Want to sell on Trade Me? There’s a bit of an art to creating headlines that grab peoples’ attention, photos that sizzle and descriptions that attract bids. Let’s explore each element in more detail.
A. THE HEADLINE
David Ogilvy (1911-1999) is a legend in the advertising world. He has often been called “The Father of Advertising.” In 1962, Time Magazine called him “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.”
Mr Ogilvy had this to say about the headline:
‘Headlines, more than anything else, decide the success or failure of an advertisement.’
What’s true for advertising headlines is also true for listing headlines on Trade Me. If the headline of your listing doesn’t stand out from its neighbours, visitors simply won’t bother to check out your item.
You have a maximum of just 50 characters — 100 if you choose to pay for a Sub-Headline (‘sub-title’) as well — available to you when you create a Trade Me listing headline. That’s not a whole lot of real estate when the headline has to do up to three different jobs:
- Attract the attention of potential buyers by using the right keywords.
- Communicate the pricing strategy at a glance (eg, $1NR, S=R).
- Differentiate your product listing from every other listing out there for similar products.
There are two ways that potential buyers find stuff on Trade Me: browsing the categories or searching for keywords. Searching is the most popular method — not surprisingly, given that in a typical week more than a million items are listed on the site. To reach searchers, appropriate headline keywords are absolutely vital. Your listing simply won’t exist for them otherwise.
What keywords should you be considering? Start with the product name, the name of the manufacturer, the model or item number, slang terms for the product, even singular and plural forms of the product name. Also look for affinity terms: if you’re selling a tent, for example, you might also consider such additional terms as ‘outdoors’ or ‘camping’, to catch the eye of those looking for other items that are in some way related to your product category. Include whatever appropriate words you believe might catch the searchers and lead them to your auction listings. (NB: See Trade Me Success Secrets Chapter 14 for some tools to help you choose appropriate keywords).
In Chapter Eleven of the Trade Me Success Secrets book, we discuss the most effective pricing strategies for your auction items. We don’t have time to go over those here, except to note that, whichever pricing option you choose, it may still be overlooked by Trade Me surfers unless you specifically feature it in the headline.
Why is that? So many listings, so little time, perhaps. Or more likely it’s because Trade Me is teeming with so many new buyers, who haven’t yet become wise to all the mysteries of the site. It’s not intuitively obvious that a $1 price tag and a little yellow flag can signal a terrific bargain.
Whatever the reason, listing the starting price strategy in the headline (eg $1NR if it’s a $1 No Reserve or S=R if it’s a Start=Reserve strategy) will help get your listing noticed by more potential bidders.
3. BEING DIFFERENT AND GETTING NOTICED
Keywords + Pricing — that’s fine as far as it goes, and most Trade Me sellers stop there. We want to go to the next step — standing out from the crowd. Otherwise how can we expect potential bidders to decide between:
- kelvinator Fridge Freezer
- Kelvinator Fridge / Freezer
- Kelvinator Fridge/Freezer
- Kelvinator fridge and frost-free freezer
- Frost-free Kelvinator fridge freezer
- Kelvinator fridge
- Kelvinator Fridge by Fisher & Paykel
- kelvinator fridge freezer
(And those were a sampling of the successful auctions!)
It’s time to learn a bit more about the art of the headline. It will be something of a challenge — after including keywords and abbreviated pricing you won’t have many characters left out of your 50 or 100 character total. Still, worth a try.
Eight Is Enough
Thankfully, even though online auction headline-creating is a relatively new discipline, we can draw upon a century or more of wisdom from the advertising industry, where headlines have long been crucial to making sales.
From that accumulated knowledge base, we’ve identified eight different types of effective headlines that will deliver results on Trade Me, specifically those that:
- Promise a major benefit
- Make an offer
- Offer a solution to a problem
- Give a warning
- Flag your target customer
- Use a testimonial
- Make a news announcement
- Give a guarantee
In the TRADE ME SUCCESS SECRETS book, we do give examples for each headline type, drawn from actual Trade Me headlines. Here, we just have time to describe the basic listing types, because now we’re onto the next component of successful auction listings:
B. PHOTOGRAPHS THAT SIZZLE
it’s still a surprise when we encounter a listing that doesn’t carry any photos. The expression ‘Russian Roulette’ springs to mind. We might be willing to bid on that widget when it’s only a few dollars, but if it costs much more than that, sorry, it’s not that we don’t trust you — but we just don’t trust you. Not with our money, anyway. No photo, no profit.
