Banks looking to build awareness and engagement with small business owners should look to leverage strengths in specific markets and develop targeted marketing campaigns and other outreach programs. The following are some of the most popular ways that banks see to engage with small businesses at the local market level.
Leverage the branch network.
- Small businesses continue to be among the heaviest users of bank branches, and leading banks deploy dedicated small business bankers in branches to provide expert advice and support. This past January, as part of a broader commitment to its brand network, Chase announced plans to hire 500 small business bankers.
- Banks use their branch network to bring small business campaigns to life. Last month, Santander Bank rolled out its Small Business Month campaign, which featured in-branch merchandising and in-branch events across its network of more than 600 branches.
- Some banks even allocate space in their branches for small businesses to use. Citizens Bank recently created open space in its Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, branch that small business clients can use to conduct meetings with customers and business partners.
Target campaigns at local markets.
- Capital One launched its We Work as One campaign, designed to promote and empower local businesses in select markets (New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Boston) where it operates local Capital One Cafes.
Foster small business entrepreneurship.
- Some banks include small business entrepreneurship as part of their broader community outreach. For example, Santander Bank’s Cultivate Small Business initiative promotes small business ownership in underserved communities in Greater Boston.
- Banks also recognize small business achievement with contests and awards. In May 2018, Citizens Bank announced Small Business Community Champion Award winners in Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Partner with local groups that promote small businesses.
- Banks look to develop partnership with a host of local organizations that represent small business interests. Prominent among these organizations are the more than 3,000 chambers of commerce located through the U.S. Many banks team up with local chambers to carry out joint initiatives, such as hosting member events and carrying out surveys. Last November, Webster Bank hosted a cybersecurity event in partnership with Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
Publish market-specific versions of small business surveys.
- These surveys enable banks to highlight their presence in and commitment to particular markets. In addition, market-specific findings can be leveraged by small business bankers to engage with small business owners in these markets. Banks that have recently published market-specific versions of small business surveys include Bank of America, PNC and U.S. Bank.
To develop and implement an effective small business-focused local market strategy, banks need to:
- Identify and profile key local markets (including the bank’s in-market presence and competitive environment, as well as the size and composition of the small business market)
- Prioritize the markets for targeting
- Tailor marketing programs based on goals and local market conditions
- Gain input and buy-in from key local stakeholders, including branch managers and in-branch small business specialists
- Track campaign performance, and distill learnings for use in other local markets and future campaigns
In May 2017, EMI published a blog that discusses how banks use surveys to build small business engagement. In that blog we reported that many leading banks publish recurring surveys that track general business optimism as well as key challenges and opportunities. In addition, banks also carry surveys that cover specific topics on a one-off basis. The following table looks at the topics covered over the past six months:
The banks cover these topics of interest to achieve a number of objectives, including:
- Raising general awareness of the bank and affinity among small businesses
- Positioning the bank as a small business banking thought leader
- Communicating their understanding of the changing issues impacting small businesses
- Highlighting their areas of strength
- Differentiating the bank from its competitors
In fact, the desire for differentiation is leading banks to conduct surveys on specific small business sub-segments or on specific product areas. Recent standalone surveys of this type include:
- U.S. Bank surveys of Asian-American small business owners (October 2017) and Hispanic small business owners (October 2017)
- Surveys by both Bank of America (September 2017) and American Express (November 2017) on women-owned businesses
- Bank of America Small Business Payments Spotlight (October 2017)
- American Express Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey (November 2017)
The proliferation of small business surveys that cover specific topics of interest indicate that they are effective tools in helping banks build awareness and engagement with their small business clients and prospects.
In recent weeks, a range of leading national and regional banks have carried out small business surveys, many of which were timed to coincide with 2017 National Small Business Week (April 30-May 6). These include new surveys from Citizens Bank (Small Business Pulse) and Fifth Third Bank.
These surveys are designed to:
- Generate brand awareness among small business owners
- Underline the bank’s commitment to this market
- Position the bank as a thought leader in the small business space
- Promote the bank’s small business solutions
The following are six approaches that banks are using to leverage small business surveys to drive engagement with their small business clients and prospects:
- Establish a branded index. Many banks measure small business optimism via an index. This enables them to both track this metric over time, as well as generate general business press attention. Citizens recently-published survey includes the Citizens Business Pulse Index, which is its measure of the small business climate. Other indexes include the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index and the Capital One Small Business Growth Index.
- Create a recurring survey. Many of the leading banks now conduct surveys on a quarterly, biannual or annual basis, which enables them to track small business metrics over time. Capital One has been tracking a Small Business Confidence Score consistently since 2008.
- Survey topics of interest. Most surveys focus on small business optimism and outlook. However, surveys also look to differentiate by covering other issues that should be of interest to small businesses. The U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey studies small business owners’ personal satisfaction as well as the desired attributes they want from their business bank.
- Use infographics to summarize survey findings. Presenting key findings from the survey (which will typically include a series of statistics) in a visually-appealing format allows readers to quick grasp important points the bank wants to make. Wells Fargo published a lengthy survey report, but it also created a one-page infographic that summarizes key takeaways.
- Version the survey for target markets. Bank of America creates versions of its Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report for 10 target markets (Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; Miami; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.). Similarly, PNC publishes its Spring Economic Outlook Survey findings for 10 regional markets.
- Position the bank (subtly) as a small business solutions provider. Fifth Third’s recent small business survey included findings on funding growth, while also positioning the bank as “committed to the development of small businesses throughout the Bank’s footprint.“