Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Ecstasy of Buying

I’m posting a quote today that re-enforces an idea that often gets lost when you spend a lot of time analyzing marketing strategies, positioning products and thinking hard about how to sell. Here it is:

“Buying is a profound pleasure.”

-- Simone de Beauvoir

When selling (eBay, retail, persuading, or otherwise), we often forget that half the battle is already won. People want to be convinced! They want to buy things. They want to hear stories that peak their interest. It is a profound pleasure to learn something, to have a new toy, to improve one’s life through purchasing and understanding.

We’re all surrounded by stuff we bought that’s useless or gathering dust now. But at the time of purchase, it did its job. The item made us feel a certain way. It promised good things and often delivered them.

Remember this when writing eBay descriptions and selling your wares. People want your stuff. You just need to tune into those emotions they conjure when purchasing. How’s it going to make them feel? What are they going to tell their friends about their new purchase? Integrate those ideas into your headlines and copy. Tell good, genuine stories and buyers will respond.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Coca Cola, Oprah Winfrey and Wendy’s Use eBay to Cozy Up to Customers

Earlier this month, USA Today ran an interesting article about how big brands are using eBay to build marketing buzz around their products and sell related products.

This got me thinking. Is there a way to hitch your eBay wagon to the bigger brands and cash in on some bigtime promotion and publicity? Could you be the kind of vendor who sells the “Zero-inspired jewelry” that’s mentioned in the article? Are there other avenues into this market?

Also – can you use the popularity of certain trends, fads and well-known advertising campaigns to gain visibility with your eBay products? Remember a while back when I blogged about How Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie Can Help You Connect with Customers? I think we’re talking about something similar here.

Let me know if you have similar ideas or approaches that have worked. I’d be happy to get into your successes (and failures, too) here on this blog. It will help all of us.

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4 Questions That Help Define Your eBay Niche

* Who are you?
* What are you doing?
* Who are you helping?
* How are you different?

Answer these, and you’ll start to understand why you’re in business. I like to apply this quick list to every selling consultation and marketing positioning job I start. It helps me cut through the bull and zero in on the fundamentals.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

I Can Predict the Future (with Auction Research): Part 2

I Can Predict the Future (with Auction Research)
Part 2

By Jen Cano, Certified eBay Consultant and Senior Editor for HammerTap

Boost Your Chances of Selling
It’s great to know what’s likely to sell and which products are performing the best. But that’s only a starting point. Research will also tell you what to do to boost your chances of selling.

For example, you might have the most fabulous auction with the most incredible offer, but if buyers don’t find your auction, no one’s going to buy it. Use auction research to find out which category had the highest success rate for your product. Also, use the research to find out which keywords resulted in sales the most often.

And when you’re confident bidders will find your auction, find out details such as which auction type to use, which day and time to close your auction, and which features to invest in (such as bold or gallery).

Increase Your Profits on Each Sale
You can also use the data to find out how to make the most money on each auction.

For example, in DeepAnalysis, if I compare the starting prices to the sales prices, I can determine how much the starting price affected the closing price. After using research tools for the past couple of years, I’ve discovered that it’s not necessarily true that starting at a low price will initiate a bidding frenzy. On the contrary, most of the time I’ve found that as the starting price rises, so does the selling price.

Notice that I said most of the time this is true. Sometimes it’s not. And the only way to know is either through trial and error or with research software.

Is Research Software Right for You?
No matter whether you sell many different types of products on eBay or if you only sell one, you can benefit from eBay research.

The research will save you both time and money. You’ll no longer have to use trial and error to figure out the best category to list your product in or the best price to start it. You’ll consult the data and make an educated decision.

When I attended eBay LIVE! with the HammerTap team in June, I can’t tell you the number of PowerSellers that were shocked to find out that, according to the statistics, the day they thought was the best day to close wasn’t. They were even more surprised to find that auctions sold on another day of the week had a higher sales price.

Like I said, I can predict the future. And so can you.
Find Out More about Auction Research
If you’d like to know more about auction research, visit us at or join our DeepAnalysis mailing list to receive our weekly educational newsletter. You can also download a PDF version of our Seller’s Guide: An Introduction to the Power of Auction Research (viewable with the Adobe Acrobat Reader).

About the Author
Jennifer Cano is a certified eBay consultant and Senior Editor for Bright Builders, the makers of HammerTap. She is also an editor for eBay Radio.

© Bright Builders, 2006.

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I Can Predict the Future (with Auction Research)

Today's post is another guest article by Jen Cano. I'll post the 2nd half of the article this afternoon.

I Can Predict the Future (with Auction Research)

Part 1

By Jen Cano, Certified eBay Consultant and Senior Editor for HammerTap

I know how to predict the future. I’ve been able to do it ever since the first time I sold on eBay. A couple of years ago, my job was to write a series of articles on the journey of an eBay beginner—me.

