The eBay “Best Match” Position Bias Modifier Hypothesis

In this article, I detail further the idea further on a sudo “modifier” that maybe in-place on eBay to restrict or amplify the exposure, thus sales given to merchants as a “group”.

It is only now possible from the discussion in the earlier article titled “Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent?“. If you’ve not read this article, then I strongly suggest you do as this recognises that there is a limitation to any marketplace and what the implication of this means.

This entire article is hypothetical. I question myself throughout the article and I’ll let you make your mind up if you think I am “on to something” or not.


I have toiled with this concept in the past, but now I am now even more certain that this is being used and I only now can I fully understand & comprehend the potential motivations behind this.

The hypothesis is:

Part of the “best match” algorithm on eBay modifies the sales velocity made by merchants (outside of the published factors) on a daily basis to share sales across multiple merchants.

Let’s consider this for a moment, as we’ve already considered the ultimate boundaries of what stops a merchant from selling more product, over any single day there is a limited number of customers on a specific marketplace (eBay in this example, but applies to all).

For the sake of example 5% of all eBay buyers are looking to buy footwear today. Now there are lots of “footwear sellers” on eBay, so we’re going to narrow this down further to say that there is 1% of buyers looking for “mens work boots”.

Also for ease, I’m going to use the number of shops on eBay as a reference for the number of sellers with these products, a search here says that we have 180 matching stores, judging that the numbers of items in these shops tail off pretty quickly and an estimate of 80 is fair. Also assuming that only 20% of eBay sellers are eTRS (Top Rated Sellers) then we’re left with just 16 sellers with matching products.

To summarise we have 1% of the total traffic of eBay looking for “mens work boots”, there are a lot of sellers with these products, however only approximately 16 worthwhile considering for this example.

Question 1 – What would I do?

I am now going to ask the question:

If I were eBay, what would I do?

What I would do and the results you’re probably seeing are about the same. Because exactly what I would do, is to share the buyers looking for “mens work boots” across multiple sellers.

To clearly spell this out:

I would purposefully limit the sales across all sellers in a specific category, to keep them all busy.

Thus, 16 “happy sellers”, rather than just 1-2 taking all the sales and thus reducing risk, but still allowing the newer merchants to move up a scale over time.

Question 2 – Which factors?

I’d also take this a stage further and work out what is a sensible sales limit for each of them, like a score rating, but hidden. Some of these are going to be factors included in the published “best match” algorithm, but this is from a different view, a view to spread sales across multiple sellers on a specific day.

Taking into account the following factors:

  • Age of the account
  • Ratio of sales to ALL disputes (including PayPal)
  • Use of a 3rd party tool/API usage
  • If the seller has defaults on their listing/FVF fees
  • eBay Shop level
  • Number of items listed
  • Account level (basic, enterprise and so on)
  • Historical conversion ratio of views v’s sales

And lots of other factors that I have not thought of either (this list could be endless). However to form a profile of the seller, to essentially see how trustworthy they are, what their capabilities are and where they are comfortable.

Using a quote from the ChannelAdvisor Strategy & Support Centre in the “Optimizing For eBay Best Match Results” article:

eBay incorporates the seller’s feedback information and overall performance as a factor in the Best Match search results. The Best Match algorithm gives a preference to users that have high DSR scores and policy compliance at eBay. Those sellers with lower DSR scores are demoted in the search results, which likely makes it even more challenging to achieve sales and improve the ratings.

With the SR2 release in September 2009, eBay introduced Top Rated Sellers as a new status to supercede the previous PowerSeller status. These sellers are promoted directly in the search results with an icon that denotes the seller is one of eBay’s Top Rated Sellers. As the seller account has very high performance on DSRs, the seller’s listings will already be preferenced and be at the top of the search results. With the additional notation from eBay that this seller is one of the Top Rated Sellers on eBay, it will influence the buying decision of shoppers on the site.

We already know that eBay take a number of factors into consideration when returning results already, this was indicated in quite some depth by Olivier Dumon in 2009 at the eBay DevCon, but they’ve removed the video’s from here.

Question 3 – And what would I do with these?

This is curious, because if you have a finite amount of buyers for a finite number of products on a specific day then, spreading the sales around the sellers would be beneficial as it would keep them all interested and busy. Which leads me on to “The Modifier”.

The Modifier

I’ve got a fair idea on how this would be implemented and this article is about the why and the how, so moving into the how, this is how I’d do the above.

At the start of each day I would give each seller a modifier. This modifier would increase and decrease the exposure rate of all the 16 merchants I used in the earlier part of this article for the keyword set.

Starting off with a modifier of 0.5 in the morning, then as the day progresses, I would decrease the modifier to slow sales for a specific merchant if they have already had a strong mornings worth of sales and inversely, if a merchant has had low comparable sales for the morning, increase the modifier, so that more traffic is delivered to that merchant.


