Monday, May 19, 2014

eBay store about to bust at the seams! Consignment offers opportunities...

by Robert Leavitt

Greetings fellow workaholics!  I am back in full swing on eBay and my store is about to burst at the seams!  I am very close to reaching my max list limit (which is around 600 items) for the month.  I have never actually reached it so I'm not sure what happens then. I know just as I get close to maxing it out, eBay raises my limit, so from experience I can deduce that will happen once again.

I opened a "consignment" shop of sorts.  It's just a few friends and family that have me listing stuff for them under my account.  There are advantages to doing this as I have established a history of sales within the eBay community and I have managed to maintain my 100% feedback rating. (Knock on wood!)

The feedback rating is huge, not only does it drive people to your listing, it also will allow you to charge a premium for your items.  You can compete on price on certain things, especially used items, however if you are listing new in box items for sale, you are going to find that competing with "top-rated-plus" sellers is a very difficult task.  They pay the monthly fees to have an eBay store and they also receive discounts on the final listings and are able to undercut you.  Even if you have the same supplier and shipping costs.

eBay is addictive, it really is, both as a buyer and a seller.  If you plan to sell on eBay, start as a buyer (buy things you need for your business, like tape, bubble wrap, tape guns, boxes, etc...) and learn how the process works first.  The best thing is that you get ratings for being a buyer.  If you have 10 buying transactions and 3 selling transactions you will have a rating of 13 total transactions.  The buyers can see this in the "detailed seller ratings" but many don't know that they are combined, and what they don't know can benefit YOU!

I did say earlier in this post that I have a store, which is a stretch of the truth.  I haven't not actually upgraded to a real "Store" yet because of the fees.  I will shortly if things maintain this pace, but for now I will keep it the same.  I have read that it is a mistake to upgrade to early, and I can see that for certain.  If you are only selling a few hundred dollars per month on eBay, a store is not necessary and is in fact a waste of your hard earned money!

The consignment process is easy in principle.  It is however a challenge to maintain your inventory (keep it separate, ideally with a catalog system of some sort allowing you to put item numbers on everything so you can remember who things belong to!).  But at the very minimum at least keep your groups of boxes separate from each other.  I have yet to find an "vendor Item number" in eBay but I'm sure that one exists. I plan to find an inventory solution, perhaps built into a management platform.  I will keep you posted on this and let you know should I decide to use one.  I'm looking for something that has inventory features and will allow me to "dump" the product to amazon, eBay and a shopping cart all at once.  Maybe that's too much to ask!

I will keep you updated on my eBay progress.  I really want to write an eBay eBook but I have yet to find the time.  It really is a big project that requires a lot of thought and preparation.  There are 1000's out there, but the demand is high.  Everyone wants to do this, but not everyone can.  It is intimidating and unlike other mistakes on a computer that can often be fixed, mistakes on eBay can often mean "losing money" which is a burden few people can bear.

You can learn more about Robert Leavitt on his Google Plus page.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Niche Marketing, The Market Samurai and Keyword Research

by Robert Leavitt

Establishing if Niche Marketing is right for you:

So you want to learn about keyword research and niche marketing?  The market samurai provides a powerful too to be able to research keywords easily.  Remember you can do this for free with Google's Keyword Planner, but it's cumbersome to use and in recent years they have made it much more difficult.  This is why programs like Market Samurai and Long Tail Pro are SO useful.  Some argue that keyword research is the most important step when planning a niche site.  Some also fail to tell you that keyword research is important to planning every single post!
Niche Marketing
Niche Marketing

The first step is to sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil.  It's time to brainstorm.  You want to make 2 columns, the first labeled "strengths" and the second labeled   "flaws".   You should try to come up with 10 things for each side of the list.  It is important to be brutally honest with yourself here.  If you try and "stretch" the truth, you are really only lying to yourself.

Next gather a handful of close friends.  One of them can be your wife or significant other and have them repeat the same exercise, except instead of writing about themselves they are going to do a "strengths" and "weakness" column also evaluating you!

Now you can do this last part one on one, or in a group.  Group takes less time and is usually more productive. Take turns comparing your results with the results of the people who know you well..  Are you lying to yourself?  This exercise will also help you determine how well you can accept constructive criticism.  Are people around you not understanding where your head is?  There are no right answers to this and it's not a test, it's just an exercise to help  you evaluate your current position in life, and whether a "work-at-home-Dad" environment is the right thing for you.  If you find your answers contradict the goals you are hoping for, it may be necessary to work outside of the house.  Not everyone is suited for this, otherwise, everyone would be doing it!