Part of my assignment was to use HammerTap’s DeepAnalysis, auction research software, to help me decide what to sell and when. I researched candles and lotions of all kinds. The research results proclaimed that the auctions with For Every Body scented candles had performed very well, while those with For Every Body lotions hadn’t done so hot.

So, rebel that I am, I decided to ignore the research and list both. In short, my candles sold with a 100% profit margin, while my lotions didn’t sell at all. Even when they’d been listed three times.

Now that I’ve told my story, I’ll have to revise my initial statement. I know how to read the past to predict likely outcomes. I know how to use auction research software to predict the future.

What Can Research Reveal about the Future?
Auction research software tools, such as DeepAnalysis, search eBay to find a group of closed auctions that match the criteria you enter. Then, they give you statistics about how the auctions performed and which listing elements were the most successful.

A research tool that lets you narrow your research to include only auctions that match your exact criteria also allows you to:

Find out what sells.
Reveal what you need to do to increase your chances of selling.
Help you increase the profit you make on every auction.

Find Out What Sells
Research will do more than tell you whether a particular product is likely to sell and for how much. Quality research tools will also let you save and compare research files, so you can decide which brands, styles, products, sizes, and etc. sell best.

Once, I compared large lots of boys Gap clothing to smaller lots to see which lot size performed the best. The difference was staggering. Only 70% of smaller lots sold, while 93% of larger lots sold.

Incidentally, at the same time, I discovered that Gap clothing outperformed Old Navy by a wide margin, as well. And, I was able to narrow my research even further to discover which size and type was the most successful.

About the Author
Jennifer Cano is a certified eBay consultant and Senior Editor for Bright Builders, the makers of HammerTap. She is also an editor for eBay Radio.

© Bright Builders, 2006.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Don't Sell Solutions -- Sacrilege -- eBay Selling Tips

Yesterday was one of those days where I surfed some excellent sites and thought – why do I ever buy books. There’s so much good content out there.

The following is a sample from an interview with Jeffrey Thull, consultant and author. They were talking about how it’s not enough to “sell solutions.” You have to get into the skin of the client and see how they’re living – something we heartily recommend on this blog and in The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing.

“Thull: Most importantly, you have to identify the physical manifestations of the absence of the value you are proposing to provide to the client. If you are offering value that the client needs, you should be able to point to physical evidence that the value in question is not present in the client’s current environment…

“..The traditional sales approach is opinion-based and requires the client to be capable of self-diagnosis. Asking your client if service technicians have fast access to the best information is asking the client to self-diagnose. With one simple question, you’ve begun to create a value gap.
“Sellers assume that clients come to the table with a clear recognition of the absence of value—a dangerous assumption that leads to a value gap. I don’t think most people are even conscious that they’re selling this way. It’s part of the historic, presentation-oriented sales approach….
“..Recognize that your clients often don’t understand as much about their situations as you think. It’s your job to figure out how capable a client is of self-diagnosis. The flawed assumption is that clients understand their problems and we just need to ask them to explain the problems to us and then show them the solution.”

Ok – the wording here is kind of heavy and academic, but the concepts are pretty simple. Essentially, you can’t expect a person to understand how your product is going to solve their problems. They may not even think that they have a problem. Instead, you have to pose the right questions and understand the potential pain points that they’re either denying or ignoring. (You also have to consider the fact that they may not be a legitimate prospect – this is an especially important and difficult step to take in high dollar selling situation. Think boats, airplanes and real estate.)

Your job is to help them discover that there actually is something wrong (as opposed to telling them) and then show them how things could be better with your solution. That discovery process starts with the ways you present information about your products. Here are a few tips for doing that:

1) Show, don’t tell
2) Offer examples of how others have used your product successfully
3) Address emotional drivers
4) Describe scenarios that customers want to solve (rather than presenting solutions outright)
5) Ask your customers lots of questions that help you understand why they’re buying

Thull’s discussion deals with complex sales scenarios, admittedly. However there’s plenty of wisdom that can be applied to eBay selling situations. Do you agree?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Amsng Ancdt -- Attn mktrs & eby sllrs

This from

"Ttlly Brllnt!

"The famed florist Max Schling once ran a brilliant ad in The New York Times: The copy, entirely in shorthand, was clipped by thousands of curious businessmen who naturally asked their secretaries for a translation. The ad - addressed to these very secretaries - asked them to remember Schling when the boss wanted flowers for his wife!"

What language do your customers (or their employees) speak? Are you using it to get their attention? I immediately think of IM and text message shorthand when I read the story above. A message to parents of kids (marketing something relevant) would be great in that text-message slang. The parents would take it to their kids for translation and you've advertised twice for the price of once. Crafty.

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Busting Wholesale Retail Myths -- eBay Sellers Take Note

I know a lot of you are interested in sourcing issues.Frank Ross has posted a great article about the myths surrounding Wholesale and Retail. Check it out.

