Every eBay seller who leaves for a new platform has the same problem raised: Where did my customers go?
I covered this in the article below, but the real question still lies, "Where did they actually go?" It can't be this hard to find new customers on my own website, or a lower volume auction venue, can it?
I'll take this bet with any eBay seller: Regardless of all the time and effort you have put into your websites and venues outside eBay, unless you have chosen a very high traffic competitor like Amazon (the only one that can match eBay's sales) you will lose more than 75% of your sales the first week of leaving eBay completely. Another bet I will make with nearly any eBay seller, you will only take 10% of your eBay customers to your new platform for a single order, and many won't return for a second order.
We have already established the reasons for this. These customers are truly eBay customers. If eBay kicked all the sellers off their site and setup an affiliate site, those same folks would keep shopping there for quite a while, not caring if they were buying from eBay or someone else like Buy, New Egg, or Overstock through an affiliate link on eBay. Think of it like this... each year, eBay sales fall 5-10%. Those are the only eBay customers that were not truly eBay's customers, but the customers of the sellers.
With this simple fact established with most businesses, the question now changes from "Where are they?" to "How do I get them?"
I discussed ways to market yourself to customers once they have made it to your site, but never did talk about how they got there in the first place.
1. Free feed submissions.
This can include highly popular sites such as StumbleUpon and Google Base, and go as far down the traffic scope as a small blog feed exchange. There are rarely bad submissions to feed engines and shopping directories. I had a question on a site I took down a year ago. This question came from a man who found it on a niche shopping directory I placed it on 3 years ago, and he found the contact email address I left on the index page. I had the message "If you are interested in seeing this site return, email me."
2. Link exchanges
Link exchanges can be tricky, but valuable to a website administrator to build traffic. One particular site I have has over 300 backlinks from link exchanges with other sites. Do not confuse a link exchange with a traffic exchange though.
Traffic exchanges can vary from "placement for clicks" or click swapping, to prizes for large numbers of clicks, or even as far as auto-click exchanges generated by hacker scripts.
A true link exchange will involve you finding a number of complimentary sites that offer a "partner" or "friend" page and adding them to yours as well. If you offer an affiliate commission, this makes it even easier to draw customers from these exchanges.
Always be sure to follow the other site's policies with exchanges, and you usually can't go wrong. If you have any reason to think a site may not be reliable, check the IP address here: http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx
3. Paid advertisements
Let me first state that no startup site should ever, ever begin with a Pay per click ad program as it's marketing system unless you offer a unique product or service.
The best paid ads don't charge by click. The top ads are monthly or weekly rates, and can be bought on many blogs, forums, shopping sites, and even many high traffic social network users offer placement on their pages to advertise to all their friends for a set amount of cash. For some, this is the primary form of revenue for the site and they are more than happy to negotiate a long term price.
4. Affiliate programs
Imagine how foolish the Amazon critics were in the 90's when Amazon offered a $5 commission for every new customer signup, or how much the critics wished they signed up on eBay's affiliate program when eBay started offering $12 for each new user who made a purchase. Maybe the detractors were wrong?
Affiliate programs can be the #1 revenue booster for any website. Remember how many salespersons Avon and Mary Kay had in the 80's and 90's? That was a face to face affiliate program, where each seller made a commission each month on their sales. This has been adapted online to help a business by offering either a price per sale commission, price per user, or percent commission.
There are many affiliate ad companies that will help you setup your accounts, but you will pay anywhere from 10-50% of the commission back to them. A couple are Clickbank and Shareasale. They have a strong service, very well managed, but are also very costly.
Today, many free open source shopping carts offer an affiliate program system, including OSCommerce and Zen-Cart. Channel Advisor, Volusion, and ProStores have a affiliate program built into some of their carts. It depends on how much time and effort you have to spend on building your program.
5. This will be the last traffic generation method I discuss, and it is a tried and tested way to draw traffic. If you are following this blog, or visiting regularly, you have likely clicked on at least one of these links to the right. Most of these are sites I operate or am affiliated. Everytime I write anything, there is a way to draw traffic to at least one of my sites. I post on many movie forums and always place a link to my sites. I write here, and several other places, where I can freely post any link to any site I want within the content, or near the articles. Why doesn't every site administrator do this? The only negative is perhaps a little finger cramping, and that goes away with a few knuckle cracks. You don't even have to be a fantastic author to do this, because even I can. I have read eBay Titanium Powerseller blogs that look like a 7 year old child typed it, and they actually gained sales. It just takes time, and time management, to make it happen.
There is nothing complicated about building traffic. It can be done spending hours every day, or maybe just a few minutes a day. Would you see an ad for your car repair site on a jewelery store website? Probably not. But a handyman blog would be an outstanding outlet for your ads. Focus on where you would expect to find your own site, and you will see your traffic, and sales, grow.