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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 23, 2011 • Issue 11:05:02

Social media as a sales tool

By Nicholas Cucci
Network Merchants Inc.

With the global economy struggling to correct itself and businesses working under ever tighter budgets, social media's role as a cost effective marketing tool has gained a foothold as merchants and ISOs seek new ways to expand business and connect with customers in more personal ways.

Beginning last year, corporate use of social media marketing reached a tipping point. Companies became so sophisticated with their social media marketing campaigns that employee adoption of social media as an internal vehicle for sharing company news skyrocketed.

With social media marketing on the rise, many companies are finding that, to be effective, social media can no longer be just about the number of people you place your product in front of, but about the audience itself. Audience demographics play an important role in social media. For example, a demographic profile might target male car enthusiasts, ages 25 to 34 and college educated. After all, you wouldn't advertise products that appeal to women in a sports car magazine, would you?

According to The Nilson Report, 38.5 percent of the time an individual spends on a smart phone is devoted to email activities. Everything is forwarded to email today. Social media updates can even trigger emails if set up properly.

The report also revealed that 75 percent of marketers plan to include some sort of mobile marketing in their marketing mix this year.

Accelerate your brand

Here are five quick tips that all businesses in the payments industry should incorporate in their marketing strategies for the remainder of 2011:

  1. Build a reliable brand. You don't need tens of thousands of followers to be successful. It's not about quantity, it's all about quality. Be selective in appealing to retail niches you're already familiar with, where merchants stand to benefit from your personal expertise.

  2. Be great in one area rather than average in all. You need to focus on the core benefits your company can deliver and build your brand around it. Selling points should emphasize your company's unique attributes to build value and recognition among prospective clients.

  3. Create quality content. It's not enough to just post or update your Facebook or Twitter profile with random updates. Every post needs to have a purpose. The Internet is a cluttered place. Producing quality content not only increases your index ranking, but it will help drive well deserved attention to your company.

  4. Move more marketing dollars into social media. It sounds simple, but let your marketing team dive into social media. If done correctly it can be a cost effective way to keep your customers informed, whether they are in the office or not. The beautiful thing about social media is it can be read from anywhere, computers, cell phones and so on. You don't have to be in the office.

  5. Increase your brand with social media marketing. With online marketing you are able to increase brand awareness. Post links to case studies, articles, or anything that pertains to you or your company that parallels your branding identity efforts.

    The more high-quality content you provide, the better off your campaign will be, because as your following grows, your company image continues to gain strength and validity among present and future customers.

The plan

When creating your marketing campaign, keep the four P's of marketing in mind:

  • Product is what you are offering to your target market, be it a product or service.
  • Price is the amount you will charge for your product to make sure it's competitive.
  • Place is the channels your product will traverse to reach customers.
  • Promotion is how you will raise awareness in your target market, for example, print advertisements, press releases and blog posts.

Your marketing plan's short- and long-term projections should describe the tangible results that are expected and how you intend to achieve them. Be sure to include any anticipated revenues, expenses and potential outcomes related to additional merchants boarded and so on. Conclude your plan with a brief summary outlining the key points covered.

Other drivers

J.P. Morgan Senior Analyst Imran Kahn predicted U.S. online retail will continue to grow at a 12.4 percent compound annual growth rate from an estimated $166 billion in 2010 to $235 billion in 2013. If the 2010 holiday season was any indicator, the popularity of online purchases through trusted websites will continue to erode market share for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

Although it currently represents a small percentage of sales, social media shopping is expected to expand its influence due to its ability to target and reach consumers early in the decision process.

Also, group buying via Groupon Inc. and its competitors will continue to be a growing trend as long as marketers can make money from these promotions. end of article

Nicholas Cucci is the Director of Marketing for Network Merchants Inc., a graduate of Benedictine University and a licensed Certified Fraud Examiner. Cucci is also a member of the Advisory Board and Anti-Fraud Technology Committee for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. NMI builds e-commerce payment gateways for companies that want to process transactions online in real time anywhere in the world. Contact him at ncucci@nmi.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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