This one has been bugging me for quite some time also and have enjoyed finally put it into writing and exploring it as I have formed this article.

We can all understand and would desire eBay to hold off/restrict sales from new merchants (as they do with selling limits), they’re untested businesses; however I’m not quite sure we’re ready yet to entertain the idea that seasoned merchants could also be under such limits also.

Google unlike eBay, who have left pretty hefty hints on what people should do to help them move forwards with their content & rankings. Beyond, what I class as the basics of DSR’s eTRS, recent sales, impressions (to sales ratio) and free shipping, very very little is known. This article could of course be complete rubbish and it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out.

Think of Bingo, but rigged. I’d work out who the top punters are and ensure that they “looked after”, but still leave room for others to also win and to become a “top punter”.

The overall game would to be deliver the results (sales) across all 16 merchants as evenly as possible over time, keeping within the factors I mentioned , so that all of them are kept busy, but not overwhelmed in a single day and allow the possibility for lower merchants to move up, over time.

I’m not suggesting this is a core modifier for results, however it easily could be a second or third level modifier behind eTRS, so that when “best match” is dealing with 16 top rated sellers that appear to be equal, this could be the deciding factor on who gets which sales (by product visibility).

I’ll leave you with this thought/question:

If it[eBay] was me, then I’d certainly entertain such a modifier to smooth out the risk and sales across multiple merchants. Would you?

Comments in the box below!

The Real ‘Best Match’ Part 1 – Why would anyone buy from you?

The following is a guest post by John from Bamfordtrading. Detailing how we are developing a marketing plan for Bamford Trading.

To the best of my knowledge, John’s not read “The Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. But John “get’s it”. I don’t want to be average or even just plain-old good. I want to be “remarkable”, so does John.

Purple Cow

Would a Purple Cow be remarkable? Would you stop to look?

Part 1 – Why would anyone buy from you?

Unless you are lucky enough to sell unique products with high demand you will know that selling online can be tough. The barriers to entry are low – there is little need for large amounts of capital, it’s not even necessary to have business premises (or even stock in many cases).

Because online retail is an easy business to enter, competition can be fierce. How many times have you said out loud “how can they sell it for that little?”

The Holy Grail of selling online is to have your buyers come to you by preference and not because you are the lowest priced seller or because eBay’s Best Match brings them to you. The marketplaces are all keen to get you to focus on price by pushing towards catalogue selling. Sometimes it seems that price is the only way to compete.

Why else would someone choose to buy from you?

Well it’s a hard question, but one we often ask ourselves. We know that around 10% of orders come from buyers who have bought from us before – this percentage is even higher on our website. We would like to increase this to around 30%.

  • How do you become a supplier of choice?
  • Why would someone choose to buy from you?
  • Who are you?
  • What differentiates you?
  • What’s special about your offering?

We sell mass market products that can be easily sourced from many suppliers so there actually isn’t anything unique about many of the products we sell.

The first step is to agree a ‘positioning statement’. (I hear the groans). Lets agree what and who we are. We know who we are but do our prospective customers?

We could agree to be:

“The lowest price seller of hardware products in Britain”

We would certainly get sales – lots of them – but the winner of this “race to the bottom” wins a business which would soon go bust.

Once we know who and what we are, we begin to build reasons for people to automatically come to us first….

Who and what are you?

To be continued.


One Question For The Weekend

This is probably going to be the shortest post I’ll ever write, but its ramifications are deep and possibly distasteful. The question is…

Are you a busy fool?

Those sales you made yesterday, did you actually make money? Go run the numbers.

The eBay US Fashion Outlet Run Down – What Can You Do?

So the USA finally got the eBay Fashion outlet yesterday then. There are 12 retailers in total in the launch and an astonishing number of them are using Fooition shop designs & templates.

Where this article is going to be different, instead of focusing on why it exists (which in my mind an exceptionally positive event) and who is included, I’m going to break each of the stores down and explain where I believe they could do better in their presentation and implementation on eBay. Yes its just launched, but there is a lot to be learned from.

Scot Wingo from ChannelAdvisor has done a decent breakdown of what the extra perks are for them and who is included, he’s missed out the strike through pricing option that you’ll see in use on most of them and only hinted at the sheer amount of abuse that these retailers will gain in daily deals, exposure and PR from eBay. You only need to look at the eBay UK version of the fashion outlet to spot that it’s a heavily closed shopping experience to the outlet stores.

It should also be noted that Outlet stores have a different eBay shop structure to the normal eBay shops, that allows greater flexibility in what can be done. On the outside the implications are subtle,  however, they are exceptionally more powerful and I’m sure in time the rest of the community will get these options.

What Can You Do?

I’ve put together this video that runs through all the fashion outlets on eBay US. The question is to you, what can you learn from them to improve your eBay activities?

Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent?

For new or smaller businesses, this entire article is going to fly straight over your head, however for larger businesses and for me personally, its a question that has been bothering me for quite some time now. Months apparently.

