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Marketing Merchant Services with Social Media and Blogging

First of all let me explain what this article is not about. This article is not talking about prospecting. If you are in the field prospecting or calling on the phone, my advice is to call or walk into every physical location small business in the retail, restaurant and auto industry that happens to be […]

First of all let me explain what this article is not about.  This article is not talking about prospecting.  If you are in the field prospecting or calling on the phone, my advice is to call or walk into every physical location small business in the retail, restaurant and auto industry that happens to be in your area as well as just about any other business that isn’t a single location of a large corporate brand.  I have many agents who have “made it” and rather than prospecting, they want to spend their time and money on marketing to bring leads in to them.  This article is aimed at them so let’s start by talking about what you should expect if you start a marketing campaign.


#1 – If you are starting a marketing campaign to reduce your work load, stop reading this and get back out in the field! Inbound marketing is incredibly effective and during our big kick off live event the first week of January I will show you just how effective it can be, but it still requires a lot of work and ironically going this route will take more hours.  You will make a lot more money and your time will be more effectively spent, but this is hardly a retirement program I am about to describe.

#2 – It costs money.    Customers are for sale and this is something that few sales people seem to understand.  I think this comes as a result of independent sales people spending their time out in the field making what they consider to be “Free Sales” the problem of course is that they are not calculating their time into the equation.  Imagine if you couldn’t make a phone call or leave your house and you wanted to make the same number of sales next year as this year.  How much would your labor costs be?  That is how much you are spending on marketing because your time is worth money.  When you start to transition your business over to marketing rather than prospecting, the costs are simply direct in dollars and cents and then you spend your time just following up and closing deals.  It is important to shift your mindset to return on investment rather than just “How much does it cost?” you need to think in terms of “What is my return in investment?”

Once you start transitioning over to a marketing plan rather than a prospecting plan, your true goal is to build your residual by trading your up front compensation for new leads.  In other words, if your up front compensation is covering your marketing expenses, allowing you to get your residuals for free, then you are doing a great job at marketing!  This is also why you usually need to pound the pavement for a while before you can go with a full blown marketing plan.

#3 – It takes Discipline.  Let me rephrase this.  It takes tons and tons of discipline.  If you are not the kind of person who can set up an action plan and keep it, you can forget about using social media, blogging or any other form of inbound marketing.  You will just end up wasting a lot of time and money with no significant results.   If you set up a blog and post one general article once a month you are wasting your time.  If you set up a twitter profile and post a picture every third week, you are wasting your time.  If you collect email addresses and send them an email every 3 months you are wasting your time and hurting your brand.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you a step by step plan to market your merchant services business using social media, blogging and traditional forms of marketing:

Step #1 – Define your target market.  Part of the new marketing platform we are rolling out for our sales reps in January is that we have tightly defined a target market.  We look at retail, restaurant, auto repair and salon businesses that are not associated with a national brand and that have less than 10 locations.  This is actually a pretty narrow target market because you are cutting out service businesses, ecommerce and much more.  This is exactly what you want.  You need a narrow target market so you can provide content that is targeted to them.

Step #2 – Get creative and find a way to add value.   As I am working hard to create content for small business owners myself, I am focusing on videos, blog posts and podcast episodes that will provide insights.  I want each visitor to my website or twitter profile or each viewer of a video to leave with insights they can apply to their business today that will have a positive impact on the bottom line.  If you want a little sneak peak into my content strategy for our marketing platform in January, I am focusing on three things.  First of all, I am creating content about the importance of “Information.”  Small business owners are starved for information and so I am going to discuss how they can track and obtain more relevant information.  Secondly, I am discussing intelligence.  You can have the best information available but if you don’t understand your business and how to interpret the data you will still  make bad decisions.  Third I am focusing on implementation.  Now that you have made a good decision with the best data available, how do you implement those ideas?  If you are serious about social media marketing and content marketing to small business owners, you must take this into consideration.

Step #3 – Collect Email Addresses and social media connections.  If I could sum up the goal of your marketing strategy it would be this.  “Create valuable content for your target market every week, send out an email with this content every week to your email list and social media connections and then use every other marketing effort as a way to grow your email list.”  Marketing is just like sales, there is a pipeline.  You don’t walk into a business and say, “Hey, will you sign this contract right now even though we have never met?”  They would kick you out.  And if you use this approach in your marketing or on social media, people will tune you out which is the digital equivalent of kicking you out of their store.  Every marketing piece, podcast, blog article or social media post should be designed to build trust and lead your prospects to an email sign up form or a connection on a social media platform.

