By Daniel Wadleigh
Research indicates businesses will lose almost 20 percent of their customers over time. Roughly 3 percent will pass away, 6 percent will relocate and 10 percent will be lured away by the competition.
Of the 10 percent who bail, 93 percent won't even tell you.
What this means for you, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs), is you must devise business strategies that will not only maintain existing customer relationships but will also continually replenish your merchant base.
The solution? Open lines of communication between you and individuals in your target market are essential in gaining and retaining business. And employing tried-and-true techniques can help you in this regard.
If you think communicating with leads means only sending out newsletters or making phone calls monthly to ask if merchants are ready to select you as their merchant services provider, you are shortchanging yourself - short- and long-term.
Instead, make every effort to become a fixture in merchants' day-to-day activities; otherwise they will go elsewhere for processing.
You must ask merchants three important questions:
Once those questions are answered, dive into the marketing strategies best suited to each particular merchant.
People love getting stuff for free, or at a discount, so entice current and potential customers by sending coupons that double as surveys. In this form of marketing, retailers receive a discount and, in return, ISOs and MLSs receive valuable information about their businesses - data you can use in gaining and retaining valuable processing contracts.
Squeezed for time or money? Try a market research questionnaire. To lure customers, offer discounts to be redeemed once questionnaires are filled out and returned.
Tie in useful rewards such as free auto-responder reports or other added values to keep merchants engaged and interested in your propositions.
Begin greetings to leads with a few sentences along these lines:
Dear (insert customer name),
We need your help with an extremely important detail about (insert the issue you're concerned with). If you can provide some information, we will reward you with a free (insert product or service you intend to use as a reward).
In whatever form you deliver questionnaires - electronic or hard copy - 80 percent of your message should contain information that will be of use to the recipients, with the remaining 20 percent devoted to the freebie or discount being offered.
And don't use this tool to try to close sales; it makes merchants wary of your motives and puts you in a bad light.
Another sound tactic is to call on potential clients. Instead of cold calling, think of it as happy calling. This communication method is the most productive because, more often than not, it tells merchants their business is important to you.
You can't always visit your merchants, so phone calls are the next best thing. An empathetic voice could be the difference between a new customer and one who runs off to the competition. Pairing the happy call technique with postcards or e-mails is a winning combination.
Once communication pathways are open, work diligently to keep them that way. Whatever mode of communication works best, make sure the questions you ask merchants return the most effective responses.
Don't ask questions that result in only yes or no answers. Instead, encourage merchants to express their opinions fully.
This will show customers old and new that they are valued partners, as well as give you valuable insights into merchants' business operations.
Ongoing communication will dissolve any suspicion merchants may feel toward you and strengthen customer loyalty in the long run.
The result will be increased acquisition and decreased attrition in your merchant portfolio, which means a more secure future for you.
Daniel Wadleigh is a veteran marketing consultant in the payments industry. He offers an educational program that is available on a PowerPoint presentation and designed to help ISOs elevate themselves above the competition. For more information, contact Daniel at 512-803-0956.
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