That question is:

Why do sales through a specific sales channel, tend to stay consistent?

In this article I address this question and it wasn’t until I asked for help, that the real answers came through. It’s also raised further questions, such as how do you deal with this, what options do you have and how can you tackle this with your business model. I actually feel I am now left with more taxing questions than I originally started with.

This really is the upper extremity that I am considering here, if your business is new or is not optimised using any of the 3 rules I cover in a moment, then you should not even concern yourself with this article at all. However, if you’re hitting “limits” on different sales channels, then you really need to read this.

Why this Question?

For a number of years now, I’ve seen merchants selling on multiple platforms hitting a limit of what can be done with a marketplace. For example, businesses that are in a specific niche, their sales will rarely go above or below a 20% window on a daily basis.

There may be “spikes” in sales on a daily basis and seasonality does have a positive effect on most businesses. But overall, most businesses stay consistent.

To understand why I’d be asking myself this question in the first place, I have been working on a set of 3 rules as the basis of expansion/profitability, they also spell “ESI” or are pronounced as “easy!”, which is the ultimate goal of where I am going with these and there is a fourth part that I discuss later in this article. Anyway, the for now these three rules are:

  1. Efficiency
    Both internal & external. Internal is everything your customer does not see, like tools, processes etc… and external is everything your customer does see, branding, the application of persona’s etc..
  2. Sales Channels
    By adding more of them or refocusing on a specific channel to “catch up” with others or to break into a new or refocus upon a competitive advantage.
  3. Inventory
    Either wider or deeper inventory. Range selling, new product verticals (widening the current range) or deeper inventory (thus better price points & supplier relationships)

However, it’s common for a merchant to hit a “limit” on a specific marketplace like eBay or Amazon and I was not happy that “operational efficiencies” were the cause. I know first-hand after spending a few months helping one specific company on-the-ground overcome these and was not happy with the standard reply to such a question. There had to be another reason.

Another aspect has concerned me greatly; what if a client I am working with is actually at 95% efficiency of a channel, what really are the options and what can I do to help them overcome this inherent boundary?

Asking for Help

There was only one person that I knew that could possibly hold the answer or even comprehend what I was referring to in the question. This person was perfect for a number of reasons, the first that he has been in this arena longer than I have, seen more merchants than myself on the differing marketplaces and critically seen the sales data to back this up. That person was Marshall Smith from ChannelAdvisor.

Here is the first email, that I sent over to Marshall. Noting that I have been bothered by this for months. In a conversation on Monday of this week, it was pointed out I had been asking the participant the same question in January.

Hi Marshall,

Here is a question, that I think only you can answer.

Its a question that has been bothering me for quite some time, “Why do eBay sellers sales stay consistent?”

To be more precise, I have noticed that specific sellers sales, never move out of say a 20% window, for example seller X has a average sales of £10,000, the daily fluctuations mean that their sales will never (or rarely do) move outside of 2K below and 2K above.

Surely there are too many factors for a business to consistently land in the same “window” of sales every single day. I understand why this maybe engineered to happen, but that raises more questions that it answers as the most obvious one is “how to you break or work this limitation?”

Have you seen this also?

The first reply is below, it clearly shows that Marshall understands the common issues that occur and why I was right to ask him in the first place.

Matthew –

When I see that situation it’s the same as a regular retail business that’s hit a certain volume and ceiling in their current business practices, so that growth is just not an option for them as they’re trying to run things. They might have a software solution that’s put a ceiling on how much they can get done because it’s not as efficient as they need and a lot of time is spent managing the technology.

They might be short on people (or have chosen to stay at a certain size) and they’re doing all they can every day so there’s no room to grow. Even more common is that people get comfortable and aren’t looking for a change – look at all of the people that have complained about eBay’s changes in the last few years rather than embracing them and recognizing that being ahead of the curve means they’ll pick up the business their competitors lose. There have been plenty that are willing to do that, but even more that had gotten comfortable and just want to keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

One of the things that I’ve found hardest over the years when trying to explain the value that we provide to users is getting them to value their own time. Many times there’s a sole proprietorship that’s been running things using something like Turbo Lister and spending hours and hours every day just to manage their sales. They see it as “free” but aren’t accounting for how much time it costs them to manage that information. Even if they just stay on eBay, coming over to us is going to save them time that they can use to grow their business or go do some other leisure activity instead.

If we just cut the amount of work they’re doing from 6 hours to 3 hours every day (and we’re usually a lot better than that) then we’ve saved them 60-90 hours every month. For that fee that we charge, broken out on a per-hour basis, they’d be hard pressed to get someone that could handle that amount of information and that level of capability to guarantee their business keeps running the same as it’s always been for that amount.

They free up their time to expand their business or focus on customer service, areas that usually didn’t get handled nearly as well before. Yet, they see it as a “cost” because they weren’t calculating the value of their time that they were spending inefficiently to run the business before.

