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Cheap and Easy Marketing

January 9, 2011

Welcome to the fifth instalment in my Toward Self-Sufficiency Series, where I am outlining how I am going about trying to take my hobby of sports card and memorabilia collecting to a completely self-sufficient position financially.  For new readers, or those interested in reviewing past posts, check them out at the following links:

Establishing a Focus for my Collection
Selling on eBay to Achieve my Goal

Utilizing an eBay Store
Customer Service

Today’s post deals with the marketing efforts I have undertaken for my eBay Store as I work towards my goal.  A little advanced warning for you: this is a lengthy one!

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To be perfectly honest, when I first started off selling on eBay, I did not even consider how to market my items and subsequently my eBay Store.  I relied solely on the buyers to find my items on the site all on their own.  Though my sales continued to increase as I listed more items, they still were not coming close to matching my expenditure levels.

Thankfully, at about the same time I launched my eBay store I had also started working in a marketing and communications role at my now former job with a non-profit organization.  As time went on in that role, I continued to notice aspects of that job and organization that the situation that existed in my own hobby “business”.

At the not-for-profit we fundraised our budget.  Very much like trying to generate enough sales of unwanted sports cards and collectibles to fund a hobby of collecting what I do want.

At the not-for-profit we had a minimal amount of money to spend on marketing. Very much like a hobby “business” with close to nothing to spend on marketing.

At the not-for-profit we were aiming to generate a greater share of revenue online.  Very much like a hobby “business” that almost exclusively operates via the internet.

Finally, at the not-for-profit we were exploring the world of social media and connecting with potential donors through online means.  Very much like the places my hobby “business” needed to be seen in order to connect with potential customers.

With a professional situation that very much mirrored my personal situation relating to my hobby, I started applying some of the things that I was learning and doing at my job to my hobby “business” andm in the past six months or so I have been much more willing to experiment with a variety of marketing tools that I can execute in a cost-effective manner.

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One of the first things I did was to set up a Twitter account.  My initial scepticism about Twitter was quickly dismissed by the tremendous response we received at my former workplace when I was charged with running an account there.  As it turns out there are a pretty decent number of collectors and manufacturers who have also jumped on board and Twitter has been a great way to connect with them while also promoting my items, website and blog, highlighting any sales that I have going on, and keeping up with the latest news in the hobby.  The best thing about Twitter for marketing on a budget is that there is zero cost involved with setting up and operating an account.

At around that same time I set up a Facebook page to reach users through that network.  According to a number of presentations I saw during seminars and workshops related to the use of social media and online marketing efforts that I attended at my old job, there is apparently a different demographic using Facebook when compared to Twitter. 

The connections that I have made via Facebook are admittedly far less than the number I have made on Twitter (1 “liker” vs. 128 “followers”), but a more in-depth look at the statistics for my page, eBay Store, and now my website and blog indicates that there is actually plenty of traffic coming to that page and subsequently being driven to my sales outlets.  That provides strong motivation to keep the page functioning as a part of my marketing efforts, and again, the best thing about it is that it is free to set up and operate.

As I made note of in the paragraph above, I have also created a website dedicated to promoting my “business”.  I launched the website in October for a very minimal cost when examined as a monthly expense, and thus far I have been very happy with the results.  Through www.bbbros.ca fellow collectors have direct access to all of my eBay listings without having to go through the process of searching me out on the eBay website.  I also use the site to promote this blog, my Twitter page, and my Facebook page, each of which I use to connect with others involved in the hobby.

Another cheap marketing tool that I have been exposed to is the use of online advertisements.  I was fortunate enough to receive free advertising credits from Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads, and I used the credits with each of these outlets to test out their effectiveness shortly after launching my website.  After examining the results of the three trials, I decided to include online advertising in my marketing efforts in 2011.  Best of all, I am able to do this for less than $5.00 a week while generating positive results.

Finally, from an online perspective, I also make use of the marketing tools offered by eBay, mainly thorough the Monthly eBay Store Newsletter that I send out on the last Sunday of each month.  These tools are included in my store subscription fees, so I feel like not making use of them is basically wasting money.  I target eBay users directly by using them and the system does have tracking tools that are of use as well.  They are definitely not my primary focus in terms of the marketing tools that I use, but they offer an added weapon in the arsenal at the very least.

To finish things off, one thing that I have done from an offline perspective is to utilize business cards as a promotional tool.  For a long time my shipping process involved nothing more than putting the items in a bubble mailer and sending them off to the buyer.  I included absolutely no information about how to get in contact with me or where more of my items could be found.  Now I include a business card in every package that I ship.  I utilize the space on both sides of the card to promote pretty much everything about my store that I need to and it was at a cost of less than $100 for 2,000 cards.  Not a bad one-time expense.

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That provides you with a fairly detailed look at how I am making efforts to draw more attention to my eBay store and the items that I have for sale in a pretty cost-effective manner. 

By setting an actual budget for myself to work from in 2011, while ensuring that I make the most of the free tools that are available to me, I have seen a steady increase in the traffic directed to my eBay Store.  I believe that this approach has played a major role in my increases in sales and is thereby moving me ever-closer to achieving my goal.

Next Sunday’s Toward Self-Sufficiency article will examine the importance of setting measurable goals in pursuit of my goal, as well as outline some of the specific things I am aiming to accomplish in 2011.

First though, a Retail Review post will be coming your way on Wednesday in which I’ll be looking at a tin of 2008-2009 Upper Deck Ovation that I picked up recently from Wal-Mart.

Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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