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Grow Your Biz--From eBay and Beyond

E-businesses have great opportunities--and steep competition. Develop lasting customer relationships with these e-mail marketing tactics so your first sale isn't your last.

Setting up shop on eBay, Amazon, ProStores, and other auction and e-commerce sites is a great way to live the entrepreneurial dream. The problem is you're not alone.

Competition for buyers is fierce in this vast, virtual marketplace. Unless you give customers a reason to return after the initial sale, they may be gone in a click. Once someone finds you and makes a purchase, it's your job to retain that customer for future purchases.

Online or offline, buyer-seller relationships are built on communication and trust. Trust is especially important for people buying on eBay, Amazon, and other portals, where little is known about sellers beyond buyers' comments and ratings. Here's how to stand out from the pack:

E-mail marketing is an easy way for online sellers like you to:

  • Present a credible, professional image
  • Build a reputation as a trustworthy expert
  • Differentiate yourself from other online merchants
  • Keep customers coming back after the initial sale and referring others
  • Take your auctions or e-business to the next level of success

Regular e-mail communications that combine both informational and promotional content help you become a trusted seller and resource, so customers remember you the next time they need what you sell. Here's how e-mail marketing can help online sellers grow their businesses inside eBay and beyond.

Take advantage of eBay's free newsletter tool. If you sell on eBay and you're not already using their free e-mail marketing newsletter tool, consider doing so. While eBay doesn't allow sellers direct access to buyers' e-mail addresses, the newsletter tool lets you to stay in touch with buyers after the initial sale. The "Sign Up for Store Newsletter" link that you can add to your store home page lets buyers and prospects "opt in" for your e-mail communications.

Send your eBay newsletter subscribers regular promotional and informational content (See "5 Tips for E-Mail Marketing Success" below). Staying connected to your customers is valuable to the growth of your business. If you don't give buyers a reason to come back to your auction or store, they may not remember where they found that great item when they're ready to buy more like it. Be sure to abide by eBay's Rules for Sellers when engaging in e-mail marketing.

Connect with customers from Amazon, Pro Stores and other portals. If you expand your business beyond eBay, you may have an opportunity to collect customers' (and potential customers') e-mail addresses and communicate with them directly (with their permission). Some e-commerce portals such as Amazon allow sellers access to buyers' e-mail addresses. This gives you more options to promote your business using e-mail marketing.

Professional e-mail marketing services offer customizable e-mail templates to best represent your business. Some e-mail marketing services also offer a feature that lets you integrate PayPal directly into your e-mail communications. Buyers can "Click to Buy" directly from your newsletter and go straight to the payment page, without first visiting a website. This way, e-mail becomes a direct line to sales.

When working with a partner, such as Amazon, abide by their rules and regulations for e-mail address collection and for e-mail marketing in general.

Use e-mail to drive website sales. Many eBay sellers also have their own e-commerce website. E-mail marketing is a great way to drive sales to your site. Make sure you are capturing the e-mail addresses of those who visit your site. Even if people haven't bought from you yet, they may be interested enough in your business or products to want to learn more--and buy from you in the future. An e-mail marketing service gives you a "Join Our Mailing List" box for your homepage that makes it easy for visitors to sign up.

5 Tips for E-Mail Marketing Success
Whether you're selling on eBay, Amazon, other auction or e-commerce portals, or from your own website, e-mail marketing is a great way to promote products and stay connected with customers. When done right, e-mail marketing can be a powerful sales driver and a way for you to stand out as an expert seller who cares about customers. And its affordability makes it available to all businesses, no matter how small. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you build your e-mail marketing program.

1. Make your e-mails interesting. You're an expert in whatever it is that you sell. Share your expertise in an e-mail newsletter with short items like tips about caring for or using your products, answers to frequently asked questions, or customer success stories. Also ask customers to submit their own ideas for newsletter content. Include a mix of promotion (sales and event announcements, coupons, free samples, VIP specials, sneak peeks at new merchandise, etc.) with informational or educational content that's valuable to your readers.

2. Ask permission. Ask buyers for permission to add their names to your e-mail marketing list and offer a way for them to unsubscribe. (It's not just polite--it's federal law.)

3. Send consistently. Stay in touch with customers and prospects with monthly e-mail marketing promotions and newsletters.

4. Ask for forwards. Happy customers are your best salespeople. They can help build your business through referral sales and viral marketing. Ask them to forward your e-mail to people who may be interested in your products.

5. Archive your newsletter. Make past issues of your communications available on your website (or through your e-mail marketing service). Posting your past content can help build your rankings with natural search engine marketing.

These strategies can help share your expertise and encourage repeat business and differentiate your eBay or other e-business.

Gail Goodman is the author of Engagement Marketing: How Small Business Wins In a Socially Connected World (Wiley, 2012) and CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact Inc., a provider of email marketing, event marketing, social media marketing, local deal and online survey tools and services for small businesses, associations and nonprofits.

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