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I Forge Iron

Anybody use e bay?

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Many answers to business questions start with; "it depends" and end without making a definitive statement.  In an effort to be more helpful than that, I thought I might offer some insights into sizing up your available options.

Fundamentally speaking, you can spot a risk versus reward relationship.  Online marketplaces with little to no barriers to entry are low risk, low reward for the vendor.  You don't have to spend much time or money getting yourself set up, but neither did the other vendors. 

If the site doesn't sort wheat from chaff, everything becomes a commodity.  For clients, the only obvious variable is price, so the cheapest vendor is the only one selling.  

Conversely, you could go high risk, and build your own website in hopes of earning a higher reward.  

All of which is ignoring the most significant component of your success.  What you actually need is access to paying customers at your value level of your particular market.  That's what you need to focus on.  I'd bet that for the solid majority of vendors, common online marketplace sales won't break even on the cost of your time.

Some artist found a customer willing to pay $120,000 for a banana duct taped to a wall.  In contrast, there's a sweet lady a block down from me who paints photo-realistic portraits in her garage as a sideline.  Honestly, I'm not sure I could capture her subject matter as accurately with a camera!  I do however, have a roll of duct tape and plenty of fruits...

I better hurry before 3M and Chiquita team up to flood the market!



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I forgot to mention something about "free" services like online marketplaces, or social media.  If you're getting something valuable for free, you're not the actual customer, so the company providing the value isn't motivated by its goodwill towards you.

Some people/users profit despite this arrangement, especially when the original company is "building its brand" but most don't.  

As this was becoming common knowledge, I noticed that there was a big push among companies to create/promote niche celebrities who are uncommonly successful for their level of value to the buyer.  The niche celebrity attributes this success to their brilliant marketing efforts, but few of them can replicate that performance in a different market.  

More to the point, there are scores of entrepreneurs following that marketing lead to no fruitful end. "XYZ forge  is doing quite well selling hammers on Etsy" is more or less the entirety of their market viability research.  That one visible success encourages lots of people to join these marketplaces.  

Now consider something.  Cheap cars come from expensive factories.  It takes a huge investment to build an economy of scale.  Before rich people make those kinds of investments, they want proof that the venture will be profitable. Paying sites for that kind of market information is an obvious solution.  That probably goes double for shorter term investors in the business of sweatshop knockoffs.  Ever notice how there's always a sweatshop knockoff version of anything that's selling profitably?  Maybe it's not the best idea for a craftsman to put their wares on a site that has a built-in incentive to steer sales towards that kind of competition.


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Dear Rockstar,

However, there is the concept of the "unintended beneficiary."  The classic example is a gas was between 2 competing gas stations.  They undercut each other to get market share and the unintended beneficiary is the motoring public who gets to buy cheap gas.  As long as you know that this is how you are getting a benefit, as a side effect, not as an intended blessing you can game the system and come out ahead.  However, as you say, you can't count on the situation lasting forever or count on any good will towards you.  You are just catching the crumbs of the table and as long as you can get them, fine.  But don't rely on them.  Basically, this type of benefit is "found money."  It's nice to have and you shouldn't turn it down but recognize it for what it is.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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George, you gave a much more elegant example of market analysis than I did, thank you.

Thomas, I've personally encountered the picture-theft, as well as "stolen"  content and social media links.  Sometimes they will steal to capture traffic to a site that has nothing at all in common with their own.  The social media companies actively punished us when we filed a complaint about our content being stolen on their platform.  It's my opinion that social media is detrimental to marketers, entrepreneurs, and society as a whole.  

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