By That Kat | May 28, 2015
“I had the privilege of hearing you speak at last year’s eBay Radio Party, and again this year at the Sellers’ Conference of Online Entrepreneurs (SCOE) conference in Philadelphia.
You seem like a pretty smart lawyer, and you’ve got lots of good information, but the best thing about you is your ability to make the audience laugh. Seriously, until I heard you I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to make me laugh talking about income taxes, sales taxes, and tax accounting.
You have an amazing gift. When you have a moment, could you please share how you developed this talent?”
If there are any conference organizers or event planners reading this column, please re-read this totally unsolicited e-mail I received this week. You would be amazed how often I receive e-mails like this. Quite a few reviewers and bloggers have referred to me as a “stand-up comedian with a law degree,” and I don’t mind that at all. What they’re trying to say is that I’m not just a “typical” lawyer. Let’s face it, most lawyers aren’t funny. Nor are they expected to be. Nor do you hire them to be.
But my sense of humor is probably my biggest competitive advantage in the legal marketplace: I think I’m the only person on LinkedIn with “legal services” and “entertainment” selected as their two most relevant business categories. And when I sense a client is on the fence about retaining me for a legal matter, I always make a point of saying “and, you know, I can make a warranty about my services that I don’t think any other lawyer in the country will give you, at least in writing: at some point in our relationship, I will make you laugh.”
That statement not only humanizes me (the respondent almost always laughs at that moment), but shows my complete confidence if not fearlessness in my abilities. If someone can be lighthearted in times of great stress, they must really know what they are doing. Hawkeye Pierce, from the TV show “M.A.S.H.”, was not a great surgeon, but his persistent wisecracking irreverent humor held his combat medical team together during the depths of the Korean War.
So much of business and legal communication consists of “psyching out” people in a positive way. I can’t tell you how many times I have successfully defused a tension-filled negotiating session, or scraped a client off the ceiling after some bad news, or gently talked a client out of taking a legally disastrous course of action, by simply pointing out how ridiculous the whole situation was and putting it in perspective.
Criminal trial lawyers have always said that “a laughing jury never convicts.” And it’s true. Probably the master practitioner of this art was the late Johnnie Cochrane, the criminal defense lawyer who represented O.J. Simpson in his 1990’s murder trial. That whole business of waving the bloody glove around chanting “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!” over and over again was a brilliant piece of theater – a jury who sees how totally ridiculous the prosecution’s case is will never send a defendant to the gas chamber, or life in prison. Not because the evidence doesn’t add up, but because they could never live with themselves if they did.
You cannot hate someone who makes you laugh. This is why, while dramatic actors are referred to as “great,” successful comedians are referred to as “beloved.” You remember the comedians long after you forget the dramatic actors.
So how do you build humor and light-hearted banter into your sales pitches, your business negotiations, and so forth?
Well, of course, it helps if you’re naturally funny. In my case, I had no choice. My father – the hero of my childhood – constantly commented on the human comedy he saw at work every day, and taught me to respond in kind. As a young boy, perennially overweight and picked on by grade-school bullies, I learned that the best way to avoid a beating was to make your tormentors laugh. I memorized the best routines of Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson, Pat Cooper, Jackie Vernon and, ahem, Totie Fields (hey, I needed fat jokes) and performed them “live” for the acne-scarred multitudes in the hallways, the gym and the lunchroom. As a teenager in the late 1960s who bore a striking physical resemblance to Richard Nixon while wearing a pocket protector and carrying a briefcase everywhere he went, I learned that the only ways to attract girls were (a) play a varsity sport, (b) play the guitar, or (c) make them laugh. Guess which way I went?
As a young lawyer, I moonlighted by volunteering for “open mike nights” at New York City comedy clubs (I used a stage name and insisted on cash payment so my bosses wouldn’t find out). I also started including humorous stories from my life in bar association programs and professional meetings. Even when they fell flat, I never got bad reviews.
More next week . . .
Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.
By Kate Hornsby | May 27, 2015
If you’re saying “Ah-ha, I knew it!” after the announcement about eBay’s new advertising service this week, you’re not alone. There are apparently quite a few sellers that predicted something was up when eBay started messing with it’s Search criteria. Even the announcement back in 2013 when they changed their User Agreement to add a provision about them being allowed to hide listings for any reason seems to have provided a clue.
