One of the best things you can do for your auction business is to start a virtuous spiral, aka a positive reinforcing feedback loop, and ensure you stop failing, aka a negative reinforcing feedback loop.

This is a bit long, so I’m going to break it into 2 sections. First stopping the negative, then starting the positive.A negative feedback loop aka a vicious (or Death) spiral is when you fail, and that failure sets the stage for ongoing failure.

The easiest example is having an auction that flops. Yep, we’ve had one that we still remember and talk about. A beautiful outfit that took Cinnamon 4 or 5 hours to make, and we spent at least an hour taking pictures and making the listing, and it sold for $8. Wow, we were so mad. We knew it was worth $50 to $60 based on our average auction prices. Super frustrating.

Say you list an outfit and maybe the photos are bad, maybe you don’t work to get a crowd to show up, maybe your design, or fabric choice, or ensemble aren’t attractive to people, but somehow you think they are nice, (or actually you know they aren’t the best you’ve ever done, but you decide they are good enough). And the auction starts and stops with little, or no excitement. Maybe you have 3 bidders and your item ends for $4.02.

In addition to the fact that you just made $4 for hours of hard work, you have a serious problem because this failure sends a lot of bad messages, including:

1. Your prior buyers who paid more than $4 are now thinking they over paid. (if they see this result).

2. Anyone who likes to compare, thinks that your stuff is less valuable than low quality imported cheap stuff.

3. If new bidders come along to your next auction, and they see this result in your seller history, then they’ll know that, “I can probably get one of these at the $4 price, so I’ll pass on bidding for this one”.

Here is my advice for how to stop a death spiral:

  1. Stop your listings for a week or two. Just stop.
  2. Find successful examples in your category and look at their listings, (don’t even focus on the quality of their actual item compared to yours). Just look at the presentation. Are their pictures better? Are their descriptions longer? Is their guarantee clearer? Are there testimonials included in their description and you don’t have any? Do they use the ‘listing designer’ and have a nice listing border, and you don’t? Do they have embedded photos or video and you don’t? Are they listing their items to end at a different time, or are they selling them in a different selling format, (buy-it-now versus auction).
  3. Figure out what they’re doing differently and prepare to copy them. You should have no qualms about this. You’re not copying their actual item…you’re copying their presentation method. Copy what works. This is no different than what everyone in business (even non-profit work) does. If the church across town gets a huge jumbo screen, your pastor is going to want one. If Safeway starts offering a coupon program, Walgreens is going to want to launch one. That’s just being contemporary. Obviously because of color pallet, photography, word choices, and the use of graphics, your final listing really can be uniquely yours, and ideally it won’t look like anyone elses, it will just have the same tone and professionalism.
  4. Review your actual item compared to your category competitors. Are you as good as them? Can you be? Be both brutally honest with yourself, but don’t take it personally. Maybe you’re just not as good and you need to lower your expectations for success. Or, maybe you are as good, but you realize your photography has been killing your success. If you can upgrade your item, do it.
  5. Plan your relaunch, including when your auction is going to end, (shoot for Sunday night), and how you’re going to get the word out – Facebook? Emails? A Newsletter?
  6. Launch, then then do whatever you can do get people informed and involved.
 Okay, part two is about how to start a positive feedback loop…