Thursday, September 20, 2007

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, offers tips, tricks and strategies that help people generate eBay sales now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

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).

P.S. knocked 32% off the cover price of "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005). sells if for 36% off!

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to Write a Better Headline than This One - eBay Sales Rely on Title Hooks

When selling on eBay, your keyword description isn't the only chance you have at creating a title. You can also create benefit-oriented titles that emphasize keywords much less in the body of your description. Just use HTML to create larger fonts and dark colors if you insist on using color in the title.

Why do this? Because titles draw in readers and buyers. As David Ogilvy is famous for putting it, "Your headline is the ticket on the meat." (paraphrased) The headline draws in those who would be interested, compelled, in need, etc. It's the first test that filters out those who are hungry for meat and those who are not.

The headline needs to include benefits that pertain directly to the needs of the reader and the features of the product, of course. That's the practical side of the process. The creative side involves catching the attention of passers by.

I read a headline in the newspaper this morning that stopped me in my tracks. It was very creative and it got me to read an article that I wouldn't have read in a million years given another less interesting headline. Here it is: "Women Get Shot at Hunting." Clever, ay? The article was about how a national program gives females a chance to learn about the sport.

You might say that the title isn't selling anything... but I'd say otherwise. Newspapers sell entertainment and information to curious readers. If they don't make the reader curious, they fail. They succeeded in this instance.

So.. I urge you to get creative, test out headlines and track your eBay sales to figure out which headlines draw in your meat buyers. Do simple A-B testing to test headlines against non-headline descriptions. Or test distinctly different titles head-to-head. Even the smallest insights will offer tremendous value and move you toward more sales and profits.


eBay Selling Webcast Turns Some Heads (and ears)

If any of the posts on this blog tickle your fancy (surf around for a bit, surely you’ll find something you dig – and stop calling me shirley), you’ll want to check out StartUpNation’s Webcast on eBay marketing.

You can hear me in person and get some quick insights into eBay.

Tune in here.

P.S. and have the lowest prices for "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

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.

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Big News for eBay Sellers (and buyers)

eBay Launches Data Mining Tool

The Motley Fool investment site posted an article about eBay’s new buyer and seller database mining features. If you haven’t heard about this, it’s worth your while to check it out.

“..the twist here is that instead of marketing its information to data-hungry corporations, eBay's new service is aimed at the same growing community that it is drawing the data from in the first place.”

That means you, sellers! Some buyers will use this, but it’s the sellers that have the most to gain. The opportunities are endless. And this may put some pressure on 3rd party software parties like DeepAnalysis and SmartCollector. eBay is encroaching on their existing tools.

Any thoughts? Excitement? Enthusiasm? Let us know what you think of this development, and tell us how you intend to use it (if at all).

P.S. knocked 32% off the cover price of "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill). sells if for 36% off!

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , ,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

eBay Description Writing Lessons 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.

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

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

eBay Cha-Ching: Why Titles Are So Important for Marketing

There’s something I don’t like about my book The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing. It’s the title. I’ll tell you why and what it has to do with eBay listings in a second.

I was involved in creating the title little, but the publisher deferred to its in-house experts and came up with the final version.

Technically the full title of the book is The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing: Creative Strategies to Boost Profits Now. I like the 2nd half of the title better than the first. Why? Because it offers a picture or a feeling about what the reader or buyer is going to get from the book. It’s tangible and specific – profits, boost, now. But that’s immaterial. The main title is the real issue.

First, let me tell what you what elements I like about the main title. I like the 7 Essential Steps part. That concept works for me, and I’d encourage you to use similar formats when informing your eBay audiences. Visually, numbers are interesting in titles, and taking a few steps in order to achieve a goal sounds pretty easy and organized. People like that. “If I do x, I’ll get y.”

I don’t know if Essential is absolutely necessary, though. I’m on the fence about that one. I also like the word Marketing in the main title. It sets the book apart from all the other noise that’s out there and focuses the target audience onto a fairly specific topic.

Now, what do I not like? I don’t like the word Successful. To me, it’s very vague and general. If I’m reading a book title, I want to know exactly what’s in it for me… immediately. Especially with a business book. Otherwise, I’m moving on. I also need to be attracted by something unusual or interesting. There’s nothing interesting about “Successful eBay Marketing.” It’s just bland.

So what should a title do? If you’re selling a book or a lunch box or a cell phone, what do you want your title to do? First you want it to attract eyeballs. Then you want it to convert the eyeballs’ brain into a buyer.. or a potential prospect at least.

This concept of attraction and conversion is discussed in much greater detail by Sean D’Souza in his PsychoTactics newsletter. It’s a good resource with lots of insider marketing information. And it works.

First you attract, with a unique or unusual title. Then you convert with the big benefit. My title might have been better with one of the following treatments, for example:

eBay Seller Smarts: How to Increase Profits and Save Time Listing with Proven Marketing Techniques (unique main title, two specific benefits)

eBay Cha-Ching: Ring the Online Cash Register with Proven Marketing Tactics (unique title, benefits implicit, clear images)

How does this relate to eBay listings? Well, you have two opportunities to use titles like these. Once in the keyword title, and again within the text of your listing. I’ll warn you against using this title attraction/conversion technique in the keyword title however. If you have room for it, give it a shot. (Testing will show the truth of the situation.) But you’re better off using the keyword title for just that – keywords. Those are gold, and you need to make sure everything is there and accounted for – this is where you cast a wide net.

However, you can use the technique on the listing page itself. Place a big title at the beginning of your description. Use one that sticks with the customer and gets them thinking about how your product is better, faster, sexier, etc. Translate that to what specific benefit they’ll reap.

If you do this effectively, your listings will instantly attract more interest and be set off from all the other returns that the prospect has looked at. It’s about differentiation. eBay is a competitive marketplace, but it’s not that difficult to stand out. With a little care and planning, you can get a distinct edge.

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , ,

Monday, September 03, 2007

eBay Buyers - Be Afraid, Very Afraid

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.

P.S. and have the lowest prices for "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

, , , , , , , , ,
, , , ,