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The eBay Marketing BibleEVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO REACH MORE CUSTOMERS AND MAXIMIZE YOUR PROFITS
By Cliff Ennico Cindy Shebley
AMACOMCopyright © 2009 Cliff Ennico and Cindy L. Shebley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDeveloping a Marketing Strategy for Your Online Business
Building a Successful Marketing Strategy in Four Steps
Many people picking up this book for the first time—especially people who are already in business on eBay and have a presence on the site—will be tempted to skip this part in the mistaken belief that it's just for people getting started on eBay.
Every small business, whether on eBay or anywhere else, needs a clear marketing strategy if it's going to survive and grow over the long haul. Successful marketing depends on knowing in advance what you're going to sell, how you're going to sell it, and to whom you're going to sell it. Without a plan, any success you have on eBay is sheer serendipity—you won't know why you've succeeded; therefore, you will not be able to repeat that success on a regular basis.
If you are just starting out selling on eBay and are thinking about building a real business on the site, you probably have a million questions, such as:
What stuff should I be selling?
Where can I find stuff to sell on eBay?
Should I have an eBay Store?
How do I let people on eBay know I'm out there?
It can all seem pretty overwhelming at times, but success in running an eBay business (like any other small business) depends on two basic factors:
1. Planning. Knowing in advance where you want to go on eBay, setting concrete goals for your eBay business, and picking the route(s) by which you will reach those goals. 2. Discipline. Executing your plan every day, measuring your progress against the goals you have set for your eBay business, and being alert to changes in the environment that might cause you to fine-tune or tweak your plans.
Successful marketing, on eBay or anywhere else online or in the brick-and-mortar physical world, depends on creating and executing a clear, coherent marketing strategy. Chapter 1 of The eBay Marketing Bible shows you how to do that.
If you are already selling on eBay and aren't achieving the results you would like to have, it is tempting to think that the problem can be solved with a few minor tweaks of your eBay Store, such as changing a keyword or two in your search engine marketing program. But the problem might lie much deeper than that. It may be that:
You don't know your customers well enough to understand why they're buying from you at all. You are offering the wrong merchandise to the wrong customers. You are using a marketing message that's not effective with this type of customer. You are the wrong person to be offering this specific type of merchandise.
Even with a marketing strategy, you will make marketing mistakes—making mistakes and learning from them is what entrepreneurship is all about. Having a marketing strategy should, however, keep you from making the really dumb major mistakes that are hard to fix and that may cost you your business, your life's savings, and your sanity.
Marketing Rule No. 1: It's Not About You, It's About the Customer
Most first-time and newbie sellers on eBay begin by selling items they have lying around the house somewhere. They are not really marketing at all, and they don't really think of what they do as a business. They are cleaning out their attic or garage, that's all—they're not really thinking about who the customers are, why they might buy, and so forth. Their eBay selling is product-centric, not marketcentric.
When starting a real business on eBay, you learn two very important lessons early on:
1. It isn't about you; it's about the customer. 2. It's not about what you want to sell; it's about what the customer wants.
If you know someone who does embroidery, or if you do it yourself, have those two statements embroidered and hang them up right above your personal computer so they are always in sight when you are working on eBay.
Of course, all the small business books out there stress that "customers are king," and we're not saying anything profound here. It really goes a lot deeper than that, however: Customers are the only reason you are in business, and your mission when selling on eBay is to give them what they want, not what you think they should have.
To be more specific:
Customers tell you what you should stock in your eBay Store because they buy some of your merchandise and pass on your other merchandise.
Customers tell you how to price your merchandise because if your prices are too high they won't buy, even though they're buying lots of similar stuff from other eBay sellers who are pricing lower than you are.
Customers tell you how to package your merchandise because if your merchandise is not packaged attractively they won't buy (if you ever receive a feedback e-mail from a buyer saying "love the product, hate the package" you know you have a packaging problem).
