9 Marketing Lessons I Learned Selling on eBay

7 replies
I’ve been selling on eBay since 1997 and it played a great part in getting me started selling online. Here are some of the things I learned on eBay that have helped me move from eBay to the much broader base of the internet.
  1. Write headlines that get people to open your listing. If people don’t open your listing, you don’t sell anything. So this is a survival skill on eBay.But it is also a great skill on the internet. It is really difficult to write a 55 character or less headline that has punch. But by mastering this skill, it translated very nicely to writing very short ads for adwords and other PPC style ad campaigns.
  2. Develop good traditional headlines. Once someone clicks on an eBay ad, they have to wade through all the boilerplate eBay presents on top of your ad. So it is critical that you have a good headline on top of your ad body to reinforce the prospects expectations on clicking the ad and to pull the prospect into the body of the ad. There are a few lessons here. The first is continuity of thought. This is important to have a clear path from the ad (perhaps an adsense ad or a banner) and the introductory content of the page that is displayed when the ad is clicked. If someone clicks on an ad expecting one thing and sees something else, it breaks this continuity of thought and kills any chance of action by the prospect. The second is developing skills in writing headlines that compel the viewer to continue reading into the body of the ad. Since you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention, this is a very important skill to develop.
  3. Working with compelling images and image placement in the ad body.A good, clear image presented in the proper place in an ad can enhance sales. If you put it in the wrong place, or if it is not clear or clearly related to your message, it can hurt sales.
  4. Social proof and testimonials – eBay’s feedback system is a great example of social proof and testimonials. They actively solicit buyers to leave feedback on their transactions. And this feedback can be placed directly in the ads on eBay (just like testimonials in an ad on a website.) It is a great environment to experiment with the placement and selection of testimonials for your ads.
  5. Low risk, low cost test environment. Fees have always varied on eBay but the basic listing fees have always been reasonable. And in return for this small fee, they give you a web page and a targeted stream of traffic. Due to the low costs and constant streams of targeted traffic, you can use eBay as a proving ground for ad variations to learn what styles, words, images, etc. give you the best conversion rate. These same skills can serve you well when you develop your own website and sales page.
  6. Product fulfillment - Product fulfillment is a major factor in the happiness of the customer. Mess it up and you have an unhappy customer. But if you deliver what you promised quickly, you have gone a long way towards making your customer happy. No matter what you sell, there will be a product fulfillment component – even if it is a password to a membership site or a link to a downloadable eBook. By fulfilling several orders on eBay, you get a feel for the types of issues that can arise and how to deal with them in a way that satisfies the customer.
  7. Pre sale and post sale customer support – Prospects and customers have questions. And they look to you for answers. eBay gives you a chance to experience the “joys” of dealing with prospects and customers and helps you hone the skills you need to answer questions in a tactful and respectful manner. Your answers can go a long way towards making a sale or turning a disappointed customer into a raving fan.
  8. The importance of repeat business – It’s a lot easier to sell to a satisfied customer than to a new prospect so learning the skills that generate you repeat sales can play a large role in the success of your business. eBay allows you to create mailing lists and keep in touch with customers in various ways to help generate repeat sales.
  9. Dealing with the many challenges of various payment options – When someone buys something from you, they need to pay you. This means you have to be able to take checks, money orders and credit cards. So working with eBay teaches you all about these things. You get to learn how to take credit cards (via PayPal) and deal with people who buy but didn’t pay. You learn about bounced checks and credit card chargebacks. And most importantly, you learn that losses are simply a cost of doing business and not something to get angry about.
Bonus Lesson: Be aware that thin markets limit your profits. Many times on eBay, I've become the number one seller of a particular type of product, generating more than 50% of all the sales of that product. The problem was that the markets had a monthly volume of around 20-40K so even though I was getting the lions share, by the time product and sales costs were deducted, the money wasn't as spectacular as it sounds. So learn to go after markets that are big enough for you to make a solid profit even if you only capture a very small portion of that market.

There are many more marketing lessons you can learn by being an eBay seller but just from this basic list, you can see how eBay is truly a great incubator to bring out your inner salesperson.

For those other eBay sellers out that, what would you add to this list?

#ebay #learned #lessons #marketing #selling
  • Profile picture of the author Rob Thayer
    Great tips, schabotte.

    I had a business that was an eBay Powerseller for a while a few years back. The #1 lesson I learned from the whole experience is don't base your business on an unstable platform, and eBay has become one of the most unstable sales platforms there is.