Want to earn a few more shekels from your auctions? Then allow us to guide you through the process of photo-enabling your listings. Say ‘Cheese’!
First, Take Great-Looking Photos
According to top photographers, it’s much easier for beginners to get great pictures by using natural or outdoor lighting to illuminate the product. The most suitable natural light is generally between 3pm–6pm, depending on the time of year. Set aside at least 15 minutes so you can take several pictures at the same time.
Set up a table next to a window and cover the table surface with white paper. Place your auction item on the table so that the side you wish to photograph is illuminated by the light from the window. Use a simple plain backdrop and place it behind your auction item. Suitable backdrops could be a plain bedsheet, fabric or piece of cardboard. Use a solid colour for your backdrop — an uncluttered background focuses attention on the subject, resulting in a stronger picture. (The backdrop colour should be the opposite of your item colour.)
Smooth out any folds or crinkles in the backdrop. Put your camera on a tripod facing the item you want to photograph. Move the item and the camera around until you’ve managed to capture the best possible lighting through the window. Once you’re satisfied with the camera position, make yourself a reflector (use either a sheet of white cardboard or some other card covered with aluminium foil) and place the reflector opposite the window so that it’s bouncing light on to the shadow side of your item. This will ensure that your item is properly lit. Do not use the flash. Otherwise you’re likely to end up with nasty glare, reflections and strange shadows.
If your camera allows, set the white balance to ‘cloudy’ — which will capture your image in more natural tones under these lighting conditions.
Now get up close and personal! Buyers want to see detail, so make certain your item takes up the entire frame. And (if appropriate) take a close-up of relevant sections of the item as well, to give buyers a better idea of its actual condition.
Detail is king — taking photos of any product numbers, brands or labels on your items adds substance to your offering and has the potential to increase the value of your bids.
If you provide multiple photos of your auction item you’ll normally attract more bids. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s effective enough to justify paying the extra fee for more views of your product (we recommend you run some tests and see if it’s worthwhile in your chosen category).
Secondly, edit or process your photos
Once your photos are saved to your computer, you can often improve them with photo-editing software, which might have come bundled with your digital camera or scanner. If you don’t have such software, Windows users could try Google’s image editor, Picasa (a free download from picasa.google.com), or search for “image editor” at sites such as www.tucows.com or www.download.com. For Mac users we suggest iPhoto.
During the editing process, you should:
- Crop your image to remove unnecessary backgrounds
- Balance the contrast and brightness
- Resize your image to approximately 500 pixels wide by 400 pixels high (sometimes available as part of the Export process)
- Save or Export your edited image as a gif or jpeg file
Trade Me requires photos to be under 500 kb in file size so you may need to reduce your photos accordingly.
Thirdly, upload your masterpieces to Trade Me
The uploading of photos takes place as part of the List An Item process. Once you’ve entered your listing title and your description and selected the various components of the auction listing, you’ll be taken to a page where you can Upload a Photo.
The photo that you upload first will be displayed alongside your headline (if you choose a Gallery listing, which we strongly recommend). It’s also the photo that will be displayed with your main listing. So for that first image, choose the photo that most clearly captures the essence of your product.
C. THE DESCRIPTION
There are a million ways you could write a Trade Me description and none of them is wrong — but some will be more effective than others at attracting bids and driving sales. The essential ingredients of a successful description:
- A compelling description of the product
- The offer — a reason to buy this product, now
- All the product details, features and benefits
- The fine print — terms and conditions of the sale
- The close — ask for the order
Wrap all these elements in a writing style that reflects your personality and you’ve got yourself a successful sale.
In a nutshell, that’s what you need to do to create effective, eye-catching listings on Trade Me.
We’re out of room and out of time now, but if you’d like to explore the topic in a whole lot more detail, may we point you to Chapter Fourteen of TRADE ME SUCCESS SECRETS the book, available through our Trade Me store here.
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