Tag Archives: Business

Getting Paid the Cool Kids’ Way: Venmo and Apple Pay

In today’s environment of instant gratification and demand for convenience, small businesses must make it as convenient and safe as possible for people to pay for products and services. As new platforms emerge, businesses that target millennials and Generation Zers (known for being early adopters of technology) need to stay in the know about the cutting edge options out there.

Two innovative payment methods that have been getting a lot of press include Venmo and Apple Pay.

Venmo

What Is Venmo?

Venmo, a mobile-only app owned by PayPal, is part social network/part digital wallet. After a user sets up a Venmo account and links it to their bank account or debit card, they can transfer money to and accept money from other Venmo users.

Available on Android and iOS devices, the Venmo app is also used to pay for purchases made through mobile browsers or mobile apps—and to split the cost of expenses such as rideshares, pizza delivery, and movie tickets via mobile apps (e.g., Uber, Papa John’s, Fandango).

With a growing user base (PayPal recently reported the app has over 40 million users) and the social aspect of the app, Venmo has the potential to generate exposure and a steady dose of word of mouth for businesses that sell products and services online.

How Can Your Business Accept Venmo Payments?

If your business accepts payments via your mobile website or app, you may want to explore adding Venmo to your list of payment options. You can connect with the payment gateway Braintree to accept Venmo at checkout on your mobile site or mobile app. Or you can add Venmo as a payment option at PayPal checkout.

How Much Does It Cost To Receive Payments Through Venmo?

When customers pay through Venmo, the merchant is charged 2.9 percent of the purchase price plus a transaction fee of $.30.

Is Venmo Secure?

Venmo uses encryption to help protect users’ account information, and they store account data on servers at secure locations. Users may set up multifactor authentication and add a PIN code in the app for additional peace of mind. Also, Venmo monitors activity to help detect unauthorized transactions. Visit the Venmo website for more information about the protections they have in place.

 

Apple Pay

What is Apple Pay?

Apple’s payment platform, Apple Pay, gives iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch users a convenient way to make secure purchases in stores, online, and in apps. Apple Pay accounts can be connected to most credit and debit cards from most U.S. banks. Apple has announced it will introduce Apple Card later this summer as a new way to pay with Apple Pay. Many major retailers, restaurants, and service providers—brick and mortar, online, and in-app—accept Apple Pay at checkout.

Apple Pay also has a peer-to-peer component, allowing users to send money to (or receive money from) other Apple Pay users through Apple Messages or by asking Siri.

How Can You Accept Payments Through Apple Pay?

Unlike Venmo, Apple encourages brick-and-mortar stores to accept Apple Pay. Merchants must have a contactless payment–capable point-of-sale terminal to do so. If you have one but haven’t yet been accepting contactless payments, ask your payment provider to enable that capability. The Apple website shares additional information that stores need to know about Apple Pay. It also provides details about implementing Apple Pay in your app or website.

How Much Does It Cost To Receive Payments Through Apple Pay?

According to Apple Pay’s info for merchants, “Apple doesn’t charge any additional fees” to accept Apple Pay. Merchants will pay the same fees as usual to banks and credit cards (those that customers access through their Apple Pay accounts) for transactions.

Is Apple Pay Secure?

In addition to the security features built into the hardware and software of Apple devices, Apple Pay requires users to have a passcode on their device. Further security options include facial recognition and fingerprint identification.

Apple does not store the numbers of the credit, debit, or prepaid cards that people use with Apple Pay, nor does it retain any transaction information.

For more details about Apple Pay’s security and privacy protections, visit the overview on the Apple website.

How Can a SCORE Mentor Help?

As you consider which payment methods will benefit your customers and your business, remember that SCORE mentors can offer valuable input and feedback to help you make an informed decision. Contact us today!

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Customer Feedback: Four Easy Ways to Get It

Every small business owner knows that success can’t happen without satisfied customers. Yet, many entrepreneurs get so busy paying attention to the multitude of tasks they need to accomplish day to day that they neglect to ask customers for meaningful feedback.

