EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 45 - September 01, 2001 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 5

Marketing Tool: Using Inserts in Auction Packages

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As a seller, I'm a big believer in giving my customer a little more than they expect. Soon after I began selling online, I got into the habit of putting something "value added" inside customers' packages when I shipped their items. I not only wanted to make a good first impression, but I felt I had an opportunity to give them something to remember me as a seller, just in case they wanted to bookmark my auctions for other items that were of interest to them. In essence, putting an insert along with an auction item allowed me to do a little marketing for myself.

When Ina and I first thought up the concept for AuctionBytes, it was as a print newsletter that would be published 10 times annually. Thankfully, we changed to an electronic format before ever going live, but not before we had printed 5,000 sample copies of our first issue. So, with 10 boxes of newsletters stacked up in our laundry room, I decided to begin slipping them inside the auctions packages I was shipping. It didn't add significant weight to the box; it focused on tips for online auction users, so it was of interest to my customers; it got our name in the public eye; and it gave buyers another reason to purchase from me again or to visit our Web Site. The response was very good, and I received feedback and emails thanking me for the newsletter as well as the product that the customer purchased.

Eventually, that print newsletter became a little dated, so I created a sheet that compared shipping rates between USPS and UPS. There is a little box at the bottom of the sheet that includes the URL of the AuctionBytes Yellow Pages for buyers to look up products and services if they decide to become sellers themselves. It is a nice reference sheet for my customers that they can use to estimate shipping charges, and it also effectively markets our Site.

As sellers, we're in the business of keeping ourselves in business. Gaining repeat customers is essential to becoming a successful seller. I checked with eBay, and they have no policy in place that prohibits adding promotional material inside shipping boxes.

If you decide to add an insert to your packages, it should be something useful that your customer won't throw away immediately. It should also be lightweight, so that they're not paying to ship the extra material. (A brick with the URL of your Web site would probably not be appreciated.)

With that in mind, I've developed a page on our Site that allows you to customize an insert of your own and print it out. Included on the insert is a UPS/USPS comparison chart and a link to the AuctionBytes Yellow Pages. At the top of the sheet, there is space for you to add three lines of information about yourself. You might want to include your Seller ID, your Web Site URL and a special offer - whatever information you'd like to impart to your customers - and best of all, you can do it all online.

To customize your own insert, go to, fill out the boxes with your information, and click the "Submit" button. You'll be taken to a page that will show you what your customized insert will look like. There are instructions on the form page that explains the process in more detail.

This form prints out full-size on an 8-1/2"x11" sheet using Internet Explorer and slightly smaller when using Netscape. (A 600 DPI Printer or higher gives the best results.) If you need to make any changes to your form before printing, simply click the "Back" button on your browser, make your edits, and you're ready to print.

If you don't sell in volume, print out a few at a time. If you sell a lot, print out one and make photocopies - you can even use colored paper to make them stand out.

I'll be adding different customizable forms in the future. In fact, feel free to email me at if you have suggestions for other inserts. Being an online auction seller means that you're a businessperson. And successful businesspeople never miss an opportunity to spread their name. (That's why I left the AuctionBytes URL on the insert.)

About the author:

David Steiner is President of Steiner Associates LLC, publisher of and the merchant directory. David, a former television producer, handles business development and advertising for EcommerceBytes. You can reach him at

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