Banks: how to create helpful content for your SMB customers during a crisis

Small businesses (1-50 employees) across the UK are urgently trying to stay afloat. We look at how banks can relay their support with practical comms, not platitudes

According to MarketingWeek, strong brands recovered nine times faster in terms of stock market value than others after the 2008 financial crash, showing how crucial it is for brands to be visible now during the coronavirus pandemic. But they need to be visible in the right way. While a slew of emails are being sent from CEOs expressing their sympathies during this difficult time, faux-heartfelt messages can often land as a ruse to push products. 

In particular, big businesses need to reconsider how they engage with SMBs. Redundancies, demand shock and general uncertainty mean that, now more than ever, big businesses need to help, not sell.

This is the case even more so for banks, who are being turned to for crucial business continuity measures like mortgage holidays and access to funds, while customers deal with redundancies, sick pay, and loans in a race against collapse. Banks have to not only meet the new demand of customer enquiries, but preempt and help solve new challenges.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing blogs on how banks can make sure that they’re as helpful and relevant to SMBs as possible in this critical time – particularly those in sectors hit hardest by the current situation, such as travel, retail and hospitality.

This week, we’re talking about creating clear, helpful content.

Of course, financial relief is going to be a huge part of how banks help SMBs during Covid-19. But measures such as mortgage holidays and loan deferrals can also be complicated, overwhelming topics.

This means content plays a more crucial job than ever in:

  • Making it easy for SMBs to understand and navigate the support that’s available
  • Reassuring SMBs that they’re in safe hands.

This means getting the basics right, so that every interaction with content from banks gives small businesses more clarity and less to worry about.

So we’ve spelled out the fundamentals, looked at key brands to emulate, and given practical tips on how to optimise content in a time of crisis – with data from our YouGov survey of 1000 SMBs.

1. Watch the tone

22% of SMBs would switch bank for a business that understands them better

Finding the balance between doom and gloom and total ignorance is crucial. When every marketing email starts with how ‘strange these times are’ with little other information, it helps to get straight to the point.

Small tweaks can add up to a very different brand personality. Natwest has achieved this with their coronavirus support centre. Rather than offering unsolicited sympathy, they’ve laid out clear advice and measures SMEs can take advantage of, including loan payment deferrals and business support, in a clear and simple format. 

When checking your tone, it’s also worth remembering to: 

  • Avoid unnecessarily sombre adjectives like ‘tragic’ and ‘devastating’, keeping your tone neutral and helpful
  • Keep your visual imagery calming with soothing colours from your brand palette 
  • Avoid overloading sites with too many visuals and scaremongering stock images, such as viruses and people in face masks.

2. Go wide

57% of SMBs want more support from their bank than just a cheap account

Your expertise is banking. But it doesn’t mean that’s all you can talk about. Think about what your customers need now, and how your business can help – whether it’s money, marketing or mindfulness.

A great example of this is Barclays Eagle Labs, which offers a friendly, useful content hub full of great advice, virtual events and tools for SMBs during Covid-19. The mix of videos, online courses and news covers everything, including business continuity, wellness, cyber security and building a brand when times are tight.

Aside from immediate financial assistance, it might be worth considering content that could help SMBs with:

  • Coping with demand shock for sectors that have seen a surge in interest, such as healthcare brands
  • Pivoting their business to stay relevant, e.g. eat-in restaurants offering a takeaway service
  • Operational issues such as reducing overheads, accessing government funds, and HR or payroll issues.

3. Be concise

Almost ⅓ of SMBs consider not having enough time to be a key business worry

It’s likely you have many crucial and complicated messages you need to communicate to your customers, but rambling emails just won’t cut it when their heads are already full of corona-content. Think about clear and snappy ways to get your point over to customers so they don’t feel like there’s one more mountain to climb.

HSBC has avoided information overload by using short, sharp videos to keep customers informed without overwhelming them with jargon. With many people at home consuming more video content, these 30-second shareable social posts help digest potentially overwhelming information, including warnings of HMRC scams, how to claim a mortgage payment holiday, and reduced branch hours.

Our advice to keep things simple:

  • Use video to make complicated messages reassuring and straightforward
  • Use short content for quick explainers on social, with a link to more in-depth material – as long as it’s not a big document full of legalese
  • Keep emails to a minimum of 200 words to avoid Covid-19 overload.

(Header photo: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)

What you communicate to customers during this time must resonate and be practical in a different way than before – and if you get it right, it will be remembered even after the storm has passed.

For more insights on small businesses banking – specifically why they switch or stick with banks – based on a YouGov survey of 1000 SMBs, sign up for early access to our report here: 

(Header photo: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)