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).
Phil Dunn is a marketing consultant and co-author of The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing (McGraw-Hill, 2005). His eBay blog, http://ebay-marketing.blogspot.com offers tips, tricks and strategies that help people generate eBay sales now.