If your approach is still broad when it comes to finding new merchants, you may find that you are losing business to competitors who have tactically focused on a particular niche in the industry. It’s my recommendation that you reevaluate your strategy and brainstorm ways to differentiate your service from your competitors.
I spoke to many ISOs in early March 2011 at the Southeast Acquirers’ Association (SEAA) 2011 Annual Conference in Weston, FL. I was enamored by the fact that a large percentage of the ISOs in attendance no longer thought of themselves as a general merchant services provider. They have moved their focus to a niche segment of the market and offer a unique and more tailored solution to successfully target specific merchants.
So what is a niche exactly? Well, Merriam-Webster defines a niche as “a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted” as well as “a specialized market.” I like to consider it as focusing on something you do very well – better than your competition – instead of trying to provide everything for everyone.
If you are wondering what some example niches for an ISO might be, let me start with a few examples that were brought to my attention at the SEAA 2011 Annual Conference. One gentleman is in the process of starting a new ISO focused on point-of-sale solutions. He is planning to help merchants find the right software/hardware to meet their needs, and the merchant account is what comes along with it. Another ISO had the idea to create a loyalty program to use as a lead for new merchant acquisition and to help with customer retention. A third ISO focuses on businesses that create POS and other related software used by merchants to help integrate his merchant services into their software.
While each approach is different, they all have something in common: they make sure to focus on a niche rather than a shotgun approach in addressing the merchant services market. Given the highly competitive nature of our business, their approach makes sense.
How will you find your own niche as a merchant credit card processing agent services provider? Here are additional examples to consider:
- Specific merchants (e.g., medical offices, contractors, auto dealers, e-commerce)
- Products (e.g., gift cards, mobile payment devices, plug-in for QuickBooks)
- Geographic (e.g., new communities, small towns with less competition)
- Cultural (e.g., Spanish-speaking merchants, your local ethnic hotspots like a “China town”)
To help identify your niche try asking yourself the following questions:
- Which merchants are providing the most referrals?
- What am I receiving the most compliments on?
- What do I feel is my strength?
- Which merchants and products excite me the most?
Really take some time to think of potential niches that fit you well. Chances are you will find it will make you more efficient in finding leads, closing them, and retaining your merchants.