    We left eBay once they started raising fees by 500% in some areas. Imagine leasing store space in a mini-mall for $1,000 a month and then having the landlord tell you they were raising the rents to $5,000 a month...

    If you're selling on eBay, my advice is to branch out as quickly as you can. Create your own ecommerce site, sell on Amazon, do whatever you can... but don't make eBay your sole sales platform.

    By the way, this applies to platforms other than eBay. If you've based your whole business model on Adwords PPC advertising and all of a sudden Google bans your account, you're either going to be scrambling to find a substitute or going out of business pretty quickly. Diversify, and be careful.
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    • Profile picture of the author schabotte
      Originally Posted by Rob Thayer View Post

      Great tips, schabotte.

      I had a business that was an eBay Powerseller for a while a few years back. The #1 lesson I learned from the whole experience is don't base your business on an unstable platform, and eBay has become one of the most unstable sales platforms there is.
      Absolutely - once you get experience, you should take it and grow your business outside of eBay. There is a whole great world of opportunity out there. eBay is just one small slice.

      Unstable - they definitely seem to be unfocused - a consequence of becoming "corporate" and focusing on the next quarter's earnings rather than what is good long term for the company.

      Every major release these past few years has resulted in a big short term hit on my business until I figured out how to adjust to fit into their flavor of the day. I always bring it back up to good sales and profits but it is a shame I need to invest that time there instead of other aspects of my business.
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  • Profile picture of the author Maria Gudelis
    Great advice - i think a lot of people 'forget' ebay nowadays and there are still great things you can do on eBay.

    I helped a real estate investor flip a house for a $10,000 profit only months ago.

    A U.S. property sold to a buyer in Hong Kong - used a title company - put $10,000 cash down on it as deposit.

    Goes to show you 'ebay is not dead' and as you've pointed out - find markets that have bigger profit margins or buyers that are more profitable (or as Chet Holmes would say "best buyer strategy" - excellent book by the way - the ULtimate Sales Machine - all warriors should read it! )

    Anyway - I'd add this:

    1. Put video on there - I was one of the first to pioneer using video on real estate ebay auctions years ago...and it pays off big time

    It adds that trust factor as the internet can appear 'cold' in some way with no human interaction.

    2. make your phone number prominent - let them call you and realize you are for real!

    3. List build. See it as a great list building tool of high margin buyers if you target right!

    Hope that adds value! Cheers, Maria Gudelis

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  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan

    Good list.

    I ran an ebay business several years ago (and still do a day a month consulting for a friend's business) so I can identify with much of what you say.

    I'd add the following:

    1. Research.

    I'd never list an item for the first time, without undertaking some research. Obviously this would involve looking at what's currently listed and checking prices etc., but more importantly, I'd always check the 'completed listings' feature.

    This shows in detail exactly what similar items have sold recently; the price they've sold for; whether it was an auction format or buy it now; what section it was listed in; how the listing was worded - the benefits and features that were included in the successful listings; the heading.

    Often, I'd be persuaded to change my intended listing (for instance, to a different section) because of what I'd seen to have been successful.

    2. The value of your time.

    This is the kicker. I learnt very quickly to put a high value on the time it took me to fulfill the orders.

    It's all very well calculating profit margins on the items you're selling, but spending hours packing and shipping can mean you're effectively working at minimum wage rates.

    Although my friend's business now employs eight staff, it still takes up a lot of his time. It made me determined never to get into the situation of trading time for money again.

    Finally, you mentioned the importance of a strong heading. All I'd add to that is to remember what your likely customers are searching for. Don't waste valuable space with pointless adjectives such as "fantastic". Use brand names if applicable, clothing sizes, specifics wherever possible.

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  • Profile picture of the author schabotte
    Hi Maria,

    Great tip about the video bit. I have some friends who do that to sell things like used digital cameras. They have great results. Lets face it, nothing beats being able to see that the used item still works...

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  • Profile picture of the author miorno
    Thanks for that information. I am new to making money online and a lot of those suggestions are going to be helpful in helping me get started. Thanks again for the tips!
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  • Profile picture of the author Odhinn
    The lesson I learned was to use new words. It's not "used" or "old" it's "vintage". It's not "worn out" it's "worn in" and so on. Not that I was selling crap, but the small change in vocabulary quadrupled my sales.

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