Hit several landmarks today. In eBay: •Made the Top 5,000 Reviewers - funny, that makes the little icon thingie smaller. How about the top 000,000,005,000? •Got my new feedback "star". I am unsullied, at this point. No negatives.
From eBay: •Found a self-financing business strategy which I had posited MUST exist. Replies from the Universe can be swift and apposite. •Got some more eBooks with resale rights that actually appear resellable. Found others that showed me what NOT to do in terms of listing, re-branding, etc. •Met a crazy guy from the Netherlands that practically fell all over himself to oblige me, customer service-wise. See post below this one.
The biggest leap forward is the change in type and kind of attention I've been getting, both here and in other venues. At first, it was friends and family. Now it's those who are new to me, curious, a little wary and much more experienced in dealing with open online environments. Most of my online experience was in static domains, where I was a big fish in a small pond. Here, one needs to be more circumspect and definitely less arrogant than I am accustomed to. I may have a lot to be arrogant about, but myriads upon myriads here trump me!
Hmm, maybe the humility thing is the biggest leap. Nah, I'll tackle that tomorrow!
It's nice when you get more than you paid for. It's even better if you find an "aha" moment, and connect with someone. I was poking around eBay in the eBook category, and found a listing for 9 recipes for 1 cent. I duly made my purchase, only to find that the "eBook" was actually a list of links to the seller's Guides for recipes. I was a bit taken aback, then intrigued. This seller had just monetized his Guides. See my post below, "2007 - I'm ready".
After a bit of messaging back and forth, the seller gave me a 99 cent refund! That's 98 more penny eBooks I can buy! I also contacted eBay about the listing, wondering if it's okay to auction off your own Guide. The thought never occurred to me. I hope he PUTS THOSE GUIDES BACK UP, PRONTO! The Guides weren't any kind of violation.
It turns out the seller is a young guy in the Netherlands, who is addicted to eBay, generally buys and has a Chinese eBay store. I don't think he's Chinese - offering an eBay store in Chinese is free for a year! Plus, he's a bit NUTS! I like him a lot. Anybody who has an animated .GIF of Einstein can't be all bad!
If it turns out that auctioning off your own Guides is legitimate, I may have found a self-funding income stream. I just won't call them eBooks. That's neither here nor there, really.
The real value of this whole experience is the connection. The world really is flat.
Social networking is a form of "Social Proof". Unfamilar with the term? It's one of the six principles explained in "Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini. Many people with malign intent use the princples of persuasion to get at those who are vulnerable. In an open climate like Web 2.0, those who try to misuse persuasion can be exposed for what they are.
I've learned and field-tested all of the principles outlined here and can attest to the fact they work. I can also tell you that an insincere person will get less out of using them than one who is honest and forthright. The influences themselves may act in a covert way, but the motive of the influencer influences the influenced. You can't fool all of the people all of the time, especially in an open network where negative feedback spreads like wildfire.
What is truly important for anyone who intends to use their social networking efforts to promote a business, idea, point of view, etc., is to make sure your approach is congruent with these principles. If you stray from the key points, you may be undercutting your efforts.
Wasn't it Bernie Taupin who wrote (for Elton John) about Levon who called his kid Jesus, because he liked the name? Well, I like Richard Dawkins, because I like his brain. Check out this commentary on creationism, evolution violating the Second Law of Thermogoddamics and the age of the Earth being, roughly, 6,000 (six thousand) years.
When I jumped into eBay back in November, I really didn't know where it would lead me. Frankly, I never could have imagined it. The amount of information I have crammed into my head in such a short time amazes even myself. Despite a nagging feeling that I don't know what the hell I'm doing, there are outward and visible signs I'm doing SOMETHING right:
I've gotten that Top 10,000 Reviewer logo already. In fact, I'm currently number 5,901 - I jumped twice today! My new guide on making your own glass/hard surface cleaner got two votes almost immediately. If it was "monetized", it'd be a breakout seller! I've got an idea for a guide that'll put me in the Top 5,000, irrespective of new votes on the other guides. I'm learning how to hit different markets with each guide.
I'm getting some blogger.com attention outside of eBay - and I'm not just talking friends and family!
