Creating a Professional Look
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Creating a Professional eBay Listing
Probably the most important thing I learned from talking with one of eBay's most successful eBay Stores owners is the paramount need to have a professional listing.
But what does having a professional listing mean?
Don't Look Like a Grade-School Dropout
First and foremost, your listing must have proper grammar and no spelling errors. Few things will destroy your credibility as a professional eBay seller more quickly than a misspelled word or serious grammatical error.
But in addition to grammar and spelling, your text must also be professional "sounding." In other words, don't write out your text as if you're writing a letter to your best friend or your grandma.
After writing out your text, imagine that it is being read by Tom Brokaw (or whoever your favorite news anchorperson is). Is there something in there that you just can't imagine hearing Tom Brokaw say while still keeping a serious face? If so, you should probably consider rewording it.
When you have a professionally worded item description, it says something to potential buyers, even if only subconsciously. It says, "This person cares about his business, and because he's serious about his business, he cares about my satisfaction and will take good care of me if I have any problems with the purchase."
There is a time and a place for humor, but unless you have a knack for it, it's best just to stick with the Tom Brokaw method.
Perfecting "The Look"
However, the one thing that may be even more important than professional sounding copy is having a listing that looks professional. To create a professionally formatted listing, you're going to need to know some HTML. Basic HTML is covered in chapter 9.
One eBay PowerSeller I spoke with purchased his entire product inventory from other eBay sellers. He would then turn around and resell it all for up to 10 times what he paid! No, that's not a typo!
He went on to explain that everything he sold on eBay could be purchased from several other eBay sellers for substantially less than what he was charging.
How was he able to do this? Why were buyers willing to pay him $20 for an item another seller was offering for just $2? To better understand the reasons why, let's take a look at three very different auction examples.
This first example is basic and plain with very little effort put in to it:
As you can see, that is a very LONG and BORING item description. It kind of makes me think that the seller is some guy in his basement who hardly knows what he's doing. I was raised to not judge others, but I got to tell you, it's awful hard when I see what I consider to be a "messy" listing. It makes me imagine a person who lives a messy life and probably didn't take very good care of the item he's selling.
In fact, the guy probably lives in a run down trailer park, has a long scraggily beard, is covered in tattoos, spits tobacco juice on his carpet, and has a pet crocodile tied to the couch in his living room.
Half his teeth are missing, the other half are black, and you can smell his breath a mile away. In fact, I think I can smell his breath just from looking at his item description!
If you saw this person down at your local mall trying to sell basketball shoes, how likely would you be to approach him and make a purchase from him?
Realistically, this guy (or gal) might be a very clean, well spoken and educated executive for one of the most respected charitable organizations in the world and is trying to raise money to feed starving children around the world. For all I know, his listing is completely honest and forthcoming.
But there's no way I can have that kind of a "feeling" from looking at this kind of a listing, unless I know the seller personally, which is almost never the case.
The sample auction shown above had bidding that reached $345, but failed to meet the reserve.
Let's take a look at the next example:
This is a screen shot from one of my own listings. Notice that the text and images are nicely formatted. I tried to choose colors that go well together and give people a feeling that I have a good idea of what I'm doing and am serious about my eBay business.
Furthermore, multiple images allow browsers to easily study the unit and see what features are provided with this particular model while the captions give readers a quick and easy overview of the product if they don't feel like reading the full item description.
Again, nobody can gather anything about what I'm really like just by looking at my listing. Maybe I'm the scraggily bearded guy I spoke of earlier.
But since you have to make judgments based solely on how my auction listing looks, you're probably more inclined to think that this is the kind of person you'd rather do business with.
About halfway through the auction that I took the above screenshot from, I got an email from another eBay member that went something like this:
$495 was my opening bid for the item, and was set at such to ensure a nice profit on my sale. Now normally I recommend answering every incoming email professionally. However, I really don't have time to waste with people who obviously aren't interested in paying my asking price. As such, I simply deleted this particular email without answering it.
A couple days later, I sold the item for my asking price of $495. The person who emailed me wasn't lying when he said several stores on the internet were selling the same item for $50 less than what I was charging (some of those stores even offered free shipping as opposed to my charge of $12). Why then were people willing to pay me that extra $50 for the unit I was selling? Having a professional listing goes a lot further than most people realize, as evidenced by my experience noted above.
But we're just touching the surface. Let's move on to the last example:
Listings that look this good are extremely rare on eBay, and cause people who see them for the first time to say, "Wow! This guy is professional, means business, and is a knowledgeable, smart person that I can trust."
