At the top of the description page, it's always best to restate your auction title; and here you can expand it to include all the keywords you couldn't get in before, so anyone who searches by 'title and description' can find it. After that...
The description of your item should be treated exactly like a normal advert. Aim to get your readers to feel good about you and your item - and then they’ll be motivated to buy from you. Try to be creative, colloquial, and confiding.
People don’t just look at the photo of your item without bothering to read the full description – unless it’s long-winded or irrelevant, of course. If you keep it interesting and easy on the eye - believe me they’ll read it. And that’s your chance to overcome any bidding reluctance.
Granted, there are times when it's just not worth the effort; with items you expect to make less than say £5 profit on, for example. But then, I seriously question the merit of auctioning such items anyway - except perhaps as a way of building up your feedback ratings.
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Concentrate on Benefits
Don’t try to appeal to every possible buying motive. Consider your ideal customer, and just ‘speak’ directly to him or her. Choose the most significant benefit/s of your item to this person. Of course people need to know the features of what you are selling, but they really buy the benefits they provide. And if you can ‘paint a picture in words’ of those benefits – to show what it feels like to use the item – you create an emotional response that works on a subconscious level to stimulate the buying urge.
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Lets’ take a chiming mantle clock as an example. I’d concentrate on the sound of it as the most significant benefit, gradually working in other features and the benefits they bring. As to my ideal customer, I see a house-proud middle-class matron, in her early 50s perhaps ….
NB. You’ll see in my examples that I’ve spaced out the sentences. That makes it so much easier to read than a solid block of text.
"You’ll like the deep resonance of the sound this classic 8-day clock makes. It’s so much more mellow than those cheap plastic ‘Westminster chime’ battery ones.
There’s no irritating jingle, just a reassuring series of strokes on the hour, plus a single one every half-hour; and the loudness can be adjusted to your taste.
The unblemished oak-wood case is an ornament in its own right – redolent of a by-gone age.
The Napoleon Hat design is a classic shape from the thirties, and this treasured timepiece could be a ‘striking’ focal point in your living-room!"
What About Bookselling?
If it’s a modern book, maybe you'd be better off at Amazon's Marketplace. It's worth taking a look there first anyway, to get an idea of the book's value (though some very off-the-wall prices are sometimes posted). On Marketplace, your description is restricted to only 1000 characters, but that leaves plenty of room for a bit of 'creative bonding' with your audience.
You could briefy give your opinion of the book, describe its condition, and why you’re selling it. Yes, it may be irrelevant, but that’s how to engage with him or her – even if it means confessing to that coffee stain on the 79th page, and the fact that you didn’t really like it.
With old or rare books, you need to know what your target customer is looking for - and I'll let Elaine tell you about that:
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You can use all sorts of trade terms to describe 'antiquarian' books - there's a list on ioba.org, the Independent Online Booksellers Association website. And if you are a real bookseller these are what you should use. Sometimes though, appearing to be an amateur can actually be an advantage. People may be more inclined to bid for your item if they think you aren't a middleman.
Fill in the Background
If at all possible, add some details about the provenance of your item:- where it came from, how old you think it might be, and so on. A little humour is OK, but it needs a very light touch.
"My father bought this striking clock from new in 1937, so it’s been ‘in the family’ for over 60 years.
He’s now reached the grand old age of 99 and is moving to a Home, where there just isn’t a mantlepiece to put it on.
We hope to buy a wall-clock for him with the proceeds, so please bid generously!"
If you’re selling from new - especially when dropshipping (that is, buying from a wholesaler who dispatches items direct to your customer)- you won’t have this intimate knowledge of your items. But you should be able to get promotional material from the supplier, and adapt it to the same purpose.
That may not be easy of course, but it’s worthwhile spending time to get it right, because you can use the same description many times.
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Use Feedback to Build Trust
Next, you need to create a feeling of confidence in your potential buyer. She won’t commit herself to a bid if there’s any doubt in her mind about your trustworthiness. Third-party testimonials are ideal; they’re the very best evidence of ‘customer satisfaction’. But where can you get them? From your feedback file of course! (Assuming you’ve been trading on eBay for a little while at least, and your contacts - be they buyers or sellers - are reasonably happy.)
As you know, there’s a link to feedback comments on the site, but visitors don’t necessarily click on it. Be pro-active! It’s a bit of a pain trying to copy-and-paste your feedbacks, but easy enough to retype half a dozen of the most recent ones (buyer and seller) into MS Word, tidy them up, highlight the quotes, and transfer them to your Description.
Here are some of my more recent ones, for instance:
"Great ebayer, recommended. Thanks." Seller: wellham2005(61)
"Star buyer, fast payment, thank you." Seller: feelingfunkie(2694)
"Arrived today – Thanks. RECOMMENDED." Buyer: nkdublu(27)
"Fast delivery – many thanks." Buyer: aero66canard(484)
"Most pleased with purchase and service. Excelent, thanks." Buyer:vint338(32)
(Notice I haven’t corrected mis-spelling – keeps it authentic.)
It’s been claimed that this simple action can more than double your bids. There’s software that will do it automatically (platinumpowerseller.com), but I haven’t tried it.