Many of the concepts, strategies, tools and tips I've absorbed are becoming less opaque. I think I'm reaching what Stuart Kauffman referred to as spontaneous order arising from sufficient complexity (see Stuart Kaufmann's AT HOME IN THE UNIVERSE for much more on the ideas of "order for free", self organized complexity and co-evolution).
Plus, I'm primed to exploit opportunities I had no idea even existed a month ago.
1. Squidoo is a social networking site. If you're familiar with MySpace, imagine it without the rowdy teenagers running amok. It's a focal point for your interests, pursuits, charitable work, pet peeves or whatever else you imagine. Each member can have as many focal points as one wishes, called lenses.
2. A lens is a focus on a given area - expertise, opinions, business, charity, etc. You can have as many lenses as you want (and have time to maintain). The lens itself is a jumping off place to websites, blogs, physical destinations, communities and so on. Here's an example: suppose you search on Google for information on a given subject. You get 2,000,000 possible links - but which ones are best? A Squidoo lens is pre-screened info on what you may be looking for. If it ain't there, maybe YOU need to fashion a lens and become the "inpert" (like an expert, but in one focus) on the subject.
3. Depends. Here are two contenders: a. If it's a first offense, with good behavior, you're out in 10 years. b. "The purpose of intelligent life is to shop!"
Spreading the wealth around can make the difference between ho-hum and WOW! For example, even though I'm new to eBay, I write Guides for members to read. So far, they deal with business basics. Far too many of the people I blog with over there are innocent of running a business with an eye to the bottom line.
By sharing what I know with that community, I get "helpfulness votes", positive or negative. I'm batting 1.000 - no negatives. Even though I have a small number of votes (the Guides are very new), that ratio puts me in the Top 10,000 Reviewers. 9933, to be exact.
Soon, eBay will put a little icon next to my ID, showing that I'm in the Top 10,000. They update such things "periodically".
I may eventually put together an eBook on running an eBay business with sound business practices and sell it. For now, giving away what I know gets me more than money: I've got credibility.
BTW, rumors that my sister's vote put me over the top are unconfirmed.
Many things in life are aggravating. In fact, one could argue that life itself is aggravating. However, for the purposes of this discussion, let's deal with aggravation as a cost of doing something. We'll measure it via AI = Aggravation Index:
VL = VERY LOW L = LOW M = MEDIUM H = HIGH VH = VERY HIGH
Here's an example: you find a Web site with thousands of free eBooks, titles only. Aggravation Index - VH. You'll have to download and parse each one to find out its value. Despite the fact they're free, many may be worse than useless - they'll be wrong, outdated or simply waste your time.
Here's another: you grow tomatoes in your garden, with all the work involved to make them excellent. AI = VL. You find the physical work relaxing, the chores are a time to reflect and enjoy being outdoors, the bugs and weeds are part of the process, and the result is delicious. Even if you never sell one for profit, you still get the full enjoyment of them for yourself and those who receive them. Sometimes, giving away your best is enjoyable.
The next time you think you've found a bargain, examine it for AI. You might find you've saved yourself some time, effort and, yes aggravation. Also, feel free to share your AI knowledge with others. I've actually rated myself as AI = M. I feel I have a Constitutionally protected right to annoy others, but not to excess.
While some people think eBay is nothing more than the biggest yard sale in the world, the truth is that no business is a "little" business. That mindset means that you don't think much of yourself, your customers or your reputation. If you have no previous retail experience, it's understandable that you might not believe that you are as important as the biggest retailers - but you are! For one thing, your customers are the same - they are people. These people have one thing in common: they are the most important people in the world, to themselves. They expect (and demand) to be treated as if they are the most important people in the world. In other words, "the untrammeled selfishness of the retail customer cannot be underestimated." It used to be true that being a "go-getter" was the most important mindset for a person who wanted to succeed in life. That's changed. The most important mindset is that of a "go-giver". The more you offer your customers in good value, help, freebies and good communication, the more you can expect return business. Fast replies to questions, reasonable return policies and generosity of spirit make you valuable to those who not only buy from you, but recommend you to others. Take the time to hunt around for information on retailing, managing a business, doing research, etc. Take a course or seminar on running a small business. Talk to business owners about their business (especially if you frequent thrift shops, flea markets, consignment stores and the like). Find out what the day to day concerns of face-to-face business owners are, because they'll often be the same for you. Perhaps you might take a step back and ask yourself, "What am I trying to accomplish?" Most of the things we do are means to an end. What are your end values? Mine are Harmony, Trust and Fulfillment. Struggling to find out what, in the end, is most important to you is a worthwhile struggle. The end result will inform you as to the best way to use eBay to reach your end values.
