We all like to spring clean, right? (Well not really. But while we may not like doing it we DO feel good when it’s done!) Traditionally it’s the time to clean out your garage and house, emptying the clutter that’s collected over the past year. We fix up and tune those things we’re going to start using again. Maybe a lawn mower gets oiled and gassed up or a bicycle gets air for the tires. We sell or donate those items that we’re not using, the things that clutter up our home, keeping us from having enough space for those things we do use.
Well guess what? Our businesses need a little spring cleaning too! It’s the same idea. But think of the space in your garage just like the time in your day. There’s a limited amount and you want to fill it with those tasks that will make your business grow. The problem is that we get so busy with life and selling (and it’s good to be busy selling – because it means you’re selling!) that we don’t take the time often enough to step back and evaluate our eBay business. We get into that mode of photographing and researching and describing and listing and shipping and responding and…repeat.
To help you deal with this challenge, you can use a very simple exercise that billion dollar companies as well as one-man shops have used for many years. It helps you clean away what’s not so important and focus on what is. It’s called SWOT. No, it’s not a van full of policemen crashing through your front door. It’s an evaluation of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The process is designed for you to walk away with actionable tasks that you can immediately implement to grow your business.
Get the Broom Ready!
Okay, so how do you do it? It’s easy. Hide yourself away from your kids, your cell phone (seriously, you can stay away from texting for a few minutes can’t you?) and every other connection to reality. Get some paper and start writing.
Start with your strengths. Looking inside your business, what helps you do well? Are you a Top-rated seller? Do you have good product sourcing? Perhaps you’re an expert in a particular category? Maybe you create great looking listings? Do you use a nice eBay selling template for all of your listings? eBay listings that look professional will make you more credible in the eyes of prospective buyers. So that’s a strength if you do it.
Now your weaknesses. Don’t worry if you have more weaknesses than strengths, it just means you have a great chance to improve! Maybe you are bad at time management? You don’t have a strong knowledge of keywords or Best Match? Have you taken the plunge into social media? Once again, write until your hand hurts! Don’t judge what you are writing, just put it down.
Now looking outside your business, what opportunities do you see to grow? Have you wanted to find a new product category to specialize in? Do you have expertise that you could use to create a presence in social media? Maybe you could write an eBay guide that might be seen by lots of potential buyers?
Finally, it’s time for the threats. These might exist today or be far in the future. Is there a competitor who’s undercutting your pricing or growing faster than you? Maybe a new eBay policy that affects your business?
Sweep Them Away
You probably have a big list by now. The next part of the process means sweeping away all but the most valuable, highest priority items. It could be a strength that you want to exploit. Or a weakness you need to finally eliminate. Or an opportunity you’ve had in the back of your mind for a long time but have never taken the plunge. Sweep away all but one or two that will have the biggest impact on your business.
Do It – And Hold Yourself Accountable
Break the one or two items into small tasks or steps that when accomplished, will achieve the goal. And put dates next to each one. Do It! Tell an employee or family member or friend what you’re doing and have them help make you accountable so you’ll hit your dates.
After all of this, you want to evaluate the results. And start again. What are the next one or two items on your SWOT list that you could do next?
Take the time to go through the SWOT process with your eBay business. To help, there’s a free SWOT guide in our eBay seller resources section. It has a lot more examples in each area and more tips on being successful. It’s free so check it out!
Chris Taylor is VP of Marketing at Page Mage. Page Mage, a recipient of eBay's 2011 Ecosystem Champion Award, offers Billboards, a "Top 10 Most Popular" application for free custom eBay listing templates for eBay sellers looking to stand out from the competition.