An ascendant year for regional shows
#dcf_The rise of the regionals" is how Western States Acquirers Association President Steve Eazell described the record-breaking attendance at the 2011 WSAA Conference held Sept. 21 and 22 in Burlingame, just south of San Francisco.
This year's organizers counted approximately 625 attendees - the largest crowd ever at a WSAA annual meeting, according to Eazell, who is the Director of National Sales and Marketing for Secure Payment Systems Inc.
"For agents, ISOs and vendors alike, the Western show has become a must-attend event," Eazell said. "It offers the opportunity to conduct business, network with colleagues and hear the latest about crucial issues in our industry. I believe the success of this show speaks to the rise of the regionals due to the desire for the industry to gain access to those vital, crucial, yet somewhat unseen, bankcard foot soldiers who finally have a forum with these shows."
He feels the strength of regional associations is more about generating a real forum for "the forgotten" than it is about head count. "This is for the salespeople on the street who are the unsung heroes of the industry," he said. "We want to make sure there is as much available for them at the conference as can be available."
Field Guide Enterprises LLC President Mark Dunn, producer of the Field Guide Seminar, opened the conference on Sept. 21. The frequently updated educational event included six distinct presentations exploring some of the industry's hottest issues. See the sidebar to this article, "A full house at Field Guide Seminar," for details on the presenters and their topics of interest.
Networking - and some big fun - began in earnest with an early evening opening reception with exhibitors. In addition to $10,000 in raffles and giveaways over the two days, there were demonstrations and entertaining floor events such as Cynergy Data LLC's photo booth.
Sept. 22 found much of the discussion focused on social media and technology. The opening general session presentation, Six Ways to Grow Your Business with Social Media, included panelists Peggy Olson, Founder and Principal at Strategic Marketing Inc.; SignaPay Ltd. President Kevin Jones; and Jason Putnam, First American Payment Systems LP Vice President of Sales for the Strategic Partner Channel.
Focused on the immediacy, transparency and approachability of social media, the trio offered tips on how to generate exposure, increase traffic, target the audience, and build business using social media groups and discussions.
Later, the talk, How to Thrive in a Price-Driven Market, offered perspectives from Matt Clyne, President of Direct Connect LLC, and Adil Moussa, Senior Analyst with Aite Group LLC. Capturing the International Market - Opportunities for ISOs included insights from panelists Carrie Hometh, Senior Vice President of Sales for RocketPay LLC, and Melissa Jones, Senior Vice President for Relationship Management at Planet Payment Inc.
In the price-driven market session, Clyne said the new 1099-K filing requirement for payment processors looks like a sales opportunity. The Internal Revenue Service rule 6050W requires all 1099-K filings to have correct taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) and business names. Responsibility for collecting this information and ensuring it is correct often falls to ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) - and so will the blame for not getting the correct information.
Clyne believes there will be significant account turnover when merchants start having 28 percent of their business receipts held because the IRS does not have the merchants' proper TINs or business names. He feels this is one reason the IRS will likely delay implementation of the 6050W penalties, scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2012.
In the international opportunities session, Hometh and Jones advised agents to focus their efforts on fulfilling consumer desires in the international payment area. They said international customers want technology that allows them to make transactions in a familiar currency using whatever transaction vehicle they are most comfortable with - electronic wallet, voucher, credit card, prepaid card or real-time bank transfers.
One way of achieving this level of comfort is dynamic currency conversion (DCC) at the POS. DCC lets customers see in real time what they are paying by converting the foreign currency into a currency with which they are familiar.
An afternoon panel, Operating Your ISO in Today's Marketplace, was facilitated by The Green Sheet contributing writer Ken Musante, who is President of Eureka Payments LLC; Harold Montgomery, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Calpian Inc.; Greg Cohen President of Moneris Solutions Corp.'s U.S. Group; and Darrin Ginsberg, founder and President of Super G Funding LLC.
This discussion focused on financing ISOs and optimizing portfolio values. Cohen emphasized the industry is now moving to become a multichannel provider of advertising and payments for merchants. Today's terminals need to not only process payments but also collect and coordinate data to use with advertising through email, social networking and text messaging.
The panel agreed the introduction of Europay/MasterCard/Visa (EMV) cards to the United States also represents an opportunity for ISOs to sell new EMV-compliant terminals. Another afternoon panel, Mobile Payments: Fad or Future?, featured ISIS Mobile Commerce Business Development Executive Tony Abruzzio; VeriFone Senior Sales Director Arcelia (Arcy) Stevens; and Dave Wentker, Head of Mobile Product Development for Visa Inc.
The Q & A session that followed included a dynamic questioning of Wentker. Audience members asked him how Visa could invest in Square Inc., which employs a mobile payment device that competes with devices they sell, when Square does not comply with security standards Visa demands from the rest of the payments industry's hardware and software devices. Wentker offered a general response indicating Visa will make allowances for innovation.
Keynote speaker Scott Stratton delighted and fascinated MLSs with an entertaining talk as he explained in a funny and incisive way his strategies for using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media for promoting business.
His key advice was to "be awesome" with content. He said using social media to post helpful and interesting content - even if it is posted irregularly or infrequently - is more important for attracting name brand attention than posting less relevant and less interesting content more often.
"This was a fantastic conference," Eazell said as the conference was wrapping up. "I didn't hear one negative remark. Our board really went above and beyond the call of duty putting this conference together. Some very talented people worked very, very hard to do this. It's been suggested we could hire people to do the work of putting this together, but we're not going to do that. It's rewarding for everybody to do this."
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