Editor’s note: This article is the first of a three-part series that discusses meetup groups for eBay sellers and their benefits.
Being in the full swing of the holiday season, we expect you’re enjoying your busiest time of the year, and we can also assume you’ll be planning, hosting or attending at least a few holiday get-togethers.
Maybe now is a good time to consider the value of the face-to-face closeness many of us feel this time of year and consider its place in the year that’s coming up.
It’s impossible to maintain that holiday spirit throughout the entire year, but starting or joining an in-person eBay sellers’ group may be just the tonic for the after-the-holiday quiet.
The importance of meeting other sellers
We spoke with Stephanie Inge to find out why meeting in person is so important and how sellers can locate or create sellers’ groups of their own—no matter where they live. Inge is the founder of the Dallas eBaybes & eMales one of the world’s largest and most active eBay sellers’ groups.eBay sellers are usually so isolated. I had a yearning to meet other people who did what I did
Inge started selling on eBay in March 1999. In the fall of 2001, with almost three years under her belt, she began to long for the camaraderie of co-workers her eBay business didn’t allow for. After reading a magazine article about a woman in Atlanta who had started an eBay sellers’ group, Inge contacted her. Her questions answered, she took on the task of building a group in Dallas.
“I was intrigued,” she told us. “eBay sellers are usually so isolated. I had a yearning to meet other people who did what I did, and share and connect in person on a local level.”
Today, camaraderie abounds, and Inge is proud of the four different sellers’ group that now cross the state of Texas, including groups in Austin, Houston and Fort Worth. But, as it turns out, Inge reports having gotten far more from the group than she’d first expected.
Education abounds in eBay seller groups
Perhaps the best reason for gathering together, aside from the friendships and advice you’ll gain from other members, is the educational opportunities you can create within a large group.
“In the beginning we just got together for dinner and talked about our work, either good or bad, our best sale, our worst sale,” Inge recalls.Perhaps the best reason for gathering together, aside from the friendships and advice you’ll gain from other members, is the educational opportunities
Over time, the members wanted more structured educational offerings. Today the group hosts a free monthly sellers’ class and a variety of guest speakers.
Inge’s group attracts speakers from well-known authors such as Skip McGrath and eBay radio star Jim “Griff ” Griffith to vendors of every variety. Vendio, a third-party listing tool, Hammertap, an eBay research tool, and Auction Mercial, which allows users to create custom video and audio content, have all attended.
Inge’s sellers’ group has brought these top eBay resources together for sellers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to attend sessions formerly only available through large-scale and expensive events such as eBay Live!
“I had heard about eBay conventions,” she recalls, “but I had never been able to attend, so I thought this would give me that opportunity without spending a lot of money traveling.”
Sellers open up in groups
Although today’s 425 members of the group enjoy the insights of successful people and companies offering interesting tools, the most direct learning is still member to member.People definitely share more things when they share face to face. There’s a trust factor. There’s nothing we’re not willing to share
“People definitely share more things when they share face to face,” Inge says. “There’s a trust factor. There’s nothing we’re not willing to share, whether it’s photography, shipping or streamlining their processes.”
The demographics of the group have changed over the years. The group’s first meeting was a casual dinner for 12 people. Today the Dallas eBaybes & eMales are about evenly split between men and women. Every ethnicity is represented in the group and every level of selling experience.
“The good thing about our group is that we have every level of eBay seller from the newbies to mega-PowerSellers,” she adds. The veterans share the lessons they’ve learned and the wisdom they’ve gathered, but the newcomers may bring insights about technology and social commerce.
Power in numbers
With all of this organizing, meeting, teaching, programming and learning happening in groups across Texas, you’d think the folks at eBay would take notice. You’d be right! Not only does Griff come once a year to a meeting, but in 2006, nine eBay staffers came, along with Meg Whitman’s personal bodyguard for protection.
In 2010, John Donahoe came to Dallas for eBay: On Location.
“John Donahoe had a private function for our group,” Inge says. “That was when we felt we had really arrived. He wanted to come to our little ice cream social and thank us. It’s an ongoing challenge, but with the numbers comes power. With a larger number of members, we could get better speakers.”The main thing a new organizer would need to know is why they should start a group
Around that same time, the Dallas group got eBay executives’ attention. “I got eBay’s attention because we had a lot of eBayers to raise the roof when they did something they don’t like,” Inge adds. “They listen more to a larger group than to individuals.”
Any time you have a group of more than 400 merchants—many of them experienced and successful—you’re wise to pay attention to what they say about your marketplace.
Thinking about your own group
We know it is unrealistic to think you’ll easily start a sellers’ group that will grow to this level of success and gain the notice and acclaim the Dallas group enjoys. But it was unrealistic for Inge to think it back in 2001, and look where that thinking has led her!
Plus, she would be the first one to say that even if her group hadn’t evolved into one of the largest and most active group in the world, the education each group member enjoyed by simply coming to the meetings would have been worth it all.
We asked Inge for some of her best advice to people who want to start a group. We’ll share her suggestions in the next part of this series. For now, we’ll leave you with a little homework. It will give you the chance to get a start on what Inge calls the most important first step.
“The main thing a new organizer would need to know is why they should start a group,” she says. What do you hope to achieve as you think about your own local group?