Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Jul 31, 2013


Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Shama Kabani (Video)


We’ve now seen Donna’s four interviews with entrepreneurs on Customer Service and we hope you’ve enjoyed them and have found them useful. This month, Donna has chosen to give you a behind-the-scenes scoop with successful entrepreneur, Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group.



Janet @Jzablock


Secrets of Small Business Success

By Donna Fenn

Shama Kabani, the CEO of Marketing Zen Group, is a pioneer in the realm of social media.  She recently was featured on Inc. Magazine’s highly prestigious 30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs. Here, she shares some best social media practices for small business owners.



Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.




Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 31, 2013 at 11:26 am

Jul 23, 2013

Put Your Customer Database to Work

We hope you are enjoying our weekly posts with Donna Fenn. Last week, Donna chatted with successful entrepreneurs on how they find and reward their best customers. This week, Donna had the chance to speak with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, provider of email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Janine shares her views on how to wisely manage and leverage customer databases.

Janet – @jzablock



Your customers are your company’s lifeblood, so you need to nurture them as you would any other precious asset. Like a well-tended garden or a finely tuned luxury car, customers who feel cared for will typically return the favor. That’s why it’s so important to manage and leverage your customer database wisely. For some sage advice on the subject, we chatted with Janine Popick, founder and CEO of VerticalResponse, which provides email, social media, and event marketing services to small businesses. Here are her five tips for making the most of your customer database.

Consolidate your data. Where do you keep your customer data? Popick asked her own customers that question and found that a “scary number of people” managed their customers right on the VerticalResponse site. That’s not the best idea, she says. These days, there are plenty of companies with CRM (customer relationship management) software that caters to small companies. Some of her favorites: ACT!, Salesforce, Highrise, and Zoho. “Every time you get a sale or a lead from an event, it should always go into a central repository,” says Popick.

Put your customer in the driver’s seat. Make note of where your customers and prospects prefer to communicate. Have they contacted you on LinkedIn or liked your Facebook page? Engage with them there instead of via email unless they offer that up as a means of communication. It’s fine to email the folks whose business cards you collect at events and conferences, but make sure you allow them to opt in to your subscriber list. “It’s more work,” says Popick, “but you’ll have happier subscribers.”

Segment your list. “It’s really important for business to look at what’s going on with customers and target messages accordingly,” says Popick. Keep track of those who have purchased within the last six months. They should receive a different message (“we appreciate your business”) than those who you’re trying to win back (“we miss you”). Target your message even more narrowly – say, a special offer to customers who like a particular brand – and you’ll get far better responses. . Remember that every email you send should inspire action, whether it’s printing a coupon, clicking on a link to great content, or responding to a special offer.

Be mobile friendly. According to Pew Internet, 91%[1] of Americans now have cell phones and 50% are using them to check email. So your emails should have fewer images and include text that’s short, to the point, and bulleted. Your goal should be to get them off the email and on to your website (which had also better be mobile friendly!). And make sure your subject lines and their first five lines of your email capture attention.

Be consistent. Popick says that VerticalResponse’s most successful clients email their customers on a regular basis. “Lots of them email every two weeks,” she says. Again, if your emails consistently offer value, your customers are far less likely to hit the delete button. Your goal: to get a good 40% of them in the habit of opening and clicking – maybe even with a smile.

Above all, says Popick, never “spray and pray.” Emails sent to the masses with no clear objective or value proposition are about as appealing as a robocall. Be strategic, targeted, and as personal as possible, and your efforts will pay off.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

Brenner, Joanna. Pew Internet Commentary: Mobile. Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 6, 2013,


accessed on July 21


Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 23, 2013 at 9:27 am

Jul 9, 2013

Introducing “Secrets of Small Business Success” Series with small business expert, Donna Fenn

Every business has had “growing pains” throughout the beginning part of their business. And there are a lot of “lessons learned” along the way – both in managing the business, and growing as a small business owner professionally. We’ve asked author and respected small business industry expert, Donna Fenn, to scour her band of successful entrepreneurs and share their stories, and her expertise, in a new series called the “Secrets of Small Business Success.”

Every Tuesday through October 30th, we’ll bring you a new post sharing small business wisdom. Kicking us off, Donna spoke with founder and CEO of award-winning Marketing Zen Group, Shama Kabani, on how small business owners should communicate with customers via social media.