After you have written down your strengths and weaknesses go ahead and make a "passions" column.  You can then write down the things you are passionate about.  Have you ever thought "I really love golf clubs, and I know a lot about them.  I should make a website about golf clubs!"  This is the time to write down these ideas.  Though what I am about to share with you probably will go against everything you have ever learned from a "guru" or "self-help program or speaker".

When it comes to niche marketing, your ideas are not important unless you are planned to shell out a lot of money for aggressive marketing campaigns.  Let's face it, if you had the kind of money to establish a completely new product, you probably wouldn't be reading my "don't punch a clock" blog.  You would be busy running your empire.

The Market Samurai

This is really hard to digest, because it doesn't seem to make sense at first.  Let me try to clarify.  When you have an idea, even if its a unique idea that is 100% original and your are certain that you can get it out in the hands of the public that it will change the world and I tell you "it doesn't matter what your idea is because it's all about the 4 golden rules" you may throw your hands up and walk away from me in disgust.

Market Samurai
Market Samurai

I am telling you right now, that I very rarely ever pursue an idea first.  I do it the other way around.  I find the keywords that already meet 3 of the 4 golden rules, then I add content that is relevant to those specific keywords. You will need a tool like Market Samurai to do this, They have a trial period and you will not only have access to the program but you will also gain access to the "dojo" which is the learning center.  The keyword research section of the program will always be free, but if you want access to the other tools the market samurai provides, then you will have to pay for it.

The dojo will teach you the 4 golden rules and the reasons why niche marketers fail.

The four golden rules of keyword research are:
  • Relevance
  • Traffic
  • Competition
  • Commerciality
If you have an idea but it doesn't fit these 4 rules, it will fail on the internet.  That "if you build it they will come" attitude is completely wrong on the internet.  In fact seldom do I have ideas that I want to test on the internet.  Instead I use the Market Samurai to identify terms that people are ALREADY searching for. I then make sure it is relevant to what I am trying to promote (or I just gear my content to BE relevant to a specific keyword), it has acceptable levels of competition, and lastly that the keyword is "commercially viable".  If your keyword is "don't buy anything on the internet" and you have 10,000 unique visitors a day. It's going to be hard to make any money with that keyword.  You have to really pay attention to that rule.  They will give you dozens of other examples and what to look for.

The Market Samurai, and the dojo, completely changed the way I approach niche marketing.  The best thing is not only does the tool work, but they offer the dojo and education center 100% free.  If you pay close attention to what these gentlemen are saying and do your research accordingly, success will follow.  I was skeptical at first, but I did my research carefully and gave it a shot.  I also didn't let myself get in the way.  I can be very defeatist and throw in the towel early.  This time I did not do that. I kept pushing and pushing, and trying out things until I found a system that does work!

You will need a Google adWords account to use Market Samurai.  Even if you don't have a website yet, you can make an adWords account.  It is vital to your keyword research and it's also the way you would launch a "paid advertising" campaign on google.

Please comment and let me know how this tool is working for you.  I will respond to questions and comments and help as best I can.  Stay tuned for the next section and what to do after you pick keywords.  Don't be in a hurry though, the keyword selection process is the most important step in this whole process.  Really take your time to understand the keywords, how they relate to the four golden rules and what your target market is.  Think hard and long before you make this decision.  It can make or break you.

You can learn more about Robert Leavitt on his Google Plus page.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Plants, eBay and Returns!

by Robert Leavitt

As you probably already know I sell on eBay.  It's my main source of income and I have sold everything from nick-knacks to rare LP albums on vinyl.  I can say for certain that eBay is an ADVENTURE!  Lately I've been following my sisters lead and I got into the wonderful world of plants.  I mostly sell seed online, but I also do ship real live plants.

Shipping plants is difficult at best.  I have had some luck with it, but it's not an easy task.  I usually ship things bare root, but lately I have been nervous about my tender seedlings arriving alive, so I have been wrapping up the entire starter pot with plastic wrap. It costs more to ship this way, however my customers have seemed pleased to have it arrive in soil.  (You can try to explain that bare-root is OK, but it's a HARD sell to someone who is buying plants at a retail level).

If you are planning to sell plants online, I highly suggest that you do some research first.  It's hard to do and it requires a good deal of knowledge.  I never offer refunds, however I have refunded people anyway because of the USPS damaging the plant.

You really have to weigh your cost and look at it carefully.  Most people can come up with plants the "inexpensive" way which is to grow them, but you have to look at containers, potting mixes, water cost, heat if you have to heat the area (like a greenhouse) and packaging and shipping.  This doesn't even count your time.  You have to "run a tight ship" to make money doing this.

Let me know what you think!

You can learn more about Robert Leavitt on his Google Plus page.