Now it may seem strange to you that anybody would judge your level of honesty based on your ability to create a professional looking listing. Some of the most honest and finest people I've known in my life couldn't program their way out of a paper bag. But the truth is people do make judgments about your honesty based on how your auction listing looks. The person with a listing that looks like this last example is far more likely to earn the trust of potential buyers (and therefore garner many more bids) than will the seller with a listing that looks like the first example.
And that's part of what makes doing business online so advantageous. You control how people feel about you. You could be the biggest scoundrel in the world, but because your listing looks professional, you are judged to be an honest person.
And if you look professional, you feel professional. If you feel professional you act professional; and that look and feel extends to your customers. If you look professional, your customers will know you're professional.
The seller in the above example takes things a step farther by including several links to his eBay Stores categories, as well as including a search box for his eBay Store right there in his auction. Additionally, there were links to contact him, and he even displayed a 1-800 number (edited out of the above image) to call for questions or customer support.
What to Do if You Don't Have Mad Graphics Skills
Unless you are an experienced computer graphics artist and know advanced HTML programming, you're probably not in a position to create something like this. Most eBay sellers aren't.
Often times getting to this level requires time as you build up your business to the point where you can hire out professionals to create a template for you.
For those that have done so, it has usually been well worth it with some sellers reporting up to a 100% increase in sales since implementing their new look.
If you can't afford a professional graphics designer, you might be able to find a great deal in the graphic arts department of your local college.
If you don't know HTML and/or aren't at a point with your business where you can hire out professional help, you might want to take a look at WYSIWYG HTML editors.
A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor allows you to create an HTML page in a design layout. The editor will then automatically create the code for you.
If you're able to use a word processor, then you shouldn't have any difficulty getting a handle on using WYSIWYG editors.
Once you've finished designing a webpage that you'd like to use for your item description, simply copy and paste the code into your eBay item description.
There are cases when things won't show up the way you want after plugging the code into eBay. As such, it is still a good idea to get at least a basic working knowledge of HTML when using a WYSIWYG editor.
Until then, using a WYSIWYG editor that uses strictly HTML (some editors use other programming code, such as DHTML, CSS, and XML) will be your best bet.
An HTML editor that I've found to do a great job is Nvu. Nvu is easy to use, great for beginners, and it's free!
One thing to remember when using Nvu is to turn off CSS. This can be done by clicking Tools>Preferences and unchecking the box Use CSS styles…
In addition to having an unprofessionally worded item description, poor use of images can also make for a slow and painful death of your auction listing.
When I talk about images, I'm talking mainly about digital pictures of the product you're selling, but I also want to take this opportunity to talk about the little animated graphics and other unnecessary images many eBay sellers tend to use in their item descriptions.
I prefer to shy away from using any graphics that don't help a visitor learn more about the product I'm selling. As such, images required as part of a professional auction template aside, the only images I like to use are actual pictures of my product.
Flying fairies, jumping dogs, flaming fireballs, pulsating stars flashing the words "AWESOME DEALS" or "NEW" or "AMAZING" or… well, you get the idea. These are all things that I frown on. But some sellers just love having all sorts of little animated graphics clogging up their item description.
As somebody who's studied and worked in the internet marketing industry for several years, I can tell you that pretty much every study I've ever read, as well as every study I've conducted myself, shows that having useless graphics around do absolutely nothing to help sell a product or service.
In fact, they actually serve to make you look quite unprofessional. Not only that, the more graphics you have the longer it's going to take your page to load.
Now I've had broadband internet access ever since 1999 when broadband finally became available in my home town. For me, "heavy" (high bandwidth) webpages haven't been a problem since I ditched dial-up so many years ago. But today there is an ever-increasing number of people who browse – and shop – via a mobile device. And those many mobile devices are often running off of a cell phone data network that is slower than a typical broadband connection. Furthermore, the hardware in mobile devices often isn't cutout for processing a "heavy" webpage.
You don't want to aggravate your customers by having a webpage that takes too long to load. So forget all the silly dancing wizards or whatever you've got. Focus on what's important: selling your product. Visitors to your auction aren't going there for entertainment purposes. They are looking for something to buy!
Digital Photography Tips
Here are some of the most common problems I see with product pictures, and what you can do to prevent these things from happening with your pictures.
There are two main reasons why this might happen. One is the camera lens is out of focus. But a far more common problem is the shaky hands of the photographer.
The easiest solution to this is to get a tripod to mount your camera on. This will steady the camera and prevent movement that can blur your picture.
If you have a higher end camera, then you can often also adjust the shutter speed of your camera. The longer the shutter is open, the more likely you are to get blurry pictures. If you insist on manually holding your camera, then set the shutter speed as low as you can while still getting an image bright enough to be useable.
