Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to sell tack online

Today's post was written by my friend, Teresa Buzzell, after one too many frustrating experiences with online sellers. There is a lot of really good advice in this article and I am pleased to share it with all of you.

How to Sell Tack Online
by Teresa Buzzell

I can sell almost anything online. In fact, I sold a car, on Craigslist, without 2nd or 4th gear, 3rd gear going bad and a host of other things wrong to the FIRST person who called on it. It’s all a matter of marketing the item properly to the right audience. But, I have had some very disappointing times lately with what I see for sale in our model community. So, do you want to sell me (and every other hobbyist) something, especially tack? Check out these simple guidelines.
Pictures are worth more than 1,000 words.

With models, props and dolls, it’s easy. Take photos of both sides and any flaws at the least. Add in a head shot, detail shot or “action” shot depending on the item. Extra shot s are especially necessary if the item is high dollar or the creator isn’t prolific enough to have a perceived hobby reputation. I’m not spending money on anything if I can’t be reasonably assured that I’m going to like the piece once I have it in my hands. Very few people will purchase without photos, especially high end items. If they do, it’s because they are making a very calculated gamble AND have the ability to return the item if not satisfactory for a full refund.

You don’t have to be a great photographer or have the best equipment. You just need to be able to take well lit photos of your item in focus with an uncluttered background. No Photoshop tricks or tips necessary. I have used my chest freezer with all the lights in and around the kitchen on and the simple white wall background before with some success. Just find the place for you and take several photos of each angle/side and choose the best of each.

Tack is a bit harder in my opinion. But still, I want to see photos of each side of the item, at least. Photos of it on the horse are especially critical if it’s a bridle or leg wear. It’s hard to judge anything when it looks like a pile of straps. Saddles really should be photographed from the back and the top too. A detail shot of the silver work or the tooling would be nice if your camera can get good shots of that too.

Also make sure that the photos you take show the items for sale. I prefer to see the exact item, not “item will be similar to shown” and just the items for sale in the photo. I inquired about a MHSP ad awhile back with questions as the photo and the description did not tell the whole story. Did I get both bridles? Did I get to choose between them? I had no clue and had to contact the seller/maker. Save yourself some valuable time and be clear with your photos
Describe items clearly and concisely.

If your item is Traditional, is it small, medium or large? Does fit a general range? Most performance showers know that if an item fits a Lady Phase, it will probably fit an ISH and others of similar measurements. Does it fit the PAM or the PSA? If it’s made specifically for a particular model, state that. If the straps have been left long for the buyer to customize them for their needs, don’t forget to state that also. (The PAM and PSA share some general body measurements but not all bridle measurements!)

Otherwise, mention if the buckles are tongue and have rollers or slide buckles. Mention if the girth has elastic or if the cinches are removable. Mention if the various pieces are adjustable or not. Mention if underside is lined or not. Mention if the hardware or decorations will need polishing or not. You don’t need to get into nitty gritty detail but realize that all of these things can be big selling or warning points with prospective buyers.

Don’t forget to mention who made your item. “Me” is not descriptive. If I’m on eBay, “me” and the seller’s ID may not lead me to a name at all. Not all tack items are signed but try to do what you can to inform the buyer of the maker. If you don’t know who made it, don’t feel bad – just say “unknown”.

Oh, and PROOF READ your ads. Nothing is so written in stone that you can’t edit it. Spelling and grammar are some of those little details that are rather important. If you forget those little details, how am I to know that you didn’t forget a keeper on the bridle or the curb chain?
Communication is key.

That previous sale ad I mentioned? I never got a reply. I had multiple questions regarding the ad and depending on the answers I got, was serious about purchasing. If the set had been sold or placed on hold, it was the perfect opportunity by the artist to discuss a commission slot or offer another piece. At the very least, a “thank you for inquiring, the piece has been sold” email would have been courteous.

I will be very hesitant in the future to contact this particular artist on any ad now – a loss for her more than me. I will definitely look towards the secondary market when it comes to her items. While I am certainly no one’s big time spender client/customer, I do tell my friends good and bad purchasing experiences. Bad experiences travel fast in this hobby and are harder to live down than you think. Even if the hobbyist is not into performance, they still hear about bad experiences and remember them.

Oh, and if you are purchasing something and life takes a sudden turn for the worse? (BTDT, have two t-shirts and a third on the way!) Contact anyone you are working with on time payments or purchasing an item. I have had wonderful experiences with people who were willing to work with me and around my financial issues, especially when I informed them right away and then continually had contact with them . Dropping off the face of the earth is rude and unnecessary.
Money, money, money!

Pricing is difficult. In the current economy, a tack maker has to at least cover the materials cost with labor/profit being important but sometimes harder to pin down. A collector selling on the secondary market needs to balance the going price vs current investment. Now, I won’t go about telling you how to price your item – only you can figure that out. But if you are having some problems doing so, keep reading.

Are your pieces languishing without many inquiries? Have you great photos and descriptions? Then, perhaps it’s because you’ve overloaded the market as a tack maker and it’s not hard for your customers to get something from you either directly or second hand. Some may be items that have a small or niche market in the hobby and you have tapped that out. Or, perhaps your potential customers have found the same item elsewhere but made better or cheaper.

Do some market research. Use MHSP, eBay, etc and scribble down some data. If you are a tack maker, figure out who your competition is, what they offer vs what you offer, quality of the items, etc. Do a survey with your recent and not so recent customers. Ask them who have they purchased from and why, what are they looking for, what have they not been able to find, etc. Analyze what you find and then change your business accordingly.
I hope this has been helpful to those who have read it. It’s fun to get a new model in the mail and it’s even more fun to get new tack. Even in this economy, there are hobbyists willing to purchase items – shouldn’t they be buying from you?

A quick note from Jennifer about the pictures accompanying today's post. Although MH$P is full of "bad" selling photos, I was uncomfortable using someone else's pictures to illustrate a negative point. Instead, I took a variety of "good" and "bad" pictures of the same tack set. I hope we can all agree that it looks a lot more appealing in the first picture than it does here:
Thanks again to Teresa and remember that I am always interested in good guest blogger pieces!


  1. Thanks for sharing this well written and informative post! So many of these things seem obvious but it's easy to tell by looking at all the "fail" ads on various sites that a lot of folks don't take these things into consideration.

  2. Just something else to add on that I've seen MANY times over the years: don't EVER say that you didn't completely tack your horse up or didn't buckle it completely because you were lazy or didn't feel like doing it. That doesn't exactly give your customers the picture of a hard working person who's determined to make their customer happy. I've seen it so many times, it seems unreal. I just don't know why anyone would do it, as it seems quite childish to me (and this is coming from a teen). I don't mean to offend anyone who has done it in the past, but don't do it again.

    1. Also, it may be okay if you're trading with a close friend, but with a stranger, they feel like you won't package it right because they are going to be lazy again.

    2. I totally agree, Devon. If you can't be bothered to put it on the horse correctly, there's no point in showing it on the horse at all!

  3. I am considering selling my tack online so this was super helpful!