Add a Mug-Shot
To digress from writing for a moment –
An extra photo – a close-up say, or one taken from a different angle – isn’t essential, though it often helps your item’s credibility. But there is one type of photo that really ‘sets your listing apart’, and that’s a snap of yourself. It only needs to be thumbnail size, head-and-shoulders, but that little postage-stamp image has the same effect as a computer-generated book jacket when you’re selling an e-book – it makes you real.
You won’t see a self-portrait in a Description very often, I’m sure. That’s because few people have realised just how potent a selling-point it can be. Unless you really do look like one of the forty thieves, the very fact that you’ve made yourself visible and open to scrutiny can remove any lingering doubts your visitor may have about trusting you. Try it and see for yourself. (The best place to put it is in your Guarantee).
You may say the About Me page is the place for that self-portrait. True, but that’s no good if your visitor doesn’t visit it. Putting a mug-shot right there on the Description page makes a visit to your About Me page far more likely; and there you can present further heart-warming details. (See the About Me section, below.)
Sorry, I’ve gone a bit off-message. Back to the words.
Lean Over Backwards
Offer as many ways of paying as possible, and talk about them:
"I’ll be happy to receive payment by bank transfer, Paypal, postal order or personal cheque. If it’s a sizeable amount (I live in hope), you may have to wait up to 5 days until a cheque’s cleared before I can send your item off. I don’t add anything to the p&p for Paypal fees."
Last but surely not least, make a virtue out of your returns policy! If you have a guarantee (and you should usually have one) don’t just rely on it being seen in the appropriate box. Copy it into your Description, and highlight it. This is a big selling point, after all. Make it user-friendly - easy to understand, without ambiguities or an aggressive tone. State a (generous) time limit, and say if you deduct postage (usual) or the listing fee (maybe). Bear in mind that the returns policy box has a 500-character limit.
If you’re not completely satisfied with your purchase, post it back within ten days of receipt for a full refund of your bid amount, with no questions asked. But please email me first, so I don’t get too excited at receiving a parcel! And you will make sure it’s still in a saleable condition, won’t you?
If I’ve been negligent in any way, or if the item’s faulty, I’ll also insist on refunding your postage & packing.
There’s scope for some creativity with delivery too. If you can guarantee to send out items within a certain time – say four days after receipt of payment - turn that into an extra feel-good factor by offering free delivery on their next purchase if you don’t make it. Recorded delivery slips are essential for this of course.
One more thing – it adds to your ‘creditworthiness’ if you don’t try to make a profit out of the p&p. Even though that may be stated in the delivery box, you’ll do well to repeat in the Description that postage is at cost, and you only add a small amount for packing. When it comes to trust, ‘every little helps’.
Ask For Email
At the bottom of your description page, you are allowed to put a link to your email address for queries. Do it! It always helps if you can get into a dialogue with your potential customer. I know there’s a ‘question the buyer’ section already, but that’s not the same as having a one-to-one on your own email.
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Now, I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s far easier to make repeat sales than to find a new customer. So what are you doing about back-end Sales?
Use your ‘About Me’ page!
First of all, be sure to head the Description page with a "Welcome!" sign and an invitation to visit your ‘About Me’ page for useful stuff. Why? Because an About Me page is the key to developing an on-going relationship with your reader. Of course you can reveal endearing personal details there; but more importantly, you can promote your other auctions, your eBay shop if you have one, and any related non-auction business.
What’s that, you don’t have an About Me page?
It’s really surprising how few sellers use this extra marketing tool, maybe because they think buyers won’t bother to click on it anyway. That could be true if you merely rely on the eBay symbol provided. But if you also actively promote it on your Description page (especially with an enticing freebie) many more people will take a look.
The value of your About Me page lies in the links you can make – to a relevant ebook, a back-end product, a website. Anyone who visits it is already feeling well-disposed towards you, even if she doesn’t want to bid on your auction. Why not take advantage of that feeling to direct her towards an enticing ‘impulse purchase’?
By the way, this is the only place that eBay will allow you to give direct links to another website, be it your own or someone else’s. And it’s known that search engines like Google ‘spider’ eBay-related pages faster than usual. So if you do have a website, linking to it on your About Me page gets it listed faster. Need I say more?
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After the auction
Fulfilling the sale can be just the start. As it’s often said, selling to an existing customer is much easier than finding a new one, and you can take steps to make sure that the bonding process continues. First, send the successful bidder a personalised email (not just one of those automatic ones) when the item has been posted, and again when it should have arrived. Be chatty; ask for confirmation of safe arrival; say you hope they like the item, ask if they would like you to leave buyer’s feedback, and suggest they sign up for your email newsletter if you have one – perhaps with a 10% discount on their next purchase as an incentive.
(Don’t forget to say that you promise never to pass on email details to any third party.)
It’s also a great idea to send a (hand-signed) note or compliments slip with the item saying the same thing, and repeating your email address. Then you can add at the bottom: "If you like this product, you might care to take a look at similar products here – www.xxx". The site can be your own shop (eBay or otherwise), or another website selling similar things which earns you an affiliate commission.
It’s all money in the bank!
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Copyright 2006 John Clutterbuck, www.copywritingworks.com.
Can you help me?
I’m collecting endorsements to quote on my ‘About Me’ page.
Has this been useful to you? If so, I’d be very grateful for your comments.
NB. I promise never to pass your email details on to any third party.
Best wishes, John.