Monday, July 31, 2006

My blog has moved

I have recently consolidated my two business blogs into one and moved the location to:

http://blog.skipmcgrath.com/

You will continue to see similar topics as I have been covering on here, but with added content pertaining to wholesale trading and other in depth aspects of online businesses.

Since I will now only have one blog, it will be updated every day, so be sure to bookmark it and visit it frequently.

Don't forget to check out my other free resources at www.skipmcgrath.com. Watch for some new publications at www.skipmcgrath.com/products coming soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

eBay Stores Fees Hike

On July 20th, eBay announced a fee increase for eBay Stores. The initial reaction from the blogs and message boards was "OUTRAGE," but if you take the time to read the entire announcement, eBay's action is not that unreasonable.

It is important to remember that eBay has costs too. Just as you pay a fee for every listing --eBay has a cost for that listing. Store inventories have grown so large that they now comprise 83% of all listings but those listings represent only 9% of the total gross merchandise sold (GMS) on eBay. That is a pretty staggering statistic.

According to eBay, the time it takes for an average store listing to sell is up to 14 times longer for most products and up to 40 times longer for media products such as DVDs where there are literally millions of items listed.

If you just look at the raw numbers, the fee increase seems pretty steep, but when you examine it in the context of your cost of sales, it's not all that bad. eBay's strategy is to "rebalance" the amount of stores versus core listings. Given the nature of the increase, it should have that effect, as I will definitely be "rebalancing" my listings.

Before we get further into this, here is the new fee schedule:

These Store Inventory format insertion fees take effect Aug. 22, 2006:

Starting Price New Insertion Fee

Current Fee

$0.01 – 24.99

$25.00 – and higher

10¢

Some Store Inventory format final value fees also will increase, effective Aug. 22, 2006:

Selling PriceNew Final Value Fee

Current Fee

$0.01 – 25.00 10%8%

$25.01 – 100.00

7%5%
$100.01 – 1,000.005% (no change)5%
$1,000.01 and higher3% (no change)3%

Please note that for current listings, the new final value fees will apply only after these listings are renewed.

eBay states that the effect of these increases on the average seller will be about 6% based on back testing of June 2006 sales. I calculated the effect of these new fees on my store activity over the past month. Had these fees been in place, my actual selling expenses would have increased about 9%. Some sellers will see less and some will see more --with those sellers of store items in the $1 to $100 range seeing the most impact.

In my case, since most of my store sales fall in the $100 to $1000 range, I will not experience any change in final value fees which are by far the larger of the two. My listing fees will increase 500% per item (2¢ to 10¢) , but we are only talking about ten cents on items that sell in the $150 to $600 range --hardly something to get upset about.

Part of the fee increase is also a change in how eBay displays search results for items in eBay stores. Currently if a search returns less than 30 items, eBay will display up to 30 store results. Starting next month, if a buyer clicks on the Buy-it-now tab for search results, eBay will display the store results along with the core results.

The strategy of rebalancing their income makes more sense than an across the board fee increase. I had suspected for some time that the rapid growth of eBay Stores would have an adverse fee impact on eBay --I just had no idea how big an impact it was.

So the bottom line for sellers: Relax and take a deep breath. This isn't that big a deal. It would, however, pay to do some analysis of your listings to optimize your sell through rates and control your fees. eBay is offering store sellers free access to eBay Marketplace Research for the next 8 weeks so you can analyze your selling formats and optimize your listing strategy.

For more selling tips and articles, please visit www.skipmcgrath.com.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Product: How To Create and Sell Information Products on eBay

Karen and I have run a full-time eBay business for the past 6 + years and for the past 5 years I have written, produced and sold seven different books on and about eBay and internet marketing. I have also created two non-eBay eBooks that are selling very well. I have sold both printed books, eBooks and Audio files. Today, selling information products on eBay (and the internet) is responsible for almost one-half of our income.

When I was brainstorming new products it occurred to me that many of you would like to learn what I have learned over the past five years. Whenever you hear the term "information products" you might think of the many money-making and get-rich-quick programs for sale on eBay and the internet. Although you can do that sort of product, my main focus is on creating information products that people can really use --products that actually help people --and products that you can make money by selling.

In a previous issue I showed you how eBay is now embracing sales of both physical and digitally-delivered information products. These products include not only eBooks, but printed books, CDs and DVDs, original music, photography and art, public domian recordings, and much more. This is a new --and very wide open field that can be very profitable for eBay and internet sellers.

My new system consists of a 130 page printed manual and three CDs with bonus materials. How To Create and Sell Information Products on eBay is $67 + $5.90 shipping and handling. We are in final production as this newsletter goes to press. I expect to start shipping around the 20th of July. So if you order before then, please be patient --it could take a week or more to get the book to you.

As with all of my products, this book comes with a 90-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Behind The Scenes at eBay Live

I remember my first eBay Live. It was held in Anaheim, near Disneyland. The entire event fit in a room that was smaller than some of the individual meeting rooms at this year's event. There were about 2000 to 3000 attendees.

This year's event pulled 15,000 people from all over the world. I met sellers from the UK, Australia, Japan, Austria and Germany. The convention floor was so huge, it was a 300 yard walk just to the rest rooms.

The best part of eBay Live for Karen and me was meeting so many readers who stopped by the booth to say hello. I have to apologize to all of you who stopped by to see me and missed me. I was doing a number of seminars and panel discussions and my publisher arranged a number of press interviews including the San Jose Mercury, Washington Post and KTNV-TV in Las Vegas.

It is really hard to meet and spend time with everyone on the convention floor, so next year Karen and I have decided to hold our own evening event at the next eBay Live in Boston. It will be an invitation-only event for my readers only. (I'll let you know the details next May.)

For the best overall news coverage on eBay Live, go to Auctionbytes.com. Ina Steiner and her reporters were everywhere at eBay Live and she has all the news. As I only publish monthly, my thoughts are more big picture -- long term. What does eBay Live mean to you and what happened there that will affect your business in the coming year?

They say "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" but that wouldn't be any fun. If you couldn't be there how would you learn what happened?

One of the most interesting events that happened at eBay Live was the pressure eBay put on the Mandalay Bay Hotel to kick Alibaba out of their event space in the Border Grill.

Alibaba (www.alibaba.com) rented the private meeting space downstairs in the Border Grill located in the hallway between the convention center and the hotel. They put on a great function every day from 10 – 2PM. They gave away great prizes, provided free food and drink and gave several presentations on wholesale sourcing and importing.

Reportedly, eBay contacted the hotel on several occasions and tried to force Alibaba out, and later offered the hotel money to buy them out. One source heard them offer the restaurant manager any amount of money they wanted to shut them down. When Alibaba put signage in the hallway directing people to the event, eBay showed up with hotel security guards and made them remove it.

Why you ask? Well, Alibaba owns TaoBao, which is eBay’s competitor in China. The battle for China’s online auction market has been fierce and bloody with no love lost between the parties –but did eBay need to carry the acrimony over to the US? (Full disclosure – Alibaba purchased Banner space on my web site to advertise their event).

A lot of people who heard and read about eBay’s actions re: Alibaba were perplexed –as this is not the eBay culture we have come to know and expect. I might be able to understand eBay’s actions if Overstock.com was in the same venue, or if Alibaba was promoting TaoBao, but they were promoting their wholesale sourcing search engine service where eBay sellers can find goods to sell on eBay –thereby earning fees for eBay.

eBay is big enough, and should be secure enough in their market, to just ignore Alibaba. Their actions were the only negative in an otherwise excellent and upbeat event.

Anyway, the Alibaba event was a lot of fun. They played a game called Trade or No Trade based on the TV show Deal or No Deal. They even had a Howie Mandel look-alike for the MC. One of the prizes was a Segway Transporter and they also gave away two ATVs, a mountain bike and some great tents. There was nothing at the event that could be considered "anti-eBay." If anything, Alibaba was very supportive of the eBay community, eBay US and helping eBay sellers find product.

As eBay Live went, it was a huge success! The panels and seminars were excellent, there were some great vendor solutions on the exhibit floor and the last-night gala was amazing. Although there was a one-hour wait to get in and a shortage of tables, that didn’t deter the faithful –we just camped out on the floor. At one time there were over 1,000 eBayers sitting on the floor eating and drinking and watching the Vegas showgirls and a band of Elvis impersonators. Huey Lewis was awesome. He sang all of his top hits and had the place rocking!

