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This aspect of business success takes a good deal of courage and trust on your part because your commitment is not always reciprocated or even appreciated by your clients - but it's vital to your success.
Without it, you will not succeed in today's social and e-conomic environment.
FOCUS: The ability to know what's vitally important to the survival and growth of your business - and to do that 'important' thing every single hour of every single day is what leads to success.
One of the most important things you can do as an online auction entrepreneur is TEST, TEST, TEST!
One of the things I love about auctions, especially those on the Internet, is that within a few days you know if there is any demand for what you're selling. We all have ideas of what we think will sell online and what won't, but the only true indication of success is hard sales data.
That doesn't mean that there aren't things you can do to tweak what you're selling, i.e. present it in a different way, change the price (lower OR higher), etc. But in general, if you're selling something really hot, you'll know sooner than any other marketing vehicle ever created. And if you're selling something no one wants- you'll know that too. The faster you know what works and what doesn't the faster you will be successful as an Internet auctioneer.
VALUE: Value your clients business. Handing your client your product or service in a plain brown paper wrapper with no 'personal touch' is a mistake. Plain brown paper wrappers might work for sellers of pornography or at the fish market, but for most other items it's essential to
add 'something extra' to your product or service when it's delivered. That 'something extra' could be just a personal note saying "Thanks" or an unexpected 'gift' or the way it's wrapped - just about any small gesture that shows you care. It shows how much you value them and their business.
Profits: It's NOT what you get to keep after all expenses in your business expenses have been paid- it's a -"planned process"- that takes dedication and work.
You should be earning a healthy profit from your business- if not you are doing something very wrong and you need to fix it right away.
Profits alone will not keep you in business - only customers can.
Without customers- no business.
Treat your customers well, give them top-quality service and respect the fiduciary responsibility you have when you exchange their money for your product or service.
The very best scenario is to get a 'bidding war' going!
2. Informative; and
Avoid vague generalities in your descriptions and titles. Be specific.
If someone searches for "Tiffany" on eBay
and you're selling Tiffany you better be sure to put "Tiffany" in your title and description.
If your selling "24lb, 94 brightness copy paper", say it-- don't just say "bright white copy paper". You get the idea.
with words is an art. Don't expect to master it overnight, but study
it. Your long-term success in this new dynamic marketplace depends on
Listing: It's not enough to list a couple of items, hope they sell for 5 to 10 times what you paid and expect to make a lot of money in this business. You must continually search for new auction sites to list your items, and list as often as possible.
Most full-time, professional online auction businesses have 200-300 items for sale *every day*. How do you manage that many auctions?
There's a number of auctions sites and software programs available to help you list and assist with post-auction management.
Most perform functions such as emailing the winning bidders, follow-up with emails if they don't pay right away, leave feedback and list new items automatically. (Check a recent issue of the Internet Auction Report for our current recommendations on software and sites)
Auction Management: When you list an item, your job isn't done until the money has been received and your item is safe in the hands of the winning bidder.
Managing the entire process so that you have time to do other things is one of the most important functions of an online auction business.
Responding to email's and questions about your item being auctioned by prospective bidders can take up a lot of time.
Be prepared to answer questions and have save all the answers to questions you've already answered.
When someone asks the same question you just answered, cut and paste your response in your reply email.
P.S. If you're getting a lot of questions about your auction
listings- check your descriptions and make sure your providing good, accurate and informative descriptions.
Automation: When possible, automate everything about your business.
Automate listings, so you only have to click twice to list an item- to sending emails- to collecting money- to shipping items.
Organize Now!: If you run your business out of your home or
apartment, find a corner- or better yet- an entire bedroom - to organize your business.
You'll need a computer, printer, copy paper, pencils, pens, envelopes, labels, packing tape, packing materials (bubble wrap, 'peanuts', etc.) a filing cabinet or drawer, and an assortment of boxes- depending on what your selling.
Create a system for putting these in logical order according to when they will be needed.
stamps like …
"Shipped On: Date_____"
…help me keep up to date on the progress of my orders.
Mistakes: Mistakes are going to happen.
It's how you manage them that makes all the difference.
For example, I was so busy collecting money and filling orders one day I charged a customer on his credit card twice.
I didn't even realize it until he emailed me and told me about a month later.
