This isn’t a piece to focus negatively on the rights and wrongs of eBays recent policy changes toward store owners. Rather I want to discuss what I believe will be the most serious issue most remaining store owners now face.
The problem? How to drive potential buyers to your store listings now eBay’s own search engine is focused elsewhere.
I will assume for the purposes of this piece that we are talking about an eBay Store that will remain open despite the new fee structure in place. I will also try to avoid specific product categories.
Let’s agree a fundamental fact at the outset. If eBay isn’t going to send you customers very often then who is? The answer, however you look at it, is you. Directly, or indirectly, it is down to you the store owner to go and get those customers.
Hopefully your eBay Store has been set up correctly, has the right key words in place for the search engines and, courtesy of previous buyers adding you to their ‘favorite sellers’ lists, you will have some visitors even now. But even with these basics in place, I know of eBay stores where traffic has dropped by up to 80% recently. They need to find more traffic and how are they going to do this?
I will not insult experienced eBay store sellers by telling them to list in the core Auction or Buy it Now formats from time to time. I’m sure every eBay store owner knows that such listings, when worded carefully and attractively, can prove to be great signposts to your shop. But let’s not forget this use of core listing format, in my view, is what eBay expect you, and want you, to do now. Having hidden your store from most searches they are probably banking on more ‘signpost’ core listings from store owners. You must appreciate there is a cost attached to this method and, while I acknowledge it can be a great traffic generator, would urge you to make sure you plan such listings carefully and control the costs.
This should not be your sole method of attracting store customers. The most obvious non-eBay suggestion is Google. For relatively modest amounts of expenditure you can get Google to place adverts for your store on various websites in a context sensitive manner. I dare say we’ve all seen these adverts. I will not deter anyone from following this path as it makes good sense. However, when you are paying a monthly subscription to eBay and have just taken fee increases on the chin, do you have sufficient additional cash in the budget to take on additional expense? While the answer to this may be dependent on the sales margin you have on your inventory, I will try to focus on other free and low cost methods of online advertising and promotion.
You should set aside some serious time for you to think about this problem and plan a way forward. Unless you carefully consider how and where to target your efforts, you could end up spending hard earned money and very valuable time chasing snowflakes on a blazing hot summer day.
Your eBay Store is online and, it stands to reason your main thrust of advertising effort should be aimed at attracting a mouse click to come to your store. But what does this actually mean? Assuming you have found a good place on the web to advertise – where likely customers may well be passing by – you still need a ‘driver’ to make that potential customer curious enough to click on the link to your store. Just as importantly, you need a ‘reception’ at the other end of the link to make the potential customer stay to browse your store. How often have you arrived at a web page and almost instantly hit the back button on your browser?
Let’s look at some ideas that may cost time on your part, but little, if any, cash. Assuming we’re not paying Google to find the location and place the links to our store, we need to find places we can put our links for nothing and where they will be allowed to stay without upsetting anyone.
My first suggestion would be to hunt through the blog sites for any subject that has a connection to your product. For instance, if you sell coins, look for collector blogs. If you sell royalty memorabilia, then also find the royalty and history blogs. Trust me they are there. Most blog sites encourage readers to comment on content postings. Provided a comment is relevant to the original post, they usually allow links, either as a courtesy to the comment writer, or even within the body of a comment if it links to places that display examples of items or information relevant to the post.
As a Store owner on eBay you have a few free pages you can use for anything you like. These can be a goldmine if you put background information up about the subject categories your products fall in to. In these pages you can obviously link to your product sales, but back in the original blog you can easily link to an ‘information’ page at your store. It takes time to organise but, once in place, these pages can attract qualified leads to your store windows. By qualified leads I mean people who you know are interested in at least one product theme of your inventory. If your stores information pages are well written and attractively presented, you’ve virtually got them inside and browsing already.
Make use of MySpace type sites. There are numerous places on the web now where you can post a personal blog and say whatever you like. Obviously the more interesting the content, the more visits you will attaract. If you present yourself well, write interesting content and make it inviting to click a link you could well have another paying customer.