Here's a tidbit: "You will find relatively few genuine wholesale supply sources via search engines such as Google or Yahoo. Are they hiding? No, but they have little incentive to optimize their sites for general search engines since they only sell to trade resellers. In fact, many of them don't even have websites and it's not uncommon to find the reps with Earthlink or AOL email addresses!"

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Rise Above the Advertising Clutter and Sell More

I’ve talked about Jack Forde’s newsletter before. It’s always filled with unique marketing perspectives that can be applied to eBay selling. Like this morning’s article from Dave Lakhani.

Here’s a taste:

“33% of the people surveyed [Yankelvich Partners study] said that they would accept a slightly lower standard of living to live in a society without advertising…”

“… What those people are really saying is that they are tired of irrelevant offers launched at them indiscriminately from every media outlet that can be bought.”

Sign up for Forde’s newsletter if this kind of stuff appeals to you.

We’ve been covering these topics for a while in these posts. To step away from the “irrelevant offer” crowd, you’ve got to:

1) be different
2) connect with real needs
3) offer something for free (like genuinely informative information)
4) offer guarantees
5) offer trials

If you hit all five of these, there’s a good chance that you’ll rise above the clutter.

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Part 2 of 2: The eBay User Profile

This morning, I'm posting Part 2 of an article by guest writer Jen Cano. If you missed Part 1, it’s here. I heartily endorse the concepts and products hereafter (in fact, we talk about these in the book at length).

Part 2 of 2: The eBay User Profile

by Jen Cano, eBay Certified Consultant

How Long Are They Staying?
Currently, the average visitor stays on eBay for upwards of twenty minutes. And this timeframe has been steadily climbing over the past two years. In fact, the average visitor stays on the eBay website much longer than they do for other competing markets, including Amazon and Walmart.

This further supports the suggestion that eBay is a fantastic place to market your business and to build a customer base for a more solid Internet business.

Where Do They Go?
If you’re looking for a new product niche or deciding which way to move your product offering in the coming year, this list could be significant for you. The study revealed the following as the top-visited eBay categories:

eBay Motors (this category does occasionally drop below the next two)
Health and Beauty
Business and Industrial
Jewelry and Watches
Musical Instruments

Why Do They Shop on eBay?
The study identified two types of buyers. Broad Category were typically women who shop and purchase in eleven or more different categories. Narrow Category buyers were typically men who limit their shopping to four or less categories. Furthermore, Broad Category buyers like eBay for experiential and emotional reasons, while Narrow Category buyers like eBay for it’s ease of use.

Overall, though each type of buyer likes eBay for the following reasons, in the following order:
unique items
easy convenience

The Complete Study
For the complete study, visit

About the Author
Jennifer Cano is a certified eBay consultant and Senior Editor for Bright Builders, the makers of HammerTap. She is also an editor for eBay Radio.

© Bright Builders, 2006

Fantastic info, Jen. This is the kind of insight that eBay sellers can really use in their day-to-day strategies!

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7 Steps eBay Book Climbs Charts Because It Helps You Make Cash

There are 365 books on eBay listed on Amazon. These include everything from How To books to analysis-type books that recount the history and amazing story of eBay itself.

The book that this blog is inspired by (and based on – many of the posts are excerpts from the book) is currently 27 on that list… and climbing. We’re heading up in the charts because of support from you and from the other readers that see our articles on sites like and I just found out that my eBay article on is the 7th most popular one for the month of September – out of hundreds.

I just wanted to take a second to say thanks for your support.

Also, if you have the book and are finding it valuable, please post a review on That would really help sales. We’ve been getting some great ones, but more is always better. I’m a big believer in positive word of mouth, and those Amazon reviews provide it.

Thanks again.

Next post coming shortly – Part 2 of Jennifer Cano’s article on the eBay User Profile.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Part 1 of 2: The eBay User Profile

I'm posting an article by a guest writer this afternoon. I heartily endorse the concepts and products hereafter (in fact, we talk about these in the book at length). I'll post Part 2 tomorrow morning

Part 1 of 2: The eBay User Profile
by Jen Cano, eBay Certified Consultant

Ever wonder what the eBay user profile is? I recently got my hands on a report from eBay about this very subject, and thought I’d pass some of the highlights on to you. (For the full report, go to

So, without further ado…

How Many Are Coming?
eBay has determined that just over one third of all Internet users (not just shoppers) visit eBay once every month. They also state that they reach more people in the United States than any other eCommerce property. What does that mean for you and me?

I can think of a few ways we can seize even greater opportunities on the Internet. First, with so many shoppers, eBay becomes not just a place to sell, but a place to be seen and a market to study. If, for instance, you have an independent website, eBay can become just as important for building your customer base as search engines are.

Second, since such a large percentage of Internet shoppers shop on eBay, eBay now represents the perfect place to research and test market which products might do well on other markets.

This is an opportunity not just to sell a lot of auctions, but to grow your business.

When Are They Coming?
eBay’s report says that Mondays are the most busy days, boasting over 16,000 visitors on average, with Sundays at a close second. They state that a well-timed ten-day auction could include two Mondays, giving you better visibility than on any other auction schedule.

