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Four Hidden Ways eBay Can Help Your Business
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By Joel Elad

Most businesses understand that eBay can be a great place to sell dead inventory or buy supplies at a discount rate. But a growing number of companies and individuals are learing other ways that eBay can help them out. The companies are using these approaches--which can best be classified as "non-traditional"--to reach out to the 168 million registered users eBay had worldwide as of Sept. 30th, 2005.

Let's look at 4 such non-traditional avenues:

eBay Your Marketing Campaign. While some businesses would upset their supply chains by selling their products direct, there's usually nothing wrong with selling some unique items to generate buzz about your products. One technique being used is to sell off the prototypes, design documents, or other "first edition" items related to a new product, either before or at the launch. One toy company sells the mold prototypes of action figures every time the mass-market figures are released to the public. This reminds fans that the new line of toys is out and encourages collectors to compete for the original.

Other companies will produce a special "first run" batch of their products and auction those off on eBay. This could take the form of a limited signed product or a special numbered product with a Certificate of Authenticity. eBay even encourages such items as part of its "eBay Exclusives program." The program revolves around partnerships with businesses to produce special versions of products for sale exclusively on eBay.

The nicest thing about these sales is that it's not over when the sale ends. Companies are including sales success stories in their newsletters and marketing materials, touting the popularity of these eBay sales to all their customers and even motivating their employees and sales force as to the potential demand.

eBay an Experience. While eBay is known for the millions of products for sale, you also can buy an "experience," such as meeting, having lunch with or learning from someone. Some companies that have a well-known CEO, Board of Directors, or high level staff are experimenting with auctioning off an "experience". Some examples of this include "Dinner with our CEO," "Lunch and a Company Tour" or "Personal Coaching Session with a Board of Director member."

Even if your CEO isn't a magazine cover star, companies have other ways to auction off a fun experience. Many businesses that sponsor a local sports team can auction off that pair of tickets to the next game, or choice seats to the symphony or arts program that they sponsor. This way, instead of rewarding one employee while everyone else feels left out, you can auction off the tickets and use the money to buy everyone lunch or fill the break room with snacks and drinks.

Not only can these kinds of sales put some extra money in the company coffers, but it raises the visibility of your company and could remind some customers to check out your other eBay auctions or your direct sales sites.

eBay for Charity. In the past, companies would rally their employees with such things as a week-long United Way fundraising drive. There's a newer way to raise money for charity: Use eBay. Instead of donating cash, employees and the company itself can bring in items which can be auctioned, with the proceeds donated to a registered non-profit agency. It's an easier sell because people don't have to open their wallet. They can open their closet instead and bring in golf clubs, electronics, computers, jewelry, collectibles, and more.

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Joel Elad is the Training and Special Accounts Manager for Net2Auction.
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