I had never stayed at the Mandalay Bay before. It is a beautiful hotel with dozens of swimming pools, a wave pool where you can body surf and great restaurants. We watched a lounge act one night by an awesome rock group called Paragon.

Paragon is a symphonic group that plays classic rock. They consist of eight virtuoso musicians who together create a distinct and awe-inspiring sound. Collectively these accomplished musicians have mastered seventeen instruments. In addition to the standard guitar, bass and keyboard, the band includes a cello, viola and a violin. Their lead singer Candice, a hot little blonde from Oklahoma, has a voice as bright and pure as Janis Joplin. Candice and the lead male vocal, Mike, performed probably the best rendition of Me and Bobby McGee I have ever heard.

It seemed that everywhere you looked you saw eBay members walking around with aluminum foil headgear. Apparently this started on the eBay message boards. When I asked what the foil headgear was all about, they explained it was designed to deflect eBay's electronic brainwashing waves.

The PayPal panel discussion became quite heated. There weren't that many people in the room, but those who attended were quite vocal in their complaints. Most of the complaints came from Canadian and overseas sellers who are being charged more than we are in the US. This was the only meeting I attended where I saw real frustration and anger with many sellers complaining loudly about PayPal's policies.

One really good suggestion was for PayPal to send a token to eBay when a refund is issued so buyers don't keep getting notices to pay the seller.

The US Postal Service had one of the largest booths at eBay Live. Whenever you go to these shows you always accumulate a large stock of brochures and catalogs. So the USPS gave everyone a free priority mail box and postage to ship stuff home in so you didn't have to carry it in your luggage. USPS also displayed a new eBay-only shoe box-sized priority mail box just for eBay sellers. You can order them for free at eBay Supplies. I ran into my good buddy, David Hardin (Shoetime on eBay) who will really love all the free boxes. He sells hundreds of pairs of shoes a week on eBay.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Getting your e-book published

Have you ever thought you could write an eBook and sell it on eBay or the web but you didn't know how to go about marketing or delivering it. Check out EZ-Pub. This is a complete, simple solution.

EZ-Pubs is the simple point and click system that makes it a snap for ANYONE to create a professional looking, 6 PAGE ecommerce-enabled website, complete with automated ordering and fulfillment, and fast, friendly customer service after the sale......And the whole process takes just a few minutes to set up then runs on autopilot for you!

You NO LONGER have to be a propeller-head, computer geek to sell your work online. If you're a writer who has been struggling to get your work online, you owe it to yourself to check out EZ-Pubs.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

eBay's Stock Price --Will it recover anytime soon?

If you own or watch eBay's stock you have seen almost 30% of your value erode over the past year. The stock has started to rebound lately, but it keeps getting hammered by the general market malaise. As I write this, the market was down 184 points on the Dow and eBay's stock was off $1.31 after rising the last few days. May is traditionally one of the worst month's for the market. This is coupled with fears of rising interest rates and high oil prices. Eventually these things get priced into the market and the fears ebb. Also, the economy is strong, corporate profits are at record levels and corporations, including eBay, are fat with cash.

So what does the Yahoo deal mean for eBay's long term prospects?

The obvious synergies come form the massive online advertising that eBay brings to the relationship. eBay is currently Goggle’s biggest customer. They will still remain a large customer, but a lot of eBay's money will find its way to Yahoo. For eBay, Yahoo will now use eBay’s PayPal exclusively for third party payments. PayPal will be integrated into Yahoo as seamlessly as it is in eBay. This is a huge deal for eBay and could almost double PayPal's revenues over time.

eBay and Yahoo will also share toolbars that can be downloaded into web browsers. This will allow users to easily switch between eBay's auction and Yahoo’s search engine. As a co-branded toolbar solution it’s a good move for eBay since the Yahoo site has a huge volume of traffic and provides a logical and prominent branding location on the net. This will drive more natural (free) traffic to eBay which benefits both eBay and the sellers.

One of the more interesting aspects of the relationship is between eBay’s Skype and Yahoo’s instant messenger (IM). Yahoo can use Skype’s click-to-call feature to connect customers directly with advertisers. This is an area eBay has targeted as a use for Skype. But eBay has also touted Skype as a way to get into the “cost per click” advertising model that has been the domain of Google and Yahoo. eBay’s ambitions in this area required a partner with a an existing online search model to really be effective. Google is testing similar functionality as cost per click on the VOIP model but Skype is ahead in that game. So this is a long-term winner for eBay.
So far this deal looks to be good for both parties, but I see eBay as getting the most out of this in the short term whereas Yahoo's gains will come over time. This should be good for eBay's stock. So my counsel is to be patient. eBay is an obvious buy at any price near $30 a share. But in this market environment this is a long-term investment --the gains will come but you may have to be patient.

The other rumor affecting eBay's stock price is a pending change in management. The buzz on the eBay campus in San Jose is that Meg will be retiring soon and Bill Cobb, the heir apparent, will take over. Meg has been grooming Bill for this job but it is not clear what he will do differently once he actually takes over. It's not that Meg has done a bad job --she hasn't. But Wall Streets likes this change. When Meg steps down it could add anywhere from 2% to 5% to the current stock price.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Getting The Most Out of eBay Live!

This will be my fifth time attending eBay Live and the fourth time we have exhibited. I know it's too late to register for this year, but if you are at all serious about running an eBay business you really must try and attend one of these. Next year, will be somewhere on the East Coast or perhaps in Chicago.

If you were waiting for the last minute to register, and have discovered there are no more openings at the convention, the next best thing to attending is to go to our friend's site at www.auctionbytes.com. Ina Steiner along with several of her editors will be posting daily event articles, interviews and news updates on her website. Her husband, David, will be holding things together back at the office and uploading everything onto the site in an easy to follow format.

If you have never been to eBay Live you are in for a treat. The three-day event consists of a giant trade show where vendors display their products and services and where every eBay department is represented. You can actually speak with the various department managers of the various product departments and specialties such as Trading Assistant, Trust & Safety, eBay Stores, eBay Motors and so on.

Besides the show, eBay also puts on a number of seminars and panel discussions. Most of these are repeated so you can attend in case two events conflict. Best of all, at the end of the show you can get a CD of all of the presentations.

Lastly, the parties. eBay puts on some really neat events. One is a big Town Hall type meeting where the execs speak, there is usually a keynote address with entertainment and on the last night a big party with tons of food and cash bars with entertainers, free massages and more. Two years ago eBay started the tradition of having all the employees who attend eBay Live line up outside the last night's gala venue in a long line (over 1000 employees) and applaud the eBay members walking into the party. These folks were standing there clapping and high-fiving everyone who walked in for almost an hour last year.

As for getting the most out of the event, wear comfortable shoes, get to the seminars and panel discussions early as they fill up fast, enter all of the contests and drawings (I have won something every year) and carry plenty of business cards as you will meet a lot of people and make many new contacts that can help you out in the years to come.

You will be collecting a lot of material, so carry a shoulder bag, small backpack or rolling bag to put all your stuff in.

Ride the monorail. Traffic in Las Vegas has become worse than L.A. But all of the major hotels on the strip are connected by a beautiful new monorail system. So just get to the strip and look for the monorail. This is the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get around in Lost Wages.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Get Registered For eBay Live Now

Karen and I are busy getting ready for this year's eBay Live convention in Las Vegas. If you plan to go I suggest you register now. Although the price break for registering early has passed, you will still save a lot of time in line at the convention if you pre-register because you can just pick up your badge and get in, while others have to stand in lines. The lines moved fairly quickly at the event last year in San Jose, but this promises to be the biggest eBay Live yet.

The event will be held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel from June 13 -15th. Karen and I will be in booth # 933. I hope you will take the time to stop by and say hello.

eBay Live is always a great event from the Meet & Greet the night before to the Gala on the last evening. I will be talking on a couple of panels during the show--so just look for my name in the schedule.

