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eBay makes big push for small-business market

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Jay Fiore
Title: Senior manager of marketing, eBay Business
Company: eBay
Years in current job: 2
Quote: “The message our communications strategy emphasizes is the rational one of saving money, but also the emotional benefits for small businesses who buy on eBay.”


About two years ago, eBay executives were surprised to note that small-business owners were using eBay for capital equipment buying and selling. And not just in typical categories such as computers and office furniture, but heavy industrial equipment like backhoes, forklifts and tractors.

In fact, by the end of 2002, eBay estimated, small-business owners worldwide purchased some $1 billion in equipment and supplies through its site. So its initial step in accommodating those merchants was to expand eBay's categories to include Business & Industry.

But that was just an initial step. Jay Fiore, senior manager of marketing for eBay Business, joined the company in December 2002 and helped launch its first business marketing campaign in 2003 to increase small-business owner awareness. In 2004, Fiore oversaw an even bigger push and further evolution of those ideas.

"We saw accelerations in growth in every vertical category we were in," he said. "Based on that success, we decided to launch a major marketing campaign in January targeting all kinds of business owners."

The 2004 integrated campaign included print, radio, Internet, public relations and a promotion called "Dream Big, Save Big" that asked business owners to write essays about what winning $50,000 to buy equipment on eBay would mean to their business.

Almost 90,000 owners signed up for the promotion, and 16,000 wrote essays. Traffic to the specific Web site eBay set up for the ad campaign-www.ebaybusiness.com-topped 800,000 page views in just two months. The public relations effort culminated in May with a "U.S. of eBay" day in Washington, D.C. eBay invited 51 business owners to D.C. (one from each state and the District of Columbia) to honor them and help them meet with their state legislators to discuss business issues.

"When we look forward, we're looking to evolve the message and talk about eBay as not just a surprising new player in the small-business arena, but talk about eBay as a real participant and even a leader in these industries," Fiore said.

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