While these statistics are true for shoppers, they don’t really tell us anything about buyers. In other words, to make sound selling decisions, you need to determine when people are buying, and not just shopping for, your products. A thorough analysis of when buyers are buying would mean completing research on your particular product and category, using a tool such as HammerTap’s DeepAnalysis.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.

About the Author
Jennifer Cano is a certified eBay consultant and Senior Editor for Bright Builders, the makers of HammerTap. She is also an editor for eBay Radio.

© Bright Builders, 2006

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Selling "Cheap" Isn't the Best eBay Marketing Strategy -- Blue Nile and Tiffany & Co.

Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers Are Liars, talks about why selling “cheap” isn’t the best marketing strategy. It’s a quick road to oblivion, actually.

He uses as an example. Blue Nile is the online diamond store that’s whipping Tiffany & Co. at their own game (or a similar game). They sold more engagement rings than Tiffany’s last year.

Blue Nile sells jewelry identical to Tiffany’s, but it’s half the price for obvious reasons (no retail space in NYC, for one). But Godin writes, “But if cheap is what you want, you can buy cheap cheaper somewhere else. Cheap is not marketing.”

He’s right. Most businesses understand that they can be undersold. So they use marketing and persuasion and storytelling to create images and feelings around their products. They build in customer service and a feel-good experience. In Blue Nile’s case customers get the feeling that they got a better deal than Tiffany’s. But Blue Nile also goes to great pains to tell the stories about their diamonds and the uniqueness of the gems. This is a different experience than going to total low ball dealer in some sleazy neighborhood and hustling out the door with a diamond ring. The classiness and the spirit of the purchase are somehow cheapened when you go to the sleazy hood.

Intelligence and rationality tells us that it’s better to get the gem at the lowest price. Yet, many of us still opt for a more service-oriented experience (complete with stories and long descriptions of the gems). There’s something about the buying experience that matters.

When you sell on eBay or in any other ecommerce setting you need to focus on the experience. The only way to do that, says Godin, “is to stop focusing on things like carats and start telling stories instead.”

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How Will Skype Benefit eBay Sellers?

How Will Skype Benefit eBay Sellers?

One of our blog readers asked a good question yesterday:

"I am an eBay PowerSeller, and I have heard a lot about Skype- but I don't quite know what it is or how it might affect my ebay business. What exactly is Skype and what will it do for me?"

Here's my short form answer:

What it is:
Skype is a voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) Web service that allows people from computers to "call" other Skype users for free and regular telephone numbers for very low cost (2-3 cents per minute, usually). VOIP just means that the voice is translated to digital 1's and 0's then routed over the Internet to it's destination ear and translated back into analog audio via speakers (whether this is a headset speaker or plain old computer speakers or full 5.1 surround on a Media Center PC doesn't matter). If you're calling another Skype subscriber (it's free), the only "cost" with VOIP is your Internet Service Provider fees. If you dial a regular phone number from within Skype, you usually pay 2-3 cents per minute. Some weird countries with strict price controls, like Cuba, charge more.

What will it do for me, an eBay seller?:
eBay hasn’t rolled out the specific details yet, but here’s my guess. eBay will allow sellers to post “Skype Me” icons on their listings so shoppers can call the seller with a question (if the seller is online at the time). It would work well for certain types of merchandise, like cars and real estate, and not so well for others. You don’t want to spend 5 minutes on the phone with every curious shopper if you’re selling single t-shirts, for instance. So it’s not for everyone. It might require a service fee to have the Skype Me icon.

eBay will probably continue to offer the Skype service much in the same way it exists today. They’ll make money from the 2-3 cents per minute charges and charge additional fees for add-ons like voicemail and ring-back tunes, etc. I think that’s the way it’s set up at the moment.

Did I miss anything? Any other guesses as to how this will play out?

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Loss Aversion Sells Better Than Benefits -- eBay Sales/Marketing Strategy

Here’s a good article about “loss aversion.”

We tend to focus on benefits so much, but loss aversion is a more potent driver of purchasing and motivation.

Cialdini has studied this concept exhaustively and the numbers don’t lie.

When you’re creating new eBay listings or updating old ones, keep this fundamental marketing concept in mind. Remind prospects of how much money and time they stand to lose if they don’t use your product or services. Maybe you have a product that is a smart/safe choice. If so, remind them that they won’t lose face by going with the safe buy or respected brand.

Of course, always remind bidders that they’re in a competitive situation. The main thing they stand to lose in an auction is the item itself – to some other similarly motivated shopper. This is particularly significant in collector bidding situations. The collector is a rare breed that loves having unique items and loves being the only one that has them. They also like having multiples of the same thing. Make sure you remind these collectors what they stand to lose by losing the auction.

Phrase your description copy in those terms and you’ll get more bids and see your final gavel bids increase.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

How to Connect With Your Customers Without Ticking Them Off

A real customer dialogue.

