Start Your Engines!

7. Be your brand

Ikner's emphasis on branding is smart, says Debra Schepp. "You need to think about branding yourself as a business," she says. "The goal is for the customer to not just remember that they bought something, but that they bought it from you."

In addition to sending neatly packaged goods with some sort of documentation that lists your eBay User ID, Debra recommends sellers consider opening an eBay Store, an online storefront that allows eBay sellers to display their listings in one location, so buyers can find you more easily and search through your items with ease.

Brad Schepp recommends keeping in touch with your customer base by using e-mail to notify previous customers of new offerings. Ikner takes that one step further--every e-mail she sends includes a signature line that says, "Guess what I have?" and links to her active eBay listings. She also builds relationships with other eBay sellers by offering them free shipping when they purchase items from her.

8. Review your reports. eBay provides sellers with various reports that let you examine which items are doing well. eBay's Sales Reports Plus feature is free and allows you to review your most recent sales activity by category, ending day or time and format (e.g., Fixed Price). You can also see buyer counts and detailed accounting of eBay fees.

"They don't show hits, but they do show sales, average selling price, fees and other data," says McGrath, who recommends opting in to the eBay hit counter when setting up a listing to see how much traffic the auction receives. "I always look at my popular listings when they end and see if the hits correlated with the final value."

This kind of data tracking can help you spot trends and structure your listings to repeat what works. "It's the only way you can get a real statistical and analytical view of how your business is performing," Sween says. "If you're not looking at these metrics, it's hard to understand your success, your profitability, which items appeal to your customers and how to shape your inventory moving forward."

9. Use multiple channels. As sellers progress through the Seller OnRamp program, they are introduced to new ways to sell products through various channels. Sween groups these into two categories: on the eBay marketplace and off the eBay marketplace. On-marketplace options include auction-style listings, Fixed-Price listings and eBay Store Inventory, which allows buyers to purchase from multiple sellers with a single checkout. Sween says off-marketplace options include tools such as ProStores, which gives sellers a turnkey option to establish an independent web presence, and Shopping.com, which helps buyers easily locate products both on eBay and off. These tools can further expand a seller's reach. "When the seller goes through the OnRamp program, after 90 days they are on their way to being eBay PowerSellers," says Sween. "The goal is for them to graduate to the next seller development program or to our Top Seller account management program, continuing their relationship with our Seller Development team."

10. Tap eBay for help. Experts and sellers agree that eBay itself is one of the most valuable sources of information about eBay selling, and one often overlooked by sellers. Ikner uses the eBay forums to share information with fellow sellers and get market intelligence.

The Schepps recommend bookmarking the "Seller Central" page and frequently reviewing the Merchandising Calendar and eBay Marketplace Research. The latter is available at various levels by subscriptions ranging from $2.99 for two days to $24.99 per month, and provides an overall view of sales on eBay, including the hottest categories and which selling formats are working best across sectors.

Sween also emphasizes opting in to eBay marketing messages. "We send out advanced selling materials that way, like the quarterly PowerUp newsletter, and monthly tips and advice," she says. "This is important information for sellers and we can't send it to them if they're not opted in." You can opt in on your eBay profile page by selecting "My Account," then "Preferences." Choose "News-letters, Promotions and Event Notifications" and enable your subscription to receive this information.

Overall, the Schepps emphasize that good business practices are the keys to success. "Treat it like your business," says Brad. "So many people recount stories of falling into eBay selling. They may have a lot of sales, but unless you're running it like a business, you can't take it to its potential."

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans.

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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