Exactly the same idea can apply to bulletin boards or newsgroups. But, a word of warning here, never spam blogs, boards or newsgroups with blatant advertising of links to your store. You will not be thanked and, in some cases you could find yourself in heaps of trouble. Individual relevant comments, discussion and ideas will almost always prove welcome. Do a good job and you will build up contacts and customers.
At this point, before continuing, I would ask all readers to click HERE.
Did you click that link? Nothing happened right? But if you tried I could have you looking at my eBay store right now.
Got the hint? Creative writing about a subject you know about that is properly fed on to the web via feeds offer great potential as customer grabbers. As you probably gather, I write a lot online and I know the power of an ‘interesting article’. If your store is selling widgets then wouldn’t you like to have news, views, ideas and discussion of widgets going out on the feeds for other interested people to pick up on? If these articles also have links to your store then need I say more?
I appreciate this means you need the time and ability to regularly write interesting articles about your subjects and get them published where the feeds will make them available via search engines. But, just as you found and started reading this article, there’s every chance several people will read yours.
You will need to duplicate every step I took in writing this piece and publishing it. If that seems a daunting task then is there someone else you know capable of writing a monthly, weekly or even daily ‘news/information bulletin’ for you? Husband? Wife? Children? Friends or neighbours? If you’re still struggling then I suggest you consider contacting a freelance writer online to see if they will give you a couple of hours on a regular basis. Ensure you see examples of their work and check they have the knowledge and facilities to get their work properly published on the web to be seen and found.
Although using a freelance writer will mean some payment, you will never know the potential leads that could be generated unless you at least try a few times. Freelance writers are not always too expensive (trust me I know!) if you provide them with all the background information they need to shorten the time needed on your articles.
Moving on, depending on the product or subject matter of your inventory, it may be possible to buy a top level ‘key word’ domain name that, once indexed by the search engines, will rank highly on internet searches. This may mean putting together a single page website to act as a ‘reception page’ (e.g. press to enter) which then links directly to your eBay store. Alternatively you may be able to set up an automatic forwarding arrangement where a click to your domain name is automatically routed to your eBay store. Either way, setting up such an arrangement will not cost more than a few dollars each year and you will hopefully get the power of Google and Yahoo working to your advantage.
Even if the best top level domain isn’t available, hosted storefronts leading to your store on eBay can prove extremely powerful if they are properly coded to rank highly on relevant searches.
If you’re an organised eBay store you have a file somewhere packed full of Paypal payment emails from your previous customers. You have names, addresses and email addresses for people who have already purchased from you. These people will need regular reminders of your eBay store from now on.
Use snail mail shots or, perhaps more cost effective email. Don’t be tempted to send just a link or a quick message. Spend a little time to include content and tempters. You are trying to attract customers.
Referrals are an often overlooked but a potential major source of business. A lot of people hate the thought of asking a customer to refer a friend but it doesn’t have to be an awkward situation to master.
There are many ways you can seek referrals. Yes you can simply say ‘please tell your friends’ once a sale is finalised. But there are so many more creative ways to ask.
“Many thanks for your purchase. If you would like me to send details of my store to anyone else you know who shares our interest then please let me have the details. On top of that both you and they will be entered in to our monthly free prize draw.”
You’ve seen this kind of promotion hundreds of times so I’m sure I’ve said enough. But remember, the reason you’ve seen them so many times is they do work.
Email signatures. Every email you send to anyone about anything should have a simple two line message and link under your name when signing off.
The best value widgets in town
Believe me, if you send even a few emails each day, you will eventually get a sale. Simple signature links like this are generally accepted usage worldwide and will rarely, if ever, be considered spam.
Time and space means I need to wrap this piece up. However, I hope I’ve at least tweaked the creative side of your marketing brain and, if just one of these ideas sits comfortably with your store inventory and future marketing needs, then my time and effort has been worthwhile.
Of course, once you realise you can attract customers to your eBay store. You may start asking why you need to pay eBay anything at all? But that’s another story for another article.
Please feel free to leave a comment for me and, if you do, I’m happy to see a link to your store at the end!
Good luck and be successful.