Consider your customer. Maybe she's looking for a new pair of gloves. She has a world of e-commerce out there on her smartphone. Maybe she's on her smartphone and browses Target, Nordstrom's, Old Navy, Amazon… and then eBay. Got the picture? And then she stumbles upon your listing for gloves.
So she's been reading beautiful, professionally designed, mobile-optimized sites, written by professionals who know how to sell. So does this illustrate why your listing will do best to have an e-commerce, optimized style and tone?
Schepp: What other Facebook Groups would you recommend?
MacMurray Klein: Join Groups full of positivity and success in e-commerce, free of spammers. They're out there. Everyone needs to search based on his/her own interests and find the right fit.
Some people with really focused niches might want to find industry groups or even local networking. I only urge people to stay away from groups that will bring a person down with negativity (or, the flip side, that hide reality with a too-heavy "every post must be positive" vibe). Find a group of successful people, where you can openly ask questions and freely participate in interesting topics.
Schepp: Thank you, Donna!
Note: MacMurray Klein invites serious sellers who want to participate in her invitation-only Facebook Group to email her at Donna at softersilk.com.