It looks bad.
I emailed him back, apologized, credited his account the purchase price + the return postage and offered him $5.00 off the next item he wins in one of my auctions + free shipping.
When you're at fault don't cover it up or hide it- admit it,
make it right and move on.
Back-End Sales: Even though your primary business is online auctions- don't forget that you are generating a happy and (hopefully) satisfied customer base.
Those customers may be interested in other things you have for sale.
So, where will you send them?
That's right, your web site.
If you don't have a web site, get one at www.homestead.com or www.tripod.com for free.
Put your URL at the end of all your auction listings and as a signature on your emails.
Manage Expenses: Keep a log book next to your work area and list every expense for your business by type (e.g. office supplies, insurance, rent, software, hardware, etc.) and date.
Save all your receipts.
Keep a separate log book for your car.
Whenever you go someplace for business purposes, record your odometer reading at the beginning of your trip and at the end of your trip and the date.
Save all of these logs and receipts for your taxes.
They add up quickly!
Follow-Up: Never let customer wonder if you received their money for an auction or sent an item.
Let them know what step you completed and when you completed steps in the post-auction process.
Also, don't be afraid to ask their opinions of your service and your products.
Solicit feedback every chance you get.
If you're going to be in business you need to be sensitive to what people want and need your products to do for them. That's how you improve and get better.
Payment Options: Don't offer just one way to pay for your auctions.
Most customers like to pay with a credit card.
But some like to send a check or money order. I offer customers 6 ways to complete their transaction:
1. Send check or MO via US mail
2. Credit card by toll free 800 fax
3. Credit card by email
4. Credit card by secure online-order form
Customers use every one of these.
They appreciate the options and I get my payments faster, because they can choose the one they are most comfortable with.
Loss-Leaders: Grocery stores use this method to draw traffic all the time.
They sell milk at .50 cents below their cost which is lower than anyone else, just to get customers in the door.
They know that once they're in, they will buy something else- maybe they will buy a lot- and will more than make up for the loss on the milk with all the other items they sell.
I do something similar in my auctions.
I include at least one high-profile auction (for example: a genuine, old and rare piece of Wedgwood pottery, a rare autograph, etc) that attracts bidders to my *other* auctions.
Almost everyone who visits the * high-profile* auction will inevitably click on the "sellers other auctions" link and look at that page.
I consistently get 20%-50% higher number of bids and prices when I include a *high-profile* auction like this when running my other auctions.
I don't care if I make money on the high-profile auction or not- my goal is to attract bidders to *ALL* my auctions- and it works.
Sometime I even make money on this kind of 'loss-leader' because of the excitement it creates!
Auction Log Book: Even with the best software available to list and track my auctions, I still use a paper-based log book to keep track of all my auction ID names, passwords and auction activity.
I just feel more secure knowing it's written down and I can get to it even if my computer crashes and burns.
I also keep a file with the rules, regulations and seller's tips each auction site I registered with in the same log book.
If there is ever a question about whether I can list this item or that item or someone doesn't pay or how to get a credit for a listing fee, I've got it handy.
I have to admit it: I'm not quite ready for a 100% 'paperless' society -yet.
Know What Sells: In the same log book I mentioned above, I keep print-outs (from an Excel spreadsheet) of the results of all my auctions.
I then use it to see what sells and what doesn't. I continually eliminate the -non-sellers, keep what does sell and add new items to test.
If it sells I list more of the same item.
If it doesn't sell I scratch it from my list.
Fine-tuning your stock this way will help increase the percentage of auction listings that sell.
Since it costs you money (at least on eBay) to list an item, if it doesn't sell- it's money down the drain.
The higher the percentage of listings that sell- the higher your income.
Specialize: It comes down to this:
Know your product or service better than anyone else. Your customers will trust you because they believe you *are* a specialist and you'll sell more.
Have Fun!!: Make your online auction business a game. Try to beat your own records for:
1. Highest priced item ever sold
2. Highest percentage of listings sold
3. Most money made in a month
4. Highest number of listing made in a day, etc.
You make the rules, you set the records and you make the game. But, realize it *is* a game. Sometimes it's a very serious game- especially when money is involved- but do not ever lose your sense of humor or competitive spirit!
What to Sell on eBay!
Where the Sources Are!