EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 130 - November 07, 2004 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

eBay Inventory Strategies: Consult Researchers for Hire

By Brad and Debra Schepp

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A common question heard by many eBay sellers or those looking to get into online selling is, "What should I sell?"

You can't expect fellow eBayers to share their secret product sources, but that doesn't mean you can't get help from a proven professional; a professional Information Broker, that is. Information Brokers are professional researchers who sell their services, usually on a per-hour basis. You can go to an Information Broker with virtually any request for information, and that person will do the research and provide you with a finished research report. Of course, you should first explore your local public and college librarians to gauge how they can help you. But if you find you need more targeted, data-rich, and personalized information, you'll want to consider an Information Broker.

Start your search for an Information Broker by visiting the web site of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) at Here you'll find a directory of Information Brokers, including their email addresses and phone numbers. You can search the directory for specific brokers, or you can search geographically to find brokers who operate near you. You can also search by areas of expertise, businesses, and industries.

If you're considering hiring a specific broker, it's best to first make contact via email. Explain what the scope of your research is and ask about the services she can provide. The next step is to speak on the phone. Expect this conversation to be a give and take process. Perhaps the most important part of the Broker's job is to help you clarify just what your needs are, and how she can best help you. So whatever you do, don't hire a broker after only email contact. You must get to know each other a bit, and to discuss your needs in ways that are not possible without directly communication.

Information Brokers charge hourly rates that range from $75 to about $200. You can establish a "do not exceed" budget, and then your broker will provide you with the results of the research she was able to complete within the budgeted time. The deliverables you receive from the broker are also negotiable. They can range from simple lists of manufacturers to complete reports.

Here are some general questions you may want to consider asking a Broker. Of course, you'll have questions specific to your particular business and situation. And again, the Broker can help you clarify how she can best help you achieve your information goals.

It also helps to keep in mind the deliverable you can expect and want from the Broker (e.g., a list of company names of contacts, untapped sources for indigenous products, etc.), when discussing just how the Broker can best help you.

  • Who are the manufacturers and distributors within a 75-mile radius of where I live? From my vantage point, what's the best way to approach them? What terms might I expect? I'll need contact information also and an indication of how reliable a business partner they would be.
  • What products are indigenous to my area or not as available elsewhere, that I should consider selling? What are the best sources for these products? Please provide complete contact information and details on expected terms.
  • What are the market trends affecting the product lines I'm considering? What are the best sources - online and offline - for staying updated on these trends?
  • What are the most reliable and up-to-date sources for market intelligence for what's selling well on eBay, including both "outside sources" and sources right on eBay?
  • Aside from eBay, who are the other major players in the online auction business, what are there relative strengths and weaknesses, and what strategies do you suggest I use in starting and growing a business on their sites?

Why should you consider hiring an Information Broker rather than doing all this research yourself? First, brokers know how to efficiently locate and use information, saving you hours of preliminary research. Second, Information Brokers have access to fee-based databases that are not available to the general public through the Internet. Not only can they use these databases on your behalf, but they also know how to use them to cherry-pick the best information available to you. Finally, aside from accessing electronic information sources, brokers also turn to printed sources, and as expert information sleuths, they'll actually pick up the phone too!

This is not to say, you'll hire an Information Broker and your research worries are over. That's not going to happen. But, if you're feeling intimidated by starting this research, you should consider hiring a broker to help you on your way. Once you have some experience with the preliminary information you've paid for, you may be more confident to work on your own. Consider the fees you pay your Information Broker to be comparable to those you pay your accountant or lawyer.

About the author:

Brad and Debra Schepp have written about cutting-edge technologies for more than 20 years. Their most recent book is eBay PowerSeller Million Dollar Ideas: Innovative Strategies to Make Your eBay Sales Soar, published by McGraw-Hill. The 2nd edition of eBay PowerSeller Secrets will be published November 27, and be available through retailers such as Amazon. Visit Brad and Deb's website at

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