So many of those people have gotten trapped in a pattern where they have something that’s working that they don’t want to change because they fear change or don’t think they have any cash to invest into the business. Most of the time those types of sellers never even get to the level that we’re going to be dealing with them as they fall out of the sales cycle for one reason or another.

If they’re a serious business and want to grow then there are things we can do for them, but if they haven’t figured out the business cycle and a mid to long range plan to grow then we’re going to be big and scary to them.

We’ve had people tell us we made changes to their business that took 8-10 hours of daily work down to just 1 hour a day. Then they finally had the opportunity to grow their business, source more product, expand product lines, hire more employees, and finally get growth back into their business.


Note: I understand that the above is quite a lot for most of you to take in, what this question did in short was highlight that Marshall was the right person to ask. We both [Marshal & I] had reservations that some of you may just not “get this” at all. If this is the case, then the rest of this article is probably a waste of your time.

Redefining the Question

Ignoring that Marshall has created a dozen articles worth in that reply alone, lost about 90% of the people that may read this [Stay! This really does hit gold shortly], it clearly showed that he was the right person to ask.

However I needed to redefine it, we had missed the goal I was looking for. And trust me, we hit it the jackpot in his reply to the following:

Howdy Marshall,

Ah it shows that you understand!

Now remove the users and the software as variables or imagine they’re 90% efficiency.

Why do their sales stay within a 20% window all the time? No major fluctuations, yea some days less, some days more, but never outside of their “boundary”.

Take Amazon sellers, they get the buy box, the sales flood in, its price dependant for sales volume (ignoring lots of other stuff), eBay its different, there is some form of cap or barrier in place??


Now this is where we hit the jackpot and I strongly suggest you read this at least twice as it’s that important:

There’s no buy box in the eBay experience, so you’re subject to the whims of what people are buying at any given point. At a very macro economic level, the demand for most items is pretty consistent and follows a standard pattern.

People replace their shoes on a certain cycle. At a macro version of the economy, there are always X% of people that are shopping for shoes. That keeps the demand at a pretty consistent stream. Then when there’s not something adjusting the demand direction like the Buy Box, then the sellers are exposed at about the same rate that they always are, causing the sales to be within a reasonable statistical level of average.

To parallel to another environment, think of the casino – any individual user might win or lose on the smaller scale, but at the big picture of all of the people playing all of the games the house knows what their rate is going to be and how much they’re going to make as a percentage of the overall bets. That house advantage is the macro version you’re seeing among these sellers where the growth pattern is to:

* improve their placement in the exposure to capture a larger proportion of the regular buyers (Buy Box)
* expand their product line to make the universe of potential buyers for them to be a larger group
* expand the distribution channels to open up the existing product to a larger overall audience

Since you can’t (really) get the Buy Box on eBay (eTRS and Best Match only goes so far) then really the only way to grow is to expand the product line or do additional stuff off-eBay.

A lot of people get comfortable with their products and what they know of eBay, so they don’t change any of these things and grow up to the point that they’ve captured “their share” and then are stagnant from that point forward.

That was okay in the past when eBay was growing at such a clip that people were seeing 20-30% annual increases because they were just riding on the coattails of eBay growth, but when that slowed down they weren’t ready and just got frustrated and confused.

When they pay attention to the types of things we both talk about, that’s when they’re able to address one or more of these points and expand their business again instead of being stuck on a plateau.


Kipper Slap

What Marshall had highlighted were the following:

  1. There is a pretty much consistent demand for some product ranges, like shoes.
  2. With all factors being equal, sellers are exposed to buyers at a consistent rate
  3. There is only so-much you can do in a single marketplace
  4. There is only so-much you can do with a specific product range
  5. If you just tread-water, then you’re not going to see the high increases that you used to see, as eBay’s growth rate has slowed down

You cannot imagine the gravity of these 5 points were to me. I had been pondering over this for several months and in this one reply, which was comparable to being hit in the face with a kipper. It all became clear. It’s also raised bucket loads of other questions, but it was finally answered.

What Does this Now Mean?

In short, as Marshall puts it so aptly, “You can no longer ride the coattails of eBay for growth”. This also extends to every other marketplace there is as well. There is an inherent cap to the number of people looking for a specific product on a specific day on a specific marketplace.

Yes, globally this number may be a huge, however on a macro level each and every marketplace, the number of customers you can reach and convert is limited.

The E, the S, the I and the?

In the 3 rules of ESI, I give equal value to each of rules, that is, that efficiency carries a weighting of one, the same as sales channels and inventory. However within each of these, the weighting is not equal and it’s the combination of them that equate to something higher than just 3.

However, if just one is exceptionally poorer than the rest, then that heavily out weighs the others. In simple terms (I like to use metaphors, get used to them, there are more) its like a Ferrari with elephant as a passenger and coal as the fuel, you got some of the right gear, but you ain’t going anywhere.