Learn more about Visa’s suite of small business products and services at And follow us at @VisaSmallBiz on Twitter.

~Enjoy! And check back every Tuesday for your Tuesday Tune-up!
Janet (@Jzablock)

Get a Customer Service Edge with Social Media

Every small business with an online presence– whether it’s a fast-paced Internet start-up or a local appliance store – should be using social media to connect with and better serve customers. But what does that mean, exactly? Sure, you have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but are you using them to your best advantage? We spoke with Shama Kabani, CEO of Dallas-based Marketing Zen Group, an award-winning brand marketing and digital PR firm, to get some insider advice on how entrepreneurs should best engage with their customers online.

1. Set up alerts. Whenever your company’s name is mentioned online, you need a little virtual tap on the shoulder. Set up Google alerts, but also do a Twitter search to get a heads up on when people are talking about your company without your hashtag. You can (and should) interact with those customers. “It’s a great way to delight your customers because they’re not expecting to hear from you,” says Kabani. Platforms like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite can also help you monitor your social media streams.

2. Amplify the positive. Don’t wait until there’s a complaint or a question to interact with customers. If someone gives you an online shout out, seize the opportunity for a positive interaction by simply saying “we appreciate your business; let us know how we can better serve you.” With customer service, says Kabani, it’s all about the ratio of positive vs. negative comments. Build up the positive to counteract any potential negative interactions that may come your way. She also suggests that you post your offline endorsements – a letter of appreciation, or that picture of you with the Little League team you sponsored. Use Instagram to capture and post those offline props to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

3. Respond to all constructive criticism. Don’t panic if a customer says negative things. Accept that it’s going to happen and, says Kabani, that “you will be judged more by your response to a situation than the situation itself. You can turn a bad situation around by getting in front of it and being humble and gracious.”

4. Manage your social media presence. The worst thing you can do is give customers the impression that you’re present on social media and then fail to interact with them promptly. Ever tweeted your cable company or mobile carrier to complain about service, only to be completely ignored? Don’t be that guy. If you can’t monitor your accounts on your own, pass along the responsibility to a trusted colleague.

Lastly, says Kabani, remember that customer service is no longer about waiting for people to come to you; it’s about preempting that need. “If you have a customer-centric business, you don’t need customer service,” she says.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.


Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 9, 2013 at 10:22 am

Jun 7, 2013

Visa payWave: Protecting Consumers While Making Transactions Easier

Contactless technology continues to expand globally, and the number of NFC-enabled devices in use is expected to top 500 million next year according to ABI Research. That’s exciting news, and we expect NFC and other chip-based technologies will help drive future payment innovations.

Visa payWave, our secure contactless payment technology, helps cardholders speed through checkout without having to make physical contact with a payment terminal through their NFC-enabled phones or their contactless cards. With Visa payWave, available globally on debit and credit cards and NFC-enabled mobile devices, a consumer simply holds his or her card or phone in front a contactless terminal in order to pay.

Visa payWave transactions are around three times faster than paying with cash, and they meet all the same security standards as traditional debit and credit cards. Every transaction is protected by multiple layers of security:

• First, Visa payWave-enabled cards and mobile devices must be in a specific position and within two inches of a merchant’s terminal in order for card information to be transmitted.

• Second, each contactless transaction includes a unique code that changes with each purchase – and it’s different from the one encoded on the magnetic stripe of a Visa card. So if a criminal attempted to use intercepted data to manufacture a counterfeit card, the bank that issued the card would be able to immediately identify the fraudulent transaction.

• Finally, because Visa payWave transactions are processed through VisaNet – the same reliable network as swipe transactions – we continuously monitor for suspicious activity, allowing us to help identify and prevent fraud.

As payment technology continues to evolve, so do our security measures, and NFC-enabled mobile payments are no exception. Several layers of security at the device, chip and the Visa network levels work in concert to help prevent unauthorized use of mobile-based Visa accounts. The technology that allows an NFC-enabled device to transmit transaction information wirelessly is only active during a transaction. Account data cannot be read wirelessly from the mobile device if the consumer has not activated the payment application and placed the device within inches of a reader.

