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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

3 tips for nurturing a successful eBay business

Making your business a star on eBay takes

Making your business a star on eBay takes persistence and strategy. Credit: AP, 2007

Starting an eBay business is relatively easy.

Simply register and within minutes you, too, can be competing in the world's largest online marketplace.

The problem is that so are thousands of other sellers, more than 768,000 of whom use eBay as a primary or secondary source of income.

With that kind of competition, you need to find a way to differentiate your eBay business to help grow beyond the start-up phase and make your listings stand out, experts say.

"Competing differently and providing unique value are key in order to succeed on eBay," explains Phil Dunn, co-author of "The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill; $19.95) and president of in Costa Mesa, Calif.

After all, competition is fierce. At any given time, there are more than 113 million listings on eBay worldwide, so unless you're selling a one-of-a-kind item, you need to give people a distinct reason to buy from you, he says.


1. Differentiate
That means coming up with a differentiator, be it "the way you deliver the product or the way you position or brand it," Dunn says.

So how do you figure out your unique value proposition?

Well, it starts with knowing your competition, says Jim Griffith, senior manager of seller advocacy for eBay and author of "The Official eBay Bible" (Gotham Books; $24).

Research who else is selling your product and how they're selling it, advises Griffith.

"People now are very nimble in online businesses," he says. "They'll change pricing and customer strategies very quickly."

Know what you're up against and compete accordingly, he says, noting that tools like search visibility analysis ( and Terapeak ( can provide helpful insight.


2. Set up shop
In addition, consider how you're selling your product. Are you using the auction format only? It may pay to set up a dedicated eBay store (see start.html), says Diane Falvey, a Centereach-based eBay consultant who owns eBay store Iris & Lily Fabric & Crafts (

"Having a storefront gives your customer an idea that you're more of a presence on eBay than just selling items out of your basement," she says, adding that your store should have a personality and reflect the brand.

John Riley, an entrepreneur who sells on eBay under three user names, including Think Bronze, says he and his partners have found success doing auctions and having dedicated online eBay storefronts. In fact, the manufacturer of bronze antique sculpture reproductions has done so well on eBay that he recently opened a physical storefront in Mineola.

He attributes his success to providing good customer service and getting good customer feedback ratings, as well as providing detailed descriptions and multiple photos of each item for sale.

"I pay somebody to do accurate descriptions," he says.


3. Lay it all out
The bottom line is you want to make it easy for customers to do business with you, says Marsha Collier, the Los Angeles-based author of the "For Dummies" series of books about eBay, who has been selling on the site for more than a decade.

In your descriptions, be thorough and accurately explain what you're selling, she says, offering more tips at Don't leave any questions, and be honest about the item's condition.

Also, try to provide free shipping, personalization or even priority mail shipping, she says.

"It's all about giving the customer options," notes Collier.

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