Step #4 – Be Consistent and Patient.  Now the waiting game begins.  You really don’t even need to worry that much about lead conversion at this stage.  Your only focus really needs to be adding value to your target market.  Obviously if you are paying for marketing then you would want to convert some leads but even then, at the beginning your goal for any marketing online or offline is to build trust and awareness of your personal brand, what it stands for, and get a connection with that prospect.   When you are selling face to face, people have an opportunity to meet you and you can quickly build trust.  Online they may be on your email list for 6 or 8 weeks slowly understanding what you do and that you continuously do it before they are ready to move on to the next step.  Our new marketing platform will have both the immediate gratification from leads but it will also have the slow lead nurturing focus by creating traffic and converting that traffic into email subscribers.

Step # 6 – Once you have 100 connections / email addresses, build your conversion plan.  First of all, my personal opinion is that all lead conversion should run through your website and not clutter your social media profile.  You will be hard pressed out of the hundreds of videos and blog articles I have written and promoted on social media to find more than 3 or 4 that were all about “Why you should join my team.”  At the beginning, I did talk about this in my videos simply because I wanted people to know the service I offered and you should do the same but in a “For your information only” sort of way.  So in a blog article you might say, “I provide merchant services and touch screen point of sale solutions specializing in retail businesses in the YourCity area so I have had a lot of experience with managing inventory items.  Let me share some insight from retail business owners I have worked with.”  The title of the blog article though is, “How to Manage Inventory Items” and the tweet says, “New Blog Post, “Managing Inventory Items””  You get the idea.

So you now need to create a next step in your sales pipeline.  What action do you want them to take after they give you their email address?   If you are focused on selling touch screen point of sale systems, maybe you want to set up a product demo at their business and every email you send out and every blog post has a button they can click to, “Schedule a Free Touch Screen POS Demo” or something like that.  If you are looking to sell the Merchant Services First maybe it would be, “Submit your merchant statement for a free cost analysis by the only auto repair merchant services expert in Blair county!”

With our new marketing platform aimed at small business owners, we are going to focus on two things.  Live events and eBooks.  So as we drive traffic to our website, we will be trying to get the small business owners to download an eBook or register to attend a live event.  The reason I like these two “CTA’s” (Calls to Action) is that they tell you a lot about the prospect.   If you have a prospect that downloads an eBook I have written on “Controlling Inventory with Your POS” that tells you this is a retail business with an interest in a POS System that can manage your inventory and of course the next logical step is for you to go out and schedule a demo with them.

Step # 7 – Become an inbound marketing expert.  Once you have completed these 6 steps, and even before that, you need to do two things to really be an expert on this.  First, read the book “Inbound Marketing” by the founder of Hubspot and listen to the Social Media Marketing Podcast starting from the first show.  If these are the only two things you do to gain knowledge about inbound marketing you will be an expert and you will be able to bring all kinds of value to your small business clients over the next 10 years as they try to transition to an inbound marketing approach.

One final tip:  As usual the most effective way to succeed at something is the one thing no one else seems to do.  The most effective way to market your business through a blog or social media is to start by walking into every single target business in your market and ask them for an email address so they can get free access to your targeted content.  I personally think this is the most effective marketing strategy out there for merchant services.  If you did this 20 hours per week, in one month you could easily collect over 500 email addresses from business owners in your target market and generate 3 to 5 sales per month after that if you kept sending great weekly content.  That being said, probably 3,000 agents will read this blog post in the next month and I doubt if 2 of them will actually do this so if you are looking for a competitive advantage, here it is!  Once we have our new marketing platform in January, if you are on our team you will not even have to create content but if you can collect email addresses we can generate more leads than you will know what to do with.

I hope these tips will help you to better market your merchant services business!  Also, don’t miss our kick off meeting the first week of January where we will roll out our new marketing platform to show you how to leverage our knowledge of social media and inbound marketing to create and nurture your own leads.

James Shepherd

Find out if you are making your full potential in commission! 


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