Customers tell you precisely what you are doing right and wrong by giving you feedback using eBay's new Detailed Seller Reports (DSR) system. If you think about it, customers do all the hard work when you're running an eBay business—all you have to do is listen very carefully to what they're telling you and respond accordingly (in our opinion, if you are not reading your DSR feedback at least once each day, you are not giving your customers enough attention).
Now, this is not the most pleasant subject we can talk about. Every time we give a small business seminar and ask people why they want to become entrepreneurs, one of the most common answers is "because we want to be our own bosses."
Do you see now that that's never the case when you run a small business? When you are self-employed, whether selling on eBay or doing anything else, you still have a boss whom you have to please, whether you like it or not. It's just that the boss doesn't share your office or cubicle space anymore—your boss is out there in cyberspace somewhere, and just like any other "wage slave," your mission in life is to figure out what that person wants and find creative, cost-effective ways to deliver it.
Especially on eBay or otherwise when selling online, you are not completely in control of your business—the customers are. You will greatly improve your chances of success on eBay by recognizing that early on and making sure that every element of your business is driven by your customers, not the little troll who lives inside your head and tells you crazy ideas and theories that don't work.
If You Build It, They Probably Won't Come, and Even If They Do, They Won't Buy Anything
Remember the famous baseball movie from the 1980s, Field of Dreams? In that classic film, a man facing a midlife crisis (played by Kevin Costner) gets the idea of building a baseball park in the middle of an Iowa cornfield in order to attract the spirit of his late father, a failed amateur baseball player, as well as other famous baseball players such as "Shoeless Joe" Jackson. His mantra—the thing he keeps saying to himself over and over again to stay focused—is "If I build it, they will come."
Field of Dreams is a wonderful movie, and Kevin Costner happens to be one of our favorite movie actors. But this mantra—"If I build it, they will come"—is absolutely terrible advice for people who are thinking about starting a small business.
Here's how most small business owners, especially in the retail sector, do their marketing—and it's the wrong way to do it. If you're looking for a recipe for business failure, here it is:
Step 1: The founder of the business (that's you) gets an idea for a brand-new business. Step 2: The idea becomes an obsession—it's all the founder can think about, day and night. Step 3: The founder begins doing research: She buys a couple of For Dummies books, attends some evening classes at the local community college, and (fatal error) starts talking about her idea with friends, family members, and neighbors, all of whom tell her it's a fantastic idea and that she should go for it! (meanwhile failing to realize that the idea is a truly terrible one, that the founder is totally bonkers, and that the founder's house will be on the market in the next few months if she's really serious about pursuing this crazy fantasy). Step 4: The founder starts spending some serious money: She rents retail space in the downtown shopping district at $60 a square foot, signing an unbreakable five-year lease and paying a three-month up-front security deposit. She then hires a contractor to build out the space and install all of her trade fixtures—a construction project that ends up taking twice as long as anticipated and costing twice as much as was originally estimated. (Seriously, when was the last time a contractor finished a job on time and under budget for you?) She then has to buy inventory to stock the store; since her business is brand new and hasn't established credit with suppliers, she has to pay for everything in advance and out of her own pocket by cash or certified check. Her credit card balances are now in the six figures, she's taken out a home equity line of credit, and she's placed a third mortgage on her house.
Step 5: Finally, she has her grand opening. The town mayor cuts the ribbon to officially open the store, while a local newspaper photographer takes a picture of the scene (town mayors always make themselves available to do this, especially in election years). Step 6: Six months later, the founder closes her store and begs the landlord to let her out of her lease because either (a) no one is coming to the store to buy anything, or (b) even worse, people are stopping by to rummage through the merchandise but are then going home and buying it at a discount on the Internet because everyone knows small retailers can't offer deep discounts the way major retailers do.
You would not believe how many times the authors of this book have seen this six-step scenario play out. It's a disaster when it happens, especially because it is so avoidable. All this founder had to do was some basic marketing research, and she could have avoided a catastrophe that will probably end up putting her and her family deeply in debt, if not in outright bankruptcy.
