Where did 2017 go? The economy continues to gain traction and business enthusiasm is ramping up. At the forefront of these positive trends are small- and medium-sized businesses, which until now have been slow to emerge from their post-recession stupor. Between deregulation and the prospect of lower business taxes, the stage is being set for significant small business growth this year, both in terms of expansion and new business formations. The question you must ask is whether your bank is well-positioned to ride the coming wave; or will it simply roll back and forth with the tide.
This can be a pivotal year for banks that know how to tap into this rejuvenated small business market. Success results from thoughtful planning and deliberate execution. The good news is that many small businesses see the current environment as their best opportunity in a decade to take their enterprises to the next level. They’ll be spending more money, hiring more people, requiring more financing and needing more help managing their cash flow. The bad news is, without a plan to find those businesses and attract them to your bank, you might as well be invisible to your market.
It’s Time to Scale up Your Small Business Marketing
You can continue along with traditional best practices of exchanging business cards at networking events, speaking at professional meetings and prodding your best customers for referrals. The problem is, even in an expanding market, if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got. Meanwhile, many of your competitors, especially the larger banks, are scaling up their efforts to expand their share of the small business market.
You have a choice – you can stay on the sidelines or get in the game. You can make your 2018 game plan about utilizing a dynamic process and make use of practical tools available to become a player in the small business market. Here’s how some of our clients have done it:
Identify Your Target Market
While it may be easier to say that you want to target anyone interested in your services, no one can afford to target everyone. By targeting your market, you can more effectively focus your message and your resources on a segment that is more likely to want your products and services. It doesn’t mean you need to exclude businesses that don’t fit your criteria; rather, it allows you to prioritize your efforts in market segments that can generate the best ROI. Here are a couple of tips on how to define your target market:
Analyze your current customer base. Who are your current small business customers and why did they choose to bank with you? Which ones bring in the most business? What are their common characteristics, needs and interests? That common thread is the key to defining who your best potential customers are.
Choose specific business characteristics. Based on your customer analysis, you should have a good idea of the business characteristics you want to target. They may include specific industries, number of employees, annual sales volume, location, and company stability. You can break your market profile into smaller niches which will allow you to more narrowly focus your efforts.
Create a Database
For any marketing campaign to succeed and sustain itself, a quality database is essential. Not just any database, but one that has been collated from the broadest possible sources and then refined and sorted into narrowly defined details. But where do you get such a database and can you possibly afford it?
Most of the largest and most successful companies spend tens of millions of dollars each year on data – collecting it, processing it, analyzing it and reporting it. The primary role of data in business is to better target potential customers. In doing so, companies can expend fewer resources for maximum effect. At one time, that was the major advantage large companies had over small businesses which didn’t have access to big data or the resources to slice and dice it for their specific needs.
Today, any business can have access to the same data and processes previously only available to larger companies. An entire industry now serves the data needs of smaller businesses, offering large-scale databases of targeted businesses that can be segmented and sorted down to the CEO’s salary. These data aggregators and lead generators typically pull data from several sources which can provide such details as business expenditures, credit scores, historical data and industry profiles. You can easily find businesses that meet your criteria and you are likely to discover new market niches you never considered.
These databases, which are available in digital format, can be purchased or you can subscribe to different levels of service, which include creating mailing lists and executing email and direct mail campaigns.
Create Your Message
You can have the most targeted database on the planet, but, it won’t be of much value if your message is off target. Aside from being able to find the best potential customers, targeting your market allows you to create the key messages they want to hear. From the moment you identify your target market, all of your communications need to be designed with the customer in mind.
Understanding Your Target Market
Business owners buy products and services for two primary reasons: to increase revenue and to decrease expenses. They also have limited time and resources. They want to be educated about things that are important to their business, such as financing and cash management, but they prefer to be self-educated on the fly. They’re not interested in how great you think your bank is; they just want to know that you understand their needs and challenges and that your solutions will make or save them money.
Your messaging must be able to match your prospects’ pain points with a solution and benefits. It also needs to create separation between your bank and your competitors because, if your prospects see your message, they are probably going to see your competitors’ messages as well.
Communicate the Message
The key to having your message received and remembered by your target market is to use the forms of communication it prefers. Small business owners prefer to get their information online, just like most people. In the digital age, you can create an entire communications apparatus around email newsletters and social media engagement, with the objective of driving them to your bank’s website. That’s important, because before taking any action, business owners will research your website for information on your products and services.
One of the best ways to build your database with qualified prospects is through an email marketing campaign. The objective is to get small businesses to opt-in to an email newsletter, which begins the process of cultivating a relationship. The more value you can provide through educational content, the faster they will warm up to the idea of learning more about your bank.
You can accomplish the same thing with a proactive social media strategy by engaging with your target market in their digital communities. Through participation in social media sites like LinkedIn, Google Plus for Business and Facebook, you allow your customers and prospects to connect with you. These are additional conduits for value-added, educational content that can be shared within the community. The key with social media marketing or email campaigns is not to expect instant results. It is a process of cultivating relationships and increasing your visibility and credibility within your target market.
While online communications may be preferred by business owners, you shouldn’t discount the use of offline methods like direct mail. Rumors of the demise of direct mail have been greatly exaggerated. While direct mail can be more expensive and labor intensive, it can still produce results. In fact, a high percentage of direct mail respondents tend to be your warmest prospects.
The effectiveness of a direct mail program, as measured by the response rate, is directly linked to the quality of your database. If you don’t have the resources to manage a direct mail program or an email campaign, the same company that provides your database can also manage your lead generation using those methods,
What’s Your Plan for Growth in 2018?
Sound overwhelming? It’s not once you establish the process, research your target market and craft your message. Granted, executing email, social media and direct mail campaigns may not be in your job description; but, growing revenues and your customer base is. That’s why the best investment your bank can make right now is in a top-tier lead generation program that can bring your target market to you.
Small business banks haven’t seen a growth opportunity like this for more than a decade. The ROI potential from a well-conceived marketing strategy is as great as it has ever been. What’s your plan for growth in 2018?
Our friends at SBR started supporting the banking community in 1998. Their work has spanned 65 of the top 200 leading Regional Banks. SBR provides targeted direct and e-marketing solutions that drives small business deposits, loans and other services. Robert Boorin and his colleagues write quality content that provides client banks a competitive edge and supplies sales forces with communication and social media ideas that provide value to customers and prospects as well as social media. For a quick spin around what they can do to help your organization visit www.sbresources.com. Robert can be reached directly at 561-910-8609 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.