Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Revised Schedule

The weekend was long but busy, and I didn't get time to write more about "attention-grabbing topics and journalistically sound leads." The post before last said that I'd take up the topic, but I posted a short discussion about fear motivation first.

I'll put up the continuation of the previous article ASAP. Stay tuned.

Fear Motivates

When considering the value of your products, pay special attention to buyers’ fears. Fears also indicate benefits, and, they can be intimately intertwined with dreams. With Tivo, for example, customers fear advertising mind control while dreaming of convenient TV watching. With soap, they fear stinking while dreaming about attractiveness.

When you get right down to it, hundreds of thousands of successful products are associated with fears. Here are some common fears that have spawned countless products:
  • “I’m afraid that a robber will break into my house” (home alarm systems)
  • “I worry about my health” (health insurance)
  • “My car is making funny noises and I’m afraid it will break down on a lonely country road” (auto protection services)

Think about all the information that’s out there today. If your product relates to the health/diet field, you already have a huge repository of scientific (and pseudo-scientific) information to draw on. Go to Yahoo! News and search the Health category by any keyword and behold the fear. Googling can turn up all kinds of fears related virtually to any product.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Promote Your eBay Business - Publish Articles on the Web

As the Web, Tivo, Google AdWords/Adsense and subscription radio throw the advertising world into a funk, there's a tried and true method for promotion that's cheap, relatively easy and still highly effective when compared to "traditional" advertising... Some call it PR. Some call it editorial promotion. Most serious businesses deem it a critical component to their overall marketing plan. As an eBay seller, you should be utilizing editorial promotion to position yourself as an expert and position your products within the marketplace.

The basic idea is to get articles about your business, products or services published...anywhere. You can spend a lot of time and money dancing with print newspaper, magazine and trade publishers, however it's much easier to publish on the Web. Not only is it easier, but media trends show that people are consuming news differently on the Web, and they're going to the Web more often for news and product information. People look for targeted information on the Web. You don't need to be all over the nightly news for people to find you. What you're interested in are the people who are searching for exactly what you offer and are writing/editorializing about.

So, how do you do this? How do you publish articles about your products, services and business on the Web? Fortunately, Brett Krkosska, managing editor of Home Biz Tools, has written an excellent article on the subject. This article shows you how to syndicate your work so that multiple outlets will pick it up. This is basically free advertising for you and your eBay business. What's more, you have the opportunity to truly educate prospects when you publish journalistic articles about your business. That's important, because the more people know about your business, how it works and how it can benefit themselves or others, the better positioned your company becomes. This probably falls under that old adage, "The more you tell, the more you sell."

Take a little time to develop some story ideas about your business. Then, return to this blog tomorrow (or this afternoon - this subject has my fingers dancing on the keyboard). I'll post an article about the fundamentals of "attention-grabbing" topics and journalistically sound leads.

My book, The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing, has lots of info on how to craft stories, develop problem/solution studies (known as case studies or success stories), and market your business better. It also shows you how to write attention-grabbing headlines. All these pointers apply to both journalistic articles and your eBay listings. The strategy and positioning are a little different, but the fundamentals are the same. Also, check out the previous post on post card tips. It's got some good pointers on headline writing and other valuable information.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Post Card Marketing

Bob Leduc has an nice article up on Home Biz Tools that explains why post card marketing is effective for all kinds of businesses (including eBay, and for driving traffic to sites/listing pages/eBay Stores).

I would just add a few points that will help you get your post cards read.

1) If the recipients know you by face, name, or company name include that prominently on the card. People like to see people and know people and hear from people. Leverage that, especially if you're sending cards to people who hear from you on a regular basis (as with email newsletters, regular business communications and so forth).

2) Write a headline for the card that speaks to or is about the recipient (not about you or your company or your product). Grab their attention, but make the recipient the focus. For example, "How Often Do You See Limited Edition Widgets for Less than $100?" speaks to the recipient. And, "The Top 10 Causes of Dry Skin" makes the recipient's problem or need the focus.

