Mark Wilkinson and Gary Sewell spotted the opportunity of running a business on the Internet in 1999.
“We saw how the Internet had taken off in the USA and decided to take a closer look”, Mark told The Online Trader, “The top performers had one thing in common – the ability to bring likeminded people together.”
Recognizing that the idea of bringing people together online was a concept that was working for other businesses – ‘the online community’ – Mark and Gary decided to start an online auction website called www.ebid.co.uk. This meant taking a risk and leaving their full-time employment, but, as Mark says,
“We could see the great attraction of not having to answer to a boss.”
eBid is a free online auction website aimed specifically at the UK market and whilst the initial financial investment to start the site was minimal, the real investment was in time and energy. The intention was to concentrate heavily on getting customers and then retaining them.
Mark explains, “The Internet is so fluid, with people changing their email addresses frequently, that we knew that visitors would not come back to the site unless we could actually offer them something to come back for. While other companies were spending incredible amounts of money advertising, we spent time to make the site attractive and full of content, to make customers come back time and time again. Today, 70% of our new members come from referrals.”
Although Gary and Mark work full-time on their Internet business, they are both great believers in automation. As Mark told me,
“Our philosophy is simple – get the Internet to do the work”
This is a philosophy that is obviously working – as well as working on eBid, Gary is also webmaster for five other online businesses!
In terms of advertising, the pair have found that repeat business and viral marketing have both been very beneficial to the growth of eBid. In addition, they make use of banner exchanges and affiliate ‘swap’ programs. As is often the case for Internet businesses , advertising online has achieved the best results for eBid, as Mark explains,
“We have had limited success with offline advertising campaigns and feel that if money is to be spent, then it should be on a PR release, which we do 3 or 4 times a year.”
I asked Mark about the best and worst points of running an online business, he told me,
“The best? Being your own boss and knowing that you can work when you want. The worst? Never being able to fully let go. It is very easy for your social life to suffer if you do not discipline yourself to normal working hours – despite loving every minute of the 18 hour day that you work! Now that’s the irony of leaving a 9-5 job!”
As for the future of eBid, Mark and Gary have worked hard to build a huge community and this allows them to introduce new ideas to their members at zero cost. They intend to fully capitalise on this and have recently launched a wholesale and large lots section. Anyone need a wholesale directory 🙂 They are also working on two new projects.
From a simple concept of building a business around an online community, eBid has come a long way. I have just calculated that there are currently almost 65,000 items available for sale on the site and eBid receives several million hits per year.
As Mark says, “We are now the largest homegrown auction site in the UK, so we must be doing something right.”
You can visit eBid at www.ebid.co.uk
Thanks to Mark and Gary for taking the time to supply the above interview.
Until next time…