Full Speed Ahead

Turn your eBay hobby into a real business with advice from our experts.

You love that little charge you get from selling an item on eBay, knowing you've sold a product and made a little bit of money for yourself. As you search your neighborhood and town for more products to sell, you realize you're hooked--you're an eBay seller at heart. But can those little products you've been selling for fun in your spare time really turn into a serious, revenue producing business? Absolutely, according to the panel of experts we consulted in the areas of business plans, tax and money, internet marketing, technology and legal issues. Follow their advice, and before you know it, your hobby will become your full-time entrepreneurial success story.

Going To Market
To make your growing business on eBay really penetrate the marketplace, Catherine Seda, an eBay University instructor and author of Search Engine Advertising, offers the following advice.

Entrepreneur: When someone is thinking of taking a hobby business on eBay full time, what marketing issues should they consider?

Catherine Seda: You want to drive offline and internet traffic to your Store. Make sure your URL is on your business card--and anywhere else you can mention it. Online, there are two [ways to get search engine traffic that] I'm particularly fond of: through pay-per-click and through search engine optimization. Through the search engines, shoppers are actually looking for particular products--they're ready [to receive offers], and they are in shopping mode.

When people are in shopping mode,how do you get them to your store?

Seda: For pay-per-click, you might start on Google, MSN or Yahoo!--those are the three big U.S. search engines. Through pay-per-click, you can bid on any keywords you want, and you're only paying a per-click price; the highest bid generally gets the highest position. Also, if you want your products to be found online, you need to go where the shoppers are. Many buyers compare products at shopping comparison sites [like] BizRate.com, PriceGrabber.com and Shopping.com.

Internet marketing can be a challenge because there are so many messages out there. How can you tailor your marketing message so you can be heard?

Seda: By being as descriptive as possible--not only [about] product items, but if you have brand names, brand names sell very well on the internet because there's already [name] recognition. Even [specify] the product types or model numbers.

What typical marketing mistakes do new online business owners make?

Seda: Not using relevant keywords in your store or website. If you use relevant keywords, you can get free search engine traffic because the search engines have a nonpaid-listing area. eBay [Store owners] should use relevant keywords in their Store URL, their Store title, description, category names and page copy.

If you want to grow your business on eBay, where should you increase your marketing efforts?

Seda: The biggest and most profitable tool is e-mail. If you spend all your time driving new traffic [to your site], and people come to your website and leave without leaving their contact information, you constantly have to look for new prospects. That's why I highly recommend [starting] a newsletter as soon as pos-sible, even if you're just sending [it quarterly]. When people come to [your] website or Store, market your newsletter. Provide some way to keep in contact with your prospects and customers.

What final marketing advice would you give new eBay users?

Seda: Once you're generating business, you want to maintain that top-of-mind awareness with your customers. So put your business name and URL in [every] newsletter and on invoices [sent] out through PayPal. And when you ship things out, putting a piece of marketing information in the box that you ship is a great strategy to remind [buyers] to come back and shop more often.

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