Although this isn’t eBay’s first attempt at offering an advertising program for sellers, they are decidely taking a slightly different approach this time. The new service is being called “Promoted Listings” and works off the principal that while sellers have to pay for the premium listing, they don’t pay until a buyer actually purchases the item after they have clicked through on the ad. In other words, it’s not a cost per each click, but just a cost when it sales.
Whether you love this idea or hate it, do be aware that at the moment it is only available to certain sellers and is by invitation only. At the moment, eBay is stating that it will just be offered to a limited number of store owners in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. There are, however, plans to expand this program to other sellers throughout the year.
While eBay hasn’t released all the details yet, here is what we do currently know: Promoted Listings will actually say that they are promoted (translates to “paid for”) and eBay is saying that as a Promoted Listing, your ad could appear in prominent locations on their website based on how much you’ve chosen to pay for your ad rate and how relevant your item is when a buyer performs a search.
You can read eBay announcement here.
Do you think Promoted Listings are a good thing or a bad thing for eBay sellers? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | May 22, 2015
If you’re like most Amazon FBA sellers, you probably love the thrill of the chase and finding the great deals that you know can make the big profits. You may even like the feeling of satisfaction you get when you pack up and ship off your new-found merchandise to the Amazon warehouse. What you might not like however, is the bookkeeping that comes with having an online business.
Although a lot of sellers rely on Amazon’s Seller Central to let them know how their sales are doing, they balk at doing their weekly and monthly bookkeeping for their entire business. Perhaps it’s because it’s a tedious task or maybe it’s because doing bookwork isn’t really an income producing activity, but most sellers would rather be doing almost anything else other than keeping up with their bookkeeping.
Unfortunately, a lack of proper bookkeeping can cause problems for you down the road and may even ultimately affect the overall health of your business. Here’s 3 reasons why you need to take this task seriously:
It makes life much easier at tax time! If you have an online business, you are expected to pay taxes just like any other type of business. If you put off doing your bookkeeping until you just absolutely have to, it can make for a stressful time around tax day. Using a software program like QuickBooks for your bookkeeping can make it a snap when it comes time to gather all your tax information together. Or, you can go the old fashion route and use spreadsheets. It really doesn’t matter as long as whichever method you choose gets used consistently.
Bookkeeping helps sellers better manage their cash flow. Good bookkeeping not only makes it easier at tax time, it also helps sellers get an accurate picture of how their business is really doing. It not only shows how much money you actually have coming in and the profit, it also shows where your money is going with all those fees.
Provides comparisons from one year to the next. Perhaps one of the best things about keeping your bookkeeping current and up-to-date is that it allows you to analyze your growth rate from one year to the next as well as how each month compared to the same month in the previous year. It not only helps to ensure that your business is growing, but it can show you trends such as the best months for sales and the worst. By knowing what to expect for each month or quarter, you then can plan your purchases for your Amazon FBA inventory accordingly.
By Kate Hornsby | May 19, 2015
If you’re family is starting to think you’re a hoarder, you may want to pass this article on by without reading it any further…but…what if I told you that you could actually make some money on eBay by selling things that a lot of us throw in the trash without so much as a second thought?
It might sound crazy, but you can actually sell things that normally end up in the trash and in some cases, make a nice chunk of extra change. Let’s take another look at some things you probably have been throwing away.
Empty toilet paper rolls. The secret got out on this one a couple of years ago, so you’re going to have some competition, but you can still get $15.00 or more if you save them up all year. Do yourself a favor and take those little tufts of paper off of them. They not only photography better, but that will help you get a better price.
Try to save up about a 100 or more before you list, so you get the best price. Believe it or not, empty toilet paper rolls are often used in school projects and with Pinterest being all the rage, people need just as many of the empty rolls as they can get.
Empty pill bottles. Once again, you’ll want to have a good many of these before you list or you’re pretty much wasting your time. Prices range from a low of $5.00 for 10 to an interesting $25.99 for 50 of them (as of today, May 5, 2015).
Apparently, people like to use empty bottles for fishing lures, craft supplies and small nails and screws. You’ll want to soak them in water to get the labels off, not only to ensure someone doesn’t try to fill your old prescriptions, but also because that will make them look better and bring a better price.
