Category: Sell

The 6 participants in every Ebay auction, are you paying attention to all of them?

There are six participants in any competitive auction:

1. Ebay: (how could we forget them?). They’ve made a lot of the rules, right?! They are always there at everyone auction. Break rules and they’ll become an active part of the drama.

2. You: (the auctioneer). You’ve made lots of the rules too, and your actions are the most influential actions of all 6 participants.

3. The High Bidder: (at any given time this person can change, but their behavior is constant regardless of which person is filling this spot). This person gets a special treat at the end of the auction, in addition to the item they’ve won, they get to know the other bidders estimated value of the item. No one gets to learn their estimate of the items value, they get to keep that a secret. This ‘treat’ is called the winners curse by economists. Because while they’ve won, they’ve also been educated to the fact that they’ve over estimated the item to some degree, compared to the rest of the participants. I don’t see it as a curse however, I see it as a secret they get to keep.

4. The 2nd place bidder: Sadly, they loose out on the item, and leave the auction with nothing, unless you make a second chance offer to them. In that case they leave in better shape than the winner, as they received the item for a discount to the final bid price. (Read my 2nd Chance offer rant on this).

5. The Tertiary bidders: all the folks who have helped the bid price climb, but have stopped actively bidding at some point. But they pushed the final bid price along in incredibly important ways.

6. The crowd: (viewers). They are mesmerized, tempted to bid, and curious about how the item will end. They could at any moment jump in and take the high bidder spot. Maybe they’re you’re competitors just checking it all out, maybe they’re previous buyers, maybe they’re preparing to bid on your next auction. Maybe they‘ve bid or bought everything you‘ve ever auctioned and are your most loyal customer?

While it’s true you only need two active bidders to make an auction escalate,

The larger the crowd of honestly interested potential bidders, the more bid action you’ll see and the higher final bid price you’ll achieve.

Why is this always true? The single most important reason to have a crowd is going

to sound like a cliché, but it’s not. Here it is:

There is safety in numbers


As the auctioneer you’re nervously waiting to see how it’s all going to play out, right?

And if you’ve believed my ‘low opening bid rant’,

and you’ve set your opening bid price extremely low, you are taking a risk, right?

And the best way to mitigate that risk is to have a large number of people attend the event,

and have them be armed with enough facts about your product to know when it’s selling

for too low a price. The wisdom of the crowd will help protect you.


Drawing a crowd for your auction, make it a top priority…


the larger the crowd of honestly interested potential bidders, the more bid action you’ll see and the higher final bid price you’ll achieve.

Why is this always true? The single most important reason to have a crowd is going to sound like a cliché, but it’s not. Here it is: There is safety in numbers!


As the auctioneer you’re nervously waiting to see how it’s all going to play out, right? And if you’ve believed my ‘low opening bid rant’, and you’ve set your opening bid price extremely low, you are taking a risk, right?

And the best way to mitigate that risk is to have a large number of people attend the event, and have them be armed with enough facts about your product to know when it’s selling for too low a price. The wisdom of the crowd will help protect you.


If you’ve followed my advice about creating comfort, and done a good job making people feel comfortable, especially by using quality pictures, then Ebay will deliver enough prospective buyers to generate some type of bidding war. Probably. But that doesn’t make you feel safe does it! Don’t depend just on Ebay. Your single biggest task to ensure success is to get a large crowd to watch your auction. Here are a few ways to do just that,

  1. Be very consistant in your ending times, (always set your auctions to end at around the same time so your loyal followers know when to show up).
  2. Collect names and send out a newsletter 4 or 5 hours before the end of your most important auctions.
  3. Use social media to gather fans and inform them on your auctions.
  4. Consider paying for greater exposure via Ebay. This can make sense depending on the price of the item you’re selling and the types of Ebay exposure tools (and their prices).

Auction Pricing and social proof…and my rant about buy-it-now pricing

People will pay what other people paid

Re-read that sentence slowly and let me unpack it. People (the newly arriving crowd) will pay…what people (the happily leaving crowd) paid. If the newly arriving people enter the scene and they see, (and believe), that the happily leaving people had a nice experience, they’ll follow the example given.

Here is an example which I‘m sure you can relate to, (at any price point):

Ever go into a restaurant that is fancier than where you normally go. When you get there you see it‘s full of people and look at the prices on the menu and think, “What?!”. But then you calm down, look around the restaurant and see all the happy people happily ordering, and think, “Okay, I guess this is how it works here – and it‘s worth it”. You ponder all the good things that will happen if you maintain your composure, and don’t act irritated or cheap, and just go along with it all. Sometimes the shock is too great, or your wallet is too empty and you do get up and leave, but much more frequently, you go along.

That’s social proof in action, and fostering it in your Ebay auctions is a huge part of getting high final bid prices. You are in the exact same situation as the restaurant owner, except you, (probably), have NO overhead cost to worry about, and if you get it wrong today, you can try again tomorrow with a different approach.

Let’s look at the reverse: Do people regularly pay you NOTHING for your item, by not bidding? Remember, people will pay what other people paid…so you’ve got a real problem if this is happening. (Read my posts on spiral management that speak to this topic).

People come to your auction and see no bids…and they look at your other items for sale and see no bids, and they look at your transaction history and see a lot of no bidding. And guess what they’re going to do, NOT BID!

Your failure today will reinforce your failure tomorrow unless you make some changes. someone once said,

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome”.

What will people pay for something? It’s anyone’s guess right? You know the price you want to get, and sometimes you’re tempted to put your items out as a ‘buy-it-now’ with this ‘ideal price’ plugged right in for the whole world to see. You think that by telling people what the price should be, they will agree. You figure you’ll just tell everyone what you think your items are worth and require them to agree with you. This is a good idea, if people validate your perspective by agreeing with you and actually, regularly, paying that amount.

However, given the way Ebay is structured, if your item ends and no one has validated your price point by saying ‘yes’, and buying the item, then your failure is public and it damages your credibility.

Every time you fail publicly at a certain price point, you are training your bidders to expect a low(er) price next time. But your opinion about price isn’t valued by bidders or buyers. Do you care what the used Car Salesman says a car is worth? No way. You only care what the wisdom of the crowd, or a third party authority says it’s worth.

Buy-it-now listings are not the way to sell ’treasure’ type items.

Yes, you’re giving people the convenience of not being involved in the extended auction process. People will sometimes pay for that convenience. But you are also forcing them to either 1) believe your pricing estimate or 2) research and comparison shop – which is frequently NOT what you want to encourage people to do. Because unless your item is extremely rare, there is probably a substitute item that can be found for a lower price point. And your potential buyer just walked out the door.

Avoid buy-it-now pricing for treasure type items in Ebay.

Publicize what people pay for your auctions, (when it’s a good result).

The digital touch, longer versus shorter descriptions, and why it matters

Physically touching an item is the single most important component of buying according to shopping expert Paco Underhill. (author of “Why We Buy”). When marketing goods online, your pictures and written descriptions become a proxy for the physical act of touching the item. Think about it.

Your bidders and/or buyers ‘touch’ of your item will be nice and amazing and fun to the extent your pictures and words (and templates) are nice and amazing and fun.

Use blinding Neon Yellow text and see how well you do. Use blurry pictures and no written description and see how well you do. If you do those things, don’t expect your bidder to have a a good experience, it’s impossible. Expect their ‘good touch’ to result in comfort with your listing. Expect their ‘bad touch‘ to result in them quickly leaving and never coming back.

So if your words and photos are a proxy for physically touching the item, then as David Ogilvy, the master of Direct Response Marketing, makes it clear, long-form copywriting clearly work better than short-form writing. You want to give them as much information as they can possibly want. They’ve stopped, looked, and are now seriously considering buying or bidding. They won’t mind if you have an extra paragraph about why your fabric is better than your competitors.

Paco Underhill goes on to suggest that the single most important factor in determining whether a customer is going to buy something, (in a physical retail environment), is the length of time they stay in your store. Repeat – How long they stay in your store.

Does this translate to the internet selling environment? Is time ‘on your listing’ an indicator of their likelihood to bid or buy? Ever wonder why most online guru‘s trying to sell you an information product have their sales pages go on and on and on forever? Maybe they understand this principle and have tested it’s value.

You have a choice in your item description, enter substantial details, say a little, or say nothing. If you choose to say little or nothing, you are absolutely choosing to make your buyers, or bidders less comfortable than you otherwise could have by adding substantial facts and details. That’s a mistake. Your wisest approach is to ensure you consider, then answer every question your buyers might have.

Who are you really writing for anyway? It’s really the people who are very interested right? And the people who are really interested and serious about bidding or buying, want as much information as you can possibly include. They will read it all. The people who aren’t really that interested won’t read anything anyway, so long-form descriptions are the only sensible approach. Make it a fun and memorable digital touch.

The 2 types of Ebay Shoppers, and how to write for each

I consider Ebay to have 2 types of shoppers/bidders. (I realize this is a simplification of the situation, but generally, it’s true). They are: Bargain Hunters and Treasure Hunter.


Bargain Hunters: People looking for a:

  1. Familiar commodity that they need or want.
  2. Standardized item they are familiar with and can easily assess the value of.

Bargain Hunters make a calculated bid with the hope of getting something for less than it’s usual price. They know the #common value, and get interested in anything that looks like a discount.


Treasure Hunters: Treasure hunters are looking for something special. Generally the item is:

  1. One of a kind, or unique in some special way.
  2. Valuable to different people in different ways.
  3. Not simply assessed based on the economic worth, but also on the emotional, historical, future, or relational worth. (Economists call this “Private Value”).

Of course real enthusiasts in any category can wear both hats at the same time. Sometimes that ‘68 Chevelle Malibu is worth bidding on because it’s ridiculously priced and I know I could figure out something to do with it if I can get it for $1,200. Maybe I’ll keep it, maybe I’ll sell it, maybe I’ll take a year to figure it out, but it’s so dang cheap, I’m bidding.


Sometimes that ‘68 Chevelle Malibu is worth bidding on – no matter the price – because it was my first car, I want one (now that I‘m forty), and my Google stock just made me a Bazillionaire. I am not bidding based on my perception of it’s value as a commodity, (the Public Value as Economists would call it), I’m bidding based on it being a ‘treasure’ to me, (Private Value as Economists would call it).


Sometimes it’s both ideas at the same time. Regardless of who your bidder is, this blog is entirely focused on marketing the ‘treasure’ type item, to the treasure type buyer. There are other good books, ebooks, and blogs about how to market commodity type items, (that’s pretty much what everyone focuses on in the EBay information galaxy).

Let’s marketing the special, one of a kind, limited edition, never before sold in stores, home-made, hand-crafted, hand-carved, hand-painted, original, type of items. And, if you do that regularly and predictably, in the same category, then this blog is for you.

9 Ways to increase your credibility to bidders, which one are you neglecting?

As an Ebay seller, your credibility matters tremendously, if you’re going to get prices higher than the average auctioneer. If you want to get a ’fair market price’ for the digital camera you are listing, fine, just depend on your Ebay seller rating, and the wisdom of the crowd, and you‘ll probably be alright.

But if you want to get a premium, you have to justify the added price, and one component of that justification will certainly be an assessment of your credibility and trustworthiness.