The other problem, an out of focus lens, is usually due to a cheap camera. Unless you have a high end camera, your camera will simply be a point-and-shoot, meaning it is auto focus.
Cheaper cameras are unable to compensate when you get too close to something. If you need to take close up pictures of your product (to show fine details or minor defects for example), but the picture keeps showing up out of focus, then it's probably time to upgrade your camera.
Reflections and Shadows
If you use your flash, two things are likely to happen:
The bright flash will create bright spots where the flash reflects off your item and/or background, and it will probably create shadows.
The simple solution to this is to not use your flash. This will of course cause your image to be darker. As mentioned earlier, most cameras will allow you to decrease the shutter speed, thus allowing for a longer exposure in which your camera can capture more light. You should only decrease shutter speed if you have a tripod, otherwise you're likely to end up with a blurry picture due to movement of the camera while the shutter is open.
You could also use image editing software to artificially brighten the image, but this only works well if the image requires minor brightening. Too much artificial brightening using software will cause the colors to become dull and faded looking.
Preferably, you will want to use bright lamps on all sides of the product. Using multiple light sources like this will reduce the appearance of shadows as well, but now you have reflections from multiple directions.
To remove reflections, you can use a simple "softening" technique. This consists of placing a thin white cloth between the lamps and the product. Be careful not to use easily flammable materials with bulbs that get very hot. I'd hate to hear any stories about an eBay seller who burned his or her house down trying to take good pictures.
Okay look, nobody is interested in seeing the fuzzy blankets on your bed, your dirty kitchen table, your shaggy carpet, or the family pet.
Use a plain white cloth or paper as your background.
Beyond the Look
So we've used proper grammar, taken great pictures, and made a professional looking listing. That's the hard stuff, but we're not quite done yet!
As I mentioned earlier, we assume the visitor already wants to buy what it is that you have. Now let's make sure they make the purchase from you instead of somebody else.
Now that we've wowed our visitor with best looking listing (or at least as good as we can make given our current resources) they've ever set their eyes on, it's time to close the sale.
Our main purpose now is to give the visitor a good enough reason to place that bid. Something that will get him or her to decide in their minds, "Yes, that's it. I'm going to buy this product right now!"
Aside from using professional marketing copy, the one thing you can do to improve your chances of making a sale is to include detailed information in your item description.
Naturally, you'll want to include full details about the item you're selling. To what level of detail you should go into will often depend on the type of item you are selling.
For example, you'll always want to talk about any defects in the item. If it's a highly collectible item, it's best to go into minute details.
If you're selling an item that has a very exclusive market, such as a backup tape drive for computer storage, a buyer's biggest concern is more likely to be the condition of the item.
Specifications, such as the amount of data the tapes for the tape drive hold, are still important. However, if the market for an item is fairly exclusive chances are buyers already know exactly what they want; therefore going into heavy detail about the specifications is not as necessary. In such a case, it may be better to assume your visitors already know exactly what it is you're selling and use your item description to convince a buyer to make the purchase from you rather than somebody else.
But even in those cases, you should at least link to a more detailed webpage that displays the long list of specifications for those who want to be sure your item really has everything that they are looking for.
When in doubt, always err on the side of safety. List everything you think a buyer might want to know about the item you're selling. eBay listings aren't like classified ads where you're limited to just a few lines. Your listing can be as long as you like. Take advantage of this fact.
Some items, such as a generically branded sword, simply don't have much you can say about them. Let's take a closer look at how we can spruce up the listing of a generic sword.
The details may simply be that the blade is 26" long, has a hand guard, and has a double-edge blade. There really isn't a whole lot to say about it.
Let's imagine that it's a ninjitsu sword that we're selling. You might want to take the opportunity to talk a little about how ninjas use their swords, and why they are designed the way they are.
For example, talk about how a ninja's sword was used not only as a weapon, but as a tool. The hand guard is always flat and often square so it can be used as a step stool to help a ninja scale a tall wall.
The wrapping around the handle is designed to unravel so the sword can be thrown and retrieved, or so the ninja can pull the sword up after using it as a step stool to scale a tall wall. A smaller weapon can also be attached to the end to be used similar to a mace.
Search for "ninja sword" on eBay and you're likely to find several swords that have nothing to do with ninjas.
You'll find saber swords (which have an arched hand guard and a single edge, curved blade), various Chinese swords (ninjitsu is a Japanese art), katana swords (which are traditionally used by samurai), and many other swords. Although a ninja might be trained in the use of many weapons, there is only one type of sword made and used specifically by and for the old ninja class in Japan.
Let buyers know that your sword is an authentic ninja sword. Even if it's not "authentic", then you can state that it's an authentic "ninja style" sword, designed after a true ninja sword.
