4/17/2008

My education in eBay continues - through the world of hard online millionaire knocks

If you thought an online millionaire course in training people on eBay was going to be easy, guess again.

Ah, the hard slogging work of getting eBay feedback up through buying things...

I was up late doing the convoluted dance of buying the remaining cheap digital downloads through eBay - did you know it takes about 6 different screens to buy each item? And even then, you have to wait until that buyer contact you some how with the download link.

Increased my feedback by 6 overnight, just in the buying process. I'll now finish off buying from the rest of the non-duplicative sellers (and non-duplicative products - hopefully), then pile in on leaving them all positive feedback. You know, karma and Golden Rule and all that.

Now, a tip: when/if you do this, keep track of three things on a sheet of paper (or notepad if you like to type) - seller ID, product name, eBay item number. Reason being is that people's email doesn't align to their eBay seller name - but they'll often refer to the product you bought or the item number (eBay always has the item number in every email they send you). This way you can avoid losing track of what you've bought and who you bought from.

Because they can only give you feedback once. You need to buy one extremely low-cost item each from many, many different sellers.

Just bought a chicken wings recipe book with complete resell rights - and the sales page said it was in the public domain... Gotta love eBay.

Was listening to an interview with Socrates Socratous - who has made his living selling digital books and information products. He advises not selling these to other resellers, but selling them to people who really want and need the data. Makes sense - do some research on eBay information products as to average price and you'll see that this market is really polluted with nonsense.

Another approach is to sell the actual item (CD/book/combo) as these actually tend to sell better than the downloads. Also, you can give away the download as a bonus (after you've listed it on Lulu.com and can tell people what it's value is) when they buy your product - just send the link to them.

But your ebook sales depends on what keywords you use in the title. Nobody searches for "WOW!!!", for instance. Buyers search and buy, shoppers look and look. Keywords that attract shoppers' attention will turn off buyers. The great thing about eBay is that it makes it much easier for buyers to buy.

Well, I've now bought the prescribed number of things to get my feedback up above 50. Now, I have to send all this feedback and get it all in (plus drop all these downloads with resell-rights into my hard-drive). And I managed to stay below $5 for each purchase. Let's see - started off with about 19 and needed 31 - so I've spent maybe $50 or so getting these. Maybe you can't buy happiness, but you can buy feedback -- cheap!

If any of these don't come through, I'll look for a few more I can buy cheap and wrap it up.

Notes from Tim Knox webinar: eBay Multiple Streams of Internet Income (Mar. 26, 2008)

(my comments in italics)

(this webinar problematic unless you have very dependable broadband - I'm trying to watch this over satellite in a rainstorm. It's about an hour long - unless you have to restart it often...)

(Tim) started with a $7 ebook and built into multi-million income in about 3 years.

After 11 years, laid off with no severance package - wife, new baby, new house, new car. Went to flat broke, sleeping on his mother's couch.

These days - no such thing as job security. Single stream of income is like keeping all your eggs in basket - wind up with a basket full of broken eggs.

Diversification, automation. Multiple streams of income on a semi-automated basis.

Best time to start a business is now - due to Internet.

Work once - get paid many times.

Roadmap:

1st income stream - ebay
- easy to start, up in an hour
- open eBay store quickly as a web presence
- promote yourself with About Me page: funnel traffic from eBay to other websites
- Internet is in runaway expansion mode; lots of buyers online, Billons of goods sold yearly.
- eBay ready-made pool of potential clients

Sell what sells
- don't follow the herd
- don't sell "hot items" people who made money on iPods sold accessories
- don't invest big money until you know you have a product that will sell (test market first and drop ship)

(When you are selling for a drop-shipper, you are actually being an affiliate - you name the margin you want to sell it for. Consignments are the same arrangements. You are a independent/freelance salesperson. When you buy lots of wholesale goods and ship them yourself, this is still the same framework. When you rent your own warehouse, then you are doing the same functions, just with a different title. Manufacturing the stuff yourself is only slightly different - but you still have to sell that product, or attract affiliates/freelance salespeople to do so.)

Start off with selling everything you don't need or use around the house. This gives you experience in writing titles, copy, photos, etc.
- you can also go to storage unit auctions/sales
- flea markets, thrift stores, consignment sales (even RV's), closeouts, bargain basement...

2nd income stream - start your own Ebay store (doesn't cover this much - diverges into info products, which he later elevates to its own income stream)

Informational products (see yesterday's post)
- can be about mostly anything.
- charge more for the hardcopy (these also sell better).
- add audio/video with it, and you can get over $200 for it. (Link to your About Me page and they go right to your download site. Meanwhile, sell dropship CD's/DVD's on ebay.)
- can be easily automated, just send the emails over to the fulfillment company. (And meanwhile, get them to subscribe to your mail-list for additional bonuses...)
- high profit margins (don't get stuck in selling resell rights to resellers for .99 each - go upscale with CDs/books/packages, and then bring them back to your website to buy downloads for much higher - $47, $67, etc. Your overhead is the same, essentially zip.)