Although Visa payWave has been used around the world since 2005, there have been no reports from law enforcement or financial institutions of fraudulent activity associated with contactless technology to date. Nevertheless, Visa remains vigilant in protecting cardholders.

As emerging forms of payment like Visa payWave continue to gain traction, Visa continues to invest in multiple layers of security to prevent, detect, and resolve unauthorized use of consumers’ information.


Posted by: Stephanie Ericksen, Head of Authentication Product Integration, Visa Inc. on June 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

May 16, 2013

A Pioneering Restaurant Reshapes Moscow Dining

Entrepreneur Ruslan Radjapov’s business began when he saw an opportunity.

The former investment banker had a hard time finding mid-range restaurants in mid-1990s Moscow. Though he could find expensive restaurants and very inexpensive restaurants, “There wasn’t much in the middle,” he says.

So he decided to start his own company, Correa’s Restaurants, a concept that would offer fresh, seasonable and locally-sourced food at affordable prices.

Ruslan’s restaurant formula has hit a nerve with Muscovites who crowd his nine restaurants and 13 self-style “canteens” that span the Russian capital. New locations are being added every year and Correa’s continues to flourish.

Accepting cards, Ruslan says, was always part of his plan to attract clientele from all walks of life and make payment easy for the consumer.


Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on May 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

Category: Uncategorized

May 15, 2013

Growing Phishing Industry Underscores Need for Consumer Education


Phishing scams have plagued consumers for a number of years, morphing to adapt to changing trends and technologies.

Once perpetrated by mail and phone, this tactic is now also common by email and text message.

Phishing is when fraudsters pretending to be from well-known companies, organizations, or government agencies contact consumers and try to trick them into revealing their Social Security numbers, financial account information, passwords, or other personal information. That information is then used to make unauthorized purchases, take over victims’ accounts, open new accounts, or even to apply for jobs or get tax refunds and other government benefits.

Even though phishing scams are not new, they continue to pose a serious problem. According to RSA’s recent Fraud Report, the total number of phishing attacks launched in 2012 was 59% higher than in 2011. Further, the report estimates that global losses from phishing last year were around $1.5 billion.

With fraudsters becoming ever more sophisticated at impersonating trusted organizations, it’s important for consumers to stay a step ahead and recognize these scams and better protect their personal information. That is why we are working together with the Consumer Federation of America to develop consumer education materials to help address this trend.

Watch the new video or access the tip sheet to get more information on how to avoid this type of scam.


Posted by: Jennifer Fischer, Head of Americas Payment System Security on May 15, 2013 at 9:58 am

May 13, 2013

Visa Joining Forces with White House to Support Veterans and Their Families

With frequent relocations and time spent out of the workforce on active duty, the path to employment for veterans and military spouses can be difficult to navigate. Visa is proud to be participating in the White House program Joining Forces, now in its second year, which connects our military families to rewarding jobs and career paths at American companies.

We believe strongly in this program and plan to hire at least 100 veterans or military spouses over the next three years. Not only is this an opportunity to support the courageous men and women that have served our country, but we also gain access to highly trained individuals with diverse skills, adding immense value to our organization.

Visa is honored and proud to be participating in Joining Forces, and we look forward to welcoming our future colleagues!

If you know any veterans or military spouses interested in a rewarding career with Visa, please have them visit our special military job site.


Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on May 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Category: Uncategorized

May 3, 2013

The Results Are In: Visa’s TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Generates Fresh Thinking on Payment Security Education

After two days of panels, a Startup Battlefield and a 24 hour hackathon, TechCrunch wrapped up another successful Disrupt NY event with thousands of attendees.  Visa joined in on the fun by sponsoring the Disrupt hackathon, where 700 developers descended on New York City for a chance to win $8,500 from Visa.

My Visa colleagues Lee Mokri and Sofia Mata-Leclerc were on-site at the hackathon helping developers throughout the night and eventually awarding the prizes.  The Hackathon was a way to generate more awareness and create a forum to discuss improving payment security, and make learning about security more engaging and digestible.  We tapped into the incredible creative talent of the developer community to take a new approach to this challenge.  After working through the night, developers submitted numerous creative concepts, making it a tough choice for the judges.

