BUSTING SOME BAD EBAY ADVICE WITH THE RIGHT ADVICE
I am always looking for ways to save time, maximize sales and to take good care of my customers. I do this because I really like being good at what I do and really enjoy eBaying. In the process of learning how to do things better or more efficiently, I read a lot. I often find great nuggets of advice in the Guides on eBay. The many people I meet (in cyberspace) have been very helpful in suggesting improvements too, and I try to learn from each. I also spend quite a bit of time reading guides on subjects that interest me. Sometimes, however, I come across information or advice that, based on a LOT o experience, I find to be either well short of target, or just downright awful and misleading in the worst possible way. Of course, bad information is magnified in its possible consequences when it is found by new or less experienced eBayers!
Unfortunately, new sellers or sellers trying hard to make more sales, often buy into some of these terrible suggestions. I can see that some people (including the authors) have even made following the bad advice a regular part of how they do business. It is a very bad thing when poor and/or costly practices are perpetuated and then passed on to others. It is also a shame that in some cases, people have even paid for this terrible advice!! I also find instances when the advice is so bad it would be funny, except that I realize there are people out there who will believe it and try to use it.
In all cases, dear reader, I hope I can help you see through the bad stuff, to some good old fashioned common sense eBay style (based on real life experience). I also hope that it will be worth your time and that my advice here will prove to be a series of golden nuggets that you hold on to to help you build your online business and profit here on eBay.
To kick off the myth busting, I will draw on more than five years of steady learning to debunk some of the worst advice I find in guides and in books I have read.
BAD ADVICE: There are companies who will send customer traffic to you if you ad their icon to the bottom of your ad
GOOD ADVICE: Just as there is no free lunch, (and nothing is really free on the internet)-- So it is with any company offering more business if you include their ad in yours on eBay. The fact is, it results in your ad being sidelined and significantly decreased sales (probably due to the large additional amount of html packed in the icon you ad to your listing).
BAD ADVICE: One should concentrate on selling merchandise worth less than ten dollars to keep your eBay listing fees low.
GOOD ADVICE: Limiting the price of the items you sell is just plain silly. Better advice would be to keep your start price (when practical to do so), under ten dollars. Listings starting under $10 do keep the listing fees down, and it also gets bidders interested in warring over a bargain that starts at $ 9.99. By all means, pay attention to eBay's listing fees because they do add up and diminish profit. Never, however, should you cap your potential top price by always starting under $10.00 and/or using a reserve price. Research your prices and start at a reasonable start point (i.e., the minimum you should sell the item for to avoid a loss.) This is always the best plan. Be advised that many buyers dislike reserves and won't bid on auctions with them largely because it is a red flag right out of the starting gate that there is no bargain in this auction with a hidden reserve (which actually translates to a total waste of time). Please note that it is also well worth your while to build to Power Seller status as fast a possible to enjoy reduced fees awarded to power sellers with high positive feedback ratings.
BAD ADVICE: Don't use the auctions (they're expensive). Open an Ebay store and put all your merchandise in the store instead. It is so much less expensive to list items in a store than in an auction (5 cents in the store instead of 80 cents or more per item to auction).
GOOD ADVICE: Store fronts are great for medium to high volume sellers. They are also a perfect tool to manage a large number of items as you move them into and out of auctions. You can keep them up for sale while waiting to run them through an auction again later. As a stand alone way to sell on eBay, a store is an extremely poor choice. The only exception to this statement is in the rare case in which you have built up such a large customer base for the store that you get daily sales out of it because plenty of folks look for your store and purchase regularly from it. Even then, it is using only a store to sell may be problematic because store items don't appear in searches unless specifically searched for in the stores format. I am also certain that store sales cannot be sustained in the absence of auctions that draw customers to your site to begin with. So, stores are never the best choice for small volume sellers because there are monthly fees associated with their use. The cost of that store may exceed any money you make in the process of selling that way, usually taking away from rather than adding to an already small bottom line you may have in your sales. It is also important to note that, when stores are used exclusively as your selling source, people are less likely to find your store items without you also having eBay's core business (auctions) to draw customers to your store. Since auctions bring customers to your store, no auctions to draw the buyers will result in far fewer sales. Customers who do find your store are more likely to do so through your auctions, a blog, a review or a guide so you must have plenty of those out there too. If none of those exist -- you tend to sit out there in the ether, anonymously, most of the time. You are unlikely to get much traffic to your store without substantial linking to it from many other sources. Having said that, listing in a store does save on listing fees if you want to keep your merchandise available for sale and moving items into and out of auctions until they are sold. If you have already tried auctioning your item and want to keep it available and/or parked for a time -- a store is a great solution.
