Small Business Marketing: Make Money Online
If you're like me, when you purchase books online from Amazon, your eye is drawn to the message that appears near the new book price."Buy this book used for $2.97 and up." That's a pretty competitive bid considering the substantial list price for most new books. I can't remember when I've actually purchased a new book, the used copies that Amazon affiliated booksellers offer are cheap, reliable, and many times I can't see any wear on my (new) used book. If you've wondered about the booksellers behind these incredible used book offers, they form a legion of small businesses who are making money online, finding a niche in virtual book selling.
The Pub Hub, owned by Rupert and Marnie Robertson, is one of those many Amazon used books sellers.They have no storefront and no Web site, but these early retirees stay busy with an online business based in their home in the Ozark mountains.
I asked Rupert Robertson about how they got involved with Amazon, "My wife and I are both avid readers and garage sale enthusiasts. Because of this combination, our house usually looks like a library in disarray. A little over a year ago, we decided to combine both our avocations into a small business, an on-line bookstore. We decided to go with Amazon.com for a couple of reasons. We bought from their stores on a regular basis, so we were familiar with them, and they make it easy to get started. Amazon's on-line instructions were easy to follow and, when you open a merchant account, they give a discount for the first two months. We started listing some of the books we had around the house and immediately ran into puzzler. Many of the books that we had were already listed for a penny. There we were, looking at a book that retailed for $24.95 and there were 150 of them out there for a penny. Even with postage, someone was losing money. It didn't take us long to decide to put limits on the books that we would list, including price, condition, overseas shipping and weight. These parameters helped cut down on storage needs as well as boost profits. We now concentrate on unusual or esoteric books and customer service."
According to Robertson, these booksellers live or die by their customer ratings. Many Amazon used book sellers purposely under-rate the condition of their books, attempting to head off any customer dissatisfaction that could result in a low customer rating. In other words, books in "excellent" condition are often described as being in "very good" or "average" shape. In this consumer-driven marketplace it is the seller, not the buyer, who must be wary.
Where does he find his books? "Rather than try to cherry pick each garage sale we wander into, we usually try to buy the entire display for a low price. We don't waste a lot of time dickering. We make an offer and, if it is accepted, we load the van and move on," Robertson said. All of this results in plenty of work for a couple in retirement, "We average about 30 hours a week for what one would call a supplemental income. But, the upfront costs were minimal and we enjoy looking for book bargains. We monitor our expenses carefully to ensure that this part-time business stays profitable," Robertson said.
According to Robertson, Amazon offers a streamline sign-up process that doesn't require a large investment of capital, making it a perfect part-time business for retirees. In the first nine and a half months, the Robertsons have spent $2,164.00 on gas, inventory costs were $3,710.67, postage ran $2,847.54 and general supplies cost $753.86.
This and other new ways to make money by online marketing are changing the nature of small business. Rupert and Marnie Robertson's Pub Hub is one of the many non-traditional drivers of the American business landscape.