While you, yourself, may not be in the same boat I am, there are new people coming to eBay every day that have little or no resources to start up their business. And, yes, it is a business. Even if you only intend to peddle one or two items from your attic, the more businesslike you are in how you do it matters. For one thing, those who might buy from you expect you to be as professional as the biggest online stores. I suggest you hunt around and find every free resource you can get your hands on. I already have a dozen free eBooks on marketing, managing auctions, finding merchandise, planning and research. Plus, every tutorial I've taken at eBay University has helped fix in my mind what I need to know about the various steps I have to take to become fluent in "eBay". Spread the word that you're on eBay, especially if you've taken the plunge and sold something. In one day, I had three different people ask me about helping them sell something they have, but have no idea how to "do eBay". Use your common sense: one person had a car he wanted to unload and have the buyer take over his payments. I don't know cars well enough to tell if it's worth taking, much less how to structure an auction that would work! Also, NEVER assume that what someone tells you about the value of the item they may want to sell is anything more than wishful thinking. They may think it's the same thing they saw on Antiques Roadshow, but do a little digging. Compare the exact item (if you can) with recent closed auctions, paying careful attention to what it sold for, how many bidders there were and how many other similar items are currently available. Trying to push an item into an overcrowded market when you're new to the game is a recipe for failure. As for finding wholesale merchandise to sell, you can bet there are plenty of offers here to tempt you into parting with your hard-earned dollars to get EXCLUSIVE SECRET EXPLOSIVE access to wholesalers. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Even if it has a 100% money back guarantee, you can't get back the time you wasted finding out it ain't for you. Hunt around for Certified eBay Solution Providers. I have some wholesale experience in my past, and know how wholesalers like to work. They like dealing with people who are prepared: they have a tax ID, they pay up front (pro-forma) and/or apply for a business account where you pay after you receive the goods (net 30 = you pay for merchandise and shipping within 30 days of receipt). Dropshipping can be very convenient, but in most cases you'll pay more for merchandise than if you bought it in a wholesale lot, stored and shipped it yourself. The exception is when you find a manufacturer who will drop ship for you directly from the factory. It may take some serious hunting around, but finding one can transform you overnight into a steady business. This presumes you have people who want to buy and buy again - there really isn't a big market for repeat sales in coffins! You must understand the concept of due diligence. It means you do your homework, proceed cautiously and take nothing for granted. If you decide to go with a dropshipper you have no previous experience with, list one or two items, wait to see how the customer reacts to the sale before you roll out with 150 listings in a brand new store. Imagine the negative feedback you might get from buyers who are either not shipped or who are shipped a defective product. You don't need a "dropshipper" who ships slowly, can't be reached on the phone or by email if there's a problem and tacks on "hidden" fees you never agreed to. This brings me to a very important point: when in doubt, DON'T. Don't open a store because you kinda sorta think you should. Fees for selling in a store can break you if you aren't prepared for them. For example, eBay gets 10% of your final selling price in a store, rather than the 5.25% for a simple auction listing. Then there's the monthly fee for keeping it, etc. NEVER spend an extra cent you cannot justify to your mother-in-law! "When in doubt, don't" also means avoid doing anything that even hints of evading the rules and regulations. Why go to the trouble of setting yourself up in business, only to get kicked out for playing fast and loose with the rules? This goes for collecting sales taxes, keeping good records and paying your income tax. Can you say, "IRS audit"? Sure you can! You just don't want to!
I'd appreciate your opinions, ideas and ways to improve this guide.
Regards, Vince P.S. Drop by and vote for this Guide on eBay.
Greetings, After struggling for a while in a 1.0 Web world, I've pushed myself to create a Web 2.0 life. I'm currently on eBay as vincerunza53 (not a total newb, but still suffering from information overload). You are, most likely, friends, family and/or eBayer. In the near future, I'll be expanding into more markets (there, I've said it - I'm in marketing for myself), and will be looking for opportunities to create a vast empire that will rule the world...oh, wait, my sister's got that covered. She just got a job at Google, working the hardware end of things. I'll just stick to marketing. :P