Old magazines. This has been hit and miss for me, but it pays to check before you toss them out. I sold a bunch of the hubby’s “Muscle Media” magazines a few years ago for $15.00 and Rachel Ray’s magazines are said to do fairly well too.
You may also want to check out Amazon since there are certain magazines that do well “over there” that people don’t usually care about on eBay. As an example, I had great luck selling old issues of Architectural Digest magazine on Amazon, but couldn’t even get a single watcher for them on eBay.
Coupons. Although eBay tightened down on sellers listing coupons, you can still do it and there is money to be made. Make sure to read the restrictions before you list. They won’t let you sell more than 25 coupons in a listing and you can’t sell coupons that are for “Free” items.There are also some other restrictions you need to know about as well.
Still, if you are a regular coupon clipper who usually has some leftover that you don’t use, it’s a great way to make a few bucks for the mere cost of a postage stamp.
Have you ever sold any “throwaway” items on eBay? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | May 15, 2015
Since there’s only so many hours in the day, taking an occasional pause during your workday to stop and consider how you manage your time and where you are headed with your Amazon FBA business can make a lot of sense. It not only helps you to stay motivated, it can work to keep your online business on track.
Here’s three ways that can help:
Remember you’re only human
Although we may wish we had superpowers, there are actually only so many hours available during the day to get the important things done. This means you need to be realistic about how you manage your time and prioritize what you need to do and when. Since making money is the biggest priority for your Amazon FBA business, if you only have a limited amount of time to work each day, start by shipping the products you have already accumulated, then work on your administrative tasks or purchasing more products.
Discover your peak productivity performance time
Everyone has a time of day that they are at their most productive and mentally alert. Keep that time of day in mind when you are planning your daily schedule. Make phones calls or do repetitive tasks during your less productive hours of the day and perform tasks that require more mental clarity during your peak productive times.
Visualize your success
Creating a vision for your success should stem from a realistic idea of where you want your business to be and should challenge you to grow as an online seller. Think about where you would like to be in six months and where you would like to see your sale in one year. Once you have locked in the vision of how you want your business to grow, it’s time to start plotting your course to reach it.
Write down a list of the projects you will need to accomplish over the next year to reach your goal. You can then break down each project into smaller steps to make your plan more manageable. This will not only help you to stay on track, but can keep you from letting yourself get overwhelmed as you work toward your vision.
By Kate Hornsby | May 12, 2015
Although I am one of those people who complains every time Facebook decides to change something, there’s finally one change that appears to be coming that I think I might actually like. Facebook is apparently playing around with a new feature that could potentially create some serious competition for eBay.
While I have to confess that I don’t seem to be one of the lucky members that is seeing it yet, apparently, Facebook is in the process of testing a feature that will allow sellers to create listings in a way that is similar to eBay’s method. It even comes complete with it’s own drop-down menu of categories for selling in. With this change, comes a new option that is set to appear in news feed that will show members a view of items that are for sale in various public user groups across the site. (Think of it like a Facebook version of eBay’s Search Engine.)
If you’re in one of the buy and sell groups, you may have already experienced an earlier change, which allows members to create “listings” within a group and also attach prices, where the item is at, photos and even a description of an item that is up for sale. This new change that started showing up today appears to be the next step.
As you might suspect, this apparently indicates that Facebook is moving into the same territory with other selling websites, such as eBay and even more so, Craigslist, since there’s no fees associated with listing items on it site. Why would Facebook do this, you ask? Well, it’s another step by the website to keep members on Facebook and stop them from leaving the site.
There are, of course, some disadvantages to using this new service that sellers are going to have to consider. While the “no fees” is a definite plus, Facebook is also making sure that sellers know that if the transaction goes wrong, they are in no way responsible. You buy and sell at your own risk with no third-party to intervene if something goes wrong.
Still, with fees on the rise and eBay’s future not quite as bright and sunny as it use to be, this may be a viable option for those looking to add another basket for their eggs, or rather, want to sell in more than one location.
What is your opinion of the new Facebook changes? Will you be selling on Facebook or are you staying the course with eBay? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | May 8, 2015
You may have thought that Amazon’s plans to use drones to make deliveries to their customers was either a very elaborate publicity stunt or about as believable as a wheel-less (think Marty McFly) skateboard. The release of the new details about Amazon’s patent application that was filed back in September, however, have shown that this crazy idea may not be so far-fetched after all.