3) Put news in the title: "New Orthopedic Neck Brace Helps You Sleep More Soundly"

4) Make an offer in the headline. "Summer Sale Starts This Friday -- Free Shipping for Valued Customers Like You."

There are plenty of other strategies. I'll cover more of these in future posts. Remember, you can mix these up, too, and create layered messages. That includes mixing the photo concept with the headline.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

AuctionBytes Article on Incorporation

AuctionBytes has posted a very concise, clear and uncomplicated article on incorporation. The author, Barbara Weltman, "is an attorney and nationally-recognized expert on tax and small business who is sought out for her insights into helping small businesses grow and thrive."

It's called Should You Incorporate Your eBay Business?

Check it out, and while you're there, check out the articles on eBay Marketing. They're based on our research for the book, The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing.

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What Is Web Usability?

Web usability is a fairly new catch phrase in the design world that refers to measuring the quality of a visitor’s experience on a particular Web site, including your eBay listings and Store. Usability addresses questions about how easily the visitor can find the information she is seeking and how pleasant her experience is on the site. It is the study of Web aesthetics, navigation, and accessibility of information.

We’ve all suffered through Web sites with poor usability. They are riddled with pop-ups, advertisements, difficult to read text, obnoxious graphics, illogical organization, and worse. The result of this poor usability is wasted time and intense frustration. We quickly click away to another site, never to return.

As the Web continues to grow, its users are becoming more sophisticated by the moment; most users have an extremely low tolerance for poor design. Your customers know good Web design when they see it, and it’s important that you give it to them. Good usability design lends your business the mark of professionalism and distinguishes you from competitors.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ogilvy Advertising Quick Facts

  • You can judge the vitality of a company by the number of new products it brings to market. 35% of supermarket sales come from products that did not exist 10 years ago.
  • Sales are a function of product value and advertising. Promotions cannot produce more than a temporary kink in the sales curve.
  • There is no correlation between quality and price (numerous scientific surveys have demonstrated this). The higher you price your product, the more desirable it becomes in the eyes of the consumer.

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Harry Truman on Advertising

"Advertising has induced progress in the use by manufacturers of new materials, new tools, and new processes of manufacture by calling their attention to economies which could be achieved and to the new uses to which they could be put. Without such advertising, information of this kind would take years to reach all of those who might benefit by it and progress would be delayed." --- Harry S. Truman

If only Truman could see eBay!

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Formatting the Text for Your Terms of Sale

When entering the boilerplate text for your terms of sale in your item descriptions and About Me or eBay Store pages, make sure your terms are easy for your customers to read. Create a sub-heading in larger, boldface typeface that reads “Terms of Sale,” or “Our Policies,” etc.or something similar, and then list your policies below in a numbered or bulleted list.

Use the same font and type size for listing your terms of sale that you use in your item descriptions. Using a smaller type size can creates distrust in readers as it has the appearance of “fine print.” Even if your intentions are simply to save screen space, your customers may suspect that you are using this notorious trick to sneak something past them. Remember your goal of transparency and how it inspires trust.

You should also avoid using larger typeface, red lettering, or all capital letters for your terms of sale. It’s the text equivalent of screaming at your customers, and no one likes to have rules and regulations screamed at them. Even though some eBay buyers simply don’t read stated policies carefully, using such typefaces insults the intelligence of every potential customer who browses your item listings. Insulting potential customers is no way to win friends and influence people – —and certainly no way to run a business.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Why the "Little Details" Count On eBay, Too

Truly Solid Marketing Is About Customer Service

Painters are at our house this weekend, doing the trim outside and a few rooms inside. My wife is doing most of the direction, but I've asked the head guy (and owner of the company) to pay attention to a few details for me. I don't get into interior design much, choosing between mauve and tope, but I do have some input as far as the whole project goes.

