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Seller s Assistant software with their accounting system. Amy Mayer poses next to one of the dual-screen workstations in the image shown here.
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According to Navarro and Mayer, the thing that sets ExpressDrop apart from other drop-off stores is their level of personal customer service. A lot of these drop-off businesses fail because people forget how important the customer service aspect is. They think they know how to sell on eBay and might even have a PowerSeller background, so they want to open a drop-off store because there s a relatively low barrier of entry. But when it comes to dealing with customers they fall short. To avoid burnout and to continue offering a high level of service, Navarro and Mayer avoided taking on too much at first. We decided to grow only as fast as our business grew, says Ellen. We would buy things only if we could afford them. Instead of hiring employees to start with, we did it all ourselves in the beginning just the two of us, helping customers, packing items. We had a lot of long, long days, working late into the night. Now we have three full-time employees, so it s much easier. One of those employees, Josh Browning, helps with the time-consuming steps of packing and managing inventory (see Figure 7-6). When you open a brick-and-mortar business, you have new advertising opportunities. You create your own signage in front of your store. You can take out an ad in the Yellow Pages. Navarro and Mayer have kept advertising expenses to a minimum. They took out an ad in Chicago magazine when they started, and they staged a publicity photo that shows the two of them in an old cast-iron bathtub filled with packing peanuts (see Figure 7-7). They use this photo on their web site and on cards they hand out at the store. But they really benefited from an article in the Chicago Tribune that appeared shortly after they opened for business. Eighteen months later, they were still attracting customers from that single article.
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CHAPTER 7: Diversify Your Business Presence
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FIGURE 7-6 It s important to hire good employees who can offer a high level of customer service.
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FIGURE 7-7 Word of mouth and local media coverage helped get the word out about ExpressDrop.
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One of the lessons Amy Mayer and Ellen Navarro learned from their experience in retail sales was the importance of having a thick skin: of being able to shrug off complaints, questions, and demands from customers you have to deal with in person. Another was the importance of growing gradually and not taking on more than you can afford at any one time. David Portugal used to be a retailer, too; he once managed a jewelry store. After he was laid off from his job in 2001, he decided to sell on eBay. He became a PowerSeller on eBay selling watches and other items. He grew so successful that he decided to open a brick-and-mortar store, Auctions by David. As David discovered, opening a storefront for eBay drop-off sales enabled him to sell a wider range of items, and it brought him new customers, but it also presented new challenges. Business name Auctions by David Seller name David Portugal Web site http://stores.ebay.com/Auctions-by-David
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Sells Wristwatches, antiques, household goods, consignment merchandise David loved and still loves running his own business because it enables him to be with his family. As he explains, I am home all day and can help with the kids whenever my wife needs me to. He emphasizes that his is a family-owned business, and he includes photos of himself and his family with each of his auction descriptions to give them a more personal flavor (see Figure 7-8). For more than a year, the drop-off store worked well. One of the keys is location, location, location, says David. I spent all my spare money on rent, so I could locate my store at a major intersection. Auctions by David is, in fact, located at the corner of Algonquin Road (State Route 62) and Pyott Road in Algonquin, Illinois. It s a rural area, but one that gets a lot of traffic. Portugal also invested in a banner ad literally, a big sign that tells passersby where to find his store. Fifty feet away from me there is a banner directing people to my drop-off store. I joke that I am doing banner advertising, he says. Having a drop-off location allowed him to sell items such as hot tubs, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, boats, and snowmobiles. In one case, however, trying to sell a machine opened up a whole new world for him. When the buyer complained that a sign-making device didn t actually work, David had to accept it as a return. The owner claimed that the machine worked when he dropped it off, and refused to take it back. David tried to file a claim with the delivery company, but they wouldn t pay, either. Being a mechanical guy, I started to tinker with it, and I got it to work. Then I put lettering and graphics on my storefront windows. Next I did my car. Then people started asking me where I got my graphics and lettering done. I told them I did it myself, and they asked if I could do some for them. I did a few people s cars and made a few banners, and I quickly realized this is a great way to make money. David s car, with his eBay drop-off business advertised on it, is shown here.
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