BBC News is reporting today that the patent for Amazon’s “UnManned Aerial Vehicle Delivery System” that was approved back in March has some really interesting concepts for the unmanned drones. As an example, there would be a tracking system that tied into the GPS on your smartphone that would allow the drone to locate buyers and bring their deliveries right to them. This would be regardless of whether the buyer was at home, work, or somewhere else.
The drones would also be able to contact each other (isn’t that how Terminator got started?) to report back and forth about traffic conditions and the weather. Buyers could also update their location in real-time and inform the drones to bring the items to them by selecting the desired location on the order screen.
In addition to the patent details, other details have also been revealed, such as the fact the Amazon would have more than one type of drone. The drones would vary by size, depending on how much the item they needed to deliver weighed and the shape of the item. The drones would also use a variety of sensors to ensure that the unmanned vehicles landed in a safe spot and would monitor their own flight paths to help avoid obstacles, such as humans and animals.
As you may recall, the FAA initially had a lot of restrictions in place that were about to put the kibosh on Amazon’s plans. It now appears though that they are relaxing some of the regulations and even stated back in March that the drones could be tested in the United States as long as they flew no higher than 400 feet and remained in the line of sight of the person guiding the drone.
Meanwhile, drone testing is already underway in Canada since restrictions aren’t as stringent as they are in the United States. There’s even plans for a drone research lab to be built in the UK.
What do you think about Amazon’s drones? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | May 5, 2015
Ever notice how when it rains at eBay, it pours at eBay? On May 1,2015, sellers not only had all those pesky policy and rate changes to deal with, store owners also got the notice that eBay is discontinuing the Store traffic reports and there will be no more as of June 30th.
For those who haven’t ever used them, the traffic reports are basically about the same as what Google uses (they call theirs Google Analytics) to help people know how much traffic their site is getting. These traffic reports are specifically for sellers on eBay, however, and helps them to measure the amount of traffic that is coming to their store page and viewing their items. For those that study them, traffic reports have been a good way to analyze exactly how successful a seller’s marketing efforts have been.
Here’s a copy of the letter that eBay sent to store sellers on Friday:
As an eBay Stores subscriber, you have access to a number of powerful marketing tools, including Sales Reports Plus and Store traffic reports. Starting June 30, you’ll no longer be able to access Store traffic reports. Later this year, we’ll introduce new features to replace the current Store traffic reports.
We’re committed to notifying you 60 days in advance of any changes to features included with your Stores subscription. We apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause. Know that your access to Sales Reports Plus is not affected and that in the weeks ahead, we’ll let you know all about the new reporting features we’ll soon offer.
As always, thank you for selling on eBay and for subscribing to eBay Stores.
The eBay Selling Team
Although eBay is promising that they’ll introduce a new feature to replace the current traffic reports, sellers are questioning the timing of the announcement. The summer months are notoriously bad for sellers anyways, and some sellers feel that the discontinuation is a way to stop them from seeing just how bad the traffic really is going to be for the next several months.
As you probably already know, it is during this time period that PayPal and eBay will most likely split, so sellers are already going to have to deal with the shakeout from that too. Is this a preemptive strike by eBay to stop sellers from know just how bad it’s getting as the company shifts off into two separate entities? Looks like we’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.
What do you think the end of the Store traffic reports mean? Do you use them and how do you think this will affect you? Leave a comment below.
By That Kat | May 3, 2015
In this episode, Kat spoke with Jason Magee of Worldfirst, Viktor Levitin of CrazyLister, Max Kolysh of JoeLister and Ryan Reger
Jason Magee is the Head of eCommerce Partnerships for North America at World First. He establishes strategic relationships with key players in the ecommerce arena to bring complete solutions for online merchants who are selling internationally on marketplaces. He always wants to do more on International scale.
Questions that were asked and answered were:
- Please tell us about your history in Ecommerce?
- How did WorldFirst get started?
- What does WorldFirst do and for what type of seller is it most useful for?
- How is WorldFirst different than other solutions for International payments?
- How much does WorldFirst cost and are their any discounts for That Kat Radio listeners?
- How can our listeners connect with you online to learn more?
Viktor Levitin, is the CEO of CrazyLister, After being a seller himself, developing a technology for in-house use and winning awards from eBay for having the highest conversion rates. He decided to share the technology with the rest of the community, this is how CrazyLister was born. Talking about conversion rates, conversion rate is a number of sales on an item divided by the number of people who looked at it.