I want them to make sure they clean up the "misses" on the outside, where some black trim paint has accidentally hit the white house paint. I need them to unstick some of the windows and put all the screens back, as well.

They're wrapping up the project today, and it's starting to appear that the lead is ignoring some of my requests -- namely the screens and window unsticking. I love the work they've done, but now I'm obviously not so hot on their finishing skills. And this new feeling is coming at the end of the project, when the head guy should be going out with a celebration rather than with some gripes. He should lead me around, show me how great everything looks, show me the extra work he's thrown in, and go down my list of requests one by one, demonstrating that he met my needs and respects my wishes.

If he performed these "finalizing" customer service/marketing steps, he'd have my 100% recommendation. I'd rave about him to friends, pass out his business cards and even write up a testimonial for him. I'd offer to help him out with his advertising materials, in fact. We'll certainly have more painting jobs in the future, and I'd like to stay on good terms with him.

On eBay, the same steps need to be followed in order to build business and collect loyal customers that rave about you. You need to send customers follow-up emails that confirm what they bought, what kind of deal you're giving them (on shipping, bonuses, etc.), and how you appreciate their business and would welcome any questions they may have. You need to offer them targeted cross-sell and up-sell items as they bid and shop. And, you need to quickly address their concerns as they come up. All this attention and service ensures that your customers refer you to others, leave positive feedback, and return to do more business with you.

Don't be like my painter. Pay attention to detail and your business will grow at a healthy pace.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

*Writing/Editing Checklist (10 good ones)*

1. Establish the audience right away and keep focused on them
2. Forgo 'style copy' and use 'selling copy'
3. Break complex sentences into shorter, clearer sentences
4. Arouse the curiosity of the reader (rather than satisfy it)
5. Provide readers smooth transitions so they don't look up and get distracted from the piece
6. Write compelling benefits into heads and subheads
7. Support ideas with vivid examples
8. Use real facts and numbers (i.e. '57 satisfied customers' vs. 'dozens of satisfied customers')
9. Go back and weed out excessive adjectives
10. Provide a compelling call to action at the end of every piece (or prominently in an ad)

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Designing (or Redesigning) a Logo that Fits Your Business

A compelling logo that suits your business is a major brand strategy asset. A solid logo lends credibility and prestige to all other marketing efforts you put forth in your eBay business. You’ll be able to use it on every eBay listing; in your eBay Store; on all of your invoices, business cards, e-mail communications, and packaging; and just about anywhere else your customer looks. A logo helps reinforce your brand message every time you interface with customers.

Why are logos so important? Psychologically speaking, images stick much better in people’s minds than just words. A good logo makes an impact on customers, and it conveys the message of your brand. It sets your business apart from the crowd and makes it more memorable. It also gives your eBay business a more professional air, lending a sense of establishment and longevity. Customers are more likely to trust an eBay seller who has cultivated this sense of permanence with a solid logo, and they are more likely to remember eBay Stores with logo brands and return to shop on a repeat basis.

Your logo needs to be compatible with your brand image, and it should represent the personality of your business. It should be simple and visually easy for your customers to understand.

Note: A poorly designed and unprofessional looking logo is actually a detriment to your image. If you feel that you lack the creativity or skill to design your own logo, hiring a professional is a wise investment.

With a solid idea of what you’d like your logo to be, you can easily communicate your wishes to a designer. For the budget-conscious eBay seller, we’ll show you some secrets to creating your own simple, yet professional-looking, logo.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Insights from David Ogilvy

  • Ads that are designed to look like editorial pages gather far more readers than those that don’t.
  • Never put large amounts of white type on a black background (reverse). Some say never do it, period. Study after study has proven that it’s difficult to read.
    Write to the self-interest of the reader rather than treating your audience as a large company or group of people.
  • Companies sometimes change ad agencies because one agency can purchase circulation at a slightly lower cost than another. They don’t realize that a copywriter who knows his craft (the experience and skill that induce people to read copy) can reach many times more readers than a copywriter who doesn’t.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Selling the Sizzle

When you "sell the sizzle instead of the steak," you're selling the dream portion of the benefit.