Advantages of Asking for Customer Feedback

Some ways that customer feedback can help your small business include:

  • Allows you to identify how to improve your products and services. Feedback can shed light on your company’s offerings’ strengths and weaknesses. Armed with this knowledge, you can determine what improvements or changes will better serve your target market and keep customers happy.
  • Attracts new customers. For example, in the case of online reviews, positive feedback can help your company gain trust and influence prospective customers’ buying decisions.
  • Improves customer loyalty. By asking for feedback, you show customers that you value what they think. Customers who feel appreciated are more likely to stay loyal to your brand.

Four Ways to Get Customer Feedback

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to find out what customers think about your company and your products and services.

1. Online Reviews and Social Media

Often, customers will do this on their own without prompting, so stay alert to what they’re saying about your business online. Several sites to watch include:

Even if you haven’t claimed your profile on a review website or social media platform, don’t assume customers aren’t talking about your company there. To make sure you don’t miss out on potentially valuable feedback, consider setting up Google Alerts to detect when someone mentions your company in reviews and on the web.

Be sure to read review websites’ terms of use carefully, some strictly prohibit businesses from asking customers to leave reviews.

2. Email Surveys

Email surveys give customers a convenient and fast way to respond to your questions about their experience with your company. Several platforms have a free option with basic features, a limited number of questions, and a limited number of emails per month. They also offer subscription plans that provide more capabilities and the ability to send a larger volume of emails. A perk of most email survey platforms is that you get analytics to summarize how respondents collectively feel about your company, products, and services.

Several email survey sites you may want to explore include:

3. Survey Cards

Asking customers to complete a short survey card at the point of sale enables you to get instant feedback. If you believe that requesting feedback on the spot will cause inconvenience for people who may be short on time, consider sending cards by snail mail instead if you have customers’ mailing addresses in your records.

4. Phone Follow-up

Especially for professional services businesses who don’t have massive amounts of clients, phone calls can be a viable way to touch base about customer satisfaction. A one-on-one conversation can deliver more in-depth insight and strengthen the business relationship.

How to Make it Matter

When asking for feedback, it’s critical to ask questions that will return the information you need to understand what your business is doing well and what it needs to improve. Below are several articles that provide helpful food for thought about crafting questions to gather customer feedback:

Also, consider talking with a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have the expertise and experience to help guide you in all aspects of running a business—including improving and maintaining customer satisfaction.

9 Cybersecurity Tips to Protect Your Business

Hackers don’t only set their sights on mega-corporations with massive amounts of data. In fact, approximately half of all cybersecurity attacks target small businesses. Why? Small businesses are less likely to have sophisticated digital security measures in place. Also, criminals focus efforts on cracking into small companies to make it easier to hack into the networks of the large businesses that small businesses are connected with.

Data breaches have the potential to impair or destroy your business. According to the National Cyber Security Institute’s findings, 60 percent of small and mid-sized companies go out of business within six months after getting hacked. With the survival of your business at stake, it’s critical to take measures to protect your information. Fortunately, by taking some simple steps, you can decrease your company’s risks of falling prey to hackers and unauthorized users who want to steal to your data.

9 Tips for Protecting Your Small Business from Cybersecurity Threats

  1. Keep computers and other devices out of reach of anyone who is not authorized to use them. Set up a lock-screen so others cannot access your computer when you step away from your desk.
  2. Update computers and other devices with the latest security software. Utilize up-to-date browsers and operating systems for optimal security, as well.
  3. Secure your Wi-Fi connection: create a unique password for your router, change your wireless network’s name (SSID), enable network encryption, and upgrade your router’s firmware.
  4. Have a firewall in place to protect your Internet connection. Set up a firewall at your office, as well as home offices, if you and any employees work remotely.
  5. Educate employees about best practices regarding creating and storing passwords for various accounts. Keep passwords strong and use two-factor authentication when possible, as recommended by Security Today.
  6. Show employees how to recognize phishing and scams. According to Symantec’s February 2019 Internet Security Threat Report, employees of small organizations were more likely than those in large organizations to be hit by email threats—such as spam, phishing, and email malware—in 2018. Employees need to be on alert for emails with zip files and attachments (such as invoices or receipts) with malicious code that will download malware to the user’s device when the attachment is opened. In addition, it is important to avoid clicking links that look suspicious.
  7. Protect mobile devices and set up passwords to unlock devicesencrypt data on mobile devices, install security apps to prevent unauthorized access to data when a device is on, and install anti-virus and anti-malware software on devices.
  8. Choose your bank and credit card companies carefully—look for those with the best anti-fraud protections.
  9. Be selective about who you allow to access your data and the degree of access you give to individuals. In other words, only grant access if it’s absolutely needed.