Explain what makes a ninja sword a ninja sword: The straight blade, the flat hand guard which is designed to be used as a step, the removable tip on the scabbard (so it can be used as a snorkel), and so forth.
Anyway, you get the idea. Make the item description interesting to capture a reader's attention if there simply isn't much to say about the product itself.
By the way, I'm no expert on ninjitsu. I studied Chinese kung fu in my younger days and know very little about Japanese martial arts. Because of my lack of knowledge in the area of ninjitsu, I made a visit to Yahoo! Search and did my research. The internet's a great thing isn't it?
If you're not an expert for the item you're selling, you should at least sound like one. Your buyers are far more likely to trust you if they think you know what you're talking about.
In addition to what I talked about above, I discovered that "ninjitsu" is also commonly spelled "ninjutsu". I found that the Japanese character for "nin" (which means endurance, among other things) can also be translated as "Shinobi". As such, these are additional words I might want to include in my auction title.
One thing you don't want to do is sound like a fake though. That will instantly destroy any credibility you have with a buyer.
For about 18 months I sold cosmetics on eBay. I always did my best to describe my product as best I could, trying to sound knowledgeable. But whenever somebody wrote me to ask questions about the product that I didn't know, I was completely honest and would often say, "Honestly, we're just a couple of guys that really don't know anything about cosmetics."
Of course I would do my best to help them, but I set expectations up front.
Give Them a Great Deal!
Now it's not always possible to be the guy that has the absolute lowest price on something, and it will be extremely rare that you are the exclusive seller of a hot item. However, if you can make a buyer believe that they are going to get a great deal, then you've given that buyer a very good reason to go ahead and place that bid.
This technique works best with the auction format, but with some imaginative thinking can also be used with fixed-price and buy-it-now listings.
The idea, as I mentioned, is to make potential buyers believe that there is a good possibility that they'll get a great deal on the item being sold. This will get more bidders to place bids and result in bidding wars.
Techniques for doing this are probably best explained by example.
By browsing through items for sale on eBay, you'll find that many sellers feel a need to explain why they are selling something. A few years ago when I was selling cosmetics, I started all my auctions out at $0.99. They always got bid up very high because I was selling a brand of cosmetics that was in high demand.
However, I discovered very quickly that I often received email from curious buyers wanting to know why I was selling items for such a low price. To me, the answer was obvious: I wasn't selling items at a low price; I was just starting my auctions at a low price. In the end, the items were bid up and I almost always made a tidy profit.
But the constant emails made me realize that most buyers only see the current price, not the potential price (if they did, far fewer buyers would place bids early on in the auction). Thus, it was important to explain why my auctions were so low priced. This would satisfy the curiosity of potential buyers and make them believe that they might get my item for an amazingly great price.
The wrong way for me to go about this would be to say something like, "All my auctions start at $0.99 because I know it's such a great product it will get bid really high."
That does the opposite of making the buyers feel like their going to get a deal. Instead it tells the buyers, "There's no chance you'll get a great deal on this item." Then they won't bid, which is always bad for you.
Instead, I'd be better off saying something like, "I'm able to sell this at such a great price because I made a super deal with my supplier to do a bulk purchase at incredibly low pricing. This means I can pass the savings on to you for a great deal!"
Other examples of how I've seen this technique used are:
"I got this as a birthday gift after I had already purchased one…"
"This was given to me as a free sample from my supplier…"
"A friend gave this to me and told me to just get whatever I can for it…"
"I bought this and never ended up using it, so I'm getting rid of it…"
"My spouse told me to throw this out, so I thought I'd at least get a buck out of it on eBay…"
Get the idea? Now what you don't want to do is be dishonest about why you're selling something. Call it karma or whatever.
I've seen it happen far too often when a businessperson uses ethically questionable tactics, things typically blow up in their face. Whether it's the destruction of their business, their health, their home life, whatever. Karma, or whatever you want to believe in, comes back to bite you.
If you can't think of any good reason, you're better off just not using this technique.
One more way you can help "seal the deal" is by promoting yourself through your "About Me" page. We'll talk about that starting on the next page.
Next: It's All About Me
Jump to another chapter:
Chapter 1: Driving Traffic to Your Auction Listing
Chapter 2: Listing for Higher Profits
Chapter 3: Does Any of this Stuff Work?
Chapter 4: eBay Stores
Chapter 5: Auction Management
Chapter 6: What to Sell on eBay
Chapter 7: Finding Products to Sell on eBay
Chapter 8: Mining eBay's Traffic
Chapter 9: HTML Tutorial
Chapter 10: Acting Like a PowerSeller
Chapter 11: Final Words
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