Once you have established a good customer base on eBay, you will find that you routinely get a large number of sales from stores when people want to take advantage of combined shipping on your auctions. The better the buys you offer --the more returning customers you have.
BAD ADVICE: You should buy "Pay Per Click ads" on Google and other search engines to promote your eBay listings.
GOOD ADVICE: Remember what actually constitutes profit, when making any marketing decisions on eBay. This means the cost to sell must be considered -- ALL costs associated with the sale of each item, including Pay-Per-Click ads (PPCs). These are the ads that are listed adjacent to the search results on Google and other search engines. A Pay Per Click Ad means you pay Google or other web search engines a fee each time your ad is clicked. You pay because the clicked ad drives lookers to your listing or site. I find this redundant because the very nature and life blood of eBay is the search structure and millions of searchers on it 24/7. So, chances are good that customers will find your auctions if you are selling what they are looking for -- and they will find your items absolutely for free. Why should you pay for additional exposure, if in so doing, your profit margin is taking a hit? A better approach would be to set up your own website in cyber malls to merchandise both on and off eBay. If you are a high volume seller who can sustain the costs of PPCs -- by all means use them to promote your website sales, not your eBay listings.
BAD ADVICE: There are times when no picture is necessary to sell your item.
GOOD ADVICE: True enough, eBay does offer inbuilt links to provide stock pictures of music, books and some electronics that are great. However, it should be noted that a picture of the real item on offer builds a bidder's confidence that you actually have the item you are selling or that your sale on eBay is not just a "sell through" operation (inding bargains on other wibsites, advertising them on eBay and then "selling through or a couple bucks profit). Your own photo also shows the exact condition of the item a seller has available for purchase. Potential buyers want to actually see the condition of the item they are buying. Personally, I believe pictures are one of the most critical elements of your eBay sales. The better the picture, the greater the sales. So, it follows, that no picture results in fewer sales, fewer bidders and lower sale prices. While on the subject of pictures, the first gallery photo is now free, so sellers should always have one. Now the first gallery photo is free, it behoves sellers to use the additional photos when a close up shot will make the color more clear or show an important detail. Scanning through the galleries is a quick way for customers to isolate the items they are most interested in. I (and most others) have little time available to open every ad without a gallery. We prefer to scan through galleries looking for our items -- not spending additional time making sure it is what we think it is. Gallery pictures are essential to the scanning process and assure your item is in the running for bids from busy buyers.
BAD ADVICE: "You can only make money selling new items on eBay" or "You can only make money selling old items on eBay" or "Never sell used clothing on eBay."
GOOD ADVICE: Consider the legendary sales of a grilled cheese sandwich with a picture of the Madonna on it, foreheads for advertising, the hilarious ex-wife's wedding gown sold by the disgruntled (but very funny) ex-husband, Congressional Women's clothing, Oprah's Set Chairs and pieces of history by the History Channel that have made it to eBay's Auction site this past few years. To ever offer advice on what "not" to sell on eBay is as presumptuous as it is ridiculous! Aside from items which are prohibited by eBay, you truly can sell anything! For every person who doesn't make a go of it long term on eBay, there are many others who do -- selling literally anything. The most successful among us keeps his or her eyes open and looks for the next big idea to sell on eBay. Lucky for them, they refuse to listen to nay sayers telling them "no one will ever buy THAT!" Oh yes they will….and it is not for us to judge. I am astonished at how many people now make a living from their own bright ideas for selling on eBay -- they provide a wide variety of goods and services that make what "not" to sell very bad advice -- REALLY bad. The key to what you sell is, of course, what interests you and can make draw a profit over your costs! So, new items or clearing the attic or house and gaining some financial recovery from items you no longer like, want or need is what it is all about. Remember that "Profit" or "recovery" is determined by an equation. The equation is summed up as the difference in your purchase price and what you sold the item for after taking out the listing and other associated selling costs. The age, source or type of the item, or even exactly what it is you are selling -- has nothing to do with the profit margin possible on eBay.
BAD ADVICE: The only way to get a reliable source for new inventory is through a drop shippers list and/or to pay someone for the information on great sources.
GOOD ADVICE: This is really bad advice destined to strip you of financial resources that you can better use elsewhere. I am convinced that the only people who make money from these drop shipper lists are the people who sell them. You are far better off to follow your knowledge and instincts and find your own sources while following your heart and selling what you have an interest in. It is important to find sources where the competition for the items you want is low and the real bargains are more likely to exist (close out stores, warehouse sales, going out of business operations, and specialty stores that are not in every city, etc.). Of course, selling new is different than selling from your own closet cleaning. When you are selling to simply make a recovery -- there seems to be a never ending source of merchandise in the attic, closets, kids rooms and garage.
