When Max and I were already making a decent income on eBay, we shared all of our knowledge and experience with two of our friends – 2 months later, they gave up and never got back on eBay again. The mistakes they made are very common for new businesses on eBay, only a few overcome them and manage to build a successful and profitable eBay business.
This post is dedicated to the most common mistakes that kill eBay businesses in their first steps.
Sacrificing reputation for immediate profit
During my first days on eBay, I was making a whooping $700 profit a day! Selling counterfeit hair straighteners from a Chinese drop shipper…
I was super excited (this was huge money for a broke student), but negative effects were soon to follow – Customers began leaving furious (justified) feedback and eBay suspended my account.
The lesson was learned the hard way – Reputation is the single most important asset an online (or any) business can have.
I was effectively sacrificing the future of my newly launched eBay business for some immediate profit.
After weeks of document faxing, emailing, customer support and refunds – I was back on eBay with a reinstated account, and a critical lesson learned: Reputation Is an asset you build slowly and destroy fast. If I want to build a sustainable business – There must be no shortcuts! No “immediate profit”. And no, I don’t believe the self proclaimed eBay experts who promise to teach you how to make gazillion dollars from your bedroom – it’s bullshit. Building a sustainable and reputable business is a lot of heart, sweat and tears. No shortcuts, no quick “financial freedom”!
The friends I mentioned earlier – they simply gave up with the first sign of struggle.
Their eBay account was put under inspection, and they were required to provide documentation and proof of owning the products they were selling etc… They just decided it’s too much of an effort and gave up.
From my perspective, it’s a natural selection – Running your own business is hard. Very hard. If you give up with the first sign of trouble, you aren’t made of what it takes to constantly deal with unexpected changes.
Yeah, eBay can make it tough on you – making unfair decisions against you, in favor of customers who rip you off, but that is the price of doing business online! And it keeps the businesses not made up of the right material away from eBay. But nobody is going to target you personally, just keep on providing great value for your customers and you will succeed – focus on the positive side of your business. As Alan Gilson says (Selling on eBay since 2002) : “Life will throw lemons at you – but it’s how you respond to it that makes the difference.”
Not thinking about your competitive advantage
Most new sellers claim “If i don’t have the lowest price, I don’t stand a chance to sell on eBay”.
This is critical mistake. Do you ALWAYS buy everything at the cheapest price? Of course not!
There are more than 125 million buyers on eBay, not everybody are 100% dollar driven!
Some are looking for the fastest shipper – they need their item asap!
Others carefully read through the feedback to make sure they are buying from a fair, reputable business who will take care of them if anything goes wrong with the transaction or product.
Unless you are huge, and I mean Walmart / Amazon / Best buy huge – Price is a very bad competitive advantage, it gets very hard to sustain over time (unless you’re the manufacturer).
There is a lot of noise in the world – if you want people to hear and remember you, be laser focused with your message and competitive advantage, I wrote about the importance of focus here.
Think hard about it and pick one and only competitive advantage. For us, it was customer support – We preferred to lose money in order to keep the customers happy. In the long run, it helped us build a profitable and successful eBay business.
Neglecting value creation
What is the value you create for your customers?
Why should your customers prefer you on account of your competitors?
If you sell stuff on eBay that you order from Amazon – you don’t create value for your customers! The customer can as easily go to Amazon and buy the product directly.
As opposed to this – If you do the same with a dropship supplier / manufacturer from India for example, you do create value!
You invest a lot of time in creating a professional listing for the product, describing it in proper English etc…
Then you take full responsibility for the customer support and shipping.
This is not something an Indian supplier can do on their own. And you deserve your business by investing your time and creativity in presenting the product in an appealing and easy to understand way!
Most new eBay businesses who don’t create value for customers will be out of business by the end of their first year. It’s simply an unsustainable form of business.
Trying to circumvent eBay polices
It’s possible to fool eBay for a short time if they suspend your account – you can open a new one under a new identity and a new computer, but in the long run – this is actually shooting yourself in the foot.
I’ve heard too many horror stories about big eBay accounts that were suddenly suspended after a year or two because they didn’t deal correctly with issues on eBay during their initial stages and just ditched the problematic account – which continued to haunt them and got them eventually.
This is actually true about every aspect of personal and business life – it’s better to deal with problems there and then, than to just wipe them under the carpet and wait for them to fix themselves – believe me, it will always come back to bite you in the ass.
That’s it for this week!
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments.