Most people think that the secret to eBay's success is low cost products because everyone is looking for a bargain. While it may well be true that people want a bargain when they can find it, it is also true that people buy from sellers they can trust. Once you are a trusted seller, your customers are far less likely to go comparison shopping; they just come to you. The real secret to eBay (and most other selling situations) is customer service.

eBay watchers suggest that repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers. Research shows that it costs six times more to sell to a new prospect than to an established customer. Then why do marketers spend 80% of their time trying to attract new customers rather than cultivating existing customers? They believe that maximising customer volume drives revenue, when the reality is that maximizing sales per customer drives revenue better.

Exploiting the secret

Exploiting the secret is fairly simple:

  1. Spend the majority of your time nurturing current customers.

  2. 2. Nurture customers by ensuring that every customer feels special and has an excellent experience.

You can increase your sales by 50% by following those two rules.

Build relationships with prospective customers

Your first contact with a prospective customer is your listing. Your job is to create a buying environment that your customer can love.

Be sure that you use professional templates that really carry the message of your products and philosophy. Fill that template with strong headlines, excellent product pictures, short and easy to read descriptions, easy to find shipping and other details.

Get personal

Make sure your contact details are prominently posted in your template. Customers are reassured when they see real people's names and a physical address they can look up.

Write an About Me page that gives people a sense of who you are and why you are selling these products. Write in a conversational, chatty tone as if you were speaking with a friend. Be sure to include your unique selling proposition, the reason they should buy from you.

Write a FAQ page. It is a big help to someone who is trying to make a decision to buy.

Shipping and Payment

When your buyer wins, send an immediate automatic email that thanks the buyer for the sale and describes how to make payment.

Make PayPal your primary option if possible. It is quick and easy and works well for both buyer and seller. However, while you should encourage people to use PayPal, be sure you have the ability to take at least MasterCard and VISA as well. Offer the fastest turnaround time that you can manage; out the door in 24 hours is great.

Packaging is very important. Do not use shoddy materials for shipping. Be sure that fragile objects are carefully wrapped and secured in their containers.

If you can manage it, use recycled and recyclable packing materials. Customers really appreciate sellers' efforts to reduce negative impacts on the earth.

Never send out slightly damaged products or packaging, you look unprofessional. Be sure that you have the right sized packaging. Nothing looks more amateurish than a product jammed into a too small box or a small object with too much packing material because the box is too big.

Consider including a small gift. It really does not have to be much, a small package of special tea to go with the teapot that was purchased or a box of crayons to go with a toy designed for ages 3+. The gift can even be an info product such as a booklet on uses for your product.

Add your business card. Hopefully it will be attached to the fridge door where it serves as a reminder to use you again. Consider printing credit card size discount plastic cards and include one with your customer's order; if you can personalise the discount card with your customer's name, even better. The customer will feel they own the card and will store it for future use; promote the discount prominently on the card (for example, 10% Off with your next order) and include a discount coupon code. Ask your local printer for details on costs.

Print labels rather than handwriting them. Use your logo on the label if possible. Make sure that your invoice sells your company as well. Personalize the invoice and be sure it carries your logo as well as a message of gratitude for the sale.

As soon as payment is made, send another email thanking the customer for payment and providing an estimate for shipping from your offices and receipt by them.

Returns and Feedback

eBay requires that you provide a 14 day return policy. Step up your commitment by extending your return policy to 30 days, then point out to your customer that you go beyond the expectations of eBay to bring your customers experience to a higher level.

As you know, sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers so why wait until the transaction is over, just leave your positive feedback now. Even if your customer turns out to be a nightmare, you can not complain about it on feedback so why not show the customer you have faith in them and lay the groundwork for receiving similarly complimentary feedback from them.