For tips about selling on eBay and your web site visit skipmcgrath.com.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Making Money with Google Adsense

If you have a web site or are thinking about setting up a web site, then you will want to sign up with Google AdSense. This is a great way to make some extra money on your existing site or do what many people do and actually create specialized web sites just to generate income from AdSense.

Michael Chaney makes over $19,000 a month from AdSense. I interviewed him last week to learn how he does it. This is the transcript of the interview:

Skip: Michael, what made you get started with AdSense?

Michael: I was looking for a way to monetize some of my websites. AdSense is such an easy thing to get started with the eye for it would be a great way to start earning more money without actually putting into much more effort. I think as soon as you see the first earnings coming into your account you get addicted to AdSense. I know is what happened to me and since then I've just spent time working out how to earn more and more each day.

Skip: How much do you make with AdSense?

Michael: Some days I can earn close to $1000 and others it's less than that. But it all comes down to how much time and effort you devote to creating a quality site that people like visiting. AdSense is not what my business is based on by any means - but it is a great way to earn revenue almost on autopilot.

Skip: What is the biggest mistake people making with AdSense?

Michael: Probably the biggest mistake people make is thinking the AdSense earnings are easy to achieve. It is very easy to get started but as I learned it takes a lot of effort to increase your earnings. I got really downhearted whenever I would log in to my account to see that I had only made a few dollars. And that's when I decided to spend months and months of my time learning everything I could about AdSense.

I basically buried myself away and devoured every single piece of AdSense information I could find. I ran thousands of AdSense tests and started to see a dramatic effect on my click through ratio and therefore on my earnings.

This is why I'd decided to record the videos - because I knew that it would help people who were in my position to also increase their earnings. I've read an absolute ton of AdSense e-book's but they take so long to go through and always seem to keep information back.

With AdSense Videos I knew that I had to tell the story exactly as it is and actually show people and lead them by the hand through the exact techniques that I use to generate large earnings from AdSense.

Skip: In your videos you show people how to increase their AdSense earnings - can you give us a taster of this advice?

Michael: I don't want to give away my biggest secrets as you can understand! But some of the more basic things that you can do to increase your revenues include using ads that blend in rather than stand out from your content. Flat out the worst thing you can do with an AdSense ad is make it look like the standard Google ad. What you need to realise is that you will get more clicks if your ad actually appears part of your site rather than something that's just been dropped into the page.

Skip: What would you recommend that someone do right now to increase their AdSense earnings?

Michael: I've created a totally free AdSense minicourse that people can go through to learn some of my techniques. It takes you through the four cornerstone principles that I've used to build up my AdSense empire. You can check it out, as well as all the AdSense Videos, here: Michael Cheney's AdSense Videos

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Find Great Products for eBay at Trade Shows

After consignment selling, trade shows are my favorite place to find merchandise to sell on eBay. This is where you find new items long before they hit the stores. There are trade shows all over the country for all kinds of merchandise. Just last month I was in Salt Lake to attend a trade show for outdoor merchandise, Barbeques, patio furniture, garden accessories and much more. I found several new products that will fit in with my line of firepit barbeques --one of them from a manufacturer who will drop ship.

Wholesale trade shows are closed to the general public and most of them are pretty choosey as to who they let in. The best way to gain entrance is to register online or by telephone. You will need business cards, letterhead, a commercial checking account in the name of your business and a sales tax certificate. You can also register in person, but this usually involves standing in long lines, whereas if you register in advance the show organizers will usually mail your entry badges. Most trade shows are put on by just a few companies, so once you register for one show, you will get invites to other shows put on by the same company and you will not have to re-register each time.

Take plenty of business cards (many exhibitors have drawings for prizes) and a carry bag or rolling bag to hold brochures and catalogs. You can place orders right at the show and even better, a lot of the manufacturers offer show specials such as an extra 10% off if you order at the show. However, you cannot take merchandise away from the show with you, everything must be shipped. Some shows have cash-and-carry exhibits just outside the main hall, where you can buy wholesale goods in small quantities. Last year we bought a dozen really nice antiqued wood footstools a the cash-and-carry room for $10 each. We sold all of them on eBay for over $40 each.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Should You Use Fixed Shipping or Calculated Shipping?

I have always been a fan of fixed shipping. When you perform a search on eBay, those auctions with fixed shipping show up with the shipping cost next to the item. I have run my auctions both ways. The auctions with the fixed shipping cost always get more hits --sometimes as much as 20% more.

A lot of my sales come from people fairly new to eBay. In my experience a lot of them either don't see, or don't know how to use, the shipping calculator eBay puts in the auction when you elect Calculated Shipping. Invariably when I run an auction with calculated shipping, I get several emails from potential bidders asking me what the shipping cost is.

So how do you calculate a fixed shipping cost with the new zone system? It depends on where in the country you live. I live on the West Coast so I weigh the item, calculate the shipping to the middle of the country (St. Louis) and use it as an average. When a shipment goes to New York or Florida, I lose a little. When it goes to San Francisco or anyplace west of the Mississippi I make a little money. If you live in the middle of the country, just figure out the cost to either coast and you will be OK.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Look Out --Report This Auction Has Arrived

I have always been a big supporter of eBay's Trust & Safety group, but this is one policy I really hate. I warned you about this last month, but it is finally here. Earlier this year eBay announced its plans to make it easier for members to report possible listing violations.

As of the beginning of April, every eBay listing has a Report This Item link at the bottom of the listing page. Using this link will bypass eBay's normal Contact Us procedure, which is notoriously hard to navigate, and take you directly to a list of reasons why a listing needs to be brought to eBay's attention. This will make it far easier for all of the busybodies with too much time on their hands to cancel auctions. When this policy was being announced I complained in writing to eBay, but never got an answer.

The problem comes from hundreds of insomniac listing vigilantes who stay up all night trolling eBay looking for any auction that violates even the tiniest rule. They get together on message boards and in chat rooms and brag about how many auctions they cancelled. With this new procedure it will be even easier. What eBay doesn't realize it that they will soon be overwhelmed by reports. Understaffed workers will not have adequate time to examine every auction to see if the complaint is real and they will just start pulling the trigger --canceling every auction reported.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of auctions on eBay that should be cancelled, but this is going to hurt thousands of legitimate sellers who occasionally make a mistake or commit a technical violation. If you have ever had an auction cancelled for some stupid reason you know what I mean. If any of you are visiting eBay Live! next month, and feel as I do about this procedure, please visit the Trust and Safety Booth and give them your opinion.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Increase Bids With White Space, Bold Face and Bullets

How many times have you opened an auction to see lines and lines of description typed one after the other without a break. And to make it worse these people always seem to choose the smallest font size they can find.

There have been tons of studies by online marketing companies to better understand how people read and react to web pages. They actually sit subjects in front of a computer and track their eye movements with a camera and computers.

All of these studies have concluded that people like to scan pages looking for words and images that attract their attention. It is much easier to spot the information they are looking for if you use a series of short paragraphs such as the three you just read.

The idea is to create lots of white space around your text.

Bold facing important words has been shown to be slightly better than using all caps, but both techniques work if used sparingly. The other important factor is bullets. Studies show that lists of features, benefits or specifications set off with bullets or similar symbols, dramatically increases the readership.

Lastly, watch your type size. Ten-point type is the absolute smallest you should use and twelve is preferable. (This page is in twelve-point type). Use no more than fourteen or sixteen-point for headlines. Overly large type turns people off as much as type that is too small. Here are some examples:

10 pt. This is ok, but a little small for some people

12 pt. This is perfect for most people

14 pt. This is good for headlines. It would also be ok to use this font size if your auction description was very short

16 pt. is probably the max I would use in an auction listing and then only for headings.
18 pt. This is way too big for most people

The other thing I noticed from the studies I read is that people prefer their images to be on the
left or right, rather than top and bottom or centered in the text.

For more tips on eBay selling, please visit www.skipmcgrath.com.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Can The Little Guy Still Make Money on eBay?

I get this question a lot and it has three answers: "Yes," "no" and "maybe." Let's see which one applies to you.

There is no doubt that it is much harder for the individual operating out of their home to make money on eBay today than it was even a couple of years ago. When I started on eBay in 1999, eBay was a license to print money. A little guy (or gal) like your or me could sell almost anything and make money. As far as finding merchandise to sell you could source garage sales or buy surplus and overstocked products from hundreds of dealers. Today, however, many of those same dealers that use to sell to me, are now selling the same items on eBay at the same price they used to sell to me.