If you’ve got a great listing template and no inventory, if you’ve got a world class backend system, but no sales channels, if you’ve got masses of inventory and a limited backend tool and only a single marketplace. You’re not going to get very far and there is no way you’ll ever hit the boundaries that we’ve been discussing in this article.

This is why its absolutely critical to your business that you pick the right tools for the job, because without them you’re not going very far and with them all in harmony, you’ll outpace “The Stig“.

I hinted earlier that I am working on a fourth part to the ESI structure, this is one is special, because this one is a multiplier. While the others cumulatively have a positive effect, this one is ultra special because with this one executed currently multiplies the gains of the first three.

The multiplier is “Why”. Why are you doing what you are doing and what guides you to what you are doing. A business with no drive is pretty much only ever going to tread water, however, if you lob in the magic of a say a CEO like Steve Jobs that will ensure that a company will succeed huge personal cost, then this is a multiplier.

My equation (again I am trying to keep this as a simple as possible) looks like this:

Results = (Efficiency +  Sales Channels + Inventory) x The “Why” Factor

As you can see, even if the sum of the E, S & I are low, if you say have someone or a purpose to add in a “Why Factor” then all these are multiplied and that is why I believe that most small businesses that stick longer than a year, have this very special ingredient.

Determination and grit are absolutely required and its these kind of factors that multiply the results. I am reminded over a conversation in a meeting a few months back, where it was blatantly obvious that my role in the conversation was to highlight that what they lacked for, did not matter. What did, was that they had the determination to make it happen, “The Why Factor” and I think you might have already guessed it, they are winning.


A stark summary of this entire article, is that there is a limit to what you can do on a single marketplace.

The inherent cap, does not impact all business models, if you’re business is subject to multiple customer bases (eg. B2C & B2B) and/or irregular stock levels, then this cap is going to yo-yo and give inconsistent sales on a frequent basis, by its very nature. However if your business is homed-in on a specific niche then if you’re not at this wall yet, then you will be soon (or later).

I’d like to extend a public thank you you Marshall from ChannelAdvisor. It was not my intention to use his replies in this article, but as I started working on it over the course of over a week or so, it became apparent that without his replies, the story of arriving at the final answer, would fall far short without its inclusion. Thank you.

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The (Online Marketing) Nightmare Before Christmas

John Hayes

John Hayes iContact

The following is a guest article from a colleague & friend John Hayes from who is the EMEA Business Development Executive for iContact

You may have seen us talking at the eSellerPro conference last week, soon you’ll hear us talking as we’ve got some topical debates planned.

More on that later, for now, email marketing is one of the most measurable & powerful forms of marketing there is. Look out for the Return on Investment stats in the article, 300% is a whopper and has John’s top tips for your Christmases marketing campaign.

Also note that the links to iContact are not affiliate links, I’ve personally agreed to it being published here, because I feel its that important that you participate. 

The (Online Marketing) Nightmare Before Christmas

As we edge towards the busy Christmas trading period, online marketers will be bombarded with advice on how to maximise results over the festive season. For many businesses, Christmas represents the greatest opportunity of the year to profit from their marketing activity. However, Christmas also represents a significant threat to online businesses, if they follow the wrong advice.

Perhaps the most common piece of misguided advice offered to small and medium-sized enterprises looking forward to a profitable Q4 is to drastically increase their online marketing spend. At first glance, this seems perfectly sensible. It follows the age old adage, “The more you tell, the more you sell”. But it also ignores the equally wise tenet, “Don’t be a busy fool”.

Let’s look at some of the risks involved with simply spending more.

You Cannot Afford It

Acquisition channels such as Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising are very expensive and highly unlikely to yield a quick return. To see any kind of profit you’ll need to know your numbers inside out, understand your customers’ lifetime value and have a complete appreciation of multi-touch attribution (i.e. how your campaigns are influenced by other marketing channels).

Big businesses spend a considerable amount of money trying to understand this. Whilst you will want to allocate some budget towards customer acquisition at this busy time, unless you have significant funds to invest in long-term forecasts and sophisticated analytics, this is not the approach you should follow if you want to see profits THIS Christmas.

You Haven’t Got the Resources

When you throw a considerable amount of money at a highly visible channel you should expect to get real busy, real quick. Have you got the warehouse space, stock and staff on hand to cope with a sudden upturn in business?

You should also remember that your competition is playing the same game, forcing marketing costs up and putting additional pressure on margins. If you are forced into this “race to the bottom” you’ll either be compelled to lower prices accordingly or risk being left holding stock. If this happens your additional investment into staffing and logistics will only add to your problems.

Your Reputation Cannot Stand the Risk

Any number of challenges can stand to ruin your reputation if you drop the ball at Christmas. If your prices are visibly higher than your competitors, you’ll be hard pushed to win business back from the discount traders. If you run out of stock you’ll be seen as unreliable, as well as wasting money driving traffic to web pages that will never convert. Increased spend will push your warehouse to the limit. Fail to deliver on time at Christmas and you’ll go down in history alongside the Grinch.

