Today I’d like to introduce you to a business I’ve been running successfully for more than ten years. It’s a business that’s easy to learn and incredibly simple to operate and for most people very profitable too, as well as requiring no special knowledge or skills and very little start up capital.
That business runs on eBay where you’ll find many one person operations turning over millions of pounds every year, and growing! How do they do it, and how can you join them?
One way is to study your currently more successful counterparts on eBay, looking for reasons they are so successful and then introduce some of their ideas to your business.
That’s exactly the kind of research I have been carrying out almost daily for more than a decade and what follows is just a tiny sample of what I’ve learned in the process:
* Just because an auction ends with no bidders and no sale, that doesn’t mean your product won’t attract multiple bidders and unexpected high finishing prices in subsequent listings. In fact, with just a few tweaks to your listing, it’s very easy indeed to turn a poorly performing listing into a major money-maker.
That rarely happens by accident, however, and it’s not a question of good luck, and you should never relist your product immediately your first auction ends.
Instead, look for a valid reason why your first listing failed.
Was it because your auction ended when most of your target audience was asleep, or was some major spectator event keeping people away from their computers? Wimbledon, perhaps, or the Football World Cup?
Or perhaps your title failed to appear in search returns to your potential buyers, because keywords used in your title were different to words used by people searching eBay for the kind of goods you are selling. If that’s the case, all you have to do is study keywords used in titles for similar products attracting high prices on eBay, then you introduce some of those keywords to your own title.
Try at least four listings before even considering defeat but don’t discard your listing or sell your product off cheap; put it all somewhere safe and a few months later study recent high sales for similar items. Edit and upload your listing based on high prices achieved by other sellers.
* You’ll work much harder and much longer sourcing and selling low price, low profit margin goods to people with limited disposable income than where you’re selling high price items with generous profit margins to well off buyers.
Target the rich and you’ll probably end up banking much higher profits, as well as spending less time communicating with enquirers and buyers and making fewer journeys to the post office.
So it makes sense to give up or cut down on low profit listings, for cheap make up and second grade garments, for instance, in favour of marketing one off designer dresses and accessories, original works of art, fine jewellery and valuable antiques.
If you don’t want to risk your own money on high price stock or you don’t have money to invest, try promoting yourself as a trading assistant, someone who sells other people’s goods on eBay for a share of the takings.
* Some items naturally attract more bidders and buyers and much higher finishing prices in specific geographical areas and that’s where you should be targeting similar products. A good example is collectibles mentioning a particular town or city or a famous person associated with a specific area, such as crested china marked ‘Souvenir of Brisbane, Australia’, or ‘A Present from New York’, or a plate depicting Captain James Cook alongside an image of Whitby where the young James Cook served his apprenticeship. Almost always, items associated with specific areas will attract more interest from buyers based in that area than from long distance bidders.
So you might have more success listing antique souvenirs of New York on eBay.com, prints and historical documents relating to Brisbane on eBay Australia, and so on.
If you’re selling sweatshirts overprinted something like ‘Born in London, England’, you’ll attract more sales on eBay UK, usually from bidders based in London, compared to listing your London slogans on eBay France. Similarly, ‘Born in Paris, France’, will probably fare better on eBay France. Get the idea?
* Have an independent website for marketing your own or affiliate products to people who’ve bought from you on eBay. This is called ‘back end selling’ and it can be much more profitable than selling on eBay, mainly because you won’t be sharing your takings with eBay.
Additionally, by getting people who’ve bought from you on eBay to join your mailing list, in exchange for a free report or gift, for example, you can promote to those people for as long as they remain on your list.
Get this idea up and running fast by inviting your eBay customers to sign up to your mailing list by highlighting your bonus gift in all outgoing packages.
* Get your independent website listed faster in Google’s search engine by including its url in your ‘About Me’ page on eBay. A few years back I read that Google and other search engines index big name companies’ web pages much faster than smaller companies. I wasn’t convinced, so I listed two of my own new websites, one in an article directory, the other on my eBay About Me page. The About Me page listing was indexed by Google less than three days later; the other took almost two weeks.