My home owner’s insurance company called. I paid attention. I listened to the woman on the line. I evaluated what she had to say. And I agreed to take some action on her part.

How is that possible you say? Shouldn’t I have become angry and dismissed this as telemarketing.

The secret – they framed the call as a customer dialogue.

She talked to me like a human – with real words, tone, inflection, spontaneity and everything! Real telemarketers never do this.

She already had a relationship with me. I carry the home owner’s insurance, and she wanted to know if I’d be interested in a discount offer for a package deal that covers home and cars. This wasn’t some cold, shot in the dark call from a massive paid list.

The *only* thing she wanted from me was a commitment that I’d look up my auto insurance documents and be ready from a call from my insurance broker, her boss.

I agreed to it. The offer was tantalizing – 12% off the home insurance and 20% off the auto policies. She was respectful. She didn’t hard sell me.

It was an artful “warm” call.

You can do this with eBay listings, product descriptions, and follow up correspondence. You have a customer base already. Look up everyone who’s bought from you. Make them an interesting offer. Create offers that are difficult to dismiss. Show people what they stand to lose by not acting on your offer. Be genuine. That’s good marketing.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

eBay Marketing Secret: How to Be Lucky When Selling

In Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit, she talks about luck and where it comes from. Her examples deal with the dance and theater context, but some of her ideas apply to marketing and selling, as well.

Here’s one: “I don’t use [the word luck] lightly. Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you. If you’re generous to someone, if you do something to help him out, you are in effect making him lucky. This is important. It’s like inviting yourself into a community of good fortune.”

This is one of the feelings or attitudes necessary for long term business success. First you give, then you get. Dr. Robert Cialdini supports claims like this statistically in his excellent Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Those that build good content and information begin to gather followers. Those that develop useful email newsletters that support their eBay businesses inevitably prosper. There are other techniques that “link up” the selling process, like making offers and closing throughout listings. However, this spirit of giving should be at the heart of every entrepreneurial undertaking.

The reason why you give doesn’t have to come from some touchy-feely new age place, either. You can be on a quest for self-aggrandizement. That’s ok – as long as you’re providing others with value and opportunity. You can truly want to help people lead easier, safer, more prosperous, healthier lives. Maybe that’s even better. Who knows? Whatever helps you take action and do the work should be good enough… And the world turns.

Check out my othe post on this same subject.

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eBay Sellers (and shoppers) May Balk at the Skype Option

Some of my observations on the Skype-eBay deal…

The Skype deal is going to end up costing eBay $4 billion. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just build the software themselves? They could feed a lot of programmers for $4B -- and marketers, advertisers, etc..

Also, part of the allure of eBay and other ecommerce sites is that you can shop in peace and gather information at your own pace. Skyping someone about the product might not be that attractive.

Think about eBay sellers, too. I’ll bet more than 1/2 the eBay sellers out there got into ebay because they didn't want to deal with public/retail situations.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The eBay Skype Acquisition Smells -- Sweet or Rank?

The eBay Skype acquisition interests me.

I see how a VOIP connection within eBay would be great for buyers and sellers (maybe eBay has more plans, too). But I don't see why they didn't just build the system themselves. Google did it quickly and easily -- which suggests that there's no "moat" around this kind of technology (to borrow a phrase from Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger).

Any thoughts, insights?

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eBay Description Writing Tips from Home Depot’s Catalog

The following are some descriptions written about Home Depot’s storage baskets and boxes. As an eBay seller, it’s useful to look at these professionally written pieces from time to time.

Keep a few things in mind while you read them. 1) The same function could be accomplished with some cardboard boxes or shoe boxes, 2) Chances are, no one but the owners of these boxes will ever see them, and 3) They cost $35 to $50 each.

Description 1: “Woven antique black finish baskets offer creative and stylish storage solutions for everything from sweaters and laundry to office supplies and refuse. All liners are washable natural-colored cotton canvas.”

Description 2: “Soften the look of your work space with these casual, yet highly functional basket pieces.”

Description 3: “These canvas ‘drawers,’ complete with handles, are cleverly designed with an inner covered-wire frame that keeps the lining taut.”

Now – let’s think about these descriptions and what kinds of things, other than practicality, are going on.

The first one injects the concepts of creativity and style – both important emotionally-driven motives. In a world where we can all get enough food, water and shelter (usually), creativity and style come into play. Even if no one sees these boxes but the owner, the owner will feel creative and stylish. The person might even tell someone about their cool new baskets.

The second description gives a nod to functionality but not before talking about softening the work space. That sounds like a benefit. Who wouldn’t want to work in a soft, un-harsh work place? They also give the reader an idea about where to use these things – in the workplace, of course (an area, by the way, that can be Spartan and unappealing). Functionality comes into play. This is a benefit, but not something that could stand on its own. It’s better to add the emotional adjective casual and sell the “softening” idea.

