Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Dilemma of Etopps In-Hands

When you sell etopps in-hands, it is only a matter of time until you will have to make a choice about two directions you can take.

The first one is about being the middle-man between etopps and your customers. You market yourself as an in-hand dealer. Anything online with etopps is about making the sale whether on ebay or another site where you can sell your in-hands. Off-line you do the same at card shows and/or elsewhere.

The second direction you can take is less about selling in-hands and more about being a guide about etopps. You are the go-to person to explain how the online platform works and how the etopps online cards become accessible as in-hands. You make reference to the etopps website and all that it offers - the IPOs, the rewards points and rewards catalog, cardtarget, the autograph offerings, the trade post, the fantasy games, etc. You are a teacher and a mentor and you earn credibility and trust.

Here lies the problem: the more you take the second direction, the more you will lose potential customers for your in-hand business. Once they "get it" they won't need you anymore.

But the more you take the first direction, the more you depend on the customer's shrinking ignorance. You are not telling your customers about how and when to take their online etopps cards delivered at a discount or for free with reward points. You are not trying to teach them how you are getting your inventory the way you do because essentially you're conveying to them you can do this too.

Sometimes it's better to hold some of your cards than to let the buyer see all that you're holding.

Through experience you will have to decide how much you will be telling your customers about etopps. It's just a matter of time before they want to know how the online platform works. It's up to you to decide how much you will tell them.

During card shows we would get this question asked as often as once every hour. And each time we would spend a considerable amount of time telling them about the different aspects of etopps. They'd stand there in front of our table and listen, arms folded. When we were done, more times than not they would thank us and walk away without buying a card from us. We also noticed that those who bought from us didn't really care about how the online program worked. They just wanted to know how much the card cost that they wanted to buy.

Sometimes it's a simple as this: you will have buyers who don't trust ebay or the internet for buying, who will want to see the cards in their hands before they buy them, who go to a hobby store as much for socializing as for buying.

While this is fine, these buyers are shrinking in size. The hobby, in a nutshell, has never been the same for card store owners since ebay started more than 10 years ago. More and more people are going online to do more than just use google to search or buy something cheaper than at a brick & mortar store (ie, web 1.0). These same old-school buyers are becoming more savy online and are less willing to spend than they did before our current economic crisis.

So how will you be an info-guru about etopps while selling these cards in-hand?

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