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eBay Marketing
by Robin Johnston

You've heard the old expression, "Build it and they will come". That may be true, in some cases. But as any savvy marketer will tell you, there is often more money to be made in going to where the market has already gathered.

For many industries, there is a large and active market available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. eBay (www.ebay.com) – once simply a burgeoning online auction site – is now an indispensable part of goods and services distribution worldwide.

If you're about to skip this article because you don't think eBay is for you, let me slip in one quick thought. There are thousands of businesses using eBay that really don't care whether they sell anything there or not. To them, the world's largest auction is simply a way of connecting with their audience and generating traffic to their sites and retail stores. More on this later.

You probably realize that most people using eBay use it as a way to sell their goods online. But you might be surprised to know that personal and business liquidation auctions are not the only reasons to list your wares for sale on the site. There are entire businesses that depend on eBay for their distribution. They’re not all small operations, either. eBay’s PowerSellers are those that consistently conduct a large number of transactions through the site. To reach the highly respected Platinum PowerSeller status, you must sell more than $150,000 per month for a minimum of three consecutive months!

In roughly half a decade, eBay has grown to become an all-encompassing merchandising and distribution system. The site publishes guides to help neophytes learn the ropes, provides plenty of statistics on what does and does not sell, and offers expert information on shipping and financing. There is even an entire section of the site that provides advice and assistance with international trading rules and regulations!

The beauty of eBay is its transparency. It's easy to monitor other sellers and determine what’s really of interest to the millions and millions of people who visit eBay every day. One of the quickest ways to get a feel for what sells is to do an advanced search on eBay specifying “Closed Auctions” only. This gives us cheap, quick, and easy access to metrics we just can't get in the "real" world.

When you find some sellers that seem to have it together, make note of the features and benefits they promote, the average bid, the average shipping & handling fee charged, and the amount of traffic they get.

This is terrific competitive intelligence that will help you determine how your own product must be positioned to compete. What price, value, features and product bundles must you include to succeed?

If there is sufficient demand to warrant a test, add an auction of your own. See how much traffic you get. Within a week or two you’ll know if there’s a strong enough market to make this worth your while.

Now, back to those that do not actually intend to build a business on eBay. There are marketers who will use the online auction to list one of their products for a ridiculously low price in order to generate traffic, and then promote heavily within the ad in order to drive people to their web site. Their goal is to sell product outside of eBay, and they are really only tapping in to eBay as a lead generation tool. When used in this way and measured against other media, eBay ranks as one of the most cost-effective promotional tools available to marketers today. Maybe there’s a place for eBay in your marketing plan.

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Robin Johnston, Director of INVICTUS Solutions Group, is a marketing and business development professional with experience across technology, financial services, and public sectors. He excels at developing strategic and tactical marketing plans, positioning brands, sales training, deploying programs to out-market competitors, generating leads, and accelerating revenue with limited marketing budgets.

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