The third description introduces the words “cleverly designed.” The adjective clever could certainly be transferred to the user/buyer. A buyer might subconsciously say, “If I buy these things, I’m clever, too. The way I create my office or closet is clever. I have an eye for these sorts of clever products.” The description writer wants to associate a positive and smart adjective with the products and does a good job.

These descriptions are short. They are to the point. Some specs follow, but the emotionally connective prose comes first. That’s important. You should be doing the same things with your eBay listings. Use these descriptions as models, and check out the descriptions in the other mail you receive.

The writers of these catalogs are the professionals. They get paid big bucks to create images and emotional connections. It may seem simple and pedestrian at first glance, but there’s a real art to it. It’s not difficult, but you have to pay attention to the emotions you want to convey and choose the best words for the task.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

eBay Selling Questions? We’ve Got Answers – New Sales and Marketing Q&A Feature

So far, this blog has been of the megaphone variety, with me on my soapbox offering up tidbits from the marketing world. Essentially it’s a one way street.

There have been some excellent posts by fellow eBay sellers that have valuable information to add. I really appreciate the input, by the way.

Now, however, I’d like to open up the floor to questions. Do you have anything on your mind that we could answer within this forum?

Questions like:

* What’s the best way to make follow-up offers to satisfied buyers?

* What kinds of colors should I use to accent my listings?

* How many photographs are appropriate for a certain kind of item?

* How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?

If I don’t know the answers, I can certainly find out (and quick!). The lolli-pop answer is “rrrrheee,” I believe.

Please post some questions here, and I’ll post answers as fast as possible. Some people have emailed me questions, as well. I’ll include those answers in future posts.

Happy Selling!


Dermatology and eBay Selling

If anyone tells you that doctors aren’t salespeople, consider dismissing what that someone has to say from then on.

I know, most doctors get into the profession to save lives and comfort the sick, but part of that process involves persuasion. And today’s system of drug and treatment development has placed heavy sales pressure on doctors. Some resist it, but many improve the revenues of their practice by playing the game.

Case in point: I went to the dermatologist to have a mole looked at, and I went home with a hole in my head and a tube of lotion unrelated to the hole in my head.

The mole was “suspicious looking,” and the lotion is used to treat something called rosacea – redness of the face brought on by all kinds of things including avocados, chocolate, alcohol, stress, and hot weather. All things that I’m fond of. Maybe not stress.

Anyway, the lotion was a classic cross-sell – the kind you should be proposing to your eBay customers. When someone’s is getting ready to check out, offer them additional items related to their initial purchase. In my case I came in for potential skin cancer removal. They cross-sold me some cream to deal with something else skin related.

A need was filled (I guess – I didn’t think my face looked red), and I was sent home with some free samples of the lotion. This is another good marketing tactic – send them home with a sample. Works great in the medical field, with food, beverages and puppy dogs. The classic example is called “the puppy dog sale,” where the pet store says you can take the puppy home for a day or two to see if you’re ready for the challenge. Invariably you become attached and keep the puppy.

Try some puppy dog sales and cross-sells with your own business. Throw in some free samples in a shipped package, suggest complementary items before checkout. You’ll boost sales in the process.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

eBay Seller Words of Wisdom from Thelonius Monk

“The only cats worth anything are the cats that take chances.”

-- Thelonius Monk

Half the celebrated marketing coups you hear about originated with individuals that stepped outside the lines and took some risks. They didn’t sit tight and produce pedestrian advertising campaigns. They didn’t check their personalities at the front door and produce bland marketing campaigns.

Think about Starbucks, MTV, Tivo, Miller Lite, Google, Tazo Teas, and Fox Broadcasting. They didn’t stick with conventional wisdom and invent products that toed the line.

Are you taking chances? Are you adding creativity and originality to your listings? Do you care about how people feel when they enter your eBay store? Do you look for newer, better, more interesting products to sell?

The person that answers “yes” to these questions is pulling ahead of the pack, getting higher bids, and charging a little bit more for their products.

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What % of Reality is Perception?

Rhetorical question, of course.. but something you need to consider as an eBay seller.

People make decisions about purchases with only a handful of facts but a cart full of historical feelings, personal viewpoints, and even superstitions or prejudices.

In All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin offers some examples of how perception colors reality:

* “The psychic impact of a nasty flight attendant is more important than a plane arriving ten minutes early at its destination.”

* “The enthusiasm a company’s staff has when they install new robots on the factory floor can be just as important as the work those robots actually do.

* “If a friend has responded beautifully to a placebo drug, is it right to tell her that she’s taking nothing but sugar pills,” he asks.

“In other words,” he continues, “irrational beliefs aren’t a distraction – they are an intrinsic part of the quality of the product… Storytelling works when the story actually makes the product or service better.”

When you’re writing a description or a headline in a product listing, ask yourself a simple question: “What do people want to believe about this product?” Then ask, “Is it ethical to present the product in tandem with the emotion?” If it seems like you’re perpetrating a fraud, drop the subject all together.

