Marsha Collier on eBay businesses, writing successful books and learning from the best.

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In this interview, I was joined by Marsha Collier. She’s written over 50 books on e-commerce, social media, customer service and eBay. She has a technology podcast – IheartRadio NerdORama News, and runs a Twitter chat: #custserv. Marsha is a Marketing Maven. 

What You’ll Hear

  • [1:06] About Marsha and her background
  • [11:50] Marsha’s tips for other authors
  • [14:00] Publishing vs self-publishing
  • [17:20] Why some businesses are more successful than others
  • [23:10] How Marsha overcame challenges
  • [24:40] Social media tips and trends
  • [33:04] The most interesting place Marsha has visited
  • [38:10] Final comments

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About Marsha and Her Background

After college, Marsha worked for a newspaper and then started her own business doing marketing and advertising for regional shopping centres in Southern California. She really enjoyed it and won Small Business and Citizen of the Year. 

She bootstrapped the business and successfully applied for start-up funds. At one point she worked for the US Air Force who came out to inspect her converted-garage office to check she was a real business – nobody worked from home in those days. 

She says she was always penny-pinching and as a single mom she wanted to support her daughter. After a few years, she joined AOL and found groups about Barbie and other action figures. 

They were impossible to get a hold on the East Coast, so Marsha and her daughter would go and buy rare toys and hold auctions on AOL. She told the action figure groups what she had in stock that week and provided starting bids. Eventually, AOL found what she was doing and threw her off the platform.

 From there Marsha found a site called Auction Web, which was eBay before it became eBay. She and her daughter would bid every night on Barbie doll clothes, winning them very cheaply. 

She was invited on to the Today Show to talk about her eBay successes as one of their early adopters, which she did. Two weeks later she got a book offer, to write about how to start a business on the platform. 

At this point, in the mid-90s, Marsha was ready to leave marketing and become an author, and this gave her the opportunity. She sold off her clients and was selling thousands of copies of books. 

They pinned a map of the USA up in her office and every time she had a sale in a new city or state, they put a pin in the map. The map became crowded, but Marsha’s daughter noticed they weren’t selling books in Montana, possibly because of a lack of good internet. 

Marsha’s daughter is now responsible for marketing at a US university, and she says involving her daughter in everything she did in her business has inspired her with her career. 

To date, Marsha has sold over 2m books, and feels blessed that so many people enjoy her work and find value in it. She’s just started a new series, aimed at seniors, to demystify eBay and social media. 

Marsha’s Tips for Other Authors

Marsha says she works hard, and doesn’t do it for ego. Too many people do it for ego, to make money or to win speaking gigs; that will give little ROI. She says it’s a bad idea to write the same sort of books as anyone else. 

She says she’s been lucky that she’s been associated with the ‘Dummies’ series, and has been careful to keep her name ‘clean’. She’s turned down a number of offers that didn’t align with her values, and has always been true to her readers. 

Publishing vs Self-Publishing

Marsha says she’s never done self-publishing, because she likes to work with regular publishers. She doesn’t work with an agent and negotiates her contracts herself, although she does occasionally help other authors with their contracts. 

Her books are translated into several different languages, and she doesn’t have the time to organise that herself. She also has an identifiable brand, and mainstream publishers help her with promotion and getting into bookstores for signings. 

“My publishing lists have even been hacked,” Marsha explained. “Where my book’s listed, if you click it takes you to someone else’s. I recently looked at the ‘e-commerce’ section on Amazon and it was all bitcoin books, and then one of mine. The listings are frequently hacked.” 

The ROI of driving around and doing book signings is that you feel good, but how much do you make per book? Is it worth you going to other cities? Using online you can get your point across a lot better. 

Why Some Businesses are More Successful Than Others

Don’t give up and don’t do anything you feel is amoral or not quite right. In Marsha’s career, she had no option to fail. She was responsible for her daughter. If one thing wasn’t working, she’d try something else. 