You can hire writers to write for you.
- elance.com, etc. (caveat - get writers who know what they're doing, some have good credentials and good feedback, but no clue whether what they write is correct.)
- when you become an author, your credibility goes up, more people are likely to buy from you
- use ebooks to supplement your regular product line (example: "teaching dogs tricks" book for a pet-toy store)

3rd income stream - Joint Ventures
- partnership between two parties to promote a product and share in profit.
- fastest way to build your list
- turning point to his business was JV
sequence:
  1. find successful sellers
  2. approach them with your idea, and send them a free copy
  3. should be complementary to what they are selling already
  4. seal the deal (do your homework in this area)
4th income stream - Affiliate Marketing
- sign up to sell others products, or sign others up to sell your product
- register as an affiliate, sell the product, collect a commission (see above)
- you don't need your own product or your own website to sell as an affiliate
- you can sign up others to see for you, paying commissions as high as 75% (sales you wouldn't have otherwise - money in both your pockets, but you keep the new clients on your list)

5th income stream - Build your own website
- funnel buyers/shoppers from eBay to your site
- can build simply with templates, etc.
- add on ecommerce, etc.
- (caveat - don't use a free site. Best I've found is getting a cpanel-powered web-provider)

6th income stream - Turnkey website
- get these already set up with products, etc.
- don't get a middleman from the dropshipper

Variations on this - he mentions briefly a membership website. This would be another income stream all on its own, but you'd have to have a web-provider, etc.

Income streams:
- eBay: direct sales
- eBay store
- Info products (auctioned or through store or both)
- Joint Ventures
- Affiliate Marketing (for someone else or others for you)
- Own website
-Turnkey website

- - - -

Let's reconstruct this:
First - start on eBay and get your grounding in online sales, delivery, customer relations. Study everything you can, including peoples' websites. Take some courses in this if you can - where they actually give assignments, not just send you emails.
Second - Set up an eBay store and run your business from there. eBay will actually send customers your way, again this is a gradient approach
- you can use joint ventures here
Third - Write or commission some info products and put them on your eBay store and auction them. Goes on your eBay store.
Fourth - Expand your sales expertise by becoming an affiliate. Study up on online promotion, SEO, and social media promotion.
Fifth - Get your own website
- Can be turnkey from someone else
- Or build your own with ecommerce engine, etc.
- Add in affiliate sales (others selling for you)
- Joint Ventures
- Subscription site - sell memberships

My review of Tim Knox:

All of this stuff works. He speaks sooth. Only really misses one point, that he actually refers to through out but never specifically takes up - which I include below.

This webinar is good data, and he gives tons of his products you can buy at the end. (Which is what webinars are for - they are online infomercials, afterall.)

The overall theme is that you have several different income sources so that if one tanks, you aren't left holding an empty bag (as most jobs are).

The approach to start off with eBay is a good one, since your success here will lay the foundation for your later success. If you don't do well, then you aren't out a great deal.

If you already know a bit about website-building, then just get your own site up and running, then start funneling traffic from eBay over there. Get a good hosting provider which can handle the high demands or can scale.

Once you have your website with a good e-commerce engine, set it up for affiliate sales. Add in joint ventures. (Note: you can actually set up affiliate sales with nothing more than a few sales pages and thank-you pages where affiliates can send you buyers.)

Tim's missing point: at some juncture, you are going to have to get an autoresponder service. This is how you upsell, cross-sell, and continue to sell earlier buyers/clients you have had. You really want every person you sell to to opt-in to your mail list. Every auction you get has emails coming to you. Give them the option of becoming part of your mail list (give them a bonus ebook or other ethical bribe). Then you can sell them over and over. Build a big list and then you have the capability to announce new products to that list. And is how you can have an "instant" bestseller on Amazon - tell everyone you know and JV that product with other people to their mail-lists. (That bestseller then generates more traffic for your other products.)

Summary advice - what I've learned over the past few years

To someone just starting out: find people who have actually made their own success at what they are writing or talking about. I recently heard of a person who had actually gone bankrupt as a PowerSeller on eBay and was now pitching an expensive course on how to become a PowerSeller (!). Look up their track record, not just the "glowing testimonials" and the sales spiel.

Get a coaching program that makes you actually work at this. Maybe you could do two or three - if they each increase your income, and more than pay for themselves, you can take as many as you have time for. Pick out programs which provide the structure you need. If you need to attend someone's intensive boot-camp, then so be it.

Study up on everything you need, ask questions, look for real-world examples.

Learn to look beyond the hype. Once you understand how sales pages are constructed, you can get easily through the silliness that goes for most sales pages. Learn the scams that are going around and how to avoid them. All the free bonuses in the world doesn't mean you need to buy that product. (Even if they all have resell rights - not so good if you can't resell them for more than $.99).

Change your world-view to become an entrepreneur - not an employee. Those are the people earning the big bucks these days - self starters. Surround yourself with effective examples and inspirational books, MP3's, videos, etc. Read biographies of people who have started out with less than you have now - keep their examples in mind as you go through life. Quit watching TV and listening to radio, reading newspapers. Get your news through the Internet, and keep it brief. Use an RSS reader to give you synopses. You can't waste time, since it doesn't come back to you.