There are still some overstock dealers who can supply product, but they are fewer. There is also much more competition on eBay today than in past years. Today there are over 1000 large companies with employees, warehouses and sophisticated distrtibution systems competing for the eBay bidder. In addition to the independent large power sellers there are companies such as Disney, Lands End, Bloomingdales Department Store and many others who either list directly on eBay or have hired companies to sell their merchandise for them under another name.

So what is the little guy to do? There are three basic strategies to succeeding on eBay today. There may be more --but I know these three work, because I have done them and in fact still do them.

The first strategy is to sell used goods including antiques and collectibles. The market for any type of used goods on eBay will always be the purview of the smaller seller. The difficulty of sourcing merchandise makes this a difficult area for large companies. At the higher end of the used market are art, antiques, collectibles and rare books. If you have some knowledge and experience in this field, it is very easy to enter. My wife and I had a small antiques shop before we started selling on eBay, so we knew what was valuable, what the values of items were and where to find them. I can walk into any small town auction in America on any weekend and buy several items that I can turn around and sell on eBay the following week and double my money or more. In fact we still do this occassionally. About a month before I was writing this article, we attended a small town auction in Mt. Vernon, Washington. I bought a box of 1950s vintage advertising tins as a lot for $175.

I broke up the lot and sold the pieces individually on eBay over a 14-day period for over $400 total before eBay and PayPal fees. There were some other advertising pieces selling at the same auction that I did not bid on. They were very clever fakes --repros as they are known in the trade. The point of telling you this is that I could spot them but you might not be able to unless you had the knowledge and experience. The lesson here is that you don't want to go into an area you know nothing about. But if you do have experience in any specific area of art, antiques, collectibles, stamps, coins, or rare books, then this is a perfect --and fairly easy, way to build a profitble eBay business.

You don't have to work in antiques and collectibles. There are plenty of other used goods that sell on eBay. In my book, The Complete eBay Marketing System, I list all sorts of areas of used goods that sell on eBay. They vary from clothing to books, to small appliances, sporting goods and the list goes on. I won't take the time to go into it here --it would make this article too long, but the The Complete eBay Marketing System goes into great detail on how to select used items to sell, how and where to source them and how to sell them.

The next strategy is develop a small specialized niche market. This is in fact what most of the successful eBay sellers do. I often get emails from eBay newbies asking me where they can buy DVDs, plasma TVs, Digital Cameras, iPods and other popular consumer electronic products. I suggest you forget trying to sell any popular mass consumer product. These fields are very crowded, highly competitive and dominated by many large sellers with resources and access to sources that the average person cannot duplicate unless you have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest. Do you really think you can compete on eBay with Best Buy or Circuit City?

A niche is a small specialized product category that a small seller can play in. I currently sell in several niches on eBay. One product I sell is a line of high-priced wood burning firepits. I do have some competitors, but not that many and I think I do a better job of selling them. The price point of $227 is a high average selling price, so I don't have to sell hundreds of items to make money. They are drop shipped direct from the manufacturer so I am not paying a middleman and the market for these products has been steady now for over two years. You can see my firepit auctions by clicking here. After looking at these you can link to my other auctions and see the other niche product categories we sell.

If you go to the Free Articles page on www.SkipMcGrath.com I have a couple of articles about niche marketing that are worth reading if this strategy interests you. In both The Complete eBay Marketing System and The Wholesale Buying System, I cover how and where to find wholesale sources for your niche products.

The last strategy I want to point out is Consignment Selling. I like to call this the perfect eBay business: No upfront investment in products, no inventory, high profits and minimal expenses. Once you qualify you can register as an eBay Trading Assistant and eBay will help you promote your business for free.

Once you know how to sell on eBay, it is pretty easy to find people who have goods to sell. My strategy uses low cost targeted advertising. I spend less than $40 a month and can end up some months with over $10,000 or more worth of merchandise to sell.

The trick to being successful in the eBay consignment business is in learning how to market your services, learning what type of merchandise to sell --and which to reject and how to control your fees. All of this is laid out in my best-selling book, How To Start & Run an eBay Consignment Business, published in early 2006 by McGraw Hill Publishing Co. The book includes all of the advertisements, forms, contracts and resources you need to start and run a profitable eBay consignment business.

So back to the original question: Can the little guy still make money on eBay? The answer is "yes" if you apply some of the strategies and techniques I outlined here and if you take the time to learn the skills you will need. The answer is "maybe" if you try some other techniques or just stumble around trying to learn as you go. And the answer is probably "no" if you try and compete with the big boys unless you have the financial resources and business experience to actually build a large consumer products business.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cross Promote Your Auctions for Profit

Cross promoting between all of your auctions and store listings is one of the best ways to increase your eBay sales. When a buyer clicks on one of your auctions, how would you like them to see a moving slide show right at the bottom of your auctions, that presents the gallery photo and title of each item scrolling across their screen? Best of all, this is a free tool.

Slide Player from Slide, Inc., is a new type of web browser for watching live feeds from the web that are constantly up-to-date. As a certified eBay Compatible Application Provider, Slide makes live feeds of eBay Auction and Stores listings available to anyone on the web.

Slide Player is a great sales tool for eBay Sellers. It's a free and effective way to cross-promote all your auction listings. Plus, for sellers who have loyal repeat buyers, Slide Player offers a revolutionary new way to promote your item listings right on buyers computer desktops.

You can easily create Slide feeds that showcase all their Auction and Stores items with just one click by visiting Slide and entering your eBay Seller ID. When you do so, Slide automatically finds all of your items and puts the main image from each listing into a scrolling Slide feed that can be watched using Slide Player on any computer desktop or embedded into any web page, including eBay Auction and Stores Listings. Slide Player shows critical information about each item including current bid and time remaining. Clicking on any image in a Slide Player takes the viewer to the eBay item listing that the image came from.

Slide Player enables eBay sellers, for the first time, to promote their merchandise in a compelling, visual way right on their customers' desktops. Slide Player is a free downloadable application for Mac and Windows computers, so there's no cost to either seller or buyer for this service.

Any eBay seller can offer their buyers a freely downloadable Slide Player that comes pre-loaded with the seller's feed of active Auction and Stores listings. Any buyers who download and watch the seller's feed will be automatically kept up-to-date when new items from that seller are listed and will also be able to keep watch over the current status of all items for sale by that Seller, even when they are not browsing the eBay web site!

Slide also offers easy instructions for sellers to copy-and-paste Slide Players into any auction or Stores listing. Slide Players are compatible with any auction listing management tool and/or the eBay Sell-Your-Item (SYI) form for entering listings. When you put a Slide Player in your auction listings, prospective buyers can see all your items for sale, so you can cross-promote accessories and similar/related items in every auction listing.

Visit Slide today to experience it for yourself.

For other product suggestions, and eBay selling tips, visit www.skipmcgrath.com.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What Should I Sell on eBay?

"What should I sell on eBay?" is the single most posed question I receive from my newsletter readers and book buyers. Let me say right up front: "There is no way I can answer that question." No one can answer that except you.

Unless you have very deep pockets I can tell you what you probably cannot sell on eBay: Plasma TVs, iPods, the latest model laptops, digital camera and DVD players, Xbox, Gucci shoes, the latest perfume and other hot consumer products. The wholesale distribution of these products are tightly controlled by the manufacturer.

For example, if you want to buy iPods wholesale to resell on eBay, the distributor requires that you have a $200,000 line of credit. Channel will only sell their perfumes to a select few stores. You can buy overstock or surplus famous designer items (Gucci, Prada, Hermes, etc.) through a few outlets, but the latest merchandise is only sold through their stores and a few select upscale retailers.

Lately several supposedly wholesale suppliers and drop ship companies claim to have X-Boxes and iPods at prices where you can make money. Be careful. Several of my readers have sent thousands of dollars to companies for a shipment of X-Boxes that never showed up. Others listed them from drop ship companies that never delivered and never answered emails once the item was sold and paid for. Companies selling iPods via the drop ship channel have such a high price once you add in the shipping and drop ship fees that you can't make any money. Other companies claim to have iPods, but once you pay their $199 membership fee, all of a sudden they are "out of stock."