Important: With very few exceptions, you are not allowed to link to outside websites from inside your eBay listings or in messages sent through eBay, other than to provide more information about whatever you are listing, such as extra images or information about the product on other people’s sites. But you are never allowed to use links in your listings to deliberately take eBay members to a product sales page outside of eBay. Links to outside marketing websites are allowed on About Me pages and that’s where you place urls of websites you want to be indexed quickly by Google.
* Market your most likely best sellers outside of eBay. For example, I had a brass statue recently depicting a Greyhound, but not just any Greyhound. This one had won the revered Waterloo Cup in 1906. I listed it under Collectables > Animals > Dogs > Greyhound but visitors were few and the statue went unsold. For my second listing I wrote to editors of specialist Greyhound and Dog Racing magazines which I’m certain helped lift a simple ‘Dog’ statue into a much prized Racing collectible that sold for fifty pounds.
* Look for anniversaries or significant events which might inflate the price of your goods significantly, and upload your eBay listing close to the appropriate date. For example, an early autograph I had of Fay Wray, heroine of the film King Kong, had gone unsold in my eBay Shop for almost a year, until she died and my autograph sold the same day.
Thankfully you don’t have to wait for someone to die to profit from noteworthy occurrences; you’ll find just as much interest in events happening twenty or thirty, even hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Countless reasons to celebrate or commemorate an event explains why many top eBayer earners focus on seasons (like summer and winter), annual big spend events (such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day), anniversaries (for example, the 100th anniversary of some famous celebrity or the death of another), not forgetting major irregular events such as the London Olympics or the opening of a big team football stadium. One reason to focus this way is because thousands or even millions of buyers can be attracted to products representing high profile events; alongside usually making much higher profits during one short season than some eBayers make all year selling more mundane items.
You’ll find Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s day marked in your diary, but you may not be familiar with potential big spend anniversaries soon to appear, such as:
Start of the First World War – including events leading up to declaration of war. Coin and stamp dealers are already creating sets of coins and stamps issued in 1914, publishers are making limited edition copies of wartime newspapers featuring important headlines, CDs are being offered for numerous wartime films now in the public domain. The list is endless and well worth joining.
More important dates to target in 2014 (Note I have not included actual dates, having discovered one or two sites featuring misprints and incorrect dates. Use the website addresses listed later to research important dates and always corroborate actual dates on two or more sites):
50 years since the Beatles tour of US.
50 years since Donald Campbell broke the land and water speed records
100 years since the Panama Canal was opened
100 years since the introduction of The Royal Naval Air Service
150 years since overarm bowling was legalised in cricket
200 years since the first cricket match was played at Lord’s Cricket Ground
200 years since the first plastic surgery operation was performed in Britain
500 years since a Royal Charter was granted to Trinity House General Lighthouse Authority
* Imagine this: someone clicks inside your eBay listing, loves what you’re selling, but he can’t afford to buy right away, so he makes a mental note to place his order immediately his salary goes into his bank account.
The big day comes, his salary has cleared, he sends money over to his PayPal account and he’s sitting fingers poised on the keyboard looking for you and your product.
Only he can’t find you, he can’t remember your eBay ID and he can’t recall what keywords he used to find your listing in the first place. So he leaves disappointed and decides to buy on the high street instead.
And you have lost a sale!
How do you ensure visitors and buyers find you again later? You do it like this:
- Remind visitors to add you to their favourite sites by bookmarking one of your listings. They do this by hitting the star icon top right of the website address box on Google Chrome. All other browsers have a similar method of storing website addresses, sometimes called ‘bookmarking’ for easy access later.
- Tell them to click on ‘Add to Watch List’ top right of your eBay listing, close to your eBay ID and feedback profile. Tell visitors a permanent listing will remain inside their eBay account or until they choose to delete it.
- Similarly, suggest visitors click on ‘Save this Seller’ just below your ID and feedback profile to store your details inside their eBay accounts.
Study various other ways to stay in touch with enquirers and buyers, by sending newsletters, for example, or making regular special offers. You’ll find all the details at:
That page was created for buyers but there’s nothing to stop you creating and placing a similar message inside all your eBay listings.
* Keep your listings clean and clutter-free or you risk alienating visitors and causing them to buy elsewhere. Major put-offs include black text on a navy blue background (difficult or impossible to read), flashing lights going on all over your description (looks amateurish and makes people wonder if your goods are also inferior), and so on.