But if there are certain feelings and connections that go naturally with your product, go ahead and milk those connections for all they’re worth. After all, would you sell a Porsche without intimating that the person buying it will feel really cool? Would you sell candy without playing up the fun and excitement?

Take the facts and dress them up a little bit. The sale is partially need-based and partially emotion-based.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

How to Use “How To” to Boost eBay Sales

I’m at the Border’s bookstore in Palm Desert -- working remotely while the family swims and splashes at the condo pool.

Over my left shoulder are two books on the end-cap, “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Grill.” For book titles “how to” has consistently been a winner over the years:

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
How to Lie With Statistics
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition)
How to Prepare for the New SAT (Barron's How to Prepare for the Sat I (Book Only))

There are hundreds of them.

How to Win Friends and Influence People” rivals the bible in sales. Here’s an interesting one: How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson, et al. Makes you wonder who the “et al” are (and how many).

These books are best sellers, and the idea of “how to” has been a favorite for years. It’s an obsession for children of certain ages. My 3-year-old always wants to know how to cook certain things. Huge portions of his days are dedicated to figuring out how to. How to make a phone call from my cell. How to get Mommy & Daddy to cough up one more sweet treat or some more time in front of Finding Nemo. How to torment his younger brother. It’s a big deal.

With eBay, you can show customers how to do lots of things before and after they buy your goods. When you show them how to use your products more effectively, they build up more reasons to purchase. When you offer follow up suggestions after they’ve purchased, you build a customer relationship that could lead to repeat business.

Use “how to” in your email newsletters, your descriptions, and even in flyers sent with your packages. If you blog about your products, include how to’s. You can even post how to articles in various eBay groups to generate interest in your products.

Any other ideas?

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Common eBay Listing Design Flaws: Text and Color

When you sell on eBay, the text should be designed to communicate.

Pretty obvious, right?

Well, some people make choices that work in the opposite direction. They choose fonts, colors and layout designs that hinder rather than enhance communication.

I'm going to touch on just a few tips here relating to background colors and font color. There have been a number of studies that back up the information that follows. If you’d like more detailed background info, I highly recommend reading “Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes” by Colin Wheildon.

1) Black text set on shades of grey makes for difficult reading.
2) Dark text on color tints makes for difficult reading.
3) Brightly colored text on light color tints is “the enemy of comprehension.”
4) Don’t use reverse – white or light text on a black or dark background. Especially with bigger chunks of text. People just can’t comprehend and retain the information very well.
5) Contrary to some “old school” assertions about black text on white background, it’s ok to put black text on light color tints. The light color can attract attention, in fact. Just don’t let the tint get too heavy. The darker the tint gets, the more reader comprehension suffers.

From “Type & Layout”:

“It is impossible to avoid the fact that comprehensibility of colored text increases as the color gets closer to black.”

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Occasional Shameful Plug

A humble word from the blog author:

This blog is subsidized by book sales of "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing."

The book is a quick and light 200-page read that shows eBay sellers:
* How to establish and maintain a niche market
* Which eBay and 3rd party tools help you sell more effectively
* How to employ time-tested advertising copywriting techniques
* How to cross-sell, up-sell and retain customers on eBay

It’s a bargain, at $11.53 on Amazon, and can be used as a workbook for tuning up listings, leveraging selling psychology, and taking your business to the next level.

If you already have a copy – thank you for supporting my book author career and this blog! If not, take a peek at the book in your local Barnes and Noble or on Amazon. There’s a lot to learn about lesser known aspects of eBay, and this book is the most up-to-date guide available.

If you have friends that eBay, think about sending them a copy as a gift, too. For just a few bucks you can help them boost their business.


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How is an eBay Listing Like Direct Mail?

“Maintaining a dignified image or getting people to remember your message is not important. The only thing that counts is how many sales or inquiries your mailing generates. The more responses, the more successful the mailer.”

This is Bob Bly writing in 1985 (The Copywriter’s Handbook).

The same ideas apply to eBay listings. The listing itself is a direct sales letter, or a piece of direct mail. It doesn’t come in the mailbox, but it does show up on search results in eBay (unless the keyword title has been botched somehow). You need to test what works and tweak your copy and presentation until you hit on a combination that brings in more bids and better margins.

Check the “completed items” box when you search for items sold to see what kinds of items you (or anyone else) has had success with. Or use one of the many auction analysis tools that we discuss in the book – The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What the Best eBay Sellers Realize

"[The best marketers] realize that whatever is being sold (a religion, a candidate, a widget, a service) is being purchased because it creates an emotional want, not because it fills a simple need."

This from Seth Godin's "All Marketers are Liars."

I ran through a few examples in my head to make sure this concept holds up. It certainly works with sneakers, vacation homes, and sports cars. But with something like toner cartridges it doesn't seem so insightful. (I love the toner example, because it's such an unappealing, unemotional, commodity purchase. It's just one of those things you have to buy. And you buy it grudgingly.)

