Small businesses need your business as much as you need theirs. Since the advent of the modern banking system, small business owners have relied on regional and community financial institutions (RCFIs) to help them start their businesses, grow their businesses and maintain their businesses. In fact, as recently as 2013 RCFIs accounted for approximately 75% of all small business loans in the United States.
Since then, however, the ranks of RCFIs have continued to decline, mega banks have proliferated, and alternative lending sources such as Lending Tree, Quicken Loans and the Lending Club have provided entrepreneurs yet another source of funding to compete with RCFIs’ share of the small business market. And that’s to say nothing of the myriad non-traditional financial services providers offering innovative payments and digital banking solutions to small business owners.
Fortunately, in spite of the multiple forces working against RCFIs today, this fact remains: small business owners prefer to bank locally. They understand that the relationships and local insight of RCFIs is invaluable to them and their businesses, and something the mega banks and others competing for their business simply cannot provide. But in an ultra-competitive environment, with a seemingly infinite number of options available to small business owners, what can institutions like yours do to continue earning their business? Below are three best practices sure to increase your odds of winning the battle for small business market share in your community.
Invest in Technology
A no-brainer if ever there was one, right? You’d think so, but the reality is that consumers view the mega banks as technologically savvier than their RCFI counterparts because their websites, in many cases, are better; i.e., they look better, are easier to navigate and display equally well on mobile devices. So the first order of business for RCFIs looking to compete for small business clients, or any account holders for that matter, is to update their website. A fresh, modern looking website, that renders equally well on a mobile device, will significantly increase your odds of converting a website visitor into a new client.
Speaking of mobile devices, a survey conducted by ath Power Consulting found that nearly 70% of small business owners would switch banks in order to partake of better mobile banking services – 70%! Your typical small business owner isn’t generally sitting behind a desk all day; they’re hustling to generate new business, take care of existing clients and manage the day-to-day affairs of their company. Providing them a tool that enables them to deposit checks, transfer funds, authorize wire transfers and manage their cash flow while on the go is an invaluable service, one they’re more than willing to pay you for; as much as $100 a month, according to the Aite Group.
Become a Resource
Sir Francis Bacon is credited with coining the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” If ever there was a group this sentiment applied to it’s small business owners. As a RCFI you’re better positioned to provide the knowledge your local business owners need to be successful than arguably any other source they could tap. You’re privy to local housing data, commercial loan data, local zoning data, employment data and much more, all of which are extremely valuable to area entrepreneurs and small business owners. Positioning your institution as the subject matter expert on all things small business related is one of the smartest moves you can make.
As local business owners, and prospective business owners, begin utilizing the information you provide, something magical happens: trust forms. Whether the partakers of the information you provide realize it or not, you have become a trusted resource to them. A phenomena that is particularly powerful with business owners whose accounts you don’t yet hold; i.e., new business. It may take longer for some than others, but eventually they’ll think, “Wow, if this FI is willing to provide all this valuable information to me when I’m not even a client, what would they do for me if I were a client?” Become an invaluable resource to your local business community, and they’ll reward you with their business—guaranteed.
Market Your Wares
“I would’ve used my local bank for everything, if I would’ve known they offered it.” Those are the words of Chris, a small business owner who operates a mobile coffee service in Austin, TX, when asked why he doesn’t use the mobile business product his local bank provides. A sentiment all too common among small business owners. The same ath Power study cited above produced one particularly tragic finding: in 839 in-branch visits by prospective small-business customers, nearly 40% of bankers failed to mention the mobile banking services they offered. The savviest consumer in the world can’t buy something they don’t know about. To gain more business clients, you gotta tell ‘em about all the great business products and services you have to offer them, and what those products and services will do for them.
Which really isn’t difficult, and dovetails nicely into point number two about positioning yourself as the small business subject matter expert in your community. Billboards, radio, print ads and statement stuffers will likely always have a place in your marketing budget, but there are other, more effective means of getting the word out, which also happen to be less expensive and serve to position you as the invaluable resource you’re aiming to be. Examples, in no particular order, include: creating a business resource center on your website, chock full of valuable small business related info; producing a small business blog, where your in-house commercial loan officers and others can provide valuable tips and information; host workshops or seminars in-branch where small business owners, and aspiring small business owners, can learn about things like managing cash flow, accessing lines of credit and how the commercial loan process works; spread the word via Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets; and last but not least, educate your front line folks on all the valuable products and services you have to offer small business owners.
It’s no secret in banking circles that business banking clients are a good thing. They maintain higher balances, are more willing to pay for products and services than retail account holders and the relationships you build with them result in greater lending opportunities. What doesn’t appear to be as widely known, however, is just how badly business owners need you. They need your technology, your expertise and your support. By investing in the tools they need, becoming the resource they need and making them aware of both, you will absolutely grow your business, their business and strengthen the communities you both serve in the process.