So back to the original question: What do I sell on eBay? As I said, only you can answer that question, but here are some tips to help you figure out what to sell:


  • You have probably heard this a dozen times, but sell what you know and love. I have collected Starbucks mugs, bears and cards for quite a while. Last year I started selling and have built up a very nice small - yet profitable niche. Because I know so much about them, I recognize a good value when I see it and can often double or triple my money when I buy a collectible piece. I love my new laptop, but I am just not a computer expert.

  • If I were a complete computer guy, I could not afford to become a distributor for a computer company, but there are sources of surplus and remanufactured computers. If I really knew computers and the market, I would know which ones were a good value for the price and how I could market and sell them. Not having this knowledge however, would make it very risky for me to buy a pallet load of surplus computers from someone such as Liquidation.com.

  • Try and find a niche. A niche can be a product, a product category or even how you market a product. The main advantage of selling in a niche is that you really get to know the product, the market, the pricing and the sources and because it is a niche, there is far less competition.

  • Pick products where you can be assured of making money. Making a small margin on something that sells for over $500 is fine, but if you are only making 10% after expenses on a $50 item, you have to sell a lot of products to make $500 a week. If I am selling anything for under $100 I look for a 35% net margin after cost, shipping, and eBay and PayPal fees.

  • Research, research, research ! Don't buy anything to resell on eBay until you have thoroughly researched the product, the market and the competition. Make sure the item will sell at a profit. There are lots of research services. In fact Mpire.com just launched a new free service a few weeks ago that is getting rave reviews from sellers.

  • If you are really stuck, start by selling things from around your home, then move on to selling items you buy at garage sales and thrift stores. As you do this you will see patterns emerging - things that sell well and are easy to buy. If you are patient and try a lot of things this will lead you to a niche. One person who did this found that old fishing gear sold very well and was easy to find cheaply at garage sales. He now has a large eBay business selling vintage and collectible fishing gear such as reels, fly rods, lures and so on. Another woman I know found that jig saw puzzles sold very well. Some went for just a few dollars while others would bring high prices - as much as $50 each. With experience she has now learned which ones to buy that will return huge profits. A few hours spent at garage sales spending less than $20 can often return over $500 in sales.

  • Information products and taking advantage of eBay's new policy on selling digitally downloaded products may be the most profitable niche on eBay. Recently, I did a great teleseminar with Tim Knox who is an expert on creating and selling information products. His book on creating information products is one of the best on the market. Tim recently wrote a short article that I have posted on my free articles page called How To Create Your Own Info Product. You can either read the article or click here to read about Tim's new book.

For more information about selling on eBay please visit www.skipmcgrath.com.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Get Ready To Have Your Auctions Cancelled by eBay

eBay now has over 150 official policies designed to regulate the eBay marketplace and to keep eBay a safe place to buy and sell. Many of eBay's policies are designed to promote eBay's best business interests, i.e. "Regulate the eBay marketplace," and the balance are designed to make eBay a safe and fun place to buy and sell. I don't say this as a criticism. eBay has a right to regulate their marketplace and a duty to their stockholders (of which I am one) to make money by keeping people buying on eBay rather than having sellers using eBay as a gateway to drive business to other sites. In a recent announcement by Matt Halprin who runs global policy management, eBay recognized that some of their policies were hard to understand. eBay spent the last several months rewriting the policy pages to make them easier to understand and follow. Now each page includes:
  • A clear statement of the policy and why eBay has it.
  • Examples that illustrate what is and isn't allowed.
  • A list of the possible consequences of violating the policy.
eBay also created a new Policy Hub page where you can more easily access all of the policies. Recognizing that some policies are difficult to understand, eBay created five online tutorials covering:
Each tutorial only take a few minutes to complete and each one walks members through the details they need to know in order to stay in compliance.

eBay also announced new "Enforcement policy violation consequences and mitigation" (Boy, does that sound like it was written by a bureaucrat or what?) eBay changed PowerSeller eligibility requirements to include new thresholds on policy compliance. As a result, several sellers have already been removed or suspended who were repeat violators of eBay's policies from the program.

Frankly, most of these sellers deserved to lose their power seller status, but many were caught up in very minor and innocent technical violations. Often eBay does not warn you that you are in danger of losing your status and give you time to fix the violations before it counts against you. Then if you are suspended or lose your power seller status and you call power seller support to appeal for help, they won't talk to you because you were suspended and are no longer a power seller.

For other sellers, eBay decided punishment or banishment wasn't working so they decided to try the carrot and the stick. Besides suspending accounts eBay has come up with new ways to work with sellers. eBay 's announcement states:

"Restricting repeat policy violators' ability to list items for a period of time – Depending on how often a seller has violated our policies in a 90-day period, they may be required to complete a 15-minute tutorial, or they could be restricted from listing new items for up to 3 days. We think of these consequences as "speed bumps" that can slow accounts down just long enough for them to be educated on the policy. Then they can get back on track.

Retaining eBay fees when canceling a repeat violator's listings for List Practices violations – If a seller repeatedly violates policies in a 90-day period, despite previously having taken a tutorial on those policies, we're going to keep their listing and feature fees on subsequent listing cancellations that violate policy. We feel it is important to instill a financial penalty to protect the level playing field when our other efforts to educate and change behavior have failed. "

The last and most troubling part of the new policy is making it easier for people to report violations. Right now you have to jump through several hoops (pages) to send eBay a message that reports a violation. To make it simpler to report an auction that violates any one of the complex 150 policies, starting in the spring of 2006, every item page will have a Report this Item link at the bottom of the page.

This link will bypass the normal Contact Us process and take you directly to a list of reasons why a listing needs to be reported. If you are someone who is frustrated that it is so hard to report an obvious fraud or phony auction or someone egregiously breaking the rules, this new feature will make it very easy. On the other hand, there are thousands of eBay members with too much time on their hands who spend hours every day searching eBay for violations - both major and minor - and are gleefully reporting them to eBay. These folks even have chat rooms where they place bets and run contests to see how many auctions they can cancel in an hour.

Your only defense is to learn and follow every eBay policy to the letter. With 150 complex policies, and eBay's attitude that a violation no matter how innocent or how minor is a violation to be punished, this new reporting feature will soon begin sucking the fun and a lot of the profit out of selling on eBay. Increased enforcement will in turn frustrate and deter the many small sellers (who originally built eBay) causing them to give up and leave eBay to the major corporations and the Titanium power sellers with deep pockets and dozens of employees.

Don't get me wrong. I support anything reasonable eBay does to prevent fraud and to remove sellers using unethical techniques to get bids and win auctions. Also, I understand eBay's need to protect their marketplace. The problem is the platform and the rules have grown so complex, the number of reports eBay receives have grown so large that Trust & Safety simply cannot look at each report intelligently - electing instead to accept a report, make a cursory glance at the auction and send out a form email written in bureaucratese that no one can understand and terminate the auction. There has got to be a better way !!!

For more information about selling on eBay, please visit http://www.skipmcgrath.com/.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Low Cost Ways to Advertise and Promote Your eBay Auctions

  1. An existing customer - one who has bought from you before is the easiest person to sell. Keep a record of all of your customers. Use eBay's opt-in email system and your own email list to promote your future sales. A great way to do this is to offer repeat customers an incentive such as free shipping.
  2. Set up an eBay store. It costs far less to list items in an eBay store than in an auction. Drive you repeat customers to your eBay store for immediate purchase rather than telling them about ongoing auctions.
  3. If you work in a specialized niche (and you should) always advertise your niche and where they can buy in your email signatures. Here is an example: "Visit my eBay Store for the latest in HO collectible trains." The words eBay Store should be a clickable hyperlink to your store.
  4. I always place a printed "thank you" note in the package when I ship something. In addition to thanking them, it gives my eBay store link and web site address and has a line about all of the other things I sell. You can also create an electronic PayPal coupon that gives them a discount on their next purchase that you include in the box.
  5. eBay has dozens of specialized discussion groups. If there is a discussion group built around the product or collectible you sell, participate often. eBay does not allow you to advertise an auction directly, but you can "hint" about what you sell and readers can link to your auctions through your username. I don't have room here to explain all the ins and outs of doing this. So, read the discussion group rules very carefully first and you will see there are a lot of ways to get traffic to your listings without violating the rules.
  6. There are also lots of non-eBay discussion groups on various sites including Yahoo where the rules are more relaxed. Another alternative is to start your own discussion group.

