One of the savviest eBay sellers we know, Kathy Terrill, admires another seller, Gladys Ramos. Like many of us, Ramos ran an eBay business to supplement her family's income. But when her fiancé died, this single mom she decided she needed to ramp up her selling.
Here, Ramos tells us how she quickly grew her business, becoming a networking whiz and SEO expert along the way.
Hard times lead mom into eBay full time
In 2008, my fiancé started to have serious health issues. He had to undergo a triple bypass and have a valve repaired
Schepp: Gladys, tell us about yourself and where you sell.
Ramos: I'm a single mom and I have been selling online since 2007. In 2008, my fiancé started to have serious health issues. He had to undergo a triple bypass and have a valve repaired. We were told he could no longer work. His heart was too weak.
In 2009, we sold everything we owned and moved to North Carolina with his parents. They would help me care for him and my 2-year-old. A few months later, he passed away from a massive heart attack. So here I was, 800-plus miles from home with no car and a 2-year-old to raise.
I was already selling on eBay so I knew I could generate money doing that. Now I needed to really focus on it and expand my business quickly.
I moved back home just before Christmas 2009. I added Amazon as a secondary venue last year. I'm hoping to expand into their (Fulfillment By Amazon) program soon.
Schepp: How do you keep all the balls in the air as a single mom running an online business?
Ramos: I don't have employees I can delegate things to. And it's hard to separate work and home when you work at home. You tend to want to do everything and at the end of the day, you have accomplished nothing. Plus my daughter's needs come first. So I prioritize and multitask.
I have a to-do list of what I absolutely have to do that day. I do not go to bed until the list for that day is complete. Shipping and listing are my top priorities every day.
Selling groups prove helpful
Schepp: You are active in many seller groups. Which ones have you found particularly useful?
I have a to-do list of what I absolutely have to do that day. I do not go to bed until the list for that day is complete
Ramos: I am in many Facebook Groups related to some aspect of e-commerce. They all have something different to offer. But there are four groups that I'm very active in because they provide the best guidance in the areas I want to learn about.
John Lawson's The eCommerce Group offers information on so many selling topics. He's also very encouraging. He talks about investing in yourself and not limiting yourself to one platform. I feel this group will guide me to the next level of e-commerce.
Katherine Terrill's group, eBay Stores, Nothing But Stores, is another winner. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm an administrator of that group so I may be a little biased. But in all seriousness, it's a great group. It covers everything about your eBay Store to help you get the most out of it. You will learn how to optimize your store and listings. The group also covers ways to promote your eBay Store using social media.
Chris Green's ScanPower group has the best information on FBA. You cannot only get your questions answered, there's also an excellent video series. I highly recommend this group if you want to learn about Amazon's FBA program.
Cindy Sorel's group, Cindy's Online Selling Tips, covers everything from A to Z about eBay selling. They break down policy changes, answer any questions you may have and much more. It offers a wealth of information.
Keeping shoppers happy
Schepp: Your eBay feedback ratings are perfect. How have you managed that?
Ramos: I follow best practices, but I also listen. I listen to buyers, listen to the emails they send, listen to the questions they ask, listen to the feedback they leave, listen to the DSRs they leave.
Buyers are a wealth of information if you are willing to listen. They can provide insight on what you need to improve upon.
Buyers are a wealth of information if you are willing to listen. They can provide insight on what you need to improve upon
Schepp: There's some controversy about how important it is to maintain a 100 percent feedback score. Some sellers go to extraordinary lengths to keep their ratings at that level. Others feel it may not be realistic or in your best interest to be judged as perfect. They say sellers seem more "human" if their feedback ratings are, say, 99.5 percent. Comments?
Ramos: My focus is not on keeping my feedback at 100 percent. My focus has always been on customer service. Nothing speaks louder to a buyer than how you handle a situation.
I am not perfect. I make mistakes, like everyone else, but it's how I choose to handle those situations that determines the outcome. Will I always have 100 percent positive feedback? Probably not. I cannot control what a buyer will do or will not do. I can only control what I do, and that's to provide the best customer service I can.
Schepp: eBay Radio interviewed you about subjective versus objective item conditions. What advice did you offer?
Ramos: Don't set your buyers' expectations based on your opinion of the item's condition. Let buyers form their own opinion based on your objective item condition and pictures. You can avoid (Item Not as Described) cases or low DSRs by simply keeping your opinions to yourself.
Focus on eBay and Google for SEO
Schepp: You're very skilled when it comes to SEO. What strategies can you share?
Ramos: SEO is not hard to learn once you learn how search engines work. SEO is basically putting the right keywords in the right order, in the right places.
Don't set your buyers' expectations based on your opinion of the item's condition. Let buyers form their own opinion based on your objective item condition and pictures
You have to learn the platform you're selling on. Each one is different in terms of what you can input that will help you rank high in search. For instance, on eBay I was able to increase my Google percentage by 30 percent by making sure my store categories had rich keywords. It is a simple thing to do, but often it's over looked.
Item specifics are important for both eBay search and Google. I enter the commonly required Google attributes. I do not settle for what eBay is requiring because sometimes all they require is the country of manufacture.
The most common Google attributes I enter are brand, color, size, UPC, MPN, ISBN and material.
The secondary attributes I add are theme, pattern, style, ounces, character, measurements and type.
These are just the ones I commonly use myself. Of course, you can add more attributes. It all depends on the category and the item.
Mom hopes to inspire other moms
Schepp: What are you hoping to achieve with your online business?
Ramos: Everyone always say "financial independence" and, yes, I do want that. But I'm also hoping to show the struggling single moms that they can do this, too. I know what it is like to lose everything, but if I can show one just one struggling mom that it can be done, then I have accomplished far more than financial independence.
Schepp: What other advice do you have for eBay sellers?
Ramos: Don't be scared! Don't be afraid to ask for help. You'd be amazed at how many sellers are willing to help you. Keep an open mind. E-commerce is always changing. You have to be willing to change with it... swim or sink. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Educate yourself and in all areas of e-commerce. Don't take it personally; it's business!
Schepp: Thanks, Gladys! You're an inspiration.