In the UK last year (due to adverse weather conditions) 17% of gifts bought online failed to arrive before Christmas. The public are an unforgiving bunch and are more likely to apportion blame at your doorstep than the weatherman’s if their gifts are delayed. In this case, you could find yourself actually paying to tarnish your own reputation?

Smart Marketers Wish for Many Happy Returns

Paying to acquire new customers is just the start of a relationship. This is why smart marketers surround themselves with friends at Christmas. They have worked hard to gain their trust and will have invested heavily (and not necessarily just in terms of cash) to keep them.

Smart marketers win and keep their friends by offering the following:

  • Amazing product knowledge and advice
  • Stellar customer service
  • Great deals (a mixture of price and service and not just the cheapest unit costs)
  • An open forum for conversation between the marketer and the customer

Sounds easy – right? Well, that’s because it is.

Most marketers will already be very familiar with two of the most common online tools required to maintain great customer relationships. It’s highly likely you are using them (to some degree) already.

Email Marketing + Social Media – The Gift Which Keeps On Giving

Email Marketing remains the most cost effective online marketing tool in terms of Return on Investment available to marketers today.  Unlike costly acquisition channels like PPC, Email Marketing is a retention tool and as you already know, it is much cheaper to retain an existing customer than win a new one.

So how effective is email marketing in terms of profit generation. Well that depends on a number of factors but a recent survey conducted by eConsultancy in the UK suggests that 63% of companies using Email Marketing saw a Return on Investment of greater than 300%.

Email’s strength lies in the fact it is invited and therefore welcomed by the recipient. The ease with which a subscriber can opt-in and out of receiving emails also ensures unwanted email does not tarnish your reputation. Carefully segmented lists mean that marketers can afford to get straight to the point and promote products and services with an extremely relevant message.

Having a well-segmented list should also mean you are sending out high-frequency campaigns whilst not clogging up subscribers’ in-boxes. Finally the in-box environment also ensures emails are kept and can be referenced multiple times rather than appearing and disappearing (as your budget dwindles) on the major PPC networks.

When looking at building profitable relationships THIS CHRISTMAS Email Marketing should be the number one weapon of choice in your online marketing arsenal. But the reach of Email Marketing doesn’t stop at your subscribers’ inbox. Thanks to social media, Email Marketing has become supercharged.

By incorporating simple social media tools into your email campaigns allows you to harness the power of your customers’ network of friends and followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly your campaigns, shared across multiple peer networks, become viral and the reach of email marketing campaigns increases drastically.

Could it get any better?

How about if I told you extending the reach of your email marketing with the power of Social Media is FREE.

Still not convinced? Ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Do I have customers that love my products and appreciate my service?
  2. Would I benefit from more customer referrals and repeat business?
  3. Am I spending too much money on acquiring new customers and too little time with my existing customers?
  4. Do I want to see a return on my investment This Christmas?

If you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above questions, don’t waste anymore more time. You can start your 30 day Free Trial of iContact’s email and social media marketing software here

The 12 Email Marketing Tips for a Better Christmas

Tip #1 – Be relevant
When putting together the content, never leave yourself outside of the customer’s shoes. From top to bottom, each and every word needs to relate to the customer, or else you’ve lost them.

Tip #2 – Avoid set schedules
You don’t have to stick to sending a newsletter at the same time every month. If you have nothing to say, don’t say it. Missing a “scheduled” email newsletter is better than filling it with useless content with no value for customers.

Tip #3 – Less is more
Select just one offer per email and segment your list accordingly. If you have a range of complementary products, choose a hero product to focus on and add simple links to promote the additional items. Think of your email like a menu in a restaurant – too many dishes to choose from and nothing looks appetizing.

Tip #4 – More is more
Now that you’ve made your campaigns more relevant, it’s time to increase the frequency of your emails. Keep your emails relevant and interesting and your subscribers will welcome the increased touch points.

Tip #5 – Headline News
Your subject line should scream benefits. Think of it in the same way a newspaper editor writes a headline. It should tell the full story and entice the subscriber to read more. Give your subject line as much thought as your body text. Your subject line is your first line of defense between your subscribers and the delete button.

Tip #6 – Automate
Set up auto-responders to automatically deliver a predefined series of messages. These could include welcome messages to new subscribers, online courses or carefully crafted sales messages delivered over a specific period of time.

Tip #7 – Keep it real
Make good use of real text (not graphics) at the top of your email. A graphic-heavy email will appear blank until the subscriber has selected to download the graphics. Real text in the message will remain visible even in HTML emails and entice subscribers to open the complete email.

Tip #8 – Get social
Use your email campaigns to encourage subscribers to engage with your social media activity on Facebook or Twitter. Social media will not replace your email activity but will allow you to build your brand across your subscribers’ social networks.