For more information about selling on eBay, please visit www.skipmcgrath.com.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Learning How To Say "NO" Can Double Your eBay Consignment Profits

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I have been an eBay Trading Assistant (TA) since the beginning of the program almost 4 years ago. On at least three occasions I have accepted merchandise that I was "100% Positive" would sell on eBay, only to be proven wrong.

When you accept goods that either will not sell, or will not sell at a decent price, this costs you money in eBay fees and, more importantly, in time wasted that could be used to make a profit doing something different.

Here is an example. A lady called me one day from the TA listing on eBay and said she had a large collection of Elvis collectibles. My wife, Karen, and I drove about 20 miles to meet with her. When we got there it turned out the "collectibles' were mostly Franklin Mint plates.

I knew Elvis collectibles are always hot on eBay and I was ready to have her sign a contract and take the collection of over 40 plates home to start launching them on eBay. But, I happened to glance over at my wife and she was giving me "the look." (As you may have guessed, I am the impulsive one in the family.) Upon receiving "the look," I told the lady that I would like to take a couple of the plates with me and do some research before deciding if we would take the whole collection. To make a long store short, when I got home and went onto eBay I discovered there are literally tons of these plates for sale in auctions and very-very few of them are worth even what the lady originally paid for them. Had we taken the collection, I would have had all the time and eBay fees to list 40 auctions, pack and ships the goods, and at best I would have made $3 or $4 on each auction as my fee.

The lesson is to follow Ronald Reagan's advice during the Cold War. "Trust - but verify." It's okay to trust your judgment and experience, but it pays to check first to verify there is a market for the goods and they can sell at a price where the commission you will earn is worth your time.

For more tips, articles and publications about eBay selling, please visit my Web site, www.skipmcgrath.com.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Three Ways To Increase Your eBay Business

Once you have your business established the natural trend is to try and grow it. Top eBay sellers call this scalability. I am not sure if that is a real word or not, but it means is your business designed in such a way that you can scale it larger simply by adding more products and/or more auctions.

More Products: The ability to add more products depends on your product niche. If you are in an extremely narrow niche such as collectible depression glass then you have to find a lot more depression glass to grow your business. This presents two problems. First, it can be difficult to find rare collectibles. Second, if you do, you run the risk of putting too much similar product into the marketplace (eBay) and depressing the prices. You have just become your own competitor. The obvious solution to this problem is to expand into a related niche such as collectible carnival glass.

If you work in a niche that has lots of related products, rather than just getting more of the same products which could possible depress prices by increasing the supply, you would want to expand into related products that the same customer would buy. for example if you carried a line of high-quality dog collars and leashes, you could expand into grooming tools, dog-training books, dog beds, car ramps and car carriers and so on. You don't want to go as far as becoming a general supplier of all dog-related goods or you will be competing with Petco. You would want to find an example of each of these items that has some uniqueness to it such as an original design, or low cost, or very high quality and so on.

The other way to scale your business is to raise your ASPs. There are several ways to do this. You can move up the quality scale to higher-priced items in your niche, or you can start selling sets of things instead of individual items. Back to the dog collar example, you could offer a matching dog collar and leash as a set instead of selling the two products separately.

One woman sells bird seed. No one wants to buy a year's worth of bird seed at one time, so instead of selling single packages, she sells a deal whereby your order enough seed for the spring and summer season and she mails it to you in three separate shipments over the season. She makes one larger sale rather than three small ones and she has the customer's cash up front for the larger sale but she doesn't have to ship 2/3rds of the order until later.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How Much Should I Charge For Consignment Selling Fees?

I get a lot of email from trading assistants asking about fees. How much should I charge? Should I charge a listing fee? Should I charge the consignor if something doesn't sell? What are my competitors charging?

The answer to the first question is the most important: You must charge enough to make a profit. To understand your profit you should first understand your costs. (This is true for any eBay business –not just the consignment business.) Remember to look at all of your costs, including advertising and marketing –how much are you spending to find goods to consign?

Look at all of your fees: PayPal, eBay, auction management fees, image hosting, and so on. Don't forget your overhead expenses: ISP, email accounts, telephone, computer payments, office supplies. The best way to get a handle on your costs is to use an accounting program such as QuickBooks. QuickBooks can be a little complex to set up, but once it is running it will save you tons of time and allow you to fully understand the cost of doing business.

Should I charge a listing fee? My recommendation is yes. Psychologically speaking, asking the consignor to pay a fee gives the consignor an investment in the successful outcome of the auction. Also it tends to eliminate people who just want to waste your time and it will help filter out goods that probably won't do all that well on eBay. It may also filter out the occasional seller who is just too skeptical, but in the long run your cash flow will be better and customers (consignors) will take you more seriously. An exception to this is when someone gives me something really valuable to sell or a large quantity of merchandise from a retailer or an estate sale. As I want these people coming back to me, I usually don't charge them an up front fee.

Most Trading Assistants charge a sliding scale based on the final value of the auction. The higher the final bid, the lower the fee. In my book, How To Start & Run an eBay Consignment Business I recommend a fee schedule that starts out with a $3.00 listing fee for the first item and $1.00 for each additional item consigned at the same time. This fee is non-refundable. Then, I charge a final value fee of 30% on the first $300, 25% on the amount from $301 - $500, 10% of the value from $501 to $10,000. Anything over $10,000 I negotiate the fee.

I also recommend you charge reserve fees and category or home page feature fees up front unless you are really sure the item you are selling is in demand and will sell for a good price. If so, you can add the fees to your commission, or not, depending on the situation.

There are now over 500 eBay consignment businesses operating out of retail storefronts in various cities around the country and more are being added every week. If you would like to know what others are charging, Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes has compiled a fee comparison of 40 large consignors. Click Here to view the comparison chart.

One more thing on the subject of consignment selling: A question I frequently get is "I live in a small town. Do you think an eBay consignment business will work here?" I live in a town of 11,000 people and there are four eBay consignment sellers operating here including myself. Three of us do very well. One of them is a lady who used to own a consignment store. She does so well, she closed the store and just operates out of her house. We see her at the post office several times a week with armloads of packages to ship.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Take Better eBay Photos - The EZ way

Digital photography light tents allow anyone to take professional-looking photographs for their auctions or web site

Are you tired of amature-looking photos in your auctions and on your web site? The answer is a portable, table top photo studio used by the pros. This low-cost and simple set up will allow you to take clear, sharp photos without shadows.

Better photos will increase the number of bids on your auctions and increase your final values. This is the answer. The EZ Cube is just the coolest thing I have seen in years to improve your auction photos. Literally anyone can take great photos with this system.

Check out the EZ Cube line here.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Managing a Full-Time Job and an eBay Business

Working a full-time job and running a profitable eBay business can be a real challenge. Some people seem to handle it with ease while others struggle. I did this for a number of years, and although we were successful, it was difficult at times. Of course, I had an advantage - my wife Karen. The truth be told, she did by far most of the work. If you are married with a spouse that stays at home, this is a significant advantage. Many of you, however, either have no spouse or your spouse also works. This means that you are essentially on your own.

The first question you need to ask yourself is: Are you looking for a hobby or a business? If it is a hobby or a very part-time business whose goal is to make a extra hundred dollars a month or so, then you will have a fairly easy time balancing the hours you spend at work and your eBay business. However, if you are running a business designed to earn $1,000 a month or more, then you have different issues.

Another question to ask yourself is: What are my long-term goals? If your job and your career is important to you, then this must always take first priority. If, on the other hand, you are in a boring or dead-end job, then you need to plan for your success and how and when you will leave your job and do eBay full time (as thousands have done before you).

If keeping your full-time job is your priority, you also need to factor in the type of employment you have and your employer's policies. People who work outside for a living rarely have an opportunity to check a computer during the day. Office employees, however, are usually connected to the web at work. Many employers today have very strict policies about using your computer at work to transact personal business. There is also the issue of simple integrity. Is it fair to your employer to do outside business while you are being paid to work by the company? Some employers don't mind if employees use a computer for personal web surfing during their lunch hour or breaks. If this is the case, then you will be able to check emails and auctions a couple of times a day from your office.

