|Photo by Daniel Iverson/CC BY 2.0|
Marketing yourself is a very important piece to any successful sales career. In merchant services there are very specific things you can and cannot do with regard to the card associations, sponsor banks, and processor that you represent. Traditional marketing channels can also be expensive, with cost of creating the ad, time spent making sure it is compliant with all the guide lines you are held too, and the methodology you utilize to market. Are you doing web ads, print, radio or television? Most of these channels are costly and then there is no guarantee that you will attain the required ROI. In effect it is a time consuming and costly proposal. Unless you have a source of capital, a traditional marketing channel might not be the ideal choice for an Independent Sales Agent.
There are other ways to market yourself in a cost effective and efficient manner. Here are some examples:
I know that I preach a lot about it, however, networking is key to any marketing plan. The importance of a strong network of referral partners cannot be overstated.I have discussed what we call the CEO plan in earlier blog posts. The CEO plan is comprehensive and gives you the ability to forecast your numbers on a monthly basis and track the logistics of your business. I like it because there is little cost involved other than your time. Joining a networking group is also a good way to build your referral pipeline. Usually there are several networking groups in your local area that you can join. The sole purpose of these groups is to generate strategic partnerships with other business people in the area. The only downside can be the cost affiliated with some of the large ones, but you do generally see an ROI with in a few months. Creating partnerships with Business Associations, Independent Banks and Credit Unions is an area that I think a lot of Independent Agents do not utilize often enough. It is a little more technical and a little more time consuming at first, but if you can build Bank and Assocation partnerships, you can drive a lot of business your way.
2) Internet Marketing
Blogging, creating a website, Social Media, Email Marketing, and the like are all fantastic ways to expand your visibility in the marketplace to potential customers and referral partners. If you can drive traffic and build a solid audience you can generate a pipeline of traffic. Building a website has the most cost associated with it and you have to meet the marketing guidelines associated with the Card Associations, Sponsor Bank, and Processor. It probably makes sense to start off with a Blog and social media before moving on to a website. Have an audience built up then drive them to your website.
a) Blogging is a great way to market yourself. It takes a little bit of work to build, but you can do it. I find that not trying to sell in your blog but offer real advice to people in a specific audience is the key. Be genuine and don’t expect to make sales off of it. Your really just building your reputation as a subject matter expert. Give real advice, post every day, utilize your skill set to help others. Blogging pays off, because it lets people know who you are, what you do, and it is working 24 hours a day for you. I think it gives people a real insight to who you are and how you do business. I always offer to let people guest blog and encourage readers to engage with me. It keeps me sharp and lets me know what is going on with in the industry.
b) Social Media. Even though you may not actively engage in Social Media, a lot of your customers do. I use everything. Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter, Linked IN, Digg, Stumble Upon, Internet forums are all places you should be marketing yourself to. Everyone should know who you are and what you do. Linked In is powerful because you can join discussions with small business owners in the various groups and answer questions or engage them. Internet forums related to small business also give you a much wider audience to touch. I have my blog, Facebook, twitter, and linked in all connected so I’m sending traffic back and forth between them. There is so much information out there that you can adept at social media very quickly. Like anything it is a slow build at first, so have realistic expectations. Don”t expect customers to come knocking your door down after your first post. It takes time and effort. If you build it, as they say, they will come.
c) Email Marketing. Building a solid list of email contacts and using tools like monthly news letters that have an opt out option ( Mail Chimp, Constant Contact for example) Are a great way to keep existing clients engaged, market to new clients, and to build your network. Emails are powerful and if done correctly have an very good response rate when compared to traditional Mail. I have one agent who gets the majority of his referrals from his monthly news letter. He is always top of his existing clients mind and has a lower attrition rate because he simply stays in contact with them.
3) Become active in your community. Not only is it a great way network, but it makes you feel good. Things like coaching youth sports, volunteering for community projects, and becoming active in charities you like has no draw backs. It engages you in your local community, all it costs is time and your giving back. People are more likely to want to do business with someone who gives back to the community.
Marketing is not always about print ads and making a sale. Marketing is about building a reputation for yourself and getting your name out there. In Business reputation is really all you have and being known as an intelligent professional who gives back to the community will pay more dividends than a several thousand dollar print ad in the long run. You have to think long term and if you want to be successful you have to get yourself known. Go into a merchant and ask them if they know their agent. Id say most of the time they dont. Since I recruit agents if they do I get the agents contact info and call them, because I want to do business with professionals. Motion creates motion, the more you put yourself out there the more success you will have.
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