Banks: 3 ways to get business continuity support right for SMBs

As banks continue to come under scrutiny during COVID-19, we look at how marketing teams can support their financial offers for small businesses.

It’s always been crucial for banks to put their money where their mouth is – our YouGov survey of 1000 SMBs revealed that ‘reduced fees’ was the top demand from SMB customers (42.5% chose it), and ranked as more important than better service or additional support. (For more insights from this survey, sign up for the report below.)

This need has intensified over the past month, and there have been plenty of announcements of financial help from governments and banks to keep SMBs afloat during Covid-19.

However, there have been criticisms over the past week that the UK measures are not reaching SMBs quickly enough. In fact, only 1.4% of SMBs that have enquired about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) have been successful.

So as banks face more scrutiny in the coming weeks, here are our three ways marketing and comms teams can support and augment financial offers.

1. Collaboration vs competition

With Monzo announcing its business banking offer in March, the fight for small business attention continues between incumbents and challenger banks.

But this competition isn’t always in the best interest of SMBs. European challenger OakNorth has been championing collaboration between new and traditional players, and Head of Growth, Valentina Kristensen, made an open statement that they are not looking to “replace banks around the world”.

Instead, they are combining their expertise with more established players to offer the agile assistance SMBs need at this time. Much like Metro bank, who have partnered with fintech Ezbob to offer SMB loans quickly.

These partnerships started before COVID-19, of course – but now it’s more important than ever that marketing teams show how banks are prioritising customer benefit over competitive advantage.

So the question for comms teams at banks is: Does the narrative around your SMB support show you’re a team player?

2. Keeping your turf

Having said that, this crisis is giving newer fintechs an opportunity to act on an institutional level – which means they’re starting to share the territory of more traditional banks.

In the UK, new banks such as Starling have been added to the list of approved CBILS lenders, and in the US, payment giants such as PayPal and Stripe have been given the go ahead to participate in their equivalent scheme, PPP (Paycheck Protection Program)

This is great for small businesses. It makes it easier to access the funds they need to survive. But it also affects what has