Think about a car commercial, for example. The car is the steak, but the mountains, the bikini-clad babes, the breathtaking views, and the rugged terrain positively sizzle. Most buyers will use their car to go to work and pick up the kids, but they'll rarely, if ever, conquer a Southwestern mesa with their new SUV. People buy based on fantasy and then hold on to the fantasy as a possibility as they haul kids around and sit in traffic.

If you think in terms of sizzle, you can get a sense of what else it is your eBay customers want, and then move that to center stage. If you sell hip fashions, sell the dream of looking like J.Lo or Britney Spears. If you sell golf equipment, elicit the glory of adding up that low score at the 1989thth hole. If you sell porcelain dinnerware, create images of elegant dinner parties and timeless family feasts. Whatever it is you sell, there’s a way to connect to a buyer on a deeper level.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

eBay vs. Real World

Selling on eBay is a lot like selling in the physical world, except you're confined to this little browser window. It doesn't have depth like a real window display. Your salesperson can't emote with her arms or kick the tires to show the customer durability. The right marketing and presentation approach, however, can help you achieve the same persuasive and emotional results.

Lots of photos coupled with an ironclad guarantee is as good as kicking the tires, for example. By writing clear, strong benefit statements you can connect directly with customer desires. That's a form of emoting. If you describe your product and make the effort to close throughout the description, that's better than most retail sales staff efforts. Think about it. You have to train sales staff and then keep on them to make sure they're presenting merchandise properly. With an eBay description, you write it once and then the same presentation is viewed by multitudes (hopefully). You can even tweak it and improve upon it and measure the performance of your changes in terms of bids and purchases.

There are a lot of upsides to selling on eBay. You can build relationships via the Web and eBay that you might not otherwise been able to develop. You can easily cross-promote, getting varied merchandise in front of the customer immediately. That's not something that always possible in the physical world. As Martha Stewart would say, it's a good thing (as she curses her probation tracking bracelet).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Well-Crafted Benefit Messages Are All Around You

Sometimes I write this blog on a laptop in a courtyard near a Pilates studio. The studio has a benefit pitch written on the window. It’s a quote from Joseph H. Pilates himself: “In 10 sessions you feel better…. In 20 sessions you look better…. In 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.”

How about that! A promise, a dream, and a plan of action for achievement—all in one simple little sign on the window.

That's good marketing! Take this simple approach with your eBay listings, and watch your products sell like hotcakes.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

The 3 Advertising Fundamentals

When writing an eBay description, a title within a description or cross-promotion within a follow-up email, you need to keep some fundamentals in mind.

Paint these three ideas on your walls. Put them in a calendar pop-up that launches every hour. Tattoo them on the inside of your skull.

Capture Attention

If you do these three things well, you'll outsell 90% of your competition. You can't rely on one or two to do the job. They all have to work in concert. And don't get too artsy or creative with the first one. Keep to the context and benefits of your product/service, and you'll be fine. Think about how the reader of your words will come out ahead by purchasing your product, and then write to that. That's your psychological target.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Power of Scarcity

We're going to get back to the step-by-step niche discovery and motivation discussion on Monday. This weekend, however, I wanted to insert a brief discussion from the book about the psychology that drives eBay transactions.

Here it is:

Perhaps the biggest motivator that drives eBay sales is scarcity. People want things that are out of their reach or potentially out of their reach. They also want more of what they can have less of (and sometimes hoarding ensues).

This is especially true of auctioned items. At any given point in time, shoppers can see how many of a particular item exist on eBay and what the going rate is. If they decide to bid on a particular item, they’re hooked into a potential transaction where the scarcity of the item is directly linked to the will of another bidder. If someone else wants it more than they do, they have to bid higher. That’s the beauty of eBay. It pits you in a competitive bidding situation that oozes with feelings of scarcity.

