"Get the Customer, Not Just the Sale..."

By Steve Nye, eBay Certified Consultant and Research Education Specialist

You're probably working too hard. Once a listing closes on eBay, you move on to the next one, right? For most eBay sellers, once they make a sale and send off the product, they don't think about that sale again.

If so, they're cheating themselves. Don't view a sale as a transaction. See it as the beginning of a relationship with a customer. If you sell to a niche audience, this is especially true.

Let's say your niche is selling golf-related products. If you sell a set of golf clubs, what can you do to make a new customer, not just a sale?

The Gold Is In the List

An old marketing saying is, "The gold is in the list." What they mean is your customer list. Each time you sell a product, keep track of who bought and what they bought. If you sell a few different types of products, you may want to keep a separate list for each product category.

You are allowed by law to contact your customers after the sale. Typically, you can email or phone them within 90 days of the last contact. What that means is that as long as you contact your eBay buyers every few months, you can continue to contact them.

Back to our example. Let's say you sell a set of golf clubs to a customer today. It's probably safe to say they'll need golf balls. They may need a golf towel, shoes, and a glove as well. This is one more advantage of marketing to a niche, rather than selling all kinds of products. You don't just make a sale, you get a new customer.

It gets better. One biggest complaints we hear is the rising price of eBay listing fees. It can really cut into your profits. But if you sell your products on a traditional Web site in addition to selling on eBay, how much will you spend in eBay listing fees when you invite them to buy on your Web site?

Of course, you won't pay eBay any fees whatsoever when a customer you found through an eBay auction buys on your Web site - all the more profit you get to keep.

Keeping In Touch

So how do you make it easy to stay in touch with your eBay buyers? I use a service called Aweber (www.aweber.com). It's a convenient service that makes it easy to create different groups that you send emails out to.

You can create a different group for each product you sell. You use their service to send out emails announcing sales you might be running or products you might have recently listed on eBay. The system even makes it easy for people to unsubscribe if they choose not to receive any more emails. That way, you can never be accused of email spam.

Marketing Advantage

People buy from those they know. Think about it. How many places do you buy groceries? I only buy from one. Do you rent movies from more than one place? From how many places do you order pizza? You get the idea.

We're creatures of habit. Once I find a barber I'm really happy with, I stick with them. I don't spend a lot of time comparing prices. I just know I get a good haircut, so I keep coming back.

Provide great service to those you sell to on eBay. Don't just deliver on time and meet their basic expectations. Go the extra mile. How do I mean? Let's go back to our earlier example.

When someone buys a set of golf clubs, give them something extra. Maybe throw in a pack of golf tees, along with a note telling them it's a free thank-you for their business. Make an impression.

Seth Godin, author of "The Purple Cow" and "Permission Marketing" calls this a "free prize." Recently, I've been reading his marketing book entitled "Free Prize Inside." Seth points out that to make an impression in the mind of your customer, all you have to do is just a little extra, a little more than they expect, a little more than they paid for.

How much does a pack of tees cost? A couple dollars. Compare that with the price of a set of golf clubs, which can easily run in the hundreds of dollars. The tees don't cut into your profit much, but what may the ultimate result be?

You've just made an impression. Your customer is more likely to buy from you. But more importantly, they are more likely to spread the word about your service.

Reciprocity

Did you ever wonder why as you wander around your local grocery store, you often see someone passing out free samples of food? I used to think it was to get me to try something new. If I liked it, I'd buy.

That's only half the story. Robert B. Cialdini, in his well-known book "Influence: The Science of Persuasion," points out a powerful marketing principle... "reciprocity." He illustrates how when someone gives us something, we have a natural urge to want to reciprocate... to give back.

He gives powerful examples of how reciprocity is used to get something from someone they otherwise would not be eager to do. He gives the example of the Hare Krishna Society, which in the past solicited money at airports.

He tells a story of how one of their members one day shoved a flower in his hand, a "gift." Once he was holding the gift, they would not accept it back. They would then ask if he would like to make a donation to their cause. Note that they didn't ask if he wanted to pay for the flower.

Mr. Cialdini describes the obligation he felt to give something back, even though he didn't want the gift forced upon him. He ended up giving them a few dollars... money he wouldn't have considered giving before being offered his "gift."

He tossed the flower in the nearest trash can, where many others had been discarded as well. As an interesting side note, he mentioned that he saw members of the group collecting up the flowers to use again.

The Hare Krishnas knew the flowers were not wanted in most cases. They also knew the power of reciprocity. They got more by giving, even when the recipient didn't want or welcome the gift offered.

Long-Term Success vs. Short-Term Gains

Many businesses don't expect to make a cent on an initial purchase. Sound absurd? Not really. They just realize that with an ongoing plan to re-sell and up-sell to existing customers, they will make a lot more from a long-term relationship than they ever can by viewing each customer as a one-time "sale."

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