Six Tips for Banks to Develop a Small Business Content Program

In a recent EMI blog post, we discussed ways that banks could re-engage with the small business market.  One of these ways was to develop content of interest to small businesses.  The development and distribution of targeted content can enable banks to re-establish credibility, act as a proof point of banks’ commitment to small businesses, and reposition banks as a key source of advice for small business owners.

The following are six tips for developing a content program aimed at small businesses:

  1. Conduct due diligence.  Survey small businesses and company stakeholders to develop insights into what content topics small business owners are interested in, how they consume content, and how they perceive banks as content providers.  In addition, banks should study competitors’ content development to identify best practices as well as approaches to avoid.  And banks should also assess content topics and styles deployed by dedicated business media, such as Inc. and Entrepreneur.
  2. Develop a content portal.  Large banks—such as Bank of America (Small Business Community), Capital One (Spark Business IQ), JPMorgan Chase (Chase for Business Resource Center), U.S. Bank (Connect), and Wells Fargo (Wells Fargo Works for Small Business)—have all developed small business portals.  These portals publish a regular stream of small business-related content, which aim to drive small business awareness, interest and engagement.  Establishing content templates and guidelines—covering content length, styles, colors, fonts, logo treatment, images and graphics, and approval processes—facilitate timely content development and publication.
  3. Focus on topics of interest to small businesses.  Content developed for small business owners tends to be focused on key business life stages (e.g., starting a business, growing, selling), and related business challenges and financial needs.  Such content positions the bank as a trusted advisor for small businesses at different stages of evolution, and can act as a catalyst for small business engagement.
  4. Utilize a range of content types.  Banks have a range of different content types at their disposal, each of which offers specific advantages in terms of developing and presenting content.  These include articles and blog posts, case studies and success stories, podcasts and webcasts, videos and infographics.  Wells Fargo has a dedicated “Wells Fargo Stories” section on its website, which include thumbnail summaries, which link to additional detail, including video.   Content should be presented in easy-to-consume formats for small business owners who are bombarded with information on a daily basis.
  5. Promote content across multiple channels.  Banks should aim to present this content across a number of channels, including social media (in particular LinkedIn and Twitter), the company website, small business media, and small business-oriented events.  In addition, this content should be adapted for use by the bank’s small business bankers in branches or on the road.  Some banks that maintain small business content and advice portals extend this branding into social media.  A standout example here is the @WellsFargoWorks Twitter handle, which mirrors the bank’s Wells Fargo Works for Small Business portal.
  6. Carry out small business surveys.  Many of the large banks now conduct and publish regular (annual, quarterly or even monthly) surveys that track business sentiment and key challenges.  These surveys help demonstrate the banks’ commitment to the small business market.  And findings from the surveys provide fodder for content development that can be used across a range of channels.  Many of these have been in place for more than a decade (PNC has published a semi-annual PNC Economic Outlook since 2003), and some include a metric that is tracked over time (e.g., the Bank of the West Small Business Growth Index).  A number of banks create market-specific versions of these surveys (U.S. Bank publishes versions of its annual small business survey for 11 markets in its footprint), which help raise the bank’s profile in these markets.  Banks have also conducted one-off surveys of current hot topics (e.g., the TD Bank EMV Survey in November 2015) or focused on targeted segments (the August 2016 Bank of America Women Business Owner Survey).

Developing relevant and engaging content across multiple media enable banks to position themselves as aware of small business ambitions and needs, and committed to partnering with small business owners to develop pathways to business success.

10 Ways That Banks Can Build Small Business Customer Relationships

As the U.S. financial system emerges from the financial crisis and the resulting recession, leading banks are refocusing on the small business banking sector, with some banks reporting strong growth in small business loan originations.

Following the financial crisis, banks are seeking to have a more equal balance between new customer acquisition and optimizing existing customer relationships.  With this in mind, here are ten tips that banks should consider in growing their relationships with small business customers.

