Use highly secure passwords.
Only collect data that is necessary for your business.
Enable two factor authentication.
Use safe wifi connections, use your phone hotspot instead of public connections.
Protect your personal information on social media.
It has been said that the currency of the modern world is not gold, but information. If that is true, then nearly every business is storing financial information, emails, and other private information that can be invaluable to cybercriminals or other nefarious actors. What is every business required to do to protect its customers’ and clients’ private information?
As a part of our series about “Five Things Every Business Needs To Know About Storing and Protecting Their Customers’ Information”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Meert.
Brian Meert is the CEO of AdvertiseMint, a Hollywood-based digital advertising agency that specializes in helping successful companies advertise on Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Tiktok. AdvertiseMint has managed millions of dollars in digital ad spends in entertainment, fashion, finance, and software industries. Brian is the author of the best selling, The Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising, and a thought leader and speaker.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a suburban neighborhood in Sacramento, CA, with my siblings and my parents, Laura and Arnold Meert, both nurses. At a young age, my parents taught me the value of hard work. They signed me up for my first job at just ten years old as a paperboy. I actually enjoyed working, especially because I thought it was awesome when I got my first paycheck. My parents let me have full control over how my money was spent, so I put most of them into things that I enjoyed, like baseball cards and video games.
I did other jobs on top of being a paperboy. I did yard work, and I washed cars for neighbors. Working as a child taught me the value of hard work and independence, lessons I credit to the skills I now have that are essential to working in the service business.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue your particular career path? We’d love to hear it.
I never really considered being in marketing until after undergrad. In fact, I studied to become a teacher and majored in Theology. I pursued an MBA after graduating because I believed it would offer more job opportunities. When I got to MBA school at La Sierra University in Riverside, I found that I was actually really good at marketing and enjoyed learning more about it. My interest in the subject made working at my MBA fun and enjoyable.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I wanted to get into the entertainment industry, so after I got my MBA, I interned at Allied Entertainment. My job was to promote advanced screenings for movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Napoleon Dynamite, and The Notebook. I noticed a recurring problem: It was hard to predict how the turn out for the screenings would be. Remember that at this time, sending invitations to these events involved sending tickets through the mail. So, I thought it might be easier to make an electronic version of the tickets, so we could track attendance. When I brought this idea to the president, he shrugged it off. But still, I was determined. So I partnered with a friend from college to build an online ticketing system. Two years later, we sold the business to Terry Hines and Associates, which later merged the project with Allied Entertainment and renamed it Gofobo.com.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dean of business at MBA school was passionate about entrepreneurship. I was new to business, and he encouraged me to “go try” to start a business. Those were the two words that I needed to hear. It gave me permission to fail. It didn’t make me feel bad if I didn’t make millions in my first year of business. It was the two foundational words of what would lead me to start and grow several multi-million-dollar businesses. He then said to come see him every week and give him an update on what I’m doing. He would mentor me and give me tips about where my focus should be next. When I speak with younger entrepreneurs about how to build businesses, my advice is always “go try.”
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’ve been working a lot more in the last 24 months with Amazon sellers who are building incredible businesses that can be run from anywhere on planet earth. It’s amazing to see how selecting a niche product, putting in the legwork to build up the product listing, and setting up effective Amazon advertising can build a fantastic business without the need for an office, employees, or huge overhead costs. It’s incredible.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The first thing is to work in an area you’re actually passionate about. When I was a kid, I loved football. Football wasn’t work for me. If practice was 2 hours, I was there early and was the last to leave. It’s the same with business. If you work in an area that you really love, the mundane tasks that wear you out aren’t quite as bad. You understand they are part of the process. The second tip I would give is to make sure to take time for yourself. The Internet was supposed to make everything easier for us, but all it did was make us much busier. Make sure to grind but also take time for your friends and family, who are also elements of becoming truly wealthy.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Privacy regulation and rights have been changing across the world in recent years. Nearly every business collects some financial information, emails, etc, about their clients and customers. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the legal requirements are for a business to protect its customers’ and clients’ private information?
This is changing all the time, but at its core, a business that collects consumer data has the responsibility to that consumer to keep it safe and protected at all costs. With this being said, data breaches and hacks still happen and will always happen, so it’s an ongoing battle for businesses to keep up with these requirements.
Beyond the legal requirements, is there a prudent ‘best practice’? Should customer information be destroyed at a certain point?
About a month ago, I was contacted by a non-profit organization I worked with over 15 years ago. They let me know that a database had been compromised and my name, passport number and address was included. We have not worked together in a long time but this is now a liability for their current business. I’m not a fan of hoarding and believe businesses should have some level of destruction controls for consumer information. If the business is no longer using the information, it becomes a greater liability in the case of the data being breached. Every business is different, but if you are not using it, remove it to reduce your overall risk.
In the face of this changing landscape, how has your data retention policy evolved over the years?
I believe that most companies should expect to have a data breach at some point. You need to have clear guidelines about data protection, what should be done in the case of a breach and how those affected should be contacted.
Are you able to tell our readers a bit about your specific policies about data retention? How do you store data? What type of data is stored or is not? Is there a length to how long data is stored?
With the work from home economy, we store a lot of our data in the cloud with industry leaders. We require secure passwords for our team and do not hold data over five years.
Has any particular legislation related to data privacy, data retention or the like, affected you in recent years? Is there any new or pending legislation that has you worrying about the future?
In the world of Facebook advertising, there has been a lot of talk recently about the updates to iOS 14 and how it will affect consumer tracking. I’m a fan of consumer privacy options and giving people the ability to select when and how their information is used. I think there can be a happy medium between advertisers and consumer data.
There have been some recent well publicized cloud outages and major breaches. Have any of these tempered or affected the way you go about your operations or store information?
We have not been directly affected but some of our clients have been. We’ve seen first hand that its always good to be prepared for this to happen.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Now let’s talk about how to put all of these ideas into practice. Can you please share “Five Things Every Business Needs To Know In Order Properly Store and Protect Their Customers’ Information?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Use highly secure passwords.
2. Only collect data that is necessary for your business.
3. Enable two factor authentication.
4. Use safe wifi connections, use your phone hotspot instead of public connections.
5. Protect your personal information on social media.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 (Think, simple, fast, effective and something everyone can do!)
I really think every person should try to go on a plant-based diet. It seems a bit crazy at first, but after you’ve done it for a while, it’s amazing, the health benefits that come from it. I think it’s a good practice to stop and think about the consequences your actions have on this world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My team is always looking for amazing companies to work with. They can contact us at www.advertisemint.com via our contact page, email [email protected], or call us directly at (844) 236–4686, ext 2. If they want to learn more about Facebook ads, they can purchase my book, The Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising (2020 Edition), which they can get on Amazon. If they’d like one-on-one coaching about Facebook ads, they can reserve a time with me on Clarity (www.clarity.fm/brianmeert).
This was very inspiring and informative. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this interview!