How many times have you heard this?: “There was this incredible __(insert name of product here)___ on eBay, and I wanted it so bad. But I got outbid. I wish I was watching it closer. I would have paid more than the final bidder got it for.”

That item may come up on eBay again. Plenty of them may exist in the world – at prices lower than the final auction price. Manufacturers in China may be making them by the millions this very moment. The auction process, however, creates scarcity in the moment. When you bid on something you want, you immediately start imagining how long it’s going to take to ship. You picture it in your posession. You want to buy it now, as in “I want an Oompa Loompa now, Daddy!!!”

When you do win the bid, you feel like you’ve attained something of great value – whether or not it actually is. That’s what the feeling of scarcity does on eBay. If you lose the bid, you feel like something of great value has slipped through your fingers.

We see the scarcity phenomenon every year at the malls during Christmas. Demand spikes, supplies are low and the mobs descend on the toy stores. There’s also something Hollywood script writers call a “timelock” in place. You’ve got until Christmas Eve to buy one, and the clock is ticking. Back in the 1980’s it was mad mayhem with Cabbage Patch dolls. Remember Furbies?
The way you describe and discuss your goods and auctions can communicate the feeling of scarcity. First, however, you need to make sure there’s something genuinely scarce about your products.

Warning: Don’t use scarcity as an artificial ploy. If your goods have some scarce qualities to them, by all means, emphasize that. However, if your goods can be easily attained elsewhere, don’t try to fake out bidders. They can make a fool of you by easily searching eBay and discovering the truth. The result: you lose trust.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Discover Your Niche: Step 2

A great thing about eBay is that it can be really easy to find your niche market and cater to this group of people (or for your niche market to find you). Take a close look at the broad list of eBay categories and sub-categories. Each one of those is its own niche market unto itself, and eBay is the broad marketplace that holds these sub-divided markets together. All these special-interest niche groups are like tiny little side streets in the eBay world.

Think of eBay as one of those giant bazaars in the Mid-East or Asia. Of course, eBay is really much more than that. You can buy computer equipment, cars, houses and services on eBay. But for the sake of the analogy, think of eBay as a humongous bazaar with thousands of booths with individual vendors, each selling a very specific good with everything from copper cooking pots, to fabric, to spices, vegetables, hand crafted goods and so on. And the market is teeming with customers, each seeking something different. No single seller can possibly meet all the needs of all those customers, so these smart vendors specialize in a specific product that they know intimately.

This direct connectedness between the proprietor, his product, and his customers has allowed a centuries-old retailing system to survive, and indeed thrive, in the modern age. Smart eBay sellers will find a niche market and work to be the very best in the minds of a small group of avid customers. And by being so specialized, they can keep their fingers on the pulse of their niche market, maintaining an intimate connection with the desires and demand of their customers.
Think about your own interests or areas of expertise and how they are reflected in the products you sell on eBay. Perhaps you’re a technophile who sells computer parts, or a movie buff who sells DVDs and videos. Maybe you’re an avid traveler who returns home with treasures from around the world to sell on eBay. Many sellers in the antiques and collectibles fields are also collectors themselves and use eBay as a means of thinning their possessions and earning extra money to make new purchases.

These examples illustrate individuals selling on eBay, however businesses of all sizes need to develop well-defined areas of expertise and create their own niche. Even if your business employs 2 people, 10 people, 200, the scope of your business is still guided by your own interests and passions as the chief of the tribe. The important thing is that you convey your expertise to all of your team members. They too must understand your specific niche market to be able to best address the needs and desires of your customers.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Build a Solid eBay Marketing Plan: Step 1


Not to get too cosmic or metaphysical here, but understanding where you’re coming from is the first step in understanding where you’re going. Your motivations for becoming a part of the eBay community are a big part of defining yourself and your business.