Tip #9 – Test
Whenever possible, test your subject lines and creatives and then optimize accordingly. Split testing does not have to be complicated. Hit 20% of your list with two different emails and monitor the response. Hit the remaining 80% with the most successful email.

Tip #10 – Cleanse
Take the time to cut the deadwood from your list. Remove bounced email addresses and any names that have not opened any of your mails over a significant period of time. Remember, you are paying to target a list of people who want to receive your emails. Old, dead and unwanted emails are expensive and can damage your reputation.

Tip #11 – Understand what success looks like
A 20% open rate is good, 35% is ideal. Shoot for the latter with a compelling headline that sticks with the customer. That’s your most precious real estate. You have five words, max.

Tip #12 – Register for a free 30 day trail of iContact’s email marketing software here
You’ll have access to all our email and social tools as well as video tutorials and best practice guides. You’ll also have full access to our UK support team and a range of easy to use, customisable email templates to get you started. Could you not wish for a better Christmas present?

The First eSellerPro Council

While I’m not going to cover who was there and what was covered in this article, I am going to share a key observation and ask you the question “what does this mean for you?”.

The Table

The table consisted of nearly all the largest, most influential clients of eSellerPro and together, probably accounted for a quarter of all turnover taken on eBay UK by professional business sellers or more.

Ironically there were only two businesses that I did not implement sat at the table, the others I had either implemented personally or were the reason why they were using eSellerPro in the first place and with half the room accounting for FSP’s, eBay “Full-Service Providers”, they represented the majority of the eBay Outlets. I did, on entering wonder why the hell I was there (although equally honoured to be part of it) and wore the hat as “moderator”.

My Observation

After picking myself off the floor, as eSellerPro has now got a documented “road map”, it was really interesting to look at commonalities between the people sat at the table.

In all instances, they were “people persons”.

They actually give-a-hoot about their staff and what they are trying to do. Yes, they were all highly motivated business people, but under each one of them, they each had teams of people assisting them.

In three cases, their trusted “right-hand-man” (or woman) were with them. Some had family members as part of the team, mums, sisters and brothers, aunts & uncles, but it extended further than that, much further.

They employed people as part of the ‘family’ and extended their family as part of their business. One even quoted, “I employ mothers, because when they need me to be lenient, than I know I will see the return two-fold in loyalty”, another accounts for a substantial part of an entire islands economy and the others making a significant difference to their local economies.

And that’s the observation, none of them would would be where they are today, sat at that table, responsible for some of the largest chunks of transactional value carried out on the on-line marketplaces without a trusted team below them, which knowingly or unknowing, treating them as “family”.


In conclusion, a multitude of topics were covered. Goodness knows what several members of the table actually thought of the interactions, although the feedback given to me personally was exceptional.

The one piece of glue outside of eSellerPro joining them all together was undoubtedly, they care about people and without them, none of them would have been sat there.

Stop - Take Action!So, to the original question.
What does this mean for you?

This Weeks To-Do List

I’m here writing out what my “to-do list” is for the week and thought I share parts of it with you.


I need to make a serious dent in a book I have been slowly reading over the past few weeks, its called “On Competition” by Michael Porter. I’m now only 75 or so pages in and what is covered is best described as ‘epic’. I’ve never looked at competitive advantages in such detail and finally understand the power of straddling and why the lust for growth can make compromises to a business.

I also just completed Freakonomics over the weekend and have ordered the following book, Superfreakonomics which should be here Tuesday, along with a book I took from Scot Wingo’s reading list called Founders at Work. I have previously read ‘Rework‘ by the chaps at 37signals.


VAT registration is on the cards again and a special thanks to Chris from Tamebay on some pointers earlier today. I have a meeting with the accountant on Thursday. I’m also quite excited about this as there is the potential to bring her in on some of the topics that I have to cover as part of ProjectE.

Social Networking

I’m going to flip my usage of social mediums this week, one change I made a week or so ago was to keep the spam down on my personal accounts, for example, not posting updates from here to my FaceBook account. I’m going to take this a stage further and keep as many of the interactions as possible incoming, rather than outgoing, if that makes sense?


You might start to see a new side to this site later this week. I have been toying with the idea of releasing podcasts for quite sometime now, they’re part of the road-map for this site and you might just see this come to fruition this week (but no promises).

ChannelAdvisors Amazon 360

One of the largest strengths of ChannelAdvisor is their ability to create reports that make sense and part of their changes due out soon is something called “Amazon 360”, the Autumn press release is here and I’m hoping on seeing this before it goes live in two weeks time.

Two Key Articles

I’ve got two key articles I have been working on, the first is a critical observation from the eSellerPro council and the other is regarding the limitations on eBay and well marketplaces in general and it’s already raising more questions than it answers. Both are pending authorisation by 3rd parties, so you are may or may not see these this week.

Other Tasks

I’ve still got 4 tasks from last week to complete, none of them were simple either.