We all know it’s true in life – People WILL PAY to work with a credible seller. You need to be perceived as one immediately. Here are 7 Ways to increase your credibility, (there are lots more, but this is a pretty good list):

  1. Have an Ebay store. (It looks more established than a non-store owner).
  2. Have a robust ’about me’ page.
  3. Have the PowerSeller status symbol if you can, (but don’t give away the farm to get it).
  4. Having the Top Rated Seller status symbol.
  5. Sending emails to your Ebay mailing list, (and off Ebay mailing list), and discussing the prices you’re getting for your items. It’s not bragging if you word it properly, and it sends a very important message, it tells everyone how OTHER PEOPLE are treating you and your goods.
  6. Have stunning photography. Amateurs take bad pictures with bad cameras. Don’t do that!
  7. Re-quote your best customer feedback often and in lots of places. This is called social proof.
  8. Have a blog or other off eBay place where people can read more, see more, learn more. You are allowed to have a link to sites like this in your about me page.
  9. Have a user id that means something, looks well thought out, and implies credibility. If you don’t have that set up right now, you can change it.

4 (almost) subliminal seller rules you should always communicate, are you?

Have you ever been asked to play a game with your cousins after the Thanksgiving day dinner, and they pull out some game they love but you‘ve never heard of before?

You know the next few hours are going to suck and you won’t win unless you’re really much much better than them in the basics of the game as you understand. Or your only other strategy is to play several times and loose, and then over time catch up on the experiences needed to win, right? But even then you know you’ll probably loose for several games, or hands, or rounds, whatever.

Have you been in this situation where money is on the line? Big money? Imagine walking into a Casino and sitting down at a game you weren’t familiar with and plunking down a thousand bucks.

Hey, you are putting your bidders in this situation if you don’t clarify the rules and make them comfortable.

I’m sure there are many more, but here are a few “Seller Rules” that you should always add to the game, so your bidders are comfortable quickly. Quick comfort is the name of the game if you’re attracted potential bidders, and they’re glancing quickly, then moving on if they see something that concerns them. The more you clarify these ‘rules‘, the better your chances of having an outsized final bid price:

  1. Transparency about the item – The clear facts and figures. (represented in both words and pictures).
  2. Honestness – The true scarcity versus the abundance of the item, it’s condition, and what they get.
  3. Credibility as a seller – who are you and are lots of people happy with you.
  4. The external valuations of the item, and perspectives on the item, from third party endorsement or other social proof.
In addition to these subliminal rules, you should also have explicit selling rules, like your shipping time, return policy, guarantee, etc. These add meaning too of course.   

4 comforting things a low starting bid price reveals to your bidders

Every Ebay seller who doesn’t use a starting bid price of .99 cents should justify that decision and consider the psychology behind that choice. Using a high starting price sends bidders discomforting messages, that’s for sure. Here is what I know about a .99 cent opening bid price, (with no reserve), it is saying to the perspective bidders:

1. I trust the market to accurately value this item.

2. I am willing to let someone else be ‘the winner’.

3. I am confident in the system to set a fair value.

4. I am guaranteeing by my actions that you will not pay more than is necessary.

I believe it’s this ‘positive’ message that is largely responsible for the consistent effectiveness of the low opening bid strategy. Many people have claimed, and I think it’s mildly true, that a low opening bid also appeals to the bargain hunters, who get emotionally invested in an auction because of the possibility of getting a bargain, then as the auction progresses, they are caught up in the drama and keep bidding. This might be true, but I believe my ’positive messages’ theory is more plausible.

Can you get caught with a bad outcome using a low opening price and no reserve? Yep. But if you implement our auction blueprint concepts, you’ll create a safety net that will leave you far better off than if you blunted your bidders

3 discomforting things a high starting bid price reveals to your bidders

Ebay sellers should seriously consider the psychological impact of using a low opening bid price. And having no reserve price. It’s the best approach almost all the time. Follow me on this:


If you have a high opening bid and/or reserve price what you’re saying to the bidder, (or prospective bidder), is:

  1. I don’t trust you guys to value this properly, and want to protect myself.
  2. I don’t trust Ebay to deliver the participants necessary to make this auction work.
  3. I want to be the ‘winner’, or I won‘t play.

Is any of that comforting to the bidder? Does any of that sound like it will produce good customer experience? No. And bidders know that. Even if they haven’t stopped to think about it in such clear terms, they know it in their gut. And uncomfortable bidders are not bold bidders.