Best Practices

Top-rated seller builds brand through smart shipping and social networking

Brad Fee, ToneFactor Since 2004, Brad Fee has transformed ToneFactor from a spare-time pursuit into a customer-centric international business with eBay Top-rated Seller status.

Leaving construction to build a brand

"I was playing in a bar band at night, working construction by day," says Brad Fee, owner and proprietor of ToneFactor, an online retailer specializing in electric guitar effects and accessories, "and buying and selling during the time I had in-between." A well-liked member of online musician community Harmony Central, he would buy and sell on message boards and eBay, primarily as a hobby. "Buying and selling guitar gear was something I was really into, and a great way to learn about the items it turns out I'd one day sell for a living."

While still working construction, Fee got his business license in 2003. After months of working grueling 12 hour days on the job site, he took a voluntary layoff in early 2004. Thanks to the encouragement of fellow Harmony Central community members and the experience he'd gained being a successful eBay seller, Fee "dove into ToneFactor 100% and never looked back."

Smart shipping practices delight domestically, supercharge sales globally

"My motto is 'under-promise and over-deliver,'" says Fee. "For me, that means shipping fast. I ship same-day whenever possible. All my domestic eBay listings include free shipping, and I ship Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation." With this combination of fast and free shipping, Fee's US customers tend to receive their items within 2 days of ordering. This has earned ToneFactor well over 1800 5-star DSRs for Shipping Time and Shipping Cost.

"My motto is 'under-promise and over-deliver.' It's been the key to my success."
- Brad Fee, ToneFactor
ToneFactor's shipping practices also surprise and delight buyers around the globe. Fee charges international bidders a flat $20 fee for USPS Global Priority Mail - any order size, any weight, anywhere in the world. These incredibly competitive shipping rates have greatly increased the number of (and number of items within) ToneFactor's international orders.

Informing, selling and building a brand via social and multimedia sites

True to Fee's community-based roots, ToneFactor actively engages with their customers on a number of online platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their own ToneFactor forums. "Twitter is a great way to get news and stock updates out there. I also use Twitter's RSS feed to update my own site. Facebook is far more social, and great for customer retention, too. I often post Facebook-exclusive contests and coupon codes. It's also an awesome place to cross-post eBay listings and YouTube product demos."

ToneFactor also smartly includes their YouTube product demos in their eBay listings. "It's a necessity," Fee states. He's found time after time that his listings perform better once they feature a YouTube product demo. The key, for him, is authenticity. "Be informative in your videos. Always use your logo in them, but don't hit viewers with a sales pitch."

Many happy returns - for up to a year!

"Being an eBay Top-rated Seller establishes a great level of trust," says Fee. "My return policy helps me build and maintain brand loyalty on top of that trust." ToneFactor's recently-adopted 1-year cash back return policy was inspired by top online retailer Zappos. "I'd seen how successful it was for them." While building and maintaining brand loyalty was the primary motivation behind this policy, it's also been profitable for Fee, and has encouraged a lot of new business.

Future plans: tone's the trade, mum's the word

Regarding ToneFactor's 2011 plans, Fee is both excited and tight-lipped. "Well, I don't want to give away too much," he says wryly, "let's just say I plan on expanding both my product lines and my customer base."