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The TIAS merchant Newsletter for October 2010
The TIAS merchant Newsletter for October 2010

In this issue.....
1. The "Toll Free Number" experiment.
2. Free $25 advertising coupon for TIAS merchants.
3. Google search trends for "antiques"
4. Ideas for increasing your sales this Holiday shopping season

1. The "Toll Free Number" experiment.
We have a very memorable toll free number for TIAS. It is 1-888-OLD-STUF. Starting this week 10 dealers are going to have this number appear on their store pages along with their own personal extension#. When someone calls the number and enters the extension for that dealer, the system will forward the customer to the dealers phone. If the dealer can't answer, the customer is forwarded to the dealers vmail box and an email is then sent to the dealer telling them they have a voicemail pending.

We are going to closely monitor this new system to see how customers and dealers like it and what affect it has on sales. If it works out, we'll expand the system to more merchants.

2. Free $25 advertising coupon for TIAS merchants.
Here is a coupon for a free classified ad in the TIAS.com newsletter. Over 16,000 subscribers get this email newsletter twice each week. To get your free ad, go to http://www.tias.com/cgi-bin/submitClassified.cgi and select "Newsletter Ad" then fill out the form. When you checkout, use the coupon code "free123" and you will get a free ad. Your ad also appears online for one month in the TIAS classifieds. Use the ad to sell an item or promote your store, it's up to you.

3. Google search trends for "antiques"
This is an update to a similar post we published last year. Google has a tool that allows users to see how often people search for different words and phrases. I did a search for "antiques" and got an interesting 7 year graph. see: http://www.google.com/trends?q=antiques that seems to reflect what was happening in the market. Plug in other words and see what you get.

4. Ideas for increasing sales this Holiday shopping season
These suggestions are all low cost and no cost. I update this list every year. Give one or two of these ideas a try.

a) Write a press releases about your store.
All it takes is 175 words about something interesting in your store, and you have a press release. Weh you are done, send it to a press release distribution site that specializes in the antiques and collectibles trade, sucha as http://www.News-Antique.com . This site distributes content to Google news. Bing news as well as 10,543 subscribers to their email newsletter for collectors. A detailed list of other press release sites that distribute press releases for free is listed here: http://bignews.biz/blog/?p=6 . All you need is 175 words :-)

You can give the same press release to each pr distribution site, which will save you a great deal of time. Remember to keep the press release in an editorial style that is interesting to read. Don't fill it with marketing hype like you are trying to sell the reader something, it won't get read. If you need help writing a press release see: http://bignews.biz/blog/?p=13 .

These press releases do get picked up by other Web sites as well as Google news. They have a long term benefit of pushing up your Page Rank in the search engines. A good topic for a press release Might be if you have sold, are selling or are about to sell an unusual item, let the media know. The antique and collectible trade publications love this stuff, but the business section of your local paper is probably going to be interested as well. The only way they are going to find out about it though is if you tell them.

An additional advantage of these non commercial articles and releases is that you can post links to them on sites like the eBay forums and other commercial sites that would not usually allow you to post commercial copy online. Lets say you do an article on McCoy pottery that contains links to several examples on your Web site. You could probably post a link to that article on the eBay glass and pottery board without a problem.

b) We do sell display ads on the TIAS home page as well as the showcase section, if you are looking for additional traffic. Several TIAS merchants have taken advantage of this feature over the past few years.

c) TIAS has a very advanced email newsletter mailing system. Many of our merchants collect names of customers from their Web sites and send these opt in customers a weekly or monthly newsletter of information related to the merchandise they sell on their Web site. This is the perfect time to send out a newsletter to your subscribers.

d) Keep your inventory fresh. If you want people to return to your site, add fresh inventory and keep your older inventory new by lowering prices, adding new photos and updating descriptions.

The most common complaint we get from customers over the past 16 years has been that items that have been sold are still listed on the Web site. As soon as you sell an item, PLEASE remove it from your inventory as soon as you possibly can. When customers feel that your inventory is constantly being refreshed and up to date, they will keep coming back to check on the latest items you are offering.

Also, your descriptions need to be complete and well written. For more information on writing descriptions, go to http://www.tias.com/other/promo3.html . Most buyers finds your merchandise based on your description. The more detail you give, the better your chances are of finding the right buyer.

e) Good photographs - Your photos need to be in focus, well lit and the object in the photo needs to fill the entire frame. More help on taking photos can be viewed here http://www.tias.com/other/promo4.html and here http://www.tias.com/other/promo5.html . Another trick you might want to try is putting a keyword or two into the file name of the image. So instead of 123abc.jpg as the file name for a McCoy vase, try 123_McCoy.jpg . This will increase your chances of the item being found by a search engine.

f) Craigs list. Several sellers have been using this venue to help drive sales to their Web site. You need to be very careful about how you promote your site using Craig's list or you might end up getting your listing removed. Pick a few major cities to list representative samples of your inventory, then use those listing to drive traffic back to your Web site.

g) MSN, Yahoo, Google and AdBrite all offer Cost Per Click (CPC) advertising programs. What this means is that each time someone clicks on your ad on their ad network, money is deducted from your advertising account with their company. We've experimented with these programs quite a bit over the years and they don't work for our mall because we have to use general terms for the broad categories of merchandise that we sell. These general terms don't convert to sales.

However, if you specialize in a specific category of merchandise, you might want to try running ads for very specific terms related to your merchandise. Some of our merchants have mentioned that they have better sales conversion from cpc ads that are very specific, to the point of almost advertising an item in their store. Buying broad terms like "Antiques" is a waste of money, but something like " Allertons Blue Willow Cup and Saucer" might generate some sales.

h) Put yourself on Youtube.com. Get a video camera and do a 3 minute video about a few antiques and collectibles that you are familiar with then post it to Youtube. Be sure to include links back to your store in the video and in the written description of the video.

Questions? Comments? Drop me an email at phil@tias.com or give me a call at 1-888-OLD-STUF

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