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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 11, 2008 • Issue 08:02:01


Little lovin', big boost

In many parts of the United States, inclement weather is the norm in February. People think twice before donning boots, umbrellas, sturdy coats and other gear that might be necessary for braving the elements.

Plus, it's likely a winter's evening fire warms the hearth, DVDs rented from Netflix or Blockbuster are on hand, a pizza's about to be delivered and charge card balances are a bit high after the holiday season. So, why go shopping?

Some merchants, grocers, for example, will have a steady stream of sales, no matter what time of year it is. Others, such as snow plough and ski lift operators, thrive when the thermometer dips. And Valentine's Day brings a surge for some merchants as lovers buy glittery cards, candies, cakes, jewelry, romantic restaurant dinners and weekend getaways for their special someone.

But for many retailers, sales are lackluster in mid-winter, and this affects monthly residuals for you, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs). So, what to do?

Bring a little warmth into your clients' lives. Here are two ways you can do this:

1. To the degree possible, frequent your customers' establishments as a consumer.

2. Let your merchants know you appreciate their business.

First, think about where you spend money each day.

If you buy a cup of freshly brewed, premium espresso each morning, who's standing behind the counter accepting your debit or credit card? Is it one of your merchants? If not, and if one of your customers offers a comparable product, why not frequent your customer instead?

When you fill up at a gas station and, perhaps, get a discounted car wash in the bargain, is it one of your merchants whose cash register is ringing up the sale? Again, if not, ask yourself why? And if you do have a customer who competes with the dealer you frequent, change your habits; go to your customer instead.

Do this for every purchase possible. Chances are your customers won't be able to provide all the goods and services you need, but even just a few small changes in your habits, where practical, will make a difference to your clients.

Also, it may not be realistic to become a customer of each of your merchants. The more successful you are and the larger your portfolio, the less likely it is you'll actually be able to do this.

For example, no matter how well you are doing, there are limits to your time and resources. If you've been in the industry for a number of years, and one of your specialties is the restaurant sector, chances are you'd never have the time, budget or inclination to regularly, or even sporadically, sample all of their cuisines.

Additionally, your clients may be far flung, not just nationally, but internationally, too. If so, you'd have to clone yourself many times over to give each of them your business.

That's where the second step comes in: appreciation. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way. It may be storming outside, but from the inside, you can bring light to your customers' lives.

It might not boost their businesses right away, but it will likely give them a lift and clear their heads, which could help them think better about how to bring in more shoppers.

You've been there, haven't you? Maybe you've had a day when nothing seemed to go your way, a day when you made mistakes and you felt a little glum and devoid of motivation.

Then a colleague popped into your office and told you what a difference some of your advice made or how well you coordinated a recent project. Didn't it give you a boost? Wasn't it a little easier to pick up the phone after that pat on the back?

It doesn't take much. You can stop in at some of your customers, telephone some and e-mail others. You can spread the contacts out over a few days, weeks or even months. Think about what makes each client unique and be specific when you make contact.

Don't just tell customers that they're great. Be specific. If you like the way one merchant organizes impulse purchases at the POS, mention that. If another has taught you a thing or two about what it means to be friendly, mention that.

Let the sole purpose of each message simply be to lift your customers' spirits. And then see if this doesn't lift yours in the process, too. end of article

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