BAD ADVICE: It's important to track hot items on eBay.
GOOD ADVICE: Targeting fads means heavy competition (usually with bricks and mortar stores as well as eBay or other auction sites). Chasing fads is also the best possible way to end up with lots of unwanted inventory, long after the fad is dead (definitely NOT good). Think about the number of people today who still hold endless supplies of Beanie Babies, and you will understand what I mean. You are much further ahead to select items to sell based on their profit potential and/or those from hobbies that interest you (because you will already have great baseline instincts and information regarding the real value of the items you are selling). You must pay attention to the profits, but if you are concentrating on things you love, you won't get bored with the process. For example, I sell gently used or new clothing that are unreturned shopping mistakes. I have a system established where I now sell for the entire family too and even a few of my friends at work. I can list as I watch television (more like listen to it) and get rid of things I no longer want. From my efforts I get a small recovery while passing on really lovely things to someone else who can use them. A great way to recycle that is earth friendly and fun too.
BAD ADVICE: It's Prestigious and very important to be a Power seller.
GOOD ADVICE: There are advantages to being a Power Seller and one of the newest is reduced rates to list your items. Although it felt great the day I became a Power Seller, my real success came when I had made more than 1500 sales, (that was long after receiving Power Seller status). Being a Power Seller is within everyone's easy reach. All it takes is a little time, perserverence and being willing to follow the rules. The true advantage to being a Power seller is the reduced selling rates and that eBay will send you newsletters and will provide you with eBay tools, advice and prioroty handling if you need help. Some customers may think it has greater meaning than it does, but your service to them will speak more powerfully than any status accorded to you by the numbers of sales you have. Power seller status is based on gross sales. If you sold hundred dollar bills for fifty dollars each you'd only need 10 sales to become a Power seller. You'd be loosing 560 dollars a month (or more), but you'd have a Power Seller logo next to your eBay name! Crazy huh? Your honesty, feedback and customer service support is far more valuable long term to your sales numbers. So, focus on those areas to make them the best reflection upon you they can be -- the rest automatically happens.
BAD ADVICE: The best day to start or end your auction is …(fill in the blank).
GOOD ADVICE: These "day-of-the-week" judgments are subjective and generally not particularly useful to your bottom line. If there is a "best day" and a "best time" to end your auction it would depend entirely on the item being sold (and the time of year too, in some cases). As an example, if you sell items of interest to teens, ending your auctions in the late afternoon when they are home from school, on their computers chatting with friends makes perfect sense. If you are selling new toys, I suspect anytime from mid October onward, 24/7 would be a great time because of the run up to the holidays. I would avoid having auctions ending when most of the US (or your country) is asleep. In other cases, it may be wise that your auctions mature later in the evening after dinner is over and the youngsters are in bed. If you sell business equipment, ending your auctions on weekday afternoons might positively affect the price with business owners as your customers. I really dislike any advice that directs folks to start and end on a specific day and time. Rather, sellers should definitely concentrate on keeping a steady stream of auctions going each day of the week which, as I said before, draws people to the online store too. I believe that sellers who invest in a best day and time, and focus solely on that wind up paying to schedule auctions to meet deadlines set by this advice which are costly and unnecessary. Those additional fees pull money unecessarily from the bottom line.
BAD ADVICE: Offering your item to international buyers is not worth doing because there are plenty of American buyers, and the customs paper work is a nightmare.
GOOD ADVICE: Yes, it does take slightly more time to take international packages to the post office. Yes, you do have to do customs paperwork, but it is not nearly the hassle one might think. Be advised though, that every time you ship an item out of the country it means you found an international bidder who (usually) paid more for your item than a local bidder. I also find it gratifying that quality American items appear to be so popular overseas. They are so desired that people are willing to pay more to ship them too. The fact that folks in other countries are willing to pay a premium to have American products makes me proud. The additional effort? It takes well less than a minute to fill out the customs forms for packages under 4 pounds and about a minute each for the heavier packages that require the 6 copies white customs slip. When you consider that many foreign bidders will bid more for your items and you increase your potential customer base by MILLIONS of customer -- the choice to sell worldwide is a no brainer for me.
BAD ADVICE: The only way to make money on eBay is to list items. The more items you list, the more money you make.
