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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 13, 2008 • Issue 08:10:01

Value added workshop
Gift and loyalty, the year-end accelerant

By Christian Murray
Global eTelecom Inc.

Are you ready for the upcoming holiday season? If you have not yet contemplated your marketing and sales plans for promoting gift and loyalty during the 2008 season, it's time to take action. Offering these solutions on the front end of your sales initiatives can help close merchant accounts and accelerate end-of-year profits.

ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who have not yet emphasized selling these products are missing out on a valuable opportunity. The holidays aren't the only time to focus on selling gift and loyalty programs, of course. But it can be easier to attract new accounts and generate card reorders at this time each year.

Take the leap

Here are some steps to help you move forward with gift and loyalty:

  • Gather your team, discuss a sales strategy and document it.
  • Evaluate your current programs, and make sure you have a solid vendor behind you.
  • Verify that your internal application process is streamlined and easy for your agents.
  • Confirm that your terminal download process and merchant training are solid.
  • Plan a marketing campaign that targets new and existing merchant accounts.
  • Schedule a refresher sales training for all MLSs to make sure they are equipped to sell the program.

It may be time to re-evaluate current gift and loyalty offerings. And if you have not yet implemented a program or have not fully embraced these products within your sales channel, it might be time to get on the bandwagon. Either way, moving forward on this will ultimately improve sales and merchant retention.

Difficulty with third-party providers is something everyone wants to avoid. This could be a reason why gift and loyalty is a lower priority for some ISOs. Here are issues to consider before launching a new program or revamping an existing one:

  • Service and support: Service and support for merchants is important, but real-time sales support for agents in the field makes a huge difference - from three-way conference calls to help with complex setups and proposals. Find a provider that can deliver.

  • Pricing and programs: Pricing is an important factor, but don't allow price to be the main factor in your decision. Having multiple program options can assist in targeting diverse types of merchants and help differentiate your offerings from competitors. Simplifying and limiting options is not always best.

  • Training resources: Ongoing sales and operational training can make a huge difference in the success of your program. From webinar trainings to on-site meetings, they can assist in building confidence and keeping the team actively selling.

  • Ongoing, proactive marketing: A vendor that provides ongoing marketing and promotions will help your team capture more sales and create a better flow of new deals coming in.

  • Terminal and POS compatibility: Having the ability to program gift and loyalty applications in a large number of certified terminals and POS systems will make it easy to close more deals.

  • Special offers and promotions: Keeping up on sales promos is important and can ultimately improve the ongoing success of the program. Most vendors have these readily available and are typically open to custom promos if asked.

All too often, ISOs and MLSs gravitate toward vendors that offer the lowest pricing. Initially, it is easier and less painful to offer something for free than to spend time educating MLSs on value added products. This mentality begins from the top down in an ISO.

Such organizations don't uncover and evaluate how each vendor might benefit both their merchants and their own overall sales operations.

While a bargain may have appeal, it may not be as flexible or feature-rich as a higher priced option that could be just what merchants seek in a gift and loyalty program.

Having a strong gift and loyalty offering is a major tool for the feet on the street; it also is the key ingredient in the longevity of residual streams. MLSs need to know this so they will be motivated to sell based on benefits, not price.

In many cases, gift and loyalty is not infused into the core of an ISO's service offerings, and very little product information gets absorbed by the sales team. Just choosing a vendor and pointing to the buy rates and application are not enough. Not taking these options seriously can undermine the ability and willingness of your sales team to see them as valuable sales opportunities and merchant retention tools.

Strategize

Devote time to developing a marketing or sales strategy before launching a new program. If you already have a solution that has not yielded much activity, maybe this will also help give it a kick start.

Here are some ideas:

  • Integrate gift and loyalty within the bankcard application.
  • Include marketing and promos inside the merchant bankcard welcome kit.
  • Provide sales information within merchants' monthly bankcard statements.
  • Create on-hold phone recordings that promote the programs.

These are just a few of many marketing ideas that can help you gain momentum and increase sales. The vendor you work with should be able to offer even more.

If you haven't already begun, now is the time to begin this process. The holidays are fast approaching, and it's important to be able to provide gift and loyalty services to your new and existing merchant customers. Many merchants request these services and want to get set up before the rush.

So give your gift and loyalty program a boost for the approaching gift card season. Dust off the conference room chairs, and get to work. Start evaluating where you are and what steps need to be taken to maximize your sales efforts. Merchants everywhere are in need of solutions that can help them increase sales.

You may be surprised by how selling gift and loyalty can enhance your portfolio growth and residual streams if you truly embrace and focus on this valuable tool. Keep an open mind, and take action today. end of article

Christian Murray is the Director of Business Development for Global eTelecom Inc. He has more than 12 years' experience within the payments industry. GETI provides check processing and gift and loyalty solutions. For more information, visit www.checktraining.com and www.giftcardtraining.com, or contact Christian directly at 877-454-3835 or cmurray@globaletelecom.com.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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