Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pertinent Discussion Content at OSU

As most of you know, I am a member of the discussion forum OnlineSellersUnited (no toxic drama or backbiting allowed). There is a very cool discussion (IMHO) about eCommerce business going on and I thought folks here might be interested in checking it out. To give you an idea of the discussion, here is what I just posted in response to another member:

One line really sticks out in your post: "This is my product - am I investing the proper amount of time in it's full potential for marketing it?"
I would add the word Business... not just Product. I think that people still think they should be able to list it and sell it. It doesn't work that way as a rule... at least not any more. With the economy, the competition, and savvy buyers (to name a few blocks the eCommerce business owner today has to contend with), sellers have to become savvy enough not just to list, they have to become savvy enough to stay ahead... it's more than just 'product'. It's 'business'.

I agree with you that the days are over of finding it at the thrift store or garage sale for a quarter and then selling it for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. It still happens, but rarely. It's a shame too... lol...
As customers become more savvy today, business owners have to stay ahead of them. I think each business owner has to:
1. Figure out their business. What product are you going to sell or produce. Believe in your product or service. I find that the more I believe in the product, the easier it is to sell.
2. Research that product or service so that they know it inside and out. When I first sold on eBay, I sold used audio books. I knew nothing about them other than I enjoyed them. I did alright, but I didn't do all that well. Later, I sold hats. When my family inherited about 2000 hats, I knew very little about hats other than I enjoyed wearing them. I couldn't sell them at eBay to save my life... at first... I did some researching and little by little I became a bit of an expert. The more I learned, the better my listings were. The better my listings were, the more I sold. Even though I seldom sell hats now, and never at eBay, one of the guides I wrote is still one of the most popular guides at eBay (Purchasing and Caring for Just About Any Hat). It's a cheesy little piece, but the info is correct, easy to understand, and effective because I did my research.
3. Know your target audience. This is a part of a business plan that many skip over. The fact is that you have to know who your customers are. You also have to follow trends that affect your average customers, like them being able to shop using their PDA's and Cell Phones... lol... For instance, I sell homemade Goat's Milk Soap. My average customer is between the ages of 25 and 55. They're working class. They've got a 'green' streak and are concious of the earth. The try to use organic and/or natural products but cost and convenience is a problem in most cases. My average customer is educated, but not overly so. OK... that sounds about right... BUT here is a bit more about my average customer: my average customer can order from a cellular device. My average customer uses text messaging. My average customer doesn't use an apostrophe when searching for Goat's Milk Soap... instead, because they use text messaging (on their cellular device, as well as in chat rooms, when tweeting, etc.), they search for goats milk soap. There's more, but in a nutshell, THAT is my customer.
4. Adjust your business practices to accomodate your average customer. Again, using my customer description from above, I could put my listing titles as Goat's Milk Soap, but considering that my 'average' customer doesn't search that way, I leave out the apostrophe. It makes my grammer incorrect, but that is how my 'average' or 'target' customer searches... so putting the apostrophe in just shows that I can spell and punctuate correctly... but my customers won't find me as easily... so I adjust.
5. What venue works best for their business. All sites don't work for all business owners. All sites don't work for all products... at least not any more. When eBay was the only game in town it did (overall), but with the emergence of 'niche' sites and the many choices of sites that cater to specific business owner needs and wants, eBay is no longer the only game in town. For instance, I could sell at Etsy, where all products are handmade. Etsy wouldn't have worked for my hats. You have to find what site works best and most efficiently for you and your business. Does that mean the sites you don't sell at are worthy of scathing reviews, threads, and posts? No. It means one site works better for YOU and YOUR business.
6. Eggs in One Basket? I say business owners (i.e. Sellers) should utilize whatever sites, and however many sites, they can professionally handle and work well for them. Chris Fain, of, has always advocated this practice. It isn't that he is saying won't work for you as a single site, he's saying (IMHO) that there is nothing wrong with branching out. It's what businesses do when they are able to. Think of it like this: If you opened a B&M store in Philadelphia, PA, would you never consider opening a store in Garden Grove, CA? If you did, and the Garden Grove, CA store was doing more business, would you automatically close the Philly store? Of course not. Different people shop in different places. On a smaller scale... let's say you open a store in the Westminster Mall (Westminster. CA), would you not consider opening a store in the Laguna Hills Mall (Laguna Beach, CA) because it is a competing mall? Or the nearby South Coast Plaza Mall? Hell No! You'd want your business in every possible place if you could manage it! THAT SAID... most 'casual sellers' cannot do multiple sites easily... especially if they are selling OOAK types of things... therefore they pick one, maybe two sites to sell on. The bottom line? Whatever you can manage without causing overdue stress on yourself... THAT is how many baskets you should spread your eggs in. I can manage two sites easily... 2 different 'malls' as it were. How funny is it that neither of the venues I sell at find anything wrong with a business owner running their own business by selling at another venue? One should never over-extend themselves (which is a mistake many have made, but most have learned from), but one should take advantage of everything (and every site) out there that works for them... to the degree that they are able.
7. SEO and SEM are crucial to YOU, not necessarily your venue. The days of sites doing YOUR advertising and promoting are fast coming to an end. Even when they say they are doing it, it doesn't mean it's for you... especially if they collect per sale from you. They are advertising THEIR business, catering to THEIR business bottom line... that you get something out of it is secondary (I don't mean that to sound like a diss to those sites who do SEO/SEM for their sites). Learn to do it yourself. It isn't hard... it doesn't take hours... it doesn't have to cost you a dime... Nobody has at much at stake in your business as you do... so no one is going to advertise your specific business like you would. Learn to do it yourself... even if your chosen site is doing it as well.

Gosh, I could go on and on... but I'll leave it at that for now... lol... and just say I absolutely agree with your post. Set YOUR goals for your product and your business. Do what works best for YOUR product and business as a whole. Research, learn, and execute what works best for YOUR product, business, and goals.

See the whole discussion:


Sunflower Ranch said...

Metzy!! Wow, what a fantastic article!! You really have clarified some thoughts I have had rolling around between my ears for quite some time. I think your explanation of targeting your audience and the "mall" discussion has so much valuable info! And the hard fact that if you sell on a site, they may or may NOT do any advertising for you. It's for them, for their business. I really need to use your ideas and give a close examination to my own practices and get on the stick to improve!! You have inspired me!! Thank you so much!!! :D

MetzyMom said...

Thank You!!! You're too kind!!!