Q: "What are ProStores, and do I need one?"

A: When you are selling on eBay, you need an eBay Store, but you also may eventually need your own website. ProStores, owned by eBay, will help you create a website that is branded by eBay and synchronized with your eBay Store, your eBay auction listings, and other elements of your eBay world.

The main advantage of setting up a ProStores website, according to eBay expert Janelle Elms (, is that their tools work well with eBay, and they will manage and run your shopping cart and other technical aspects of your e-commerce-enabled ProStores website.

The main disadvantage, according to Elms, is that a ProStores website is not integrated to work with other e-commerce channels like Also, when you set up your website (as with any other branded website) with ProStores, ProStores gets a percentage of everything you sell there.

Marketing Your eBay Store

Q: "What are some of the more powerful marketing tools you can use to market your eBay Store?"

A: According to Janelle Elms, eBay author and founder of the Online Success Institute (, there are several that are very effective:

• Getting other relevant websites to link to your eBay Store

• Making sure your eBay Store is optimized for search engines

• Using the custom pages in your eBay Store to create information about the items you sell on eBay that will attract search engine spiders

But by far the most powerful marketing tool for an eBay Store, according to Elms, is an e-mail newsletter. "This is an amazing tool that eBay gives to eBay Store owners for free," says Elms, adding that you would pay "hundreds of dollars" in the world outside of eBay to have someone create and distribute an e-mail newsletter for your business.

If you have an eBay Store, eBay allows you to send a newsletter free up to 5,000 e-mails a month (for a Basic store), up to 7,500 e-mails a month (for a Premium store), or up to 10,000 e-mails a month (for an Anchor store). The maximum frequency for an eBay Store newsletter is once per week, but eBay allows you to have up to five different newsletters at the same time, according to Elms, so it's a very powerful tool for sellers carrying multiple lines of merchandise.

"An e-mail newsletter allows you to get in front of your buyers and make sure they remember your name," says Elms. "I hate it when I can't remember a good seller's name because I haven't bought from them in a while; if I'm getting a newsletter every seven days from them I'll be sure to remember them when I need to buy something they've got."

According to Catherine Seda, Internet marketing expert and author of How to Win Sales & Influence Spiders (, "You may already have newsletter subscribers—even if you don't have a newsletter! When people visit your eBay Store, they can subscribe to the 'Seller Newsletter' after clicking the 'Add to My Favorite Stores' link at the top of the page," Seda explains. "If you have an eBay Store, log into your account. You may be surprised to see how many people are waiting to hear from you."

Q: "I offer a variety of merchandise on both my website and my eBay Store. I have a number of things I would like to put up on my website but don't know how much legal trouble I will get into. Three things in particular I would like to post on my website: testimonials from satisfied customers— basically letters and e-mails they have written me; an e-mail from an organization thanking me for speaking at their monthly meeting; and an e-mail from a prominent celebrity offering to tell my customers and patients how really great I am in exchange for a link to his website."

A: Using testimonials from customers and others can be a very effective way to promote your business. After all, everybody expects you will say great things about yourself in your advertising. But an unsolicited rave review from a satisfied customer or industry leader? Solid gold.

Still, there are rules. Let's examine these three items one at a time.

Letters from customers. Customers who are delighted at getting superior service often write thank-you letters, but that doesn't mean they are authorizing you to use those letters in your promotional efforts. Unless the letters state specifically that it's okay to use them in your marketing literature, write or e-mail them and ask for specific written permission to reproduce all or parts of the letters on your website. If they don't respond to your request for permission, view that as denying you the right to post the letters online.

Letters from organizations. You can be a lot less concerned about posting the letter from a local organization that praised your abilities as a public speaker. Such letters help build your credibility as an expert in your field and do not involve the disclosure of private information about individuals. Besides, posting this letter will give the organization some free publicity, which they are unlikely to complain about.

Still, you should ask the organization for permission to reproduce the letter, but if they don't respond, it's probably all right to post it anyway. If the organization objects to your use of the letter, they will send you a cease and desist letter before considering any formal legal action against you. That will give you the opportunity to pull the letter from your website and avoid a lawsuit.

Celebrity endorsements. Legally speaking, these are very tricky. You should first ask: Is this a celebrity whose endorsement will make a difference? If the celebrity is a prominent authority on the type of merchandise you sell, his or her endorsement might well boost your business. If the celebrity is a television or movie actor, well, how much more than average folks do actors know about this merchandise? If you are selling salad dressing on your website and you get an endorsement from Paul Newman (movie star and founder of Newman's Own), that's fabulous. If you are selling antique mechanical banks on eBay and you get an endorsement from Paul Newman, well...

Here are several rules about celebrity endorsements:

• Celebrities cannot say that they use your products and services, unless they actually do and you can document it (for example, by copies of cancelled checks showing the celebrity has actually purchased your stuff).

• If celebrities are receiving anything in return for their endorsement (in this case, a link to the celebrity's website), you must clearly state that the endorsement was given for promotional consideration.

• Look out for false or misleading information in the celebrity's endorse-ment—for example, a celebrity with a PhD in English literature who calls himself "Doctor" to mislead people into thinking he is competent to speak on health care issues.

Having said all that, I think every eBay business should seek endorsement and promotional support from people whose judgments and views are likely to be respected by customers—perhaps a nationally syndicated small business columnist and eBay author.

Q: "What are some things I can do offline to get people into my eBay Store?"

A: Interestingly, some of the most effective ways to build traffic for your eBay Store and auction listings have nothing to do with the Internet. Cindy Shebley, eBay marketing expert and author of Easy Auction Photography (ezauction, offers the following suggestions:

• Make sure your eBay Store URL appears on all your business cards and stationery.

• Print flyers and postcards, give them out to everybody you know, and put them in your packages whenever you ship eBay merchandise to buyers.

• Make sure your eBay Store URL appears on the signature at the bottom of every e-mail message you send out, as a clickable link to your eBay Store.

• Make sure your eBay Store URL appears prominently on any swag— promotional giveaways you hand out at trade shows, eBay Live!, and other conferences and networking meetings.

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