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The Eight "P's" of Marketing and How They Apply to Merchant Processing

By Garry O'Neil

Marketing is to merchant processing as common sense is to a politician. It sounds good, and conceptually, it should be there, but "say it ain't so," it generally isn't. We are an industry of reactors and imitators. We are opportunists-not marketers-looking for opportunities. We are so far in the box most of us lose sight of the walls.

Let me help you come up with an idea of how to get to the walls first, and then out of the box. By using the following marketing tools, you will understand that once you have built the framework, you will be free to innovate, explore and create.


Planning is the key to success in this business.

Getting up in the morning and waiting for something to happen is not a good plan. A good plan is setting obtainable goals, determining your tactics for reaching those goals, planning a work schedule and working that schedule.

Planning is the first step to success; with it you have focus, without it you are lost. A plan is only as good as your ability to make adjustments. I have seen too many groups in the business spend their time jumping from the latest magic bullet to the next. One day they are selling merchant processing, the next day, gift cards and the next, ATMs.

Even worse, they change processors (more often than the card associations adjust rates) for this rate or that rate or some bogus pre-paid bonus plan. At the end of the day, they wind up without having built loyalty, without having established Rolodex contacts and probably without-or at best, with-tentative residual streams. Make a plan, stick to it, adjust it if necessary, but stay focused on it.


Your working partners, business contacts and your friends and family are the people who will help you with your success in merchant processing.

If you're just getting started in this business, you are most likely either working alone or in a very small group. When you first start out, look at your plan. Do you want to grow sales and leave the service to the processor, or do you want your own servicing department?

Your plan dictates whom you take on as an early partner or possible employees, and your direction determines how and when, or if, you develop people.

The second part of the people pattern includes your acquaintances, reputation and the long-term commitment you make to both of them. Create associations; they will last as long as you are in this business. This is a business of relationships. Whom you know is as important as what you know.

Don't forget-especially when starting out-that you can call on your friends and family for financial, and generally, for moral support-and for referrals. They are people who can give you a kick-start in business.


A strong product (or mix of products) is only as strong as your understanding of the features and benefits of the product and your willingness to spend the time to take the tools of your trade and use them with skill.

Understanding your product is really about coming to grips with your suite of products, the value added sales tools, the packaging and the training it takes to be the product sales expert.

The product arena is limited to a handful of manufacturers, so differentiate your product suite by building a complementary package of products and value-added services that you can up-sell and, like an onion, peel back the layers of the product mix for multiple sales possibilities.


Positioning gives you a clear path to success by anticipating roadblocks and obstacles.

This is the least understood and least implemented marketing tool in our industry. Usually, ISOs/MLSs start out with the idea of selling and then earning and living off of residuals into retirement. Not in today's world!

Your plan and the products you pick should not just be a stale rehash of your processor, which probably did not train you on products properly and really could care less if or how you succeed.

So, you first have to position yourself in the market. Which market do you want to go after? What product offering suits that market best? Do you know your competitors and how to compete against them? Once you have positioned yourself, you will find it easier to be successful.


Promotion helps you connect the dots to success; it's the start of the sales cycle.

Once you have devised your plan, understand your positioning and have your product mix under control; then decide what form of promotion best suites you. If you are starting out with little capital, your choices are very limited-get on the phone or hit the streets. With a bankroll, your choices open up to direct mail, new business lists, Internet marketing and telemarketers. You will also have to consider your logo, brochures and direct marketing pieces-all of which represent and present you and your product.

If you have the availability of funds, get some professional assistance. If you don't, query your friends. Someone is always able to offer creative ideas that may help.

No matter what, without promotion, even the best products will never be sold. Promote, promote, promote. Never stop talking about your product to your prospects.


Persuasion is the first step to selling.

How to succeed at the art of persuasion? It's very simple. All you have to remember is that in order to persuade someone when selling anything, you have to create uncertainty.

Once you understand the sales cycle starts with the prospect in a firm, comfortable position, all you need to do is destabilize that position.

Once you have instilled doubt or curiosity, then you have a chance of changing the perception of the prospect. Create uncertainty, build a case for your service and close the deal.

Personal Selling

Selling is how you pay your bills, feed your family and provide yourself with a fine lifestyle. Learn it. Practice it. Live it.

Master the art of selling. Selling is a craft, and it is learned. It requires practice, consistency and patience. As with any skill set, you need to understand that the muscle memory is mental and (I use golf as an example) you need to learn the trade, practice the learned behavior, pick targets, zone in on your objectives and close (sink that putt).

Selling starts with a practiced presentation and continues on to understanding and overcoming objectives, trial closes (or small closes), then major closes: a signature. Remember these acronyms:

Features of the service
Advantages of the features
Benefits of the advantages
Trial close

ABC Always Be Closing

There is an old joke: Two men are walking down the street. One of the men keeps asking every woman he sees for a date, and he keeps getting slapped. The other man asks if he minds getting slapped, and he replies, "Yes, but I get a lot of dates." You can't sell without asking for the sale and without closing.

Negotiations are a major part of the modern close, so learn to negotiate properly. Pick your bottom negotiating price level or product type, stick to it, and do not go below your minimum standard.

Start with your top optimum price (includes many factors in processing if you are on a profit share program) and let the prospect determine his or her comfort zone. If it is within your range, start the paperwork you have successfully negotiated.


Price for profit, this is a long-term business with a long-term future for the professionals.

Here is where the processing business has really screwed up: We've discounted, made impossible promises and misrepresented-all for the sake of equipment sales. Well, guess what?

This business is about residual income, and if you are trying to make a living selling only equipment (unless you are in the equipment and repair business), you are not only unemployed every day, you are setting yourself up for failure.

While your peers earn guaranteed long-term income, retirement funds and security, you are cutting profit margins and failing when you do not sell the true strength of our industry: processing and its complex relationships.

Stop discounting processing, stop devaluing yourself and your fellow salespeople. Start selling the products and the service and not the price. Sell value. The only way we will ever, as a sales group, have credibility is by being professionals and pricing professionally with profit margins.

(Note: the largest players are as responsible as the "feet on the street" salesmen; they continually price large accounts with smaller margins and then they expect the rest of their business to make up for the greed factor). Stop it.


Now that you have reviewed the eight "P's" of marketing, you can fully apply them to merchant processing. With knowledge will come the ability for you to move outside the box, be the innovator and control your own destiny.

This industry gives you the opportunity to succeed and become financially strong, but it will quickly bring you to your knees if you don't follow the rules. Understand and learn the basic marketing techniques, and you'll be on your way to success in this challenging and exciting merchant processing business.

Garry O'Neil is President/CEO for Electronic Exchange Systems (EXS), a national provider of merchant processing solutions. Founded in 1991, EXS offers ISO partner programs, innovative pricing, a complete product line, monthly phone/Web training, quarterly seminars and, most of all, credibility. For more information, please visit our Web site at or e-mail Garry at .

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