By Bill Pirtle
MPCT Publishing Co.
In my last article, I asked people why they attend regional conferences; I received limited responses. Having just attended my first regional show - the Midwest Acquirers Association's annual meeting in Oak Brook, Ill., July 26 to 28, 2011 - I only have to say that if you have never attended one, you should.
The greatest benefit of attending a regional show is that even a relatively new merchant level salesperson (MLS) can get to it without breaking the bank or traveling across the country. I met several GS Online Forum members at the MWAA, including a few lurkers (those who read but do not post). I also had the pleasure of meeting Kate Rodriguez, General Manager of The Green Sheet.
The next regional event is the Western States Acquirers Association conference to be held Sept. 21 and 22, 2011. If you are on the West Coast, you need to go. The $75 entry fee for an MLS ($125 at the door) gives you unlimited access to the conference. One special event you must attend is Mark Dunn's Field Guide Seminar. This two-part seminar features six dynamic industry experts who will speak for 40 minutes apiece.
At the MWAA, the Field Guide topics and speakers were:
Rod Hometh discussed how RocketPay can set up multiple processing and bank accounts around the world to allow companies to process worldwide in the currency of the region. This method eliminates some, if not all, cross-border fees and allows merchants to decide when or if to convert currencies.
I worked with LaSalle Bank Corp.'s processor and thought I had a good idea of how to land banks as referral partners. After seeing Donna Embry's presentation, I realized I did not have nearly the tools I thought I had. It is not just bringing merchants to the bank; it is bringing financial opportunity with no risk.
Regrettably, I missed Mark Dunn and half of Matt Clyne's presentation due to a chance to speak with a sought-after prospective partner. I walked in as Matt asked the packed room, "How many of you sell based on interchange-plus?" Three brave souls raised their hands out of almost 200. Seeing the three hands, he continued, "You're idiots!" to the thunderous applause of the crowd. "If you sell tiered pricing, you'll make good money for awhile." Matt was the hit of the seminar. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, do it.
The closing presentation of the Field Guide seminar conducted by Mary Winningham of Mirror Consulting was on how to find niche markets. Why are niche markets important for MLSs and ISOs? They are important because if you can invest time and effort to learn a niche market, you will not be giving away processing. In other words, you will make more money because your knowledge and experience in that niche will be valued by your clients.
The opening keynote at the MWAA was by Michael McNamara, Vice President of SpendingPulse at MasterCard Worldwide, who discussed the card brand's retail data mining division. I'm sure the larger ISO attendees took a lot away from the program. The gist of the presentation was that e-commerce is making advances over the brick-and-mortar sector.
One interesting statistic was that, while the largest shopping day in brick-and-mortar stores is the day after Thanksgiving, the largest e-commerce day is the next Tuesday.
Among the other offerings were a discussion of the Electronic Transactions Association's Certified Payment Professional program, a panel on mobile payments and another panel featuring Women's Network in Electronic Transactions' co-founder Holli Targan, payment attorney Adam Atlas, and Mary Weaver Bennett, Director Government and Industry Relations at the ETA.
The final presentation was called the "Shark Tank," from the reality TV show of the same name. It featured four exhibitors touting new and "innovative" products. The presenters were from RosterWire LLC, Lending Cycle Inc., SparkBase and SecurityMetrics Inc.
RosterWire and SparkBase representatives talked about how to integrate gift and loyalty programs with smart phones. RosterWire is still in testing with it, but SparkBase already has stores in Cleveland and Chicago using its Paycloud mobile wallet service. SparkBase won the competition, and based on the presentation and potential for income, deservedly so.
However, I was intrigued with the other two presenters. Lending Cycle founder and Chief Executive Officer John Jackson discussed the company's PaymentCycle customer relationship management software designed for the payments industry. Jackson referenced Lending Cycle's successful BankCycle program and the PaymentCycle sister program, SalesCycle. Speaking with Jackson after the presentation, I found that PaymentCycle costs $499 per month and had industry-specific details.
The SecurityMetrics presentation was hands-down the best overall, in my opinion. The presenter was Wenlock Free, Vice President of Business Development at SecurityMetrics. He indicated that 63 percent of merchants retain card information they should not. Wouldn't you like to know which of your merchants - almost two-thirds of them by Free's estimation - are retaining data, which potentially exposes ISOs to losses and fines if merchants get breached?
SecurityMetrics introduced PANscan to help merchants locate card data residing on their computer systems When downloaded, the program scans a computer's hard drive, including PDFs, looking for what could be card data. Once the scan is completed, you see the results and click on files to verify that the information found is card data. Once verified, PANscan helps merchants encrypt, truncate or delete the information.
While PANscan is not perfect in my estimation, ISOs and MLSs should consider investigating it as a potential value-added service to help merchants find out if they are in violation of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard requirements. I think the best feature of PANscan for ISOs is that they get copies of reports to allow for follow-up.
To try the program yourself, go to www.securitymetrics.com and click on the PANscan option. I urge you to register before you download the scan. SecurityMetrics did not win the Shark Tank challenge because they offered it as a free product and the judges were unsure how the company would monetize it. If paying customers were the only ones who could use all of the features, I am positive SecurityMetrics would have won the contest.
I wish to thank the MWAA officers and board for the outstanding conference they put on.
I wholeheartedly recommend that MLSs and small ISOs attend these events. If there is still time, register for the WSAA and prepare to learn something to help you sign more clients and earn more money.
As of this writing, breakout sessions scheduled for the WSAA include:
Ken Musante, as many of you know, was my predecessor as the Street Smarts columnist, and he continues to contribute articles to The Green Sheet. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Oak Brook and I believe this breakout will be well worth attending. Donna Embry really knows her stuff. I respect her and would like to hear her commentary on updates in the industry.
My first Street Smarts article was on the ETA's Certified Payment Professional program. MLSs, including myself, have expressed reservations about the program. The MWAA presentation by Rori Ferensic did nothing to convince me it will work. In fact, her response to a valid question on confirming industry experience was dismissive. The representative of a large, mid-level ISO asked how the ETA could confirm an individual's experience in the industry. Her response was, "If you don't know how long you've been in the industry, I doubt you'd pass the exam." Did she misunderstand the question? Perhaps.
Regardless of my views on the CPP program, I respect the contributors to the program. You'll have an excellent chance to review it for yourself at WSAA. Ask good questions and expect good responses. The initiative will only work if it can get support. Make sure you know the details, good and bad, before you draw conclusions. Do not judge it based on the opinions of others, including myself.
Forum member SEAZELL (Steve Eazell, Director, National Sales and Marketing for Secure Payment Systems Inc.) is the President of WSAA. He assured me that attending the conference at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, Calif., will be an opportunity for a great learning experience.
I expect the Hyatt will be sold out by the time this article is published. Register at www.westernstatesacquirers.com/register.html. Then scroll down to the "Attendee Registration" button.
I close my articles with "What you do today, determines your tomorrow." If you want to expand your bank account and your business tomorrow, I highly encourage you to register for WSAA today.
Bill Pirtle is the President of MPCT Publishing Co. and author of Navigating Through the Risks of Credit Card Processing. He is also a merchant level salesperson for Clearent LLC, Electronic Payments Inc. and Electronic Merchant Systems Inc. Bill's website is www.creditcardprocessingbook.com, and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes all connections on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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