Do tons of research, constantly. Know before you go. Look before you leap. The only constant that stays the same is change. Check your results as next week, they might not be the same.

When you sell - sell only to niches. Find the demand not being serviced. Expand your niches and take on more niches and/or broaden the ones you're already in.

Convert every first buyer into a lifetime buyer.

Automate every part of your business you can. Hire people to save you time as you need them.

Shoppers look for bargains - buyers are willing to pay any "reasonable" price (reasonable to their own idea of its value to them.)

- - - -

More applications in marketing into/through social media

I've covered earlier (and these posts started this current eBay research) about how you can promote through social media, but can't market there.

The point, as many have discussed, is to start or take over a conversation. You really can make a big mistake here with ClueTrain when you say that marketing is a conversation, so just start conversations and then you've marketed. No. Marketing conversations include the exchange of goods. Social conversations establish you as an authority, and then people want to hear more about your view of things and so will look you up. So all your social promotions need to have active links which come back to you and your products.

But the site itself carries the heavy lifting. It has to convert visitors to shoppers to buyers. And social media fails as marketing as the majority of the traffic is visitors - they aren't even up to shopping. They mostly are even below taking the bait of free downloads/bonuses. They are there for the experience.

And here's where eBay as a social community comes in. It's full of buyers more than shoppers. It's built to do the heavy lifting, since every single item has a built in urgency to buy now.

Most web sites (and I'd include most item descriptions on eBay) couldn't lift a feather with a strong wind under it. Those people never learned the basics of copywriting, headlines, keywords, titles, images - nearly anything connected to a web page. When you get into marketing, your result has to be intended from the outset - you are going to wind up exchanging your valuable good for something of theirs, usually money in some denomination.

Social media has conversations which are intensely enjoyable - but that is the end product for most of these: an enjoyable experience. So these conversations are not marketing, at best they are promotion, but mostly they are either educational or entertainment. Education always has some sort of agenda - and so is a form of promotion. The best entertainment has a story behind it, and people use these to evaluate and improve their lives - so entertainment is promotion.

Social media promotions don't equal marketing. Marketing can promote through social media to get traffic, but the result is traffic, not sales or subscriptions (potential leads).

eBay is a premier social network for marketing, since every sale is a classic reverse-funnel - you only get their email after they buy something from you. And so, this is reasonably the best introduction to online marketing, online sales, and the springboard to financial independence.

And all social media isn't equal. eBay could "almost" be considered social media, except for the common ideas (and reputation) surrounding it. It rather falls into the more formal "community" aspect instead of the wide-open cowboy-scene we have in MySpace and some of the others. Just talking about structure as the chief difference between earlier social communities and today's social media.

Creating your "aura" of authentic credibility through social media and comment marketing

Social media promotion is almost too easy. It follows fads even more closely than Google could ever (which explains why Google follows social media so much).

  1. Go to popurls and find out what is going up on the world. Digg is another relatively painless way to find out what is considered "hot". Google trends and Yahoo's version of this - not so much. (They're simply too dinosaurian - can't move that fast.)
  2. Pick a subject area you are interested in (preferably something you know about or are interested in enough to research).
  3. Find blogs talking about this and start leaving comments which forward that conversation. Make darned sure that your web address (or several) is hotlinked (and not your email address). Preferably use Search Status plug-in to find blogs which don't use no-follow links. (Get your link love where you can - but this isn't essential.)
  4. Make sure whatever is at your web address is representative of what you represent and every single link is monetized, either through affiliate sales or direct sales through your own ecommerce efforts.
If you do this well, people think you know what you are talking about and will want more from you. They come to your web address and you convert them to buyers.

Yes, this is simply comment marketing. Something that's been done on forums for years and before that the BBSes (yes, I'm that old).

Social media just adds a great deal wider variety of formats - such as pictures, slideshows, video, podcasts, etc. So you want to link to and use a great deal of these-type media in your posts.

This is marketing, because you are using social media intentionally to bring traffic to your web address which then converts them to buyers. Your intention is to get sales of your products from the get-go. You are creating a market.

Simply participating in the discussion isn't necessarily marketing - or even promotion. Only when that discussion leads to a sale or a future sale (ie - name on a mail list) is it marketing. Marketing has definite metrics - sitting around talking in a coffee shop only results in sales of coffee, muffins, and bathroom supplies. But you aren't selling coffee or any of that - so you're getting no return on the time you just invested.

That's the difference in marketing conversations and social media conversations.

- - - -

And tomorrow I start my 20 hours of day job. Usually too tired to do much after that (slogging heavy boxes and rugs around in someone else's warehouse isn't all that much fun).

Rest of tonight will probably be in listing my old books on Half.com - again, so that I could essentially raise my feedback without having the hassle of setting up auctions.

Most of the research on eBay itself is now done. The Tim Knox interview above really tied everything into a package. My own notes on HammerTap over the past few days show the advanced (and only profitable) way to go with this.

Next Tuesday is my first coaching session. Should be interesting.
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