The ongoing commitments to ProjectE and the ProjectE 6 are taking up my entire Friday. They’re half way through right now and its too early to comment on their progress, other than we’re at the stages that I expected. We had an exceptionally interesting conversation on Friday regarding pricing strategies I can tell you!

How does this compare to your to-do list?

All Things Shiny (Magpies & Jewellery, Business & Technology)


OoooO Look it’s shiny! Wanna Ride?

Magpies are drawn to shiny things, they collect bottle tops and anything that they can add to their nest when trying to attract a mate. It gives them “the edge”.

Humans have this same trait, we like new things. We’ve been trained by a culture of decades of marketing that we need the latest technology, because it will make our lives better, or so we’ve told.

Do we really need the shiny things to achieve results?

I know this all to well, after the conversations yesterday at the eSellerPro conference, there are a lot of “shiny things” kicking around. Let’s take a few specific ones (Kris take note of Magento):

I’m not going to bore you with the endless list that your “magpie” manager (that might just be you) is being hounded by the media hype to be involved in. You should be doing social, you should be doing facebook, you should be on Twitter, you should be doing eBay, you should be doing Amazon, oh and you should be using Magento; you should be doing this and you should be doing that.


Let’s take “Magento” for a moment, so you’ve already go your website up and running and running and have customers visiting each day. You may have seen it for the past 2, 3 or more years, but if a customer comes to you for the first time today, what do you think?

Does he scream OMG this website is soooo old, it’s got this bug, it’s missing this feature, oh would it not be sooooo cool to have this or that?


The customer is looking to see if the product is right for them, they may be looking for social triggers to ensure they feel safe, they want to make sure that the product or service is right for them and all the common things that happen during a transaction.

You should be doing what is measurable and what is required to gain the confidence of the customer that what you are offering is the right product for them. It does not matter if the checkout is 10 pages long, they’ll get through it, if they have “SOLD” stamped on their foreheads.


I like you, get attracted to the shiny stuff. We’ve been programmed to by endless hounding by mass media & even peers to do this and that.

Magpies use shiny stuff to attract a new partner, we use these things to attract managers, peers, friends, customers & status. But the difference between magpies & humans is that great big lump on top of your shoulders.

By knowing that something is shiny means you can focus on what really matters, what actually converts and making it better. Use your lump, it’s your edge.

Stop - Take Action!What’s shiny to you?
Go on admit it, you have something that is shiny. I know I do. But what really matters? What really converts?

Webinar #2 With ChannelGrabber & A Users Feedback

Well, that was an amazing turnout, thank you so much to those who attended. We had a few technical issues to begin with, just like losing the questions on the previous week, I’ll learn from this to ensure that they get better each time.

So… What was the Webinar about?

The webinar was hosted by myself and we also have three guests, the first was Daniel, the MD of ChannelGrabber, Matthew the product director and Jason, someone who uses ChannelGrabber to run his business from.

We were not only shown what this tool can do but also cover how it can help your business be more effective at selling online. This was clearly highlighted by the feedback from Jason in the webinar and look out for the pivotal question at the end.

An Introduction to Why You Need a Tool Like This

I felt it necessary to add a short introduction before we get into the Webinar, one because it’s very long, the second to highlight the 3 reasons why you need a tool like this.

They are:

  1. You’re not entering data into specific sites, rather you are entering into a single site and it makes updating the information later much easier
  2. You can manage your sales orders in a single place
  3. It’s one of the two big spikes in a business’s life (automation & sales channels)

The Webinar

I apologised about 20 times for “butting-in” but this is where I was thinking of you and that you may have not realised the impact or exactly what we were referring to, so felt it necessary to do so. (another apology here lol)

I take for granted the features found in ChannelGrabber and are doing my best to ensure that you fully understand what we’re covering.

Webinar with ChannelGrabber Today @ 17:00

In case you’ve missed it, I’m holding another Free Webinar this evening at 17:00 GMT with MD of, Daniel and one of their users, Jason who is also one of the ProjectE 6.

Who Should Attend?

If you’ve never used an “automation tool” to manage the differing sales channels eBay & Amazon, then this webinar is for you.

There are typically three spikes in an online small/medium business, the first spike is when you start selling in the first place and dedicate time, the second is when you add more sales channels and the third is when you use a tool like ChannelGrabber to automate as much as possible and to refocus on better inventory data and more inventory.

These are my three rules to expansion, efficiency (internal & external), more sales channels, more inventory. A tool such as ChannelGrabber underpins ALL of these.

What are We Covering?

The webinar will be broken into two sections, the first will be hosted by Daniel and he’ll explain why a tool like this existed and how it can help you.

The second part will with Jason, an actual user of ChannelGrabber and you’ll hear “a real customer” that uses this for his business

Why Not Wednesday?

I’m off to a “customer council” with eSellerPro tomorrow and don’t fancy trying to host the Webinar from hotel wifi.

Where Do I Register?

You can register here and it starts at 5pm tonight.

See you there!