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Using Internet Auctions To Promote Your Local Business

Here is a little-used but highly effective way of reaching
potential customers, even in your local market: online
auctions.

A growing number of businesses are using auctions to attract a
steady stream of customers. By listing on an auction site such
as eBay, your business will be exposed to an audience of 22
million people in over 100 countries. But more importantly, it
can reach the people next door.

The small listing fees are a small price to pay for the kind
of exposure you get, especially on the granddaddy of all
auction sites, eBay. There are small businesses out there that
get 80% or more of their sales from eBay.

And not all of the sales happen on eBay - you can use your
"About Me" page to drive traffic back to your web site. Then
you can get your prospect's email address and sell to them
directly, saving yourself some listings fees and commissions.
And with eBay's feedback system, potential customers can get
bona-fide firsthand testimonials from your previous customers.

If you want to sell multiple items, you can set up a Dutch
auction. To make sure you earn a profit, you can set a minimum
price, known as a reserve price. You can also set a "Buy It
Now" price, which allows someone to buy the item immediately
without waiting for the auction to end. And finally, you can
set up your own eBay store for as little as $9.95/month.

There are many tips and tricks to eBay auctions -- so many
that there are a slew of books and services and software
programs just for helping people to manage their bidding and
selling activities. Check www.geolocal.com for auction
resources.

As far as reaching your local market, major cities are set up
as regions on eBay. Consumers can easily search by region and
category at http://pages.ebay.com/regional/hub.html -- "eBay
Local Trading." This is where people will go if they want to
buy something locally, such as furniture or something
expensive.

A recent development has made it even easier for your local
customers to find you. AltaVista -- one of the major search
engines -- announced a deal to feature listings from its
shopping-comparison guide on eBay. According to AltaVista's
senior director of global product marketing Gannon Giguiere,
"We can now allow consumers to compare Web, localized brick
and mortar stores and auction listings with a single glance."

I buy lots of stuff on eBay. A few weeks ago I went looking
for sheepskin slippers and saw a lovely pair up for auction. I
could tell that this was a business, so I contacted the seller
directly. I knew from past experience that we might be able to
work out something and sure enough, we made a deal for 2 pairs
of sheepskin slippers.

Let's review this seller's transaction:

- She got a sale and a proven customer for her 30 cent listing
fee on the original pair of slippers (which she sold later
on, gaining another customer) - She paid no listing fees or
commissions on the 2 pair of slippers she sold to me - She
can add me to her mailing list; if I'm happy with the
slippers, maybe I'll buy another pair in the future as a
gift or whatever. (p.s. I bought 2 more pairs later) - I
would never have found that business if those slippers hadn't
been listed on eBay. Her sheepskin business doesn't show up
in the first few pages of search engine results, which is as
far as most people will look.

Do you see the power of eBay? I also bought my Palm Pilot and
a new computer from local vendors that I found on eBay. Plus
I've bought lots of computer programs and educational toys
from auctions by business owners. As a frequent eBay buyer and
seller, I can tell you now, if you're not on eBay, you're
leaving money on the table.

There are other auction sites out there - Yahoo, BidBay,
uBid.com - but none of them comes close to eBay in terms of
volume. About 1.4 million items are up for sale every day, in
every imaginable category, including services, cars, houses.
Somebody even tried to auction off a kidney once, but eBay
caught them and put an end to it.

Keep in mind that people who go to auction sites are looking
for deals, so don't expect to get full retail. You may even
have a sell a few items at cost. But when you think about all
the money you can spend on ads in the local paper and get NO
results, it's a small price to pay to get the email addresses
of proven customers. The eBay feedback system works both ways
you can check and see what kind of customer they've been in
the past.

All in all, online auctions are goldmines. If you're selling
anything at all, especially consumer products, you should
definitely check out eBay.

About the Author

Sharon Fling wrote "How To Promote Your Local Business On the Internet", and publishes the ezine "Local Business Today." Subscribe and get a free ebook on local marketing. Visit www.geolocal.com or mailto:subscribe@localbizpromo.com?subject=TRAART

Sharon Fling