When you’re learning, go to legitimate sources, because not everybody online is. She looks at forums and message boards, but doesn’t engage if she reads something that’s wrong – she knows her information is well-researched. On the other hand, Marsha says she’s learned from meeting eBay sellers, which is good. 

Vet the people you’re trying to learn from – find their real names behind the username and google them. Are they who they say they are? Are they knowledgeable and genuine? 

She adds that you don’t learn from watching videos – you have to read constantly. Marsha reads three hours per day, for pleasure and to learn. We can learn from history, and that’s so important. 

She reads ‘the masters’ of marketing and commerce – Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, David Ogilvy. She subscribes to scholarly white papers from universities and reads about new technology. And she reads newspapers every day too. 

How Marsha Overcame Challenges

Marsha says the most challenging times were when she didn’t believe in herself. You have to look within yourself and say, ‘What have I done?’ because you’re responsible for your brand. 

You have to do a lot of soul-searching, and there’s no quick fix for it. When you’re faced with a challenge, tackle it head on. Figure out different ways to make it better, because failure always has a cost. 

Social Media Tips and Trends

Marsha believes you should use social media to promote others, although she doesn’t appreciate people asking her to help them. When she reads white papers and articles, she looks for people who she finds interesting, and shares their content. 

She carefully curates her social media, and shares things that she thinks will be valuable. She doesn’t often use her platforms for her own brand. In marketing, you need to read and learn, and invest your time learning from people at the top of their field.

People will jump on bandwagons – Clubhouse is popular, but Twitter is introducing Spaces. Podcasts are growing, and entertainment is very useful. Marsha’s own show covers pop culture tech news. 

“As far as social media goes, go for top quality. If you walk away from something saying ‘I’m excited about that’ but you don’t really know what it is, that’s a waste of time. People get you motivated, but the only way to get value from them is to buy from them. 

“My books are all under $20, and if you read them and have questions, email me and I’ll reply. So many people are trying so hard on social media, but they’re not giving others a good enough reason to follow them. If you don’t do that, you won’t grow.” 

Marsha says videos over two minutes are a waste of time, because people aren’t going to watch them and learn anything. But short videos are valuable. She also says LinkedIn is full of spam, and she only uses it for research. 

“We need to get back to good, old-fashioned talking. When you write an email that’s on record forever, so people are cautious about what they say. But when you speak to them, and it’s not recorded, they’re a lot more candid.” 

The Most Interesting Place Marsha has Visited

Marsha says she’s written a blog post about this very topic. She’s been all over the world, and two years ago she took her best ever trip. She flew from Los Angeles, to Seattle and then to Anchorage, Alaska. 

“We saw the beginning of the Iditarod, which was amazing. Then we took an 11.5-hour train ride through the centre of the country to Fairbanks. When you’re not on the tourist trail, people hold up signs to ask the train to stop at the station so they can board. 

“We took a van from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle, took our photos, and then went further north. We had a portable Wi-Fi device, which saved our lives. We ended up at Coldfoot, Alaska, which was a truck stop and nothing else.

“The food was great and there was a dog musher who took us sledding in a wicker sled. We went out to where his dogs live, and we went to a reindeer farm (although reindeer aren’t very exciting!) 

“It’s so beautiful, and inexpensive compared to the tourist spots in the Arctic Circle. And you see the Aurora Borealis almost every night. But it’s very cold! We stood out in -40º to take photos.” 

Final Comments

You can find Marsha Collier across social media – search for @MarshaCollier. If you need me, Google me.

Find her blog at mcollier.blogspot.com

and contact her if you gave any questions. 

“Do the best that you can do, and don’t rely on other people to make your way. Your family is the most important thing. You’ve got your business and your brand, and it’s too easy to tarnish your brand. 

“Be careful about who you align with, and don’t get fooled by big money. It won’t help you, and you don’t need to give away part of your business. When money was tight, I just spent less. Work hard, study and you will succeed.”

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