How to Make Big Money on eBay
The guy who literally wrote the book on eBay power selling -- Jim ''Griff'' Griffith, author of The Official eBay Bible -- shares nine insider tips for aspiring online retailers.
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While you might dream about sowing the seeds of a prosperous new business by selling all the junk in your attic on eBay, you might want to first take some advice from the guy who literally wrote the book about how to sell on the popular auction site.
Jim "Griff" Griffith joined eBay in 1996 as the company's first customer support representative. In the years since, he has helped hire and train new customer support representatives and employees while also authoring the The Official eBay Bible. Now, as dean of eBay , Griffith spends his days as a roving ambassador, spokesman and seller advocate, with a goal of teaching others how to use eBay effectively, safely and profitably.
Griffith, who encourages any eBay user to e-mail him at email@example.com, offers the following tips on how to get your new eBay-based company off on the right track:
1. The first thing I would advise any seller is to start off slowly. Write a business plan with the idea that you're not going to jump into things all at once. There is always a learning curve when it comes to selling on eBay, even if you already have an established business.
2. I'm surprised by the number of sellers that haven't used the site much as a buyer. That means they don't understand the transaction model from the buyer's perspective. You can learn a lot about what your customers might be looking for by finding and initiating your own transactions. For example, every eBay business needs supplies, like bubble wrap or paper. Why not buy some of that as a way to research what the eBay buying experience is like?
3. The worst mistake I see existing businesses make is putting up a ton of listings all at once. While that strategy can work, you can have hundreds or even thousands of listings go online without any of them optimized for visibility by your customers. It usually results in confusing your customers, because you haven't examined what the current supplies and pricing is like out in the market.
4. New sellers are also prone to inadvertently making errors or violating policies -- problems that can be exacerbated when you post too many listings upfront. For example, you might not know that you can't link to your company website in the description of an item. Or, you might not have the keywords in your description related directly to the item you're trying to sell, or you're trying to sell an item that is prohibited. If you made this mistake on every listing you put up, though, and you put a lot of them up, it's going to be that much more painful. That's why it's important to start slowly with small volumes and to make sure you review the pages we have online that detail the seller policies.
5. Make your listing look professional -- it will instill a lot of confidence in your buyers, especially if you are a new seller. If you are new, you won't yet have a reputation score. But that doesn't mean people won't buy from you. The onus is on you to instill that sense of trust in the way you present your item and in how you deliver customer service. You should plan on bending over backward for your first customers, to ensure you begin building a positive reputation among buyers.
6. When I say professional, choosing a fancy format can be well and good. But what you say is more important than how you say it. There are third-party templates that are available, but they can sometimes be too busy and distract buyers from the item itself. A bad design doesn't serve you well. After doing this for 14 years, I've found that less is more. I'd advise you to focus less on formatting and more on using as much text as possible to describe the item and the service you're offering.
7. It's critical to nail down the description and title on your listings. You should especially be selective in the words you choose for your title. It should contain all the relevant keywords related to your item as well as any common terms people would use in a keyword search. Since you have only 55 characters, though, you should avoid using words like "rare" and "wonderful," because they are a waste of space. We have done studies and show that using words like those do not impress buyers because no one searches on them. But people still make the mistake. If you do a search on eBay for items containing the keyword "wow," you get 129,741 items. You get 107,000 items using the term "l@@k." You're just wasting premium space when you do this, and those three or four characters could be the difference between a buyer finding your item or not.
8. The closer you get to offering free shipping, the better chance you'll have of grabbing buyers. There has been a shift in expectations where buyers don't want to pay for shipping anymore. That's why eBay promotes the idea of free shipping, but we don't require it. If you do have to charge for shipping, make sure it's never more than the actual cost. Don't think about shipping and handling as an extra revenue stream. My advice is to find other ways to cover those costs. The psychology shows that buyers would rather buy an item that has free shipping, even if they know the cost of shipping has been built into the price.
9. If you face a lot of competition in what you sell, a key differentiator can be attaining top-rated seller status. As you develop a history and a volume of transactions over time, and if your customer ratings are consistently high, you can achieve this status -- which brings rewards like a 20 percent discount on fees and a boost in rankings on search results. That's how we promote our best-performing sellers and help make sure that the purpose of their business is more than just selling something. In the end, the key to selling on eBay is to make the commitment early on that your business is focused entirely on your customers and nothing less.