When Russell Harty first joined Merchant Warehouse as SVP of Key Accounts and Partner Channel in July 2013, he indicated that the payment processing company would be focusing on finding the right partners for its channel.
Four months later, and Merchant Warehouse is seeing rapid channel growth, largely due to its focus on thought leadership and ongoing communication and education.
In the following Q&A, Harty shares insights regarding the current Merchant Warehouse channel environment, and how the company maintains partner engagement as it adds more resellers and developers to its network.
Channel Marketer Report (CMR): How has the Merchant Warehouse channel evolved since your appointment?
Harty: We’re continuing to accelerate a lot of the things we had in place initially. But I’ve focused our team more, and asked them to rethink their approach to partnerships. We need to take a close look at the partnerships we have, establish an open dialogue with them, and see what’s important to their business today because it’s definitely different than it was a year ago.
For example, in the area of mobility, are they interested in mobile payment, loyalty or gifting? Is security a concern? Once we’re engaged with a partner, we can offer a variety of ways to assist them — whether it’s marketing specifically to their vertical, promotions, contests or simply education. So we made some changes to make sure we’re focusing on helping our partners grow their businesses, first and foremost.
It comes from asking a lot of questions and spending a lot of time trying to make sure we know how to help them specifically, as they all are very different.
We have three different channels at Merchant Warehouse: the partner channel, direct channel and an agent channel. What we’ve been doing is offering our POS developers access to our agent channel, which is opening their eyes to a new distribution channel, which they can sell and remarket POS. The agents, who are typically selling payments, also can benefit from enhancing their offering to selling POS. We recently did an event to pull those groups together and foster those relationships.
CMR: How do you garner this partner feedback?
Harty: Partner feedback comes from several outlets. In fact, we’re working through a survey as we speak. We also have a number of conferences we’ve been attending and plan to attend in 2014. The ISV or POS developers have events that are specifically for their clients, so we’ll be doing sponsorships and shifting some of our marketing dollars to fund some of the efforts we can help those partners with.
We also spend a lot of time with our sales team to make sure we’re asking the right questions and coming back with a bonafide plan of how we can help them. It’s been very receptive. Events specifically are very valuable in having these face-to-face discussions.
CMR: Is partner loyalty and engagement a priority? How are you tackling this business need?
Harty: We’re trying to really connect to all points of our partner organization. For some of our larger accounts, we’re putting together enterprise teams so instead of having one person that the account goes through, they have access to our marketing people, our tech support group, and leaders in our partner development group that help with different types of campaigns. That way, they know they have a real team of people focused on their account.
We’re also focusing on spending one on one time with the sales people within these organizations. Working out deals with management and ways to help grow their business, and they’re nice enough to let us talk with their sales teams. It is all about revisiting the tools we have and how we can really help those sales people with payments in their business. This strategy has already borne fruit and it is going to be a real key focal point for us moving forward.
CMR: What tools and resources are you providing to your partners?
Harty: As payment providers, we sometimes get caught in the story of our specific value proposition and lose sight of the fact that most of the time, folks in the field really need payment industry support. For example, how do you handle certain objections or questions? We’re learning how to go a little beyond our value proposition, which is resonating very well in the space.
A lot of the sales people in the market have learned how to sell POS, but payment is new to some of them. So we’re doing a lot of Q&As and resources, and revisiting our training altogether.
CMR: How do you make sure partners are keeping pace with new developments in the payment space?
Harty: As more payment types come into the mix and security becomes more of a priority, the partnerships we have today are going to become more and more important as we go. The time it takes to integrate a new payment type needs to be fast, not six to 12 months, like we’ve seen in the past. Merchants need to be protected and have a trusted advisor that understands security.
Not everyone is the same or needs the same solutions. We talk mobile, mobile wallets, loyalty and how to use your phone to pay. It’s a large volume of items that merchants have to absorb, so it’s real important that we continue to be thought leaders in that space to help them along.
CMR: What types of marketing campaigns are Merchant Warehouse executing?
Harty: We’re definitely using our traditional marketing channels to drive awareness and engagement. We have our roadmap, which is coming along very nicely. Some of the marketing we’re doing we’re focusing on our existing partners and helping them drive promotions, campaigns and contests through their organizations and down to the market.
CMR: What can we expect from Merchant Warehouse as we enter 2014?
Harty: We continue to sign new partnerships every month. We have our Genius platform, which is continuing to grow in sales month after month. We absolutely plan on adding more partners and doing more with our current partners. This channel is growing significantly throughout the year, so there’s a lot of work ahead but also a lot of opportunities.