If you want to learn more about how to protect your business, consider visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s CyberSecurity for Small Business online education and resource guide. It covers a full range of topics to help you put a plan in place. Also, reach out to your SCORE mentor for input and feedback as you take action to safeguard your business.

Eight Ways SCORE Can Help You Succeed in the New Year

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Whether your New Year’s resolution is starting a new business or you want to grow your existing one in 2017, you’re smart to seek expert guidance and resources that can help you. That’s exactly where SCORE , a national non-profit offering free, confidential mentoring and business education comes in.

 

For more than 50 years, SCORE has helped entrepreneurs like you navigate the challenges of launching and building their businesses.

 

As a local chapter, we at SCORE Portland Maine find that not all small business owners in our community are aware of how we can help fuel their success. You might say one of our New Year’s resolutions is to change that!

 

SCORE Portland Maine’s services include:

 

  • FREE mentoring – That’s right. For absolutely no charge, you can consult our mentors for as many sessions and for as long as you feel you need to. Our volunteers come from diverse professional backgrounds and collectively have knowledge and expertise in every aspect of starting and managing a business. You can meet with mentors in person, by phone, by video call or receive counciling via email.

 

  • FREE Workshops – We offer several workshops to guide you through the steps of starting a business and help you learn how to more effectively run a business. From digital marketing to financial projections, our workshops offer something for everyone.

 

How can SCORE services help your small business succeed in 2017?

 

  • You can share your business concept with a trustworthy, objective third party who can help you see if your idea is viable.

 

  • You can learn how to develop a business plan to guide your efforts.

 

  • You can get valuable input and feedback to help you make smarter business decisions.

 

  • You can learn about best and worst entrepreneurial practices, which can help set you on the right path and avoid disaster.

 

  • You can access small business resources recommended to you by your mentor.

 

  • You can gain an understanding of how financial reports work and how they measure the health of your business.

 

  • You can learn about tried-and-true and cutting-edge marketing and advertising tools and tactics to generate leads and boost sales.

 

  • You can learn management and leadership skills from experienced professionals.

 

  • You can count on getting a realistic picture of the benefits and challenges of entrepreneurship. SCORE mentors are honest and won’t sugarcoat the hard work it requires to build a sustainable business.

 

Ready to get your New Year off to a stellar start?

Contact us and set up an appointment with a SCORE Portland Maine mentor. And don’t forget to check out our upcoming workshop offerings. Whether you’re in the beginning stages of exploring entrepreneurship or you have an existing small business you want to take to the next level, we’re committed to helping you succeed.

Is Your Business Ready To Accept Payments From EMV-Enabled Cards?

Starting October 1, 2015, all businesses, regardless of size, will be required to have systems in place to accept credit cards equipped with EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) smart chip technology. EMV cards offer increased safety and convenience for users. Cards with EMV smart chip technology contain a cryptogram, making it extremely difficult for others to copy or use cards fraudulently.

The new requirements put pressure on business owners to get up to speed with the technology. A recent Intuit survey found that over half of business owners with fewer than five employees have heard of EMV cards.

Why are businesses adopting this technology? 

EMV smart chip technology provides greater protection to consumers rightfully concerned about the security of their data. Credit and debit cards with the chips are far less likely to be compromised than cards with the traditional magnetic strip.

How do I make the switch to EMV smart chip cards?

If you accept debit and credit card payments, contact your point of sale system provider for more information. If you want to know more about the EMV chip technology from the standpoint of a payment card user, contact your bank or credit card company. You can also get additional details on the topic in this SCORE.org blog post.

WATCH: How to use an EMV smart chip card

What happens if my business isn’t ready to accept EMV cards?

You (rather than the cardholder or credit card company) might be held responsible for the cost of any unauthorized purchases made via your point of sale system.

According to the Payment Security Taskforce, more than 575 million U.S. cards will feature EMV chips by the end of 2015, so you can expect that many of your customers will be using them. If you don’t want to be on the hook for fraudulent transactions made at your point of sale, you’ll want to explore what you need to do to upgrade your equipment and software so you can process purchases as EMV chip transactions.