The time to come up with your marketing strategy is not after you have built the business—by then it's too late. You've got a basement full of dead fish that are rotting away by the minute, and you're running around like crazy trying to convince people they're really in the mood for a seafood dinner that night. That's not marketing—that's cold calling or desperation selling at its worst, and it never works.
The Four Essential Marketing Questions
The best time to create a marketing strategy for your small business is before you launch the business.
In fact, the best time to do your marketing strategy is before you even have the idea for the business.
Now, we can hear some of you saying, "Hey, wait a minute, that doesn't make sense. What you're saying here is that you should be doing your marketing strategy before you even know what it is you wish to sell."
"But don't you have to know what it is you're selling before you can identify the people who will want to buy it?"
Nope. Not at all.
Building a marketing strategy involves asking yourself four very specific questions, and these questions must be asked in a very specific order. Most people who start small businesses begin by asking the right questions but then get the order all fouled up, which ends up confusing them and making the start-up process all the more difficult. When asking these questions, it's extremely important to ask them in the correct order.
Here are the four questions, and the order in which they should be asked:
1. Who are my customers?
2. Why will they buy anything from me?
3. What merchandise can I develop that will have a direct and immediate appeal to them?
4. How do I get the word to my customers that I'm out there?
You begin by thinking about the people you want to sell to—the "natural" customers who have always bought from you (or who simply "get" who you are) and who will probably buy anything from you if it's you who's selling it. Once you've identified these folks, you go on to identify the two reasons—there are only two reasons anyone buys anything, as it turns out—they will buy anything from you. Once you've done that, you identify merchandise that will have a direct and immediate appeal to these folks, so that the minute they see it on eBay they will buy it. Last but not least, you decide how to communicate your business to your customers.
Oh, and one more thing: This isn't the SAT exams.
Many of you probably remember cramming for the college entrance exam—the dreaded SAT—when you were a student in high school. One of your teachers offered a short "cram course" on how to take the SAT, and, of course, you took that course because you wanted to ace the test the first time you took it.
Remember what that teacher told you about what to do when you got stuck on one of the exam questions? "Skip over it, move on to the next question, and then when you've reached the end of the test go back and work through the questions you got stuck on."
That was great advice for taking the SAT, but it's terrible advice for building a successful marketing strategy. If you get stuck on one of these four questions, the absolute worst thing you can do is move on to the next question without getting the answer you need to the question you are stuck on.
Why? Because most of the time, if you get stuck on one of these questions, the problem isn't with you, your lack of knowledge, or your inability to grasp the finer points of marketing. The problem is with the business. There is no solution to the question you are stuck on, and because the question cannot be solved, the business is likely to fail. Skip over a question too quickly, and you may be overlooking the biggest problem the business will have—and neglecting to find a solution to the problem before you launch the business and it's too late to do anything about it.
The next few sections tackle each of the four marketing strategy questions and offer advice on how to find the answers you need to build a successful eBay business.
Step #1: Who Are Your Customers Going to Be?
It is impossible to sell everything to everybody.
Everybody knows that's true, but they tend to forget it when they start an eBay business. Probably because they're not really in business at all but are merely trying to clean out an attic or garage full of all kinds of different stuff, they begin by listing individual items in the Housewares, Toys, Jewelry, and Collectibles categories on eBay and are shocked when items actually sell in all four categories.
If your goal on eBay is simply to clean out your attic, then it doesn't matter that your merchandise is all over the place, but it's a terrible way to build a real business on eBay, even if you limit your selling activities to a single eBay category. The people who buy antique mechanical banks from the 1800s, for example, are very different from the people who collect baseball cards from the 1950s. If you are offering both lines of merchandise on eBay, you have to use radically different strategies to reach these two groups of collectors.
Trying to be all things to all people simply makes you crazy. The most effective marketers know the specific customer niches they are looking for and let that knowledge guide them throughout the marketing process.
Excerpted from The eBay Marketing Bible by Cliff Ennico Cindy Shebley Copyright © 2009 by Cliff Ennico and Cindy L. Shebley. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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