No matter which category you fit into, the simple fact is that you are away from your home computer from 8 to 10 hours a day. How you deal with the realities of this will determine your success. Look at some of the problems you will run into. We all know that many eBay buyers can be impatient. They send an email and expect an immediate answer, but you can only work on emails for a brief time in the morning before you leave for work and after you get home. There is the matter of shipping. How will you get to the post office or UPS store during the hours they are open if you are at work? There is also the matter of time for your job, time for your business and time for your life and family. With this in mind, let's look at some strategies and ideas:

Organization - The very first thing you will have to do is get organized. Taking the time to set up organized structures and systems can be a huge time (and money) saver. You will have to take a lot of photos and you don't want to spend time setting up lights and a tripod every time you want to launch an auction. Set up a permanent or semi-permanent photo set up in your garage or spare room. Next is a shipping station. Again, you want a table set up with all of your tape, boxes and shipping materials handy. If you have a UPS account you can get one of their small thermal printers to print out your shipping labels. Or, if you use the post office there are several computer programs that will calculate postage and print out labels so you can drop your packages at the post office instead of standing in line. You should automate your auctions with software or an on-line auction management system such as Meridian (www.noblespirit.com) or Vendio (www.vendio.com). These systems will save you time launching your auctions, sending out payment request emails and processing payments, posting feedback and keeping track of your inventory, costs and expenses.

Go High Speed - Time is money, and time is also your most valuable commodity when you have very little of it. Any time you can save, will be repaid several times over in profits. DSL and Cable can be a bit expensive, but these high-speed services will save you several hours a month. If DSL costs you an extra $25 a month and saves you only 2 hours, think what you can do with that two hours. For example, if you are using an auction management service, you can launch anywhere from 10 to 30 auctions in that period of time. (If your product has a standard description and you already have images, you can launch many more in this time.) How much do you make on each auction? If you could launch an extra 30 auction a month, would you make more than $25.00? It can also be expensed on your business taxes which is a big plus.

Get your own UPS account - This can be a real time (and money) saver. If you have your own UPS account you can rent a scale and thermal printer and save hours of time shipping each month. If you volume is high enough, you can also get discounts from UPS. These discounts will often offset the cost of shipping materials allowing you to make a small margin on your shipping and handling costs. UPS will not usually pick up packages from a private residence, but once your packages are prepared with the UPS label you can simply drop them at any UPS drop box or UPS store. For example, you can prepare all your shipments in the evening and drop them off at a UPS store in the morning on your way to work.

Let your customers know your situation - People can be a lot more understanding if they know what and who they are dealing with. Most email programs allow you to add an automatic pre-written signature line to all out-going emails. For example, you could add a signature line that said something like:

"Your complete satisfaction is important to me. Please understand that I work a full-time job during the day, so I cannot always respond to you immediately. Please be assured that I will respond to any request you have at the very first chance I get."

Save some time for yourself - Your mental health and your family's happiness is also important to your success. Working a full-time job and coming home and spending 4 hours a night on the computer, or taking photos or shipping goods is very tiring. It is very easy to get sucked into the business and suddenly you turn around and it is 11:30 in the evening, you ate at your computer rather than with the family (who are all now sound asleep) and you have to get up in 6 or 7 hours. Time management is crucial. You must set aside some quality time for yourself and your family. Remember, the goal here is to make some extra money - not to get a divorce. If you are single, be sure to take some time to relax, eat dinner or have a glass of wine and watch your favorite TV show. Set a limit on how much you will work each evening. If you take the time to actually do a schedule, then you will be more likely to follow it. If you have a family, the same is even more true. You simply have to set aside some time each evening to spend with your spouse and/or children. If you don't do these things you will find yourself becoming stressed out and this stress will be reflected in your eBay business and in your job.

eBay has been a phenomenal success as a company and has provided opportunity to thousands of entrepreneurs and home-based businesses. It is not as easy as it seems to start and run a successful eBay business - but it can be done by most people. The secret is nothing more than a modicum of talent and intelligence, hard work, a good plan and paying attention to the details.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Auction Checklist To Increase Sales

Many people I talk to are making the same basic mistakes which is losing them money in auction sales. This checklist comes from my Complete eBay Marketing System and is a very basic checklist of what every seller should verify before launching an auction.

1. Have I checked spelling and grammar?
2. Is my type readable – is it too large or too small?
3. Did I use short paragraphs?
4. Are my photos clear and not too big to cause slow loading?
5. Have I checked all my fees and options?
6. Did I use the correct duration (number of days)?
7. Does my auction end at a good time and on a good day?
8. Did I include clear shipping information, costs and terms?
9. Is my item description accurate, clear and complete?
10. Did I include information as to size, weight, etc.?
11. Did I mention any flaws?
12. Did I clearly spell out the payment terms?
13. Does my headline communicate what I am selling?
14. Does my headline contain the appropriate key words for item searches?
15. Did I invite bidders to email me with questions?
16. Did I include active links to my eBay Store and About Me Page?
17. Is my About Me page up to date?
18. Did I include a Buy It Now price?

For more in depth tips and techniques, you can download my 99 Tips for eBay Buyers and Sellers free from my Web site.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How to Start and Run an eBay Consignment Business

What on-line business can you start that has virtually no risk?

What on-line business can you start with little or no investment that can return thousands of dollars per week?

What on-line business can you start with a guaranteed market of 50 million customers?

What on-line business can you start Part-time and quickly grow into a full-time business you can live on?


My name is Skip McGrath. I am an eBay Power Seller and successful web site entrepreneur. Although I have been selling on eBay successfully for over five years, last year I discovered the "perfect" eBay business. I have written it all down in my newest book: How to Start & Run An eBay Consignment Business.

Since eBay launched the Trading Assistant program, over 50,000 eBay sellers have registered as Trading Assistants to help other people sell their goods. EBay consignment businesses have started to spring up all over the United States and some of the first ones are starting to appear in Germany and the UK. There are 35 million users on eBay U.S. and 50 million worldwide…and growing every day. Yet there are still millions of people who know little about eBay or are afraid to try it. Another market is the millions of people who know about eBay, but just don't have the time or inclination to try it.

This is the perfect business.

The biggest problem eBay sellers have is finding merchandise at a low enough price to sell on eBay. With a consignment business, people give you merchandise to sell with no risk on your part. You auction the goods on eBay and pay the consignor (the person who gave you the goods) the proceeds of the sale less your commission and fees. If something doesn't sell, you simply return the item to the consignor.

How To Start & Run an eBay Consignment Business comes with access to a special web page that includes consignment contracts, fee schedules, pre-written advertisements and sales letters that you can download and use to promote your business.

How To Start & Run an eBay Consignment Business is available at your local bookstore and online from Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com. You can click on the banners below to order your copy today.




How to Start and Run an eBay Consignment Business
Barnes and Noble



Monday, February 20, 2006

Increase Bids and Final Values with Testimonials

If you are just starting out it may be a little difficult to get testimonials, but once you have sold a few dozen items on eBay this becomes very easy.

When a potential bidder is reading your auction, you want to communicate your enthusiasm and knowledge of the product you are selling. But adding a testimonial in someone else’s voice and words can really add credibility to your description and therefore your sales message. I have been using testimonials successfully on my Web site for several years, but other than pasting some feedback comments into my auctions, I hadn’t really tried them on eBay.

I recently ran a test where I added two short testimonials and four selected feedback comments to my auction. The results, my final value on the item went up 11% over what I usually average and I sold two more units at the full Buy-It-Now price than I normally average in a week.

How Do I Get Testimonials?

Ask. If someone posts a very nice feedback comment or sends you an email and says they really liked your product or service, send them an email and ask them if you can use their comment – or if they would write a short comment that you can use in your auctions. If you have something that would work as a low-cost giveaway you could offer that to them by way of thanks.
Make sure the testimonial is as specific as possible. A general statement such as “great product” or “great service” is nice, but it doesn’t tell the prospective customer very much. A better statement about the product such as:

“My son absolutely loves your handmade wood toy train set. It has become his favorite toy. After two weeks of hard play all the wheels are still on and it still looks as good as new.”

