Protecting Credit Card Information

Large companies have lost large amounts of money lately due to hacker activity. Sony suffered a hiccup when somebody infiltrated their PlayStation 3 database and got hold of their users’ credit card numbers. Sony repaired the error and gave customers 2 free games to download online. Citigroup was also a target for hacking attacks, but unlike Sony, company directors decided to withhold this information from consumers for 3 weeks.

In a world where online purchases are becoming the norm, security is key. You can offer your customers any perk you want, but nobody is going to spend their hard-earned money where strangers can come in and steal their credit card information. Merchants have several choices when it comes to payment applications, so it is always a good idea to go back to the SANS Institute’s list of validated payment applications.

In a PBS Frontline interview, Richard Power, Editorial Director of the Computer Security Institute, says that Visa International only recently came up with a set of guidelines for merchants to follow when doing online transactions. These new regulations focus on unloading more responsibility on the merchant when it comes to customer protection. By industry standards, saving data from credit cards’ magnetic stripes is not allowed.

These are the main steps to ensure customer data security.

  • No saving of sensitive data after the transaction has been authorized. This data includes card verification code, full magnetic stripe, and PIN block data.
  • Protecting cardholder data by masking PIN numbers and have software vendors inform customers of data purging processes.
  • Generation of strong cryptographic keys. Encrypting all information is vital to make it inaccessible to others. The cryptographic material used by previous versions of the payment application must be rendered irretrievable.
  • Provide secure authentication features, such as unique user IDs for each user, and authentication via password, secret question, biometric, or token or smart card.
  • To make passwords more effective, they should be at least 7 characters long, include numbers and letters, and should be changed every 90 days.
  • Limit repeated access attempts by locking out the account after a certain amount of login attempts. For added security, automatically log out users after they have been idle for 15 minutes.
  • Log payment application activity to keep track of transactions and make sure that there is no suspicious activity.
  • Never store cardholder data on a server that’s connected to the internet.

Much of the legislation dealing with Internet traffic and online transactions is still in the process of being created. User guidelines evolve together with the development of new technology. As new glitches are discovered, so are new fixes. By keeping up with the latest in credit card usage and payment applications, consumers and businesses can interact safely.

B2B Networking and Marketing

We’ve often heard, “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.” And for the most part, it’s true. When you’re a small business owner, contacts play a very large role in the development and maintenance of your enterprise. From forming customer relationships to getting the best deals from wholesalers, it’s important to keep in touch with the right people.

This is essentially what B2B (business to business) communication is. B2B is the relationship between two businesses that trade products, information, or services via the internet, whether it is a regular transaction or a one-time-only occurrence. With the advent of dozens of ways to communicate or “friend” people online, it is no surprise that B2B also found its social media niche.

B2B social interaction has several benefits, from faster communication to more information about your colleagues or partners.

  1. Find your business partners/wholesaler/manufacturer/distributor on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (although that one is a bit outdated)/LinkedIn/Tumblr and connect with them.
  2. Make sure you build a profile for your business, not just yourself. Include as much information about it as possible, including address, hours of operation, years in business, etc. Think of this as another home page for your business.
  3. After you’ve established your presence, try to become an industry expert. If your business is a hardware store, talk about it. Update your Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter page with industry news, your own experience, product reviews.

Websites like Bizo promise to help business owners reach colleagues by targeting “more than 80% of the US business population.” Small businesses make up a large segment of the population using B2B marketing. So if you own a restaurant, for example, sites like this one make it easier to reach food wholesalers and find the best deals for you.

A perfect example of this can be seen in this announcement via The New York Times. Dairy giant Danone partnered with IBM “to increase the flexibility and responsiveness of its business-to-business (B2B) commercial interactions.” This partnership allows Danone to reach trading partners around the world, as well as simplifying invoicing, order-to-cash transactions, and logistics and delivery.

The difference between using social media with other businesses, as opposed to customers lies in one crucial point: you are not trying to advertise and fish for prospective customers. According to a 2002 study (pdf) from the Small Business Administration, 24% small businesses were using the Internet for their B2B commerce relations. Currently, that number has grown exponentially thanks to the availability of fast connection internet services and specialized networking sites like Bizo.

Industries using the most B2B e-commerce include motor vehicle manufacturing, retail trade, industrial equipment, shipping, high-technology sectors, and government.

For those who are interested in learning more about how to get the most out of B2B, they can attend the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston, MA. It will take place on June 20, 2011, and will feature speakers from Oracle, Hewlett Packard, and Xactly Corporation. This is a great opportunity for small business owners to hear about B2B commerce from the experts.

4 Ways to Prepare your Small Business For Summer

Summer brings about change in more than just the rising temperature. If you live in a “summer town” that relies on tourism, you probably already know to stock up on items and get ready for more customers. But in places where population doesn’t fluctuate significantly, there are still things to do to prep for the coming summer. Taking a few (and in many cases, inexpensive) steps can really boost productivity and sales.

Summer Marketing—Do you know of a popular venue where people like to hang out in your area? Cover the place with flyers, signs, or even aerial advertising. Don’t make your campaign overwhelming, but make sure that the public can’t ignore your efforts. If you offer a product, you can also offer free samples or promotional items (i.e. stickers, frisbees, visors, tote bags). Scour popular restaurants, ice cream parlors, community pools, or beach boardwalk (if there is one nearby).

Target Summer Industries/Customers—For example, if there is a summer camp operating close to your business, contact the owners. See if they need your products or services, and offer a bulk or special deal in exchange for their business. Many areas in the country suffer from increased insect/pest activity in the summer. If you are an exterminator, you can offer periodic sprays for places with heavy populations, such as retirement homes, country clubs, malls, etc.

Cheap Labor!—Have a small firm? Take interns for the summer. Some places offer paid internships, but most do not. So if you don’t have the funds to pay an intern’s salary, offer things like free snacks or meals, and the most useful thing of all: experience. You can also offer part-time jobs for high school students. They often look for a summer job, and will take almost anything that gets them spending money and doesn’t interfere with their summer activities. So as a merchant, you can go ahead and take advantage of that. Just keep a few things in mind when it comes to internships:

  1. Interns shouldn’t replace regular, paid workers.
  2. Training new people takes a little time.
  3. It is not mandatory to offer a full-time job to an intern after the internship is over.
  4. Internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  5. If you want to pay your interns but don’t know wage regulations, check out the government’s Wage and Hour division. This is also a great resource for part-time compensation.

If you are planning to hire high school kids, take a moment to inform yourself on the laws and regulations for teens at work from the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Explore The Market—Take the time to do some tourism yourself, and tour your regional market. Summer months provide a great opportunity for testing the waters in your area. Merchants can take advantage of typical summer events such as fairs, farmer’s markets, flea markets, regional festivals, car/boat/plane shows, and the like. These events can offer valuable insight into your competition, product pricing, and your customers.

Get The Complete Step-by-Step Process

To Cultivate A Responsive List eBook (FREE)

Subscribe to download this guide for FREE and work through the steps at your own pace.

Launch A Profitable Podcast

Discover how to start your own podcast business, leverage it to grow an existing business, grow your influence, and more.

There's No Better Time To Start Your Store

Have Your Own Store By This Weekend. Get This Quick-Start Guide To Launch Your Own Profitable Store Online.

The Time To Start Your Service Business Is Now

Launch Your Own Service Business By This Weekend. Get This Quick-Start Guide To Starting A Service Business Online.

Today Is The Day To Kickstart An Affiliate Business

Have Your Own Store By This Weekend. Get This Quick-Start Guide To Launch Your Own Profitable Store Online.