With toner, you don't have much of an emotional stake. However, if you consider the context of this particular quote -- it's about how people pick up the particular data they need from ads, eBay listings, commercials and so forth, and then "fill in the blanks" -- you'll see another kind of emotional angle to the purchasing decision.

People create stories out of the information given, but those stories spring not so much from raw, reliable facts, but from a story they've been telling themselves for a while (a worldview, Godin calls it). When I search eBay for toner cartridges, for example, I realize that I'm not really going to find the cheapest deal out there -- even though that's what I'm looking for. Sure, I want to know that it's the right toner for my printer, it's reliably manufactured and so forth. What I'm really looking for, though, is some reassurance that my decision will be 80 to 90 percent solid. I get that emotional support by looking at the keyword titles, making a snap judgment about the listing page (the way it's laid out, presented, etc.) , reading the description copy, and checking the seller's feedback.

My decision will be based on how much trust I have in the particular company or individual listing the toner. I may even revisit a previous seller who has kept in touch with me via emails, promotions and so forth (this is another topic however).

So if my internal story about what a competent, reliable, trusted seller is matches up with what I see on the listing. I'll probably buy from that seller. Especially when I see that all variables (like price) are equal.

Trust is the emotion I'm connecting with. I need some low-level facts, but I'm taking a small leap of faith by placing my order.

The purchase fills "a simple need" but the mechanism by which I convince myself is something more akin to a psychological response. If you think about it, I’m also telling myself a story about how I think eBay is a good place to buy 2nd party toner cartridges. (Printer manufacturers tell another story – making consumers fear purchasing non-manufacturer cartridges.)

Think about how your own listings are communicating with browsers and shoppers. Are you conveying the right messages and "feel?" What kinds of snap judgments do your customers come to? Analyze this process, and then come up with some new description templates. With just a few words, you can move your listings from bland and cold to connective and motivating. You can even experiment with a short benefit keyword in the titles (if you have space).

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Mark Twain Inspires eBay Sellers

One of the things I love about eBay sellers is their pioneering spirit. When you go to events like eBay Live (in Las Vegas 2006) or the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance (PESA) (in Austin, Texas October 27-29, 2005), you meet all kinds of original, enthusiastic, ambitious folks that are selling the darndest things and having so much fun.

We talk a lot about business planning, strategy and positioning here (and in the book), but some of the most important ingredients to eBay success are adventurousness and attitude. You need to like what you do, of course, and you need to take some risks, explore new product lines and continue to learn. Those who have their eyes and minds open to new opportunities and unique products that complement their wares inevitably prosper with their sales.

Keep this in mind as you're slogging through shipping chores and balancing the books.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

Thursday, September 01, 2005

eBay Selling by Storytelling

"Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do."

James Harvey Robinson, The Mind in the Making

When you connect with stories, thoughts, opinions and beliefs that already exist in the minds of your customers, you essentially allow them to "fill in the blanks." They start telling themselves a story that they've internally recited a thousand times.

This is one of the more masterful ways to market, advertise or describe goods. Think about it when writing your eBay descriptions. Connect with themes and images that people already hold in high esteem, and you'll find prospects zeroing in on what you have to offer.

Of course you have to know your market and customers intimately to find out what these stories are. We talk about this in-depth in Chapter 1 of The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing.

Most sellers don't do this, so there's plenty of opportunity to get your listings to stand out in the crowd.

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StartUpNation eBay Seller WebCast -- Thanks for Your Support

Thanks to all of you who showed up for the StartUpNation Webcast yesterday. I thought it was a success, and the folks at StartUpNation were very pleased with the results. I think I spoke too fast, though. I have this urge to cover too much, and it makes me race like an Indy car driver.

The show will be archived at the link above, so you can hear it at your leisure and/or page through the PowerPoint.

At one point, I mentioned MarketBlast (actually I said MarketFlash, which was a goof and a typo – for some reason I’ve got a mental block on that name). Anyway, the product is quite amazing. Take a look at their site,, to see what the buzz is about. I posted some of the general features below. Essentially, you can conduct all your eBay tasks via this robust business management tool. It’s super powerful, yet easy to use and intuitive.

Local Database Access
Allows you unlimited access to your information, even when you're not connected to the internet.
Do Multiple Actions at once: Run reports, create listings, check customer information – all at the same time.
Update in Bulk
No matter what the information, all rows can be updated at once or in bulk.
All information can be grouped into folders and subfolders. There are no limits on how many subfolders can be created.
Smart Folders
Create dynamic folders. For example, all customers who have purchased in the last 30 days. No matter when you look, MarketBlast keeps this folder up to date.
Advanced Search
Search for any information based on any criteria or any combination of criteria.
eBay, eBay Motors, and eBay Stores Support
Launch items to the eBay option of your choice.
One Integrated Solution
All options are integrated and can be used together without any extra expenditure.
Automatic Updater
MarketBlast updates itself automatically when a new version is available.
Context-Sensitive Help
No matter where you are in the application, context-specific help is just a click away.

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