By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Marketing frequently focuses on big campaigns and expensive activities. So when you're a merchant level salesperson (MLS), understanding all the available options and what's realistic to tackle in terms of time, effort and cost can be confusing.
Here's a straightforward list of 15 things to employ to promote yourself and your business and make more sales:
Many ISOs, processors and merchant acquirers have branded materials such as business cards, letterhead, envelopes, product and service brochures, and direct mailers that you can quickly personalize and order on demand. Using these items shows prospective customers that you are professional.
Take time to create a succinct, 30-second elevator speech and a short introductory brochure that clearly articulate who you are, what you do, how you do it and with whom, and the value you deliver. Having a perfected elevator speech is one of the most effective ways to speak about your business to others and reach prospects with a winning message.
An introductory brochure is not only professional; it alleviates future confusion and upset by clearly identifying the team of payment providers that will ultimately service merchants when they choose to do business with you. Design the brochure to resemble your personalized partner materials. Or better yet, get one of your partners to design and print it for you.
Create a website where prospects can learn more about you and your business. Don't forget to include a "contact me" electronic lead form. If you can't afford to use a design firm, companies like GoDaddy.com, Homestead.com and iPage.com make it easy to create and maintain a basic website yourself using professionally designed templates.
To get your site up and running, all you have to do is point, click, modify and publish. The point of having a website is primarily for merchant prospects to validate that you're a viable entity to do business with.
Build personal and business profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Be sure your business profile includes a polished description of your business and link to your website. Participate in groups devoted to the types of businesses you're targeting. Join conversations to add value about merchant services, rather than simply promoting what you sell.
Make and post simple videos on YouTube showing how you can help merchants. The goal is to get your name out there to grow your network and to build a following and trust - all with the intent of generating leads.
Set up free listings for your business in local directories on Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. You can also be listed for free at online ad listings like Superpages.com, YP.com and RealLocalpages.com. Be sure to include your website link and business description. Consider upgrading to paid listings, which provide enhanced exposure through additional posted information, as well as images, videos and more.
Contact family, friends, casual acquaintances, vendors from whom you buy products and services, former business colleagues, and even your customers. Ask them to help you prospect for new clients by referring their friends and associates. When you get leads, follow up right away so that you don't burn relationships or lose the opportunity for future referrals.
The most basic of all sales and marketing efforts is getting on the telephone to make cold calls. Set a goal to make a specific number of calls to merchants you would like to do business with. Ten calls a day is a good number. During the conversation, briefly describe who you are and what you do. Then ask for an appointment to discuss ways to help the merchant in some way, rather than just pitching your wares.
Spend time visiting businesses in person. Tell merchants what they want to hear: how you can help them make more money, save money, meet a business need, or solve a business problem. While you're out and about, don't forget to stop by neighboring businesses to introduce yourself and your services.
First, ask your ISO and processor and merchant-acquirer partners if they provide merchant call lists or offer telemarketing, appointment-setting, statement-lead or auction services. Then consider paying one or more providers to perform these services on your behalf. Companies to check out include Blindbid, Callbox, FindMyLeads Inc., LavaLeads.com and Salesgenie.
Telemarketing simply provides prospect contact information and is the least expensive option. Appointment-setting and statement-lead services generally provide more qualified leads, although the cost is higher. Signing up with merchant services auction sites gives you the opportunity to make proposals to businesses requesting competitive bids.
Issues that you may experience with paid services include disinterested merchants, incomplete information, coerced appointments and leads provided to multiple competitors. Some providers have good reputations and others do not, so use caution and make sure you get quality results. A better strategy may be hiring a local, part-time appointment setter whom you pay by each lead that results in a meeting with a business decision-maker.
Try joining forces with reps selling complementary products and services to the same businesses you want as customers, and pass leads back and forth. Contemplate the feasibility of bundling merchant services alongside their offerings in a packaged, one-stop-shopping approach.
Network within professional groups such as chambers of commerce, your local Rotary Club, trade associations, and other professional and civic organizations. Listen and help members; then ask for leads. Don't be pushy by always trying to sell. You'll be better remembered later when the people you meet and their circles of friends are in need of merchant services.
Offer to be a guest speaker at meetings to gain name recognition and publicity. Join groups that attract your target prospects, and get involved. Develop strong relationships, and make significant contributions to reap real business results.
Attend tradeshows where your target prospects will be, either as exhibitors or attendees. When your prospects are exhibitors, walk the show floor visiting as many as you can and hand out business cards. Be sure to network during all the social functions, too. When your prospects are attendees, consider paying for an exhibit booth to generate leads from tradeshow traffic. If you can't afford to exhibit, attend anyway to meet people and network like crazy.
Develop a contact database of merchant prospects from all your lead generation activities, and continually update it. Periodically mail sales letters and postcards that describe or show how your products and services can help their businesses. Don't forget to follow up with phone calls, emails and in-person visits.
Tack email blasts onto your list of things to do to reach merchant prospects. Make sure your contact database includes prospective merchant customers' email addresses to drive your blasts. Get a low-cost subscription to an email marketing tool like Constant Contact Inc., iContact LLC, MailChimp or VerticalResponse Inc. to manage contacts, design professional-looking emails, send them and monitor blast results.
Consider having your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of your vehicle, or use magnetic signage. Also consider advertising media such as pay per click, online banners, displays, billboards, and radio and television spots to reach your target audience.
An MLS I spoke with from rural Texas had success with radio advertising. Another in New York City had success with ethnic newspaper and billboard advertising. As a note of caution, understand that advertising can be quite expensive. So choose wisely from the options, carefully monitoring and adjusting to make sure you get a positive return on your investment.
Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines, and membership groups whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Write articles that demonstrate merchant services expertise, and be sure your contact information is included at the end of the article. Send it to newspapers, magazines, websites and organizations that accept article submissions.
If you do get your name in print, your contact information may also be published for free. Don't forget to publicize your publicity to boost credibility. Make reprints to distribute with sales letters, at tradeshows, or when you visit merchants in person.
While this list of 15 tips is not exhaustive, I hope you've found some new things to pep up your sales and promotional efforts. When put into action, along with everything else you're already doing and have in place, you're sure to see a boost in results by signing more merchant accounts.
Peggy Bekavac Olson is founder and principal of Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments. She serves on the Board of the Women's Network in Electronic Payments (W.net) and on the Program Planning Committee for the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA). She can be reached at 480.706.0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.
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