My overall market strategy is extremely simple but the details are complex. I use a lot of different methods (tricks, tactics w/e you want to call them) to facilitate the overall strategy.
No-Lifers and Bots
I can't really talk about my order posting strategy without touching on the biggest underlying reason behind it. Competition from no-lifers and bots. They are a huge problem not just in Eve but in any online game that has a market or auction interface players can use to sell each other items in game.
No-Lifers spend excessive amounts of time online obsessing over babysitting market orders, trying to ensure they always have the lowest sell order and highest buy order on every single item they're working.. They're online 12-16 or even more hours a day and rarely take a day off. They're constantly undercutting sell orders and overcutting buy orders by the minimum possible amount (0.01 ISK in Eve).
Bots are even worse. They do exactly the same thing as no-lifers except they can be online indefinitely (virtually forever) and can cut even faster with inhuman machine like precision. At least no-lifers have to take a break occasionally to eat, sleep or w/e, can only post/update orders so fast, and even the most obsessive, sleep deprived no-lifer can only run so many clients at once. Bots on the other hand take no effort on the part of the player running them other than configuring the bots initially, can post/update orders with unbelievable quickness and can run as many clients as the botter's hardware can handle.
My overall strategy is really pretty simple. Following the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle I use easily implemented systems and simple rules of thumb to keep things running smoothly without requiring hours spent obsessing over details.
1. Squeeze the competition from both ends. I raise buy prices and lower sell prices until margins are low enough most of the competition (no-lifers and bots in particular) leave the market and I get a fair share of it. Margins on my best, most profitable items are rarely more than 20% (there are exceptions) and most of them are usually in the 5-10% range.
2. Aggressive pricing. I use big cuts on both buy and sell orders. Usually around 10% of the difference between the lowest sell order and the highest buy order. There are of course exceptions. Sometimes when a particular market is ridiculously high I might cut by 50% or more and obviously when margins are extremely tight cutting by 10% might not be very smart (though sometimes it's the right move to correct a market).
|Huge Cut on a ridiculously overpriced item|
3. Buy in bulk amounts when possible. Terms like bulk and high volume are relative and don't even apply to some things. The absolute values of terms bulk or high volume are very different for ore and minerals than they are for implants or modules going for over 100 million each. High end officer mods don't drop in sufficient numbers to even supply a bulk market in the first place.
4. Concentrate mainly on the best sellers, expensive, high volume, high profit margin items and characters in the most profitable locations. Which items and characters those are can and does change frequently, however some items and some characters are better than others. I tend to focus primarily on those items, prioritizing working the Big Head over the Long Tail.
5. Post "guard" orders on items with extremely slim margins. Anything with under 2% margin between buy and sell orders isn't worth bothering with, especially when considering taxes and broker fees eat up a big chunk of that 2%. When a guard order gets filled that's usually my first indication the no-lifers and bots have abandoned a market, margins are rising, and it's worth working again. With higher volume items I'll often put up a second set of middling volume orders at price levels a bit higher and lower to catch the wave when margins inevitably increase.
6. Check inventories frequently, post recently acquired items and update or post new buy orders for the same items. This is a very important, high priority step. Basically, combined with the less important step #5, it's my inventory control. I don't have to worry about losing track of an important item and not having any buy orders up for it because I always go through station inventory as one of the first things I do when logging onto a toon. That way I find newly acquired inventory from buy orders, post them for sale and update or post buy orders at the same time. No spreadsheets or inventory tracking software required.
For the most part I pay decent prices for the items I buy. I have to be careful not to get greedy and try selling them for too much profit though. Whenever the margin between buy and sell orders gets too high the no-lifers and bots jump all over it and I get very little if any business. When it's in the sweet spot I buy and sell in bulk for big overall profits.