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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 26, 2008 • Issue 08:05:02

Marketing 101
The brand less traveled

By Nancy Drexler
SignaPay Ltd.

I have a (relatively) new job. I'm responsible for marketing a (not quite) 2-year-old ISO. That means I need to make a new kid on a very crowded block stand out. Considering that every ISO does pretty much the same thing in the same way for the same market, my task is a bit daunting. How do I help my new company compete and grow?

Day one on the job: I have experience in this field, so I'm expected to hit the ground running. I am handed a small folder of the company's marketing materials. It takes me all of two minutes to review. So I start with the basics.

In our world, we have two primary target audiences: the reseller and the end user. The reseller market comprises many submarkets from ISOs to associations to banks to chambers of commerce - and everything in between. Each submarket is best reached in a unique way; each needs a separate set of communications to address its distinct expectations.

Reaching the feet on the street

The ISO and merchant level salesperson (MLS) market used to consist largely of hungry 20- and 30- somethings willing to jump ship for a few basis points. You could enter the market with a good ad in The Green Sheet and expect to get 50 calls the first month. It was easy.

That is no longer the case. Pass-through price wars, signing bonuses and six-digit incentives have altered the playing field. Acquirers who can't afford to compete in this money-driven battle, turn instead to the two other things they know how to promise: products and service.

However, unless you've won awards for service or have a convincing list of customer testimonials, a promise to deliver good service is nothing more than that: a promise. And most feet on the street won't believe unsubstantiated claims. As for product, the last great door-opening product I can remember was the cash advance. Since then, I haven't come across one that is compelling enough to make an ISO or MLS switch processors.

So how do you win new business? Here are some tips:

  • It's not what you know; it's who you know. Let everyone know who you are and why you think they should join you.

  • Stay active in social and trade groups - local and nationwide. Use the increasingly popular and influential social networking options on the Web, for example, LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and Meetup (www.meetup.com). Again, let everyone know you are eager to attract new business.

  • Create a referral incentive program. Then promote it. Offer it to your current customers first; then announce it to everyone else.

  • Use the trade publications. The nice thing about working in a narrow market like the payments industry is that there are only a handful of opinion shapers. Introduce yourself to them. Volunteer your services. Send articles and news releases. Create an ad campaign that stands out.

  • Remember your brand. You can keep throwing new ideas (ads, direct mail, promises) out there and seeing what sticks, but every time you take a new turn, you leave the old road behind, and you make it easier for your audience to forget where you've been. Each marketing investment should contribute to the overall image of who and what you are.

  • Find the hole and fill it. There must be a need you can fill better than anyone else or one that no one else has noticed.

What is your brand? Who are you, and what do you bring to the table that is new, different, or better? Answering these questions is your greatest challenge. Take an informed look at what is going on in your industry.

You need to walk in the shoes of those who comprise your target market. You need to ask yourself, If I were doing their jobs, what would I be looking for?

When I started at Cynergy Data, we felt that sales offices and merchants were tired of jumping from acquirer to acquirer. We decided our brand would be based on our being the ISO you never wanted to leave. We created the tagline "Make your next acquirer your last acquirer."

We supported the brand with products and services that would reinforce the promise that everything you need could be found in one place - our place. It worked.

Identifying the brand

So, back to my job at SignaPay, a new boutique ISO in Texas: Seeking direction, I immerse myself in the lives of feet-on-the-street prospects. What can I offer them that will be appealing? How can I make the name SignaPay stand out and be recognized?

I realize quickly that first I have to teach people how to pronounce the name. It is not sign-a-pay or sig-nay-pay. So I create materials that address our signaficantly different products and services. I use the word signaficant a lot. Does that create attention and boost sales? Absolutely not. All it does is reinforce and build the brand. But I haven't yet defined the brand.

I'm at a loss. The industry is crowded enough so that virtually every ISO or MLS need is being addressed by someone, somewhere. I pace. And I change direction.

I ask, What makes us different? I come up with two things: First, we are small, and our top people are therefore involved in every telephone call and every decision. They are good, intelligent, experienced people who know what they are doing.

Is that enough to build a brand? I think not, because if we grow, that will change. And I certainly don't want to build a brand that, by its very nature, starts to die the minute it starts to grow.

Our second difference: John Martillo. He came to the United States from Ecuador. He sold encyclopedias out of a kiosk in a mall. He entered the payments industry selling credit card processing to bodegas (small grocery or mini-mart-type stores in neighborhoods where Spanish is a dominant language) in Queens. He built Cynergy into an industry-leading acquirer and became a multimillionaire in his 30s.

But how do I turn this into a brand? Well, it does imply that John knows how to build a successful ISO. Who doesn't want to be attached to success? It means he knows what it is like to be in the trenches. It means he has the financial strength and control to offer flexible funding to ISO partners. I throw that at the wall. It doesn't really stick.

And then a thought occurs to me. John's English isn't great. It was a lot worse when he began his career 15 years ago. He succeeded, in part, because he did business with merchants who spoke Spanish. Today, the Spanish-speaking population is the fastest-growing market segment in this country.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no business in the payments industry totally and completely dedicated to serving the needs of this market. And no one is better qualified to do it than John.

Is this my hole waiting to be filled? SeñorPay, a division of SignaPay devoted exclusively to the Latino merchant market, launches next month. And if my instincts and months of research are on target, I may have just developed a brand that can work. What do you think? end of article

Nancy Drexler is the Vice President, Marketing for SignaPay Ltd., an ISO headquartered in Dallas. Reach her at nancyd@signapay.net.

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.

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