The grand prize winner, Theo Rushin, Jr., created a game designed for kids and parents to play and learn about online security, together.  The runner-up, Frank Denbow, was recognized for creating a phishing game that delivers tips throughout each stage of play.



Here’s a peek inside the hackathon:


Posted by: Mark Norris, Senior Business Leader, Emerging Products, Visa Inc on May 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Mar 15, 2013

Guest Blog: President Clinton Helps Launch 4th Kiva City in Little Rock

Visa partners with many organizations, companies and governments as part of our shared goal of reaching full financial inclusion globally by 2020. One of those organizations is, a nonprofit working to alleviate poverty by connecting people around the world through microlending. In 2010, we announced a partnership with Kiva to help more U.S. small businesses tap into microfinance, in part through launching Kiva City in areas of the country where small business is struggling in the economic recovery. Today, we invited Kiva President Premal Shah to share the news of the launch of the latest Kiva City, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Guest post by Premal Shah, President,

Today, I look forward to standing alongside President Clinton, Visa and Accion Texas to announce the launch of Kiva City Little Rock, an initiative to help more small business owners in Arkansas get access to the financial tools they need to create jobs and a better life for themselves and their communities. As we enter the third year of the partnership between Kiva and Visa, I am thrilled to announce that this is the fourth Kiva City we’ve launched together as a part of our CGI Commitment to Action. Kiva City Little Rock joins initiatives already underway in Detroit, Los Angeles and New Orleans.

In the words of President Clinton, “Successful small business owners in Little Rock and across the country have the power to accelerate job growth and economic opportunity for all of us. They have the plan and the passion; and this Commitment to Action will provide the much-needed capital to start or expand.”

Kiva City Little Rock provides access to capital for small business owners and budding entrepreneurs by crowdfunding loans on – often $25 at a time – that add up to job creation and economic growth.

The initiative is a collaboration between Kiva, Visa, Accion Texas, and nonprofit organizations in Little Rock working as Kiva Zip Trustees. Accion Texas works to identify small businesses in the Little Rock area that would benefit from a loan and then posts their profiles on for crowdsourced funding opportunities. The real power of Kiva City comes from local people with local solutions for growing new businesses.

In the Little Rock region, there are more than 69,000 small businesses that employ nearly 330,000 people. Through Kiva City, anyone with an Internet connection has a chance to help support local small businesses. Every dollar lent helps create jobs in the community, in turn supporting another local business, and then another. As small businesses grow and expand, local economies start to improve, then take off.

Both Kiva and Visa share the belief that small businesses and the entrepreneurs behind them are the engines of economic prosperity – and that’s what makes our partnership so effective.

For more information on Kiva City Little Rock or to lend to a small business owner, visit


Posted by: Douglas Sabo, Visa Corporate Responsibility on March 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Mar 7, 2013

SBA and Visa Business Video Contest: Share Your Export Small Biz Story and you could win $10,000

Each year, businesses across the U.S. produce goods and provide services that are in high demand – in the U.S. and across our borders. In fact, according to an article currently posted on the U.S. Small Business Administration website, 97 percent of all exporters are small businesses.

To celebrate small business success in international exporting, and to increase awareness of government assistance available for small business exporters, the Office of International Trade at the SBA and Visa Business invite small businesses to share their export story via a three minute video. The winning video, in accordance with the Official Rules, will be awarded $10,000.

The contest opened February 25 and runs through April 22*. Details on the video challenge can be found at

All eligible videos will be scored by a panel assembled by the SBA and will select five winning videos from each of the following categories:

  • Manufacturing
  • Consumer products
  • Professional services
  • Technology
  • Agribusiness

Winners will be awarded cash to help with their business, and could receive an additional $1,000 for travel reimbursement and hotel to participate in the awards ceremony in may in Denver, CO.

  • 1st Place: $10,000
  • 2nd Place: $8,000
  • 3rd Place: $6,000
  • 4th Place: $4,000
  • 5th Place: $2,000

Check out the 2011 winning video!

*The video submission deadline has been extended. The new deadline is April 22nd by 5:00 p.m. EDT. Visit for more information, to see the Official Rules and to enter to win.

Ready, set, GO!


Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on March 7, 2013 at 2:41 pm