There's one thing that all businesses need, no matter how different they may be: customers! Even better, though, the most successful businesses have a steady clientele, a group of regulars who come back again and again because of the consistently high-quality products and service. What could be better for a seller on an online site, hoping to shift his or her business into high gear? With that in mind, here are some pointers on how to attract a loyal customer base--your own regulars who search out the items in your specialty.
Be an Expert
A sure-fire way to attract longtime customers is to let them know that you have an expertise in a specific category. This starts with writing informative and professional descriptions, which have the right details and grading terminology appropriate to that collectible. Also, read trade magazines to keep up to date on your collectible. Drop little interesting nuggets and bits of information into your descriptions. Give them some drama so people are aware that they are working with a pro who truly has a passion for the category. People want to buy from sellers who are knowledgeable but also have a love and appreciation for their category.
Go the Extra Mile
Sure, it's a cliché, but it works. If buyers email you questions about a collectible, email them back on the double. Also consider including some information or history about that collectible category you are selling in, something that buyers might not know about and that would pique their interest. If someone gives you some information that helps clarify your description, then add it and let them know. They'll be impressed and look for your items again. You might even want to include a little thank-you gift or trinket with your product. You'll be amazed at the response your little gesture will make.
Sane Sales Policy
Have a sales policy that is appropriate to that collectible. For instance, if you are a music CD dealer, ship at the standard rate, not at $4 Priority Mail. If you are shipping inexpensive baseball cards, don't ask for handling and insurance. On the other hand, if you're selling valuable pottery, make your shipping charges and requirements explicit so people know what they are paying for; leave no room for confusion. Buyers will respect you for it and will be repeat bidders. You also might think about offering refunds and guarantees. Although this can complicate your transactions, it definitely endears you to honest bidders.
Keep an Eye Out
Don't be a stalker, but look for and note bidders who have an appreciation for the categories you specialize in. Keep names and emails from transactions on file, and email potential bidders when you think they'd be interested in an item you are about to list. Use discretion and do not send out form emails announcing your items en masse. Only send an email when you know that a person has a special interest in the product you are preparing to list. Buyers will appreciate the fact that you singled them out. Spam them, and they'll never visit your items again.
Know Your Audience
Continue correspondence with people who you have had successful, rewarding transactions with, and try to learn their specific interests within a given category. Make note of this information, and keep it on file so that you can have it at your fingertips when you are shopping online or at physical items. If you know what your customers like, then you can use this information when making your purchases. Buyers will not only be glad you are selling products tailored to their interests, but they also just might recognize that you are going that extra mile to find products they want.
Be smart and sell rare products when they are hot. If other sellers are clogging the market, sit back and pick your spots. (Of course, you'll need other inventory to do this. Learn how to build an inventory.) Also, whenever possible, don't put a reserve price on your products. If a product is special, it will sell above market value. Don't dissuade bidders with a reserve. Both techniques will give you a positive reputation as a seller who respects the selling process and enjoys the thrill of competitive bidding. Furthermore, you'll gain a following from true collectors looking for rarities.
Continually reward your new and longtime customers with positive feedback if a sale is completed successfully. You'd be surprised how often people neglect patting each other on the back. Gain a reputation for doing this, and you'll build a loyal customer base. Remember, positive feedback is gold!