  1. Communicate small business commitment. Feature small business in advertising campaigns and other communications (e.g., in-branch merchandising and on their bank website) to demonstrate their commitment to the small business segment and rebuild the trust that was damaged during the financial crisis.
  2. Target high-potential segments.  Identify and target segments that are underserved or have significant growth potential.  Examples include KeyBank focus on women-owned businesses, Wells Fargo’s marketing to minority-owned businesses, and Fifth Third’s targeting of healthcare firms.
  3. Market bundles.  Generate greater revenue per customer, while also reducing propensity to switch, by bundling products and services.  Banks that are currently prominent in marketing small business bundles include Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and M&T Bank.
  4. Deploy dedicated staff in branches.  As small business owners migrate to self-service channels for day-to-day banking transactions, the branch’s role to selling and relationship development through dedicated small business staff.  Compensation structures for these business banks should reflect customer relationship goals.  Bank of America recently hired 130 small business bankers in Florida, as part of a broader plan to add 1,000 small business bankers nationwide.
  5. Market special offers.  Leverage small business customer data to develop targeted cross-sell offers.  These offers can be based on different factors, such as customer firmographics, activities, milestones (such as anniversaries) and external events (e.g., Wells Fargo markets Appreciation Offers to coincide with National Small Business Month in May every year).
  6. Reward relationships.  Develop rewards programs that recognize the totality of the small business customer relationship.  A standout example is the KeyBank Relationship Rewards program, which enables the business owner to generate points from various activities and business product ownership.  The program also gives anniversary bonuses and allows small businesses to combine business and personal points.
  7. Develop customer outreach.  Develop and implement a communications plan to build engagement with small business customers.  Focus on key stages of the customer life cycle (first 90 days, anniversaries, etc.).
  8. Provide information and advisory tools.  Enhance your positioning as a trusted financial advisor by providing a range of resources to help small business manage their business.  A number of banks are leading the way with online small business portals that combine information, advice and networking opportunities.  Examples include Associated Bank’s Associated Connect, Bank of America’s Small Business Community and U.S. Bank Connect.
  9. Market online and mobile banking.  Reflect small business owners’ comfort with using Internet-based tools to manage their business by continuing to add online banking functionality, while introducing/enhancing mobile banking.  Integrate online and mobile banking with other customer service channels to provide a consistent user experience.  Where appropriate, incorporate sales functionality into service channels.
  10. Sell personal financial services to small business owners.  Capture significant revenue opportunities and reduce the propensity to switch by cross-selling personal banking and wealth management services to small business owners.  This opportunity has been greatly facilitated by recent moves by many leading banks to dismantle their silo-ized organizational structures, which has led to improved communication and data-sharing among different business units.  In addition, banks are changing compensation structures to reflect the value of generating referrals and cross-sell revenues.

Spate of small business lending commitments by banks

A meeting yesterday between Vice President Biden and 13 U.S. banks has resulted in a number of these banks announcing or reiterating small business loan commitments.  The banks include:

  • Chase: announced that it was on track to increase small business lending this year by 20% over 2010 levels, to $12 billion
  • Citi: committed to lend $24 billion to small business over the next three years ($7 billion in 2011, rising to $9 billion in 2013)
  • KeyBank: committed to lend $5 billion to small businesses over the next three years
  • M&T Bank: pledged to increase small business lending by $50 million over 2010 levels for each of the next three years

For banks, making such a commitment is important, as it acts as a rallying point around which resources can be concentrated.  Having a specific commitment also implies that the bank’s senior management has approved the objective, another key criterion for success.

However, announcing a specific lending commitment is only a first step.  For banks to achieve a small business lending objective, they need to design and implement an integrated plan that encompasses a wide range of activities, including:

  • Customer and competitive intelligence
  • Segmentation and targeting
  • Data mining
  • Product, service and offer development
  • Marketing communications
  • Merchandising
  • Sales channel optimitization (including structuring, incentives, training, and ongoing sales support)

In addition, these activities needs to be organized around customer needs and bank opportunities at various stages of the customer lifecycle:

  • Acquisition
  • Oonboarding
  • Cross-sell
  • Retention
  • Ongoing relationship development

For more insights in developing effective small business banking operations, see our white paper on The Transformation of Small Business Banking in the Thought Leadership section of the EMI Strategic marketing website.