Using eBay to Find Customers

Get your business out there--with a little help from eBay.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Even after spending time and money creating an e-commerce website, you will still have zero customers when you launch. Acquiring those customers can be a pricey undertaking: It will require additional outlays of cash for search engine optimization, newsletters, shopping engine feeds and online ad-vertising. Fortunately, when you sell on eBay and use the tools the company has created, you have plenty of marketing options to choose from.

By taking full advantage of eBay marketing, PowerSeller Alice Rudolph, 46, owner of Stitches, has seen her needle arts supply store become a fast-growing, successful business earning more than $100,000 a year. "Opening an eBay Store was the best marketing move I made in my business," says Rudolph. Doing so allowed Rudolph to personalize her own Store space and create a unique shopping experience for her customers, and she is very pleased with the results. "My sales have increased by 600 percent [in nine months]," she says. Rudolph uses the advanced search engine optimization, shopping feeds and online promotional boxes that are included for free to sellers who set up an eBay Store.

E-commerce marketers will tell you that the number-one marketing tool you must have is a newsletter. This allows you to constantly stay in front of your customers with new information and products. eBay includes up to five e-mail lists and 5,000 monthly e-mails with your eBay Store. Rudolph sends out weekly niche newsletters, including one pertaining to finished quilts and artisans, and one for the cross-stitch and needlepoint crowd.

In addition to eBay Stores, eBay provides numerous other marketing tools, including:

eBay advertising: eBay spends billions of dollars each year driving traffic to the site through banner ads; pay-per-click ads; national print, TV and radio ads; and more. When you open your business on eBay, you gain immediate access to more than 215 million customers.

Technology: RSS feeds, search engine keywords, blogs, tags . . . eBay provides all this technology for free, so your business can be on the cutting edge of e-commerce. Rudolph uses blogs to help her gain outside traffic. "I've had great success with my blogs ranking high on Google," she says. Also, as soon as you register on eBay, you receive a My World page, which is similar to a MySpace page. On it, you can promote your auction listings and eBay Store, as well as offer newsletter sign-ups and additional information about yourself and your business.

Reviews and Guides: These provide the opportunity to talk about your products and have been a surprisingly powerful marketing tool for Rudolph. Three of her guides are ranked on the first page of Google for those products. "Of course, there are always links to my Store from the guides," she says, "so people can come and shop."

Rudolph also recommends using print advertising--business cards, fliers (which you can print for free from your eBay Store) and especially magnets, which her customers tend to keep. "This makes it easy for them to come back and shop with me the next time."

Janelle Elms, eBay University instructor and dean of eBay Business for LA College International, is creator of the eBay Stores Video Series.

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