Sugar, over at Lowsec Lifestyle has a thought provoking article about Losing Money, mostly due to not optimizing things. That got me thinking about a number of points I've been wanting to write about for a long time and gave me an idea (finally!) how to tie them all into one post.
I agree that not optimizing everything isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm also a firm believer that as a trader doing things differently than most is far better than following the herd and bleating the "undercut by 0.01 ISK to maximize profits" mantra like a good, unimaginative little sheep.
Just for starters, doing things differently makes me less predictable and therefore more difficult for the competition to counter. I don't just mindlessly ship stuff off to wherever some spreadsheet says has the best sell price at the moment. It's often better to send them somewhere else. Just about anywhere else in fact. Somewhere with reasonable sales volumes and a smaller but still nice profit margin. I usually wind up with higher overall profits in the end than I would have made shipping for the highest sell price and winding up fighting over rapidly declining profits with a herd of spreadsheet using no-lifers and bots who all shipped to exactly the same place for exactly the same reasons.
More importantly every minute I don't spend poring over spreadsheets, studying data, grinding station standings and trying to do everything in what the herd blindly accepts as the most perfectly optimal (and therefore the only proper) way to squeeze every single possible 0.01 ISK out of every transaction, is another minute I can spend actually working the market..
Pretty much everything Sugar mentioned in her post are things I do too. Not all of them all the time, but some of them all the time (not worrying about or grinding station standings for one) and all of them at least some of the time.
I often list things, (mostly very commonly used, relatively cheap items like T1/T2 mods and ammo) at or near cost simply to attract players to the station where they then might buy other more expensive items from me that are quite profitable.
When breaking into a new inventory line (items you haven't worked before) prices are often inflated. One of those overly obsessive no-lifers or bots has been buying them ALL out at usual or somewhat more than usual prices and jacked the sell price way up (usually at least 100% higher and often 200-300% or even more).
In that case the best thing to do IMO is to buy one at or near the inflated buy price he's used to crowd everyone else out. Sometimes I get one quick and sometimes it takes a while but once I do get one I can post it for far less than his sell price and still make a very nice profit. If he undercuts that I can go quite a bit lower without losing money and if I have to I'll go right down to cost to break his control. I'll even go lower than cost if I'm sure the reset buy price is going to go down significantly too though I do have to be careful about that. I have to be quite certain he's not manipulating me into selling under cost (I've manipulated others into doing that on occasion myself).
If he doesn't undercut me and someone else buys mine, that's great, I'll just keep buying more in low volume and selling them for nice profits until he finally does react (he almost certainly will eventually).
If he buys me out, even better. I made a nice profit already so I can buy another even if costs a bit more than the last one and post it for a little more too. Keep buying low volume, raising the buy price and lowering the sell price which ultimately forces him to either pay too much for stock in large volumes or let me buy some too. If he keeps on trying to crowd me out by buying it all in spite of rising buy prices he risks buying way too much stock at inflated prices and running into a cash shortage that forces him to either bow out of that market or take big losses dumping stock for a lot less than he paid for it just to get some liquid cash back to play with.
Sometimes having orders delist, or cancelling a bunch of orders and not replacing them for even just a few days can be very useful too. Quite often that results in other traders resetting prices resulting in items that haven't been very profitable in a long time suddenly becoming very profitable. If prices were depressed for a while and you'd been stocking up while prices were down a price reset like that can make you a bundle
Sales performance in regions or stations that haven't been performing very well can usually be improved (sometimes greatly improved) simply by bringing in a good selection of commonly used ship hulls, mods and implants, and selling them at fair prices for the buyer.
Don't just follow the herd! Try doing things differently, as long as it works for you, you like doing it and you aren't hemorrhaging cash, do it your way!