GOOD ADVICE: This is called the "volume sales" mind set and it can be a costly lesson in what not to do. It is more important to write good ads, have good pictures and policies that are clear AND customer friendly. Accuracy and completeness should be your focus because you can loose money with poorly written ads in which a buyer is confused or doesn't buy for other reasons related to poor or confusing information. Do not think of eBay as a place only to sell items. Rather, think of it as a place to build a business or augment a hobby by creating sources and networks with people who have similar interests to your own. Pay attention to what you list that moves and what doesn't. Change as you learn (this is called continuous improvement, to borrow a Ford Motor Company process). Then, only sell those items that have the best chance of selling. This way you will get more bang for your listing fees and sell only those things that sell best. As a result, your income will increase even as your numbers of listings (and associated costs) decline.
BAD ADVICE: There are eBay secrets you must know to succeed.
GOOD ADVICE: The only true "secret" I know to eBay success is constantly learning and improving upon what you know. Make an effort to learn new things regularly. Focus on time and money saving methods and get rid of bad habits FAST. Do what works and stop doing what doesn't work, (in business this is called continuous learning and improvement). Realize that all the information and assistance you need to learn how to succeed is out there already. Best of all --all that information is FREE. Use the eBay Guides, use eBay's Live Help, find sellers you like and ask them to be mentors. Now, eBay even offers free business consultations! If I had to pick one thing that I personally believe to be key to success on eBay, it would be learning how to give excellent customer service and support. Realize that keeping your customer is much more important than being right. I have written a separate guide on customer service -- but the bottom line is the Golden Rule, treat others as you would wish to be treated. "Secrets" you often see advertised, are marketing ploys to sell books and make money -- these suggestions make a seller money by simply taking yours. You can read most guides free right here on eBay -- you just have to choose to do it. You can talk to eBay mentors (see eBay's Home Page or find some of your own starting with your favorite sellers). Of course, if you think the advice you pay for is somehow better or more credible, by all means -- pay tuition and attend a local eBay class, taught by eBay certified instructors. Please remember tho, the "secrets" you need are out there, and free. They all boil down to having a tool box full of skills you learn along the way that result in increased sales and profits. This happens only when you are thinking about what you are doing, and looking for better ways to do it, not when buying bad or mediocre advice.
BAD ADVICE: Selling is simple on eBay.
GOOD ADVICE: Selling a single item is, indeed, simple. However, starting and growing a profitable business takes plenty of time, along with care and devotion. It takes a ton of personal committment as well as the desire and ability to constantly evaluate and improve along the way. Do make it your goal to learn how to use new tools and/or a new facets of eBay each week. Take advantage of the tools eBay gives you FREE to use; Click n Ship (through USPS), Power Seller reduced listing fees, cross promotions tools, search engine optimization, Turbolister or even the subscription store management systems if you are a large volume seller who can shoulder those costs.
BAD ADVICE: A sale is a sale and a customer is a customer...don't block bidders.
GOOD ADVICE: I know that it seems to make good fiscal sense that "a sale is a sale" and each sale does add to the bottom line. However, there is a point at which you have spent more time, emotional energy, personal restraint and overall effort to make a customer happy than the single sale could ever be worth -- simply because this customer is miserable and wants you to share in it. In my experience, it has happened only three times. The day I got blamed for an overseas move was the end of my willingness to deal with it. That was enough to teach me that no matter what you do, some people can never be pleased because the purpose of the interchange is to blame a stranger for their personal problems and frustrations. The sure cure for that is the "Blocked Bidder List" which you will find under "Seller Resources." This list has been invaluable to me in assuring I deal with non-paying bidders and true trouble makers no more than once. They may never care that they are perpetually blocked from my sales, but if they found their way to my sales once, I am probably selling items that would draw them there again and again. Along the same lines, you can set your ads up to automatically disallow bidders who have only negative feedback or unpaid items strikes in the previous year. I find this very useful tool, very valuable to my peace, sanity and bottom line too.
BAD ADVICE: Once the ads are out there in your store or auction they will take care of themselves.
GOOD ADVICE: Go back and review your ads before you relist items at least once to check the ads to be sure they are consistent throughout, from the title to details. It is also wise to check older ads to be sure there are not issues in them preventing customers from finding the item (wrong category, no information on shipping or returns) or that the key information in the title is not misspelled. Customers will often ask questions when there is a problem with the ad, but not always. Once the ad is open to be edited, be sure to make at least one small change so it recycles through the system again gaining new visibility when it updates on the site. In the process of editing your ads, the new version comes back in as a new ad at the top of the listings.
If you have some time, please drop by my auctions (Pepper120851) and my store (where YOU name the price you pay every day!), "The Write Place."
I hope I have provided some golden nuggets for you here. I will continue to share what I find when researching and learning. I am always happy to teach, share and mentor -- so come on back when you can.