“Thank you for the great packaging and fast shipping. Your art glass vase has a prominent place on our mantle where I show it off to everyone.”

“Your quilting patterns are great. The illustrations and instructions are clear and easy to follow. This is only my second try at quilting and your system made it so easy.”

The idea is to show a specific benefit that people can relate to.

If someone sends you an email with an unsolicited testimonial, be sure and ask them if you can use their testimonial in your auctions (or on your Web site if you have one). I don’t like to put their exact information because people might bother them, so I usually sign the testimonial with something such as …Harry, a gardener from New Jersey, or Susan, a homemaker from Pittsburgh.

Feedback comments rarely contain specific product benefits, but if you have some great feedback comment about your service you can also use those. Here are a few feedback comments from my recent auctions:

Karen and Skip have a way of making you feel like a VIP with each purchase palmbyte1 (923)

Great people! Helpful, easy to work with and exceptionally knowledgeable xylthryx (8)

Great to do business with. Quick and courteous. Received product as requested itsjustannie (8)

wow...what a wonderful addition to my home...i will by another one soon thanks ixicowgirlixi0dev (28)

More than my money's worth, fast response, I will be back for more auctionleverage (18)

When you get a glowing feedback comment such as these, you can always try emailing the sender and asking if they would write a short testimonial.

For more examples about how I use testimonials, please see the product description for The Complete eBay Marketing System.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Drop Shipper Ripoff Alert

In my opinion, Zibus.com is a total scam. This company claims to have access to drop ship products from famous name brands. There is no product pricing on the site. You fill out an application and then pay $19.95 to submit the application. After a week they call you back and try to sell you a $5,000 program.

One poor seller, who bit, got access to a drop ship company with product prices that were 20% higher than the items were selling for on eBay. All attempts to get her money back failed.

Another problematic site is netdropshipper.com. This is a site I had recommended in the past. Although not a scam, they have very poor communication, shipping takes forever, they rarely answer emails and in general almost everyone who has dealt with them has been unhappy. I received over 20 complaints from readers about poor or nonexistent service. I tried to contact them on several occasions and they never answered me either. I have removed them from my source lists and recommend you use caution when dealing with them. If you want to learn the ins and outs of dropshipping, check out the Wholesale Buying System

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How To Run a Charity Auction on eBay

In earlier days you could just put up an auction and say it was for a charity and there was no policing or a way to determine if you really gave the money to the charity or not. Today, there are two ways to run a charity auction on eBay. One is by using the eBay Giving Works program operated by Mission Fish and the other is to run your own auction and donate all or part of the proceeds to the charity of your choice. Both have their pro and cons. Let’s take a look at each way:

eBay Giving Works enables you to list your items on eBay and donate part or the entire final sale price to your favorite nonprofit organizations. Unique search and listing features allow you to build your business while supporting causes important to you. To date, eBay sellers have raised more than $40 million for nonprofits through items sold on eBay.

To donate, when you get to the Pictures and Details page of the eBay Sell Your Item form, look for the link that says “donate a percentage of sale.” This will bring up a list of approved nonprofit organizations you can donate to (there is also a link to add a nonprofit if your favorite one is not on the list). If this is your first eBay Giving Works listing, you will be prompted to create a MissionFish account, provide your credit card information to guarantee payment of your donation, and consent to terms in the MissionFish User Agreement. After your item sells, collect payment from the buyer as usual. MissionFish will send you an email notification that includes the exact donation amount due and payment instructions. If you do not fulfill your commitment by the second Monday after your listing ends, MissionFish will charge your credit card. MissionFish then forwards the gift (minus $3.00 and a 2.9% credit card processing cost) to the designated nonprofit on the 20th of the second month after your listing has closed and issues you a tax receipt. If you donated a portion of your proceeds to the charity you will still pay your eBay fees which unfortunately are not tax-deductible. If you donate all of it to the charity, eBay will waive the listing and final value fees.

Beside the processing fee, the other problem occurs when you encounter a non-paying bidder which unfortunately occurs fairly often. You have to go through the whole non-paying bidder process, which 6 times out of 10 will earn you a negative feedback. Once eBay has credited your fees, you can now fill out another form with MissionFish and request a refund from them. If something went wrong with your transaction and you refunded a buyer’s money, MissionFish will still collect the minimum $10 donation.

Admittedly these are small drawbacks, but they do pose challenges to the seller. If you want to understand the program better, read the eBay Giving Works FAQs.

The other method is to run your own auction and donate the proceeds directly to the charity. However, there are some hoops you have to jump through to do this. First of all the organization has to be an IRS certified 501 3 (c) organization. That means they have to have filed their nonprofit status with the IRS and been approved. Second, you need a letter from the organization and you need to scan the actual letter into your item description so eBay can see it. How do you get such a letter? Well this week I just called the local chapter of the Salvation Army and told the lady who answered the phone what I was trying to do and what I needed. She said she couldn’t do it locally, but would have someone from the national office call me. Within 15-minutes I had a call and 15-minutes later a letter of authorization came over my fax machine. It was really pretty simple. I didn’t have a scanner, but I took a good digital photo and used the Supersize option, so eBay could blow the image up large enough to read it and I was good to go.

Running a charity auction is a great way to magnify the power of a donation as we saw after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. However, these charities need help year round, so don't wait for something big-scale to happen on the news to get involved.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Trading Assistant's: Find Merchandise With Garage Sale Scouts

There are millions of people who are addicted to garage sales. When you advertise your garage sale will start promptly at 8:00 AM and you look out your window at 7:00 AM and see several people standing there, those are the real garage sale junkies. There are also tons of people looking to make a few extra bucks. What if you could find people who have both attributes: They need to make some extra money and they love going to garage sales.

When Karen and I were in the antique business, we always made a point of being in the shop early Monday morning. Because this is when the "pickers" would show up. These were people who went to garage, yard and tag sales over the weekend who had a good eye for value. They would find things that cost just a few dollars that they could sell to us for three or four times that, and that we could also mark up 100% to 200% and sell in our shop.

As a Trading Assistant, your biggest expense in time and money is finding consignors with attractive goods to sell on eBay. Try This: Put a classified ad in your local paper that says something like this:

Make money buying at garage sales. Call 206-555-1212

When these people call, explain that you are an eBay consignment seller looking for merchandise to sell. If they want to work with you, you will teach them what to look for. If they find any of these items at a garage sale, bring them to you. You will put them on eBay and pay them the value less your commission. You explain that your normal commission of items that sell for less than $300 is 40%, but you are only going to charge them 25% as long as they bring you a good volume of merchandise every week.

Now, how do you teach them what to look for. Robbin Tungett has just released an excellent new book, Garage Sale Strategies. If you want to learn what to buy at garage sales that sells on eBay, this is the best work on the subject whether you want to use it for yourself, or to teach your garage sale scouts what to look for.
Remember, if you want to sell it on eBay, you need to know the difference between what items you can buy that will sell for $5 and those that will sell for $50 or more. Robbin's book is excellent --the best I have even seen on the subject.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

20 Million Price Tag for Storage Locker Auction Contents

In my Wholesale Buying System, I talk about storage locker auctions. Basically, after an account is 90 days in arrears, the storage facility will offer the contents at auction. These are usually advertised locally and happen once about a month. The facility owner will cut off the lock in the presence of the potential bidders who can then look inside the locker at the contents. They cannot enter the locker, or open any boxes. Everything is sold "as is" so it's up to you to decide what it is worth based upon what you can see and labels on the boxes (if any).

In Los Angeles, one of these auctions took a turn when the buyer of a particular storage locker contents discovered the previous owner was Paris Hilton. According to the Washington Post, Hilton's publicist said there had been a mix up and payments had not been credited to her storage locker account as they should have been. Either way, one lucky guy is now in the possession of personal diaries and tapes of Paris Hilton. It is unknown how much he paid for the locker contents, but most storage locker auctions go for between $75 and $500.

Because of the nature of the items, he cannot sell them on eBay, but he has enlisted the help of David Hans Schmidt (who has brokered many deals to sell celebrity porn) to sell the diaries and videos. And the starting price? $20 million. Not bad for a storage locker auction.