Some folks sell on eBay as an alternative revenue stream. eBay is a great moonlighting job for many people, and others, like stay-at-home parents and retirees, use eBay to supplement their income. Some people come to eBay with the dream of self-employment. They’ve discovered the joy of the “ten-second commute” from the kitchen to the computer, and relish the freedom to set their own hours and be their own boss.

Owners of traditional brick-and-mortar (B&M) retail businesses often join eBay to create an online selling presence without having to go through the rigors and expense of developing and marketing their own Web site. The online community helps them expand their customer base from a limited regional area to the entire world. This broader base of customers on eBay sometimes leads B&M Businesses to abandon the storefront completely, and sell through a virtual store only. Other sellers have existing e-commerce businesses and come to eBay to increase sales and locate new customers.

There are as many reasons for starting (or continuing) an eBay business as there are eBay sellers. Whatever your reasons, answering the “What brings you to eBay?” question is the first step in a solid marketing plan.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Always Be Closing (ABC)

For fans of the movies Glengarry Glen Ross and Boiler Room ABC means something special. It’s that hyped up rant from the ominous cheerleaderthe sales manager with a high-pressure quota. (Does “Coffee is for closers” or “Third place, you’re fired” ring a bell?)

Throughout your listings, you need to remember this mantra. Essentially, to close is to ask for commitment from the person with which you’re communicating. Whether that commitment is for a sale or for some other agreement, you need it to move the game forward. The ultimate close is the one where you ask for the order (or bid).

Closing via text—in your item description or in follow-up e-mails—is not much different than face-to-face closing. Your goal is to give the prospect a reason to get off the dime and do something. The same goes for your item description. For example, you might indicate that the winning bidder will get free shipping. You could also mention that volume buys get percentage discounts. In e-mail correspondence with prospects, you can try hard close lines, such as, “If you click Buy It Now, I can ship it today by 5 p.m.”

More subtle approaches are deemed soft closes, a la, “I’ll check the specs. If it has the turbo booster, will you buy it?” If they say “yes,” then you’ve gained an agreement or a verbal deal. Most people don’t go back on deals, so you’ll at least get a bid out of this person. You could also use language such as, “The bidding is heating up on this item, so make sure you note the time that the auction closes.” That’s really soft, but it gently prods the shopper toward a bidding action.

When you think about it, closing language should be everywhere in your descriptions and correspondences. Up-sells and cross-sells are a form of closing language (see the following section). Gaining agreement in e-mails nudges shoppers toward the cash register (or PayPal). Free shipping and guarantees are a form of closing.

Try out some closing strategies with your listings, and then track those that work best. You’ll notice that buyers need reasons to act, and they need encouragement. If you provide both, you’ll either help them move toward a purchase or you’ll at least weed out “lookie-loos” who weren’t serious about buying anyway.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Leverage Your Authority and Expertise

Excerpt from "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing."

Buyers worship authority and buy from experts they trust.Hence, establishing authority and expertise is crucial to selling on eBay. (Chapter 6 shows you how to develop trust by cultivating progressive customer service practices. The following sections are more presentation oriented.)

Some eBay sellers are experts in their particular fields. They know their products inside and out, they offer valuable advice to prospects, and they’re painfully aware of market conditions and pricing. Other sellers just sound authoritative because they know how to research topics and write compelling descriptions. Whichever boat you’re in, you can still improve the way you’re perceived. You can present your wares better and thus show off your expertise more effectively.

You can also fake it a little. Everyone has access to Google, and if you understand your prospects’ motivations, you can focus on what matters, what keywords to use, and how to direct your prospects to additional information. It’s also useful to use the “I’m not an expert, but…” approach while citing other sources.

Tip: When you position yourself as an expert, other opportunities inevitably arise. For example, if you head into Yahoo Groups and find discussion forums within your realm of expertise, you can answer questions there and help all kinds of people. Just be sure to insert your eBay Store URL as your signature file in the bottom of your posts. This drives targeted traffic directly from the forum postings to your listings.

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