CrazyLister is a tool to create eBay listings from scratch or customizing eBay auction templates. This listing tool is compatible for eBay, complete with a selection of HTML templates that you can edit to fit your listing design.
Questions that were asked and answered were:
- Please tell us about your history in Ecommerce?
- How did CrayzLister come about?
- What does CrazyLister do and for what type of seller is it intended for?
- How is CrazyLister different than other solutions for eBay listings?
- How much does CrazyLister cost and are their any discounts for That Kat Radio listeners?
Max Kolysh is the founder of Zinc.io, a company that creates infrastructure for modern ecommerce. Zinc’s newest product is JoeLister, which is specifically made for Amazon FBA sellers who want to sell their inventory on eBay. Before founding this company, Max was studying computer science and software engineering at MIT.
Questions that were asked and answered were:
- Please tell us about your history in Ecommerce?
- How did JoeLister come about?
- What does JoeLister do and for what type of seller is it intended for?
- How is JoeLister different than other solutions for eBay listings?
- How much does JoeLister cost and are their any discounts for That Kat Radio listeners?
By God’s grace, Ryan Reger and his wife, Melane, have built successful businesses on Amazon, eBay, and their own website. Ryan’s true passion is helping others build their own businesses and he is accomplishing that goal through his four books and his growing consultant business. Ryan introduced his new program created wtih Julie Hunt, Private Label the Easy Way.
Questions that were asked and answered were:
- Can you tell us a short history of your eCommerce Journey?
- How did you learn about Private Label Products?
- What exactly are Private Label Products?
- Please tell us about your new product, “Private Label the Easy Way.”
- What kind of seller would benefit from this e-course?
- How much is it and what does it include?
Links from the show:
Purchase one of Kat’s books on Amazon. Kat’s Sales Tax Book or Ultimate Guide to Savings by Store.
Join her Facebook Group to be notified of upcoming shows.
By Kate Hornsby | May 2, 2015
Although eBay’s search engine known as Cassini was designed to help buyers find the most relevant listings that matched their search, it appears that perhaps it’s not living up to it’s hype. Case in point, today eBay announced that as of June 1, they will reduce the listing visibility in “Best Match” for those sellers who “pollute” (their word – not mine) the eBay marketplace by having duplicate listings.
As you may recall, during the big roll out of Cassini, one of the big benefits to it was suppose to be that since it was finding the most relevant items for a buyer, it would filter out duplicate listings on its own. Apparently, this has not been the case.
While this policy is a good thing for those who play fair and abide by eBay’s rules since it helps level the playing field, there has been some concern by sellers as to how eBay will treat listings for items that are similar, but yet still not the same. As an example, eBay allows you to list similar items as long as they are not identical. So, if you have two plates and one is in excellent shape, but the other has utensil scratches on it, you are suppose to be able to list both plates and as long as eBay can recognize the differences between the two, your listings are considered okay.
The problem is, what if eBay doesn’t pick up on the fact that they are two completely separate items? They could potentially reduce the visibility on the two items and as a seller, you might not even know it. The worst part is you would still be paying your listing fees even though buyers would have no way of finding your item.
As we wait to see how all of this plays out, eBay still wants you to take a look at your listings to ensure you are in compliance. Below is their checklist for making sure your listings are correct:
Fixed price listings: You can’t have more than one fixed price listing of an identical item at the same time. Additionally, you can’t have a fixed price listing and an auction-style listing with the Buy It Now option for an identical item.
Auction-style listings: While you can have more than one auction-style listing for identical items within the same account, only one listing without bids will appear on eBay at a time. However, you are not permitted to have an auction-style listing with the Buy It Now option and an auction-style listing without the Buy It Now option for an identical item.
Multi-variation listings: You can’t have an identical variation in two different multi-variation listings.
Keep in mind, however, that eBay is still allowing you to create separate listings for the same item on different eBay sites, or rather, you can have the same item listed on the United States eBay site and also on another eBay site, such as the United Kingdom’s. They just warn that you need to be sure that your international shipping options aren’t causing a problem, or what they call clutter, on any of the individual sites.
What do you think of the new policy? Will it affect similar, but not identical listings? Leave a comment below.