3 min read April 1, 2007 Free Workshop | August 28: Get Better Engagement and Build Trust With Customers Now Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Enroll Now for Free For storefront retailers, foot traffic is the key to higher sales. But when it comes to finding products to sell on eBay, it’s all about the eyes.As opposed to the limited floor and wall space of a brick-and-mortar location, retailers on eBay find new customers with good photography, well-written product descriptions and of course, great products, all of which buyers can see from their own computers at home or work.”In a five- to seven-day listing, we’ll get hundreds of people looking at a specific guitar,” says Tommy Colletti, owner of The Music Zoo (eBay User ID: themusiczoo), a high-end guitar shop in Little Neck, New York. “At my store, it might take a year just to get 100 [people] to look.” Colletti’s specialty and custom guitars can cost thousands of dollars, which limits his regional customer base. Now, as The Music Zoo is booming online, musicians can find–and buy–his products from anywhere in the world. After almost four years on the site, Colletti, 41, reaps sales of up to $75,000 a month. “eBay just kick-started everything for us,” he says.Many retailers keep separate inventories for their physical stores and what they show on eBay. For these businesses, eBay is mostly a way to diversify, test out new products to gauge demand, reduce inventories of seasonal or outdated merchandise and unload product returns and irregulars. Experimenting with new products often brings retailers to new suppliers, including different wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers. Trade shows provide a quick immersion in a new market and instant access to hundreds of new contacts. Online wholesale portals are another useful source, as is eBay itself, where you can find job lot sellers in a variety of product categories.If diversification is the goal, many retailers will find that eBay can help narrow down which products to source. Greg Holden, a writer and eBay PowerSeller in Chicago (eBay User ID: byte-writer), suggests using eBay as a market research tool before expanding to different brand types. First, he says, choose the product type, then search for completed items using a specific price range. “This enables you to see what people really like on eBay,” says Holden, author of 1000 Best eBay PowerSeller Secrets. “The more research you do, the more items you’ll find that regularly sell for hundreds of dollars.” But sticking to the tried-and-true works, too. Colletti’s online and store-based inventory is about the same, but he does notice that some items do better in the eBay Marketplace than others. “If it’s a specialty piece, we think ‘this is perfect for eBay,'” says Colletti. “[At the store], it will get lost among the 1,000 other guitars we have.”Sometimes the shift to online commerce is an adjustment for the suppliers of established retailers. Colletti says he was surprised by the reluctance of some manufacturers. “Some of them think it makes the product look cheap,” says Colletti, who overcomes this obstacle by promising not to list items below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. “My response to that is I never saw a Ferrari on eBay I thought was cheap.” This hands-on workshop will give you the tools to authentically connect with an increasingly skeptical online audience.
Fellow entrepreneurs often ask me if going through a comprehensive security audit is necessary for them, considering that theirs are relatively small, young organizations. Their argument for not conducting such an audit is that hackers will find nothing there of interest. Most information they hold in their emails, or in their online profiles on sites like LinkedIn or Twitter, is pretty benign, these entrepreneurs say.Related: Cyber Insurance Offers More Than Just Protection Against External Cyber AttacksI get it. The logical belief is that while it may be just as easy — or easier — for hackers to go after smaller, less sophisticated outlets, there’s nothing of value that they’ll find there. Sensitive information, like bank statements, tax returns, company contacts and employee payroll information is securely stored by the companies’ service providers.The risk of damages from an attack, if it occurs, is surely minimal.I disagree. The reality is that all your information is important to someone who can quickly piece together what you see as relatively innocuous. Hackers can then turn this information into something that could do significant harm to you and your company.We saw this not too long ago when Russian hackers infiltrated the Pentagon email servers. Federal officials quickly noted that none of the agency’s secure servers had been penetrated; but the information obtained, while unclassified, still offered valuable insights to the enemy. What’s more, the Defense Department spent significant time and money shoring up its security system’s vulnerability and analyzing the threat.Let’s take an example closer to home and apply it to our business world. Say you’re heading out on a trip someplace you’ve visited several times before with family. Certain hotels, restaurants and attractions have become regular stops for you. Many of us (myself included) will want to tell our beloved Facebook friends about it. And, yes — though this is a “full-on” vacation — you, like the rest of us, will still stay a bit connected to work because that’s what entrepreneurs do.This is all fine but should be done with the understanding that almost anyone else will be able to see that information as well. Something north of 1.2 billion active monthly members, 750 million daily users and 945 million mobile users are on social media platforms. So, when you tell your friends where, when and how you are going to your “favorite vacation spot” yet again, that information can be the perfect opportunity for sophisticated networks to uncover patterns in your activities. Those patterns may prove beneficial to parties aiming to spot vulnerable access points where you connect with your laptop to “check in” on things.Related: How to Create Security Awareness at Your CompanyOnce hackers gain access to your device at those outlets, they will undoubtedly see your conversations with employees, customers and strategic partners. While those conversations may not be of national security importance, they will provide insight into the activities of other individuals in your network, ones who actually do hold secure data.The point of the illustration is this: Hackers love to obtain all kinds information, even unclassified data. So, let’s not forget who the enemy is. Contrary to stereotypes, hackers do not live in their mothers’ basements staring at a homemade computer all day because they have nothing else to do.Rather, they have the means to capture a seemingly infinite amount of data in short order and are part of sophisticated, organized global syndicates that are well financed, expertly trained and bent on disrupting — if not taking down — governments and corporations around the world.Given that fact, you might want to reconsider your assumption that your company is “too small” for its information to be of interest to outsiders. Because you may be wrong.Related: 4 Ways Your Small Business Can Better Prevent Cyber Crime Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. May 22, 2015 Register Now » 4 min read Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global