This is how to make your eBay descriptions easy on the eye and keep visitors interested:
- Avoid brightly coloured and patterned backgrounds. If like me you hate yellow you’ll avoid listings with bright yellow backgrounds. Much the same goes for virtually any colour, other than white. Patterned backgrounds make text more difficult to read and are a big put-off to some potential buyers. Plain black text on a plain white background appeals to most people most of the time.
- Have text justified left and not centred or fully justified. Centred text looks amateurish and fully justified text leads to whopping great gaps in your description.
- Create your descriptions in a mixture of lower case fonts and capitals (upper case) in the same way you’d write a letter or essay. Do not use all upper case which looks dreadful and makes your description harder to read.
- Use fonts that make reading easy and avoid others that are not only difficult to read but may also appear gibberish on websites not supporting your choice of font. Stick with Times, Times New Roman and Arial and ignore fonts resembling handwriting or featuring unusual looking characters, l* Keep paragraphs short and with a gap between each one. Start a new paragraph every three or four lines. Notice how some listings containing hundreds, sometimes thousands of words, are created in one L – O – N – G chunk which most people find difficult to read and many people won’t even bother trying.
- Avoid using very large fonts which fill more space than smaller fonts and require readers to move between lines more frequently, as well as absorbing more memory and taking your listings longer to upload to eBay and longer for visitors to open.
* Avoid buying products in bulk for testing purposes although many wholesalers insist that you do. Buy just one item or several if you’re running multiple tests. You may have to sell your items below the price you paid for them retail just to remain competitive on eBay. But this is not a major problem if the item can subsequently be purchased in bulk, at a discount, from a regular, reliable supplier.
It’s a good idea to invite bids for your test item, rather than opting for the ‘Buy It Now’ option, although you could offer both in one listing. The aim is to determine just how many people will bid for your item, and what price they will pay. The more people who bid, the more Second Chance offers you can make from one auction listing.
You might also use the Buy It Now option to see how soon your fixed price product sells. If your item sells fast, within a day or so, try relisting it with a slightly higher fixed price and continue raising your price until demand falls below an acceptable level.
In practice, I would buy three sample items of a product I am testing, one to list at auction, another with a Buy It Now price, and the other with combined auction and fixed price option.
Do these tests in isolation to one another, say by running one selling method for the first seven days, another for days eight to fourteen, the final method for the following week.
* Use a ‘Call to Action’ which is a technique used by top copywriters to crate a sense of urgency to buy.
Although most sellers shy from asking for money or an immediate order, it remains the best way to maximise profits in the shortest possible time.
Asking doesn’t have to appear hasty or impertinent and can be accomplished with a single phrase in your listing or its title or sub-title, such as:
- Buy Now While the Discount Lasts
- Buy Now While Stocks Last
- Buy Today and Get Another One Free
- Bid Now Before Someone Beats You To It
- Only Two Left – Buy Now While Stocks Last.
- Buy Now and Get (XXXX) Free – Lasts This Week Only!
* Play the numbers game to win every time on eBay. On eBay you’ll normally discover the more items you list and the more hours you work, the more money you’ll usually make; the more back end marketing you do, the less money you’ll hand back to eBay, and so on. There are many different ways to make the numbers work in your favour on eBay, but you must always test changes to ensure the results actually do work in your favour.
Try the following for starters:
- Increase viewer numbers to your listings by testing keywords in your title and noting if certain words attract more visitors.
- Increase the average spend per customer by offering discounts on multiple purchases and reminding people they’ll save on postage costs by ordering two items today instead of just one.
- Attract more new customers by opening an eBay Shop where previously you listed all goods at auction. Having an eBay Shop gives you a unique Internet address to add to your own websites and blogs as well as to articles and blog postings on other people’s websites. Numerous mentions of your eBay Shop url encourage Google and other search engines to raise your profile in search returns and that can make your listings more prominent than rival sellers’ products on eBay.
- Attract regular, repeat buyers by listings goods that are quickly used up and in need of constant replenishment. Make sure first time customers buy from you for the indefinite future by asking them to sign up to your newsletter on eBay or join your outside eBay mailing list. Send regular emails and newsletters telling past buyers about new products you have listed and offering an incentive to shop with you in preference to others selling similar goods on eBay.
And that is it, just a handful of ways to make your eBay business more profitable! Easy wasn’t it?