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.“
Earlier this month, we posted a blog on small business initiatives from Citi, TD Bank and Wells Fargo, which were introduced in advance of National Small Business Week. As National Small Business Week is taking place this week, other leading banks have also introduced new small business initiatives.
- Chase introduced a number of initiatives, including incentives of up to $1,000 for new small business checking customers, as well as Instant Storefront from Chase, a solution that enables small businesses sell products online.
- Bank of America launched a suite of small business charge cards (see our blog on this launch). In addition, the bank has partnered with SCORE to develop a five-part series of three-hour workshops for small businesses, entitled “Simple Steps for Starting Your Business.”
- Capital One partnered with Better Business Bureau to introduce Managing Credit – Made Simpler, a set of resources to help small businesses to manage credit.
- American Express OPEN introduced AdManager, a tool to help small businesses manage online advertising campaigns
It is notable that the number of small business campaigns is much larger this year than it was for National Small Business Week in 2010, reflecting the improved economy over the past year, as well as banks’ renewed interest in the small business market.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been evidence of a continuation of the sometimes tentative recovery in the small business market.
- The Federal Reserve’s Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey of Bank Lending Practices found a continued easing of lending standards for small firms, as well as a growth in demand for such loans (however, this growth in demand trails that for large and middle market firms).
- A Greenwich survey of small businesses found evidence of significant growth in demand for small business loans (up to now, banks have been claiming that they are willing to lend, but that small business demand has been weak)
- According to the latest ADP Small Business Report, private small business employment rose by 84,000 in April 2011. Small business employment fell every month from April 2008 to February 2010, with a total decline during this period of 2.7 million. Since February 2010, private small business employment has grown every month, with a total increase of 788,000.
- Some surveys (such as the latest Capital One Small Business Barometer survey) show an improvement in small business optimism. However, it should be acknowledged that this can be tentative, and other surveys (such as the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey and the NFIB’s Index of Small Business Optimism) registered recent declines.
Banks are now starting to introduce initiatives in anticipation on a sustained small business recovery. At the end of April, Chase committed to lending $12 billion in small businesses in 2011. And some leading banks have introduced small business initiatives around the upcoming National Small Business Week:
- Citibank launched a nationwide small business campaign, starting with a national outreach day. The bank expects to reach 50,000 small businesses through a range of activities
- TD Bank has launched its first small business outreach campaign, with a goal of reaching 25,000 companies during May
- Wells Fargo launched its annual Small Business Appreciation Celebration and introduced the online Business Insight Resource Center
Other national and regional banks, as well as community banks, will be looking at these small business campaigns with interest, and will be trying to determine if they constitute a one-off to coincide with National Small Business Week, or the tipping point for an industry-wide re-commitment to this segment. If it is the latter, these other banks will need to quickly develop and introduce small business marketing and sales support programs, so that they are not left behind, as small business recovery takes hold.