By Bill Pirtle
C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc.
Recently, marketing was a hot topic on the GS Online MLS Forum. ICYJAY started the conversation by asking, "What's your experience with inbound marketing to generate leads?"
KLINCKPHILIP answered, "It is expensive but effective to a degree. You really are competing with the big boys when you are mass marketing. They have the advantage of economies of scale.
"I suggest telemarketing for appointments. [It is] cheaper and more effective for a small shop. If you have loads of cash you could just hit 20k businesses in your market every month with a postcard mailer and see what happens."
RBELCHER believes the best method to generate quality leads is inbound. "I am referring to inbound as a list of people who hear a message and they respond by pressing a number on their phone," he wrote. "That is the only inbound that we do. Yes, outbound has better numbers, but the inbound catches them when they are interested."
KLINCKPHILIP added, "Inbound comprises mailers, billboards, radio, fliers, etc. Outbound is telemarketing, voice broadcasts, and cold calling. And I'm sure there are more examples of each. But the point is that they contact you from something they see or hear in their own time."
Much discussion ensued over whether using "voice broadcast," an automated dialer where a prospect hits a button to talk to a live agent, was considered inbound or outbound marketing. I feel that since the prospect has taken action to speak to an agent, it could reasonably be deduced that it was inbound. Either way, it is a form of marketing you might want to consider.
"For me, outbound wins hands down," DIEGO stated. "I have done both and, although inbound is easier to scale, the fraud and losses are far worse. Inbound results in a lot of tire kickers and merchants looking for backup accounts too."
CLEARENT advised caution. "[O]nce the deal is ready and all but closed, make sure you do your homework on the merchant. Statistically, inbound calls have a much higher rate of fraud than outbound and face-to-face meetings. Just do the proper due diligence."
The topic of marketing jumped out at me, not only because of this thread on the forum, but because I recently received marketing chapters for my upcoming book, Credit Card Processing for Sales Agents, from Sandy Barris and Marc Beauchamp, among others.
Barris is the author of 97 Marketing Secrets and President of White Lake, Mich.-based Business Marketing Services. Beauchamp is a consultant and trainer for the financial services industry. He is also author of How to Survive and Thrive in the Merchant Services Industry and founder of the Bankcard Boot Camp.
Here's an excerpt on marketing from Barris' chapter:
"Now, because each sale professional has a different definition of what marketing is to him or her, we'll defer to Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of "Guerrilla Marketing" who says, 'marketing is everything you do to promote your business from the first point of conception to the point at which customers patronize your business on a regular term.'
"To develop a marketing mindset you need to have a very open mind that looks far beyond the first transaction to see all the hidden possibilities of re-selling, cross selling, and follow-up. In addition, it helps to be open to experimenting and looking at your sales-related behaviors and activities in unorthodox ways.
"If you are interested in knowing whether or not your marketing and sales idea has worked or how much profit an idea might add or subtract, you must quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively test your ideas in your marketplace and face-to-face on sales calls.
"Once you come up with a profitable, working process, don't stop there. As a matter of fact, always try to improve on what is working and stop doing what's not working.
"According to experts, innovation is the name of the game, especially for sales professionals. But that does not mean you abandon what is working for you by jumping to a new concept (chasing after the next shiny object).
"Rather than abandoning what's working, which is reaping you profits, it is advisable that you add more marketing and sales ideas so that it does not become old and boring.
"When you test a new marketing campaign, advertisement, sales pitch, or an up-selling concept, it gives you a way to try new ideas and see things in a different light from your competitor's point of view.
"An important part of developing a marketing mindset is to always look out for new ideas and new applications for what is working. Most importantly, it is very essential to measure the success of what you are doing. A well-laid plan can be a disaster if not tested, implemented and measured for success or failure.
"Sales professionals who have a marketing mindset will quickly come to a conclusion that it's a waste of time and energy to re-invent the wheel in order to market their product or service."
Following is an excerpt on prospecting from Beauchamp's chapter:
"It will only cost a few dollars and the mail will start to trickle in over the next couple weeks. This also may be used as a great way to gauge the local competition.
"The key to direct mail success is to ensure you're receiving a good return on your investment. For example, to mail 4,000 pieces per month the postage alone is $1,280.00 plus printing, labels, list cost and time.
"The average return is 1%-2% response depending on the area and quality of the sales copy. If you are lucky enough to have phone numbers for your prospects, follow-up all direct mail with a call. It will triple your response rate.
"A 4,000 piece mailing with a 1% response will generate 40 calls. The presentation ratio should be much higher with call-ins, usually around 30%-40%. That means a good representative will get in front of 16 people and close 30%+ of those appointments.
"Another tactic is a pre-approach letter. Send out an introduction letter prior to calling the prospect. This works well when targeting niche markets, but the cost can be high.
"Keep a direct mail tracking log to analyze response rates and closing ratios. This is a must in order to determine your return on investment.
"Take Action: We all know that imperfect action trumps perfect inaction every time. You now have a road map for prospecting success, now it's time to take massive action. What would you think the key difference is between a mediocre and highly successful merchant services salesperson?
"The one obvious distinction is that highly successful salespeople are taking massive action, while mediocre salespeople are doing just enough to get by. Remember, massive actions yield massive results."
There are many ideas on marketing within this industry and the advice of multiple experts is needed to present the best options, as no one method works for everyone. And, in the end, it is likely a combination of methods that will work best.
If you follow the rules on how you present yourself to merchants and use multiple methods while tracking the return on investment, including both your time and expense, you should find long-term success in this industry.
What you do today determines your tomorrow.
Bill Pirtle is the President of C3ET Credit Card Consortia for Education & Training Inc., a joint venture with Theodore Svoronos of Merchant University. Created to establish a comprehensive training program for ISOs and merchant level salespeople, C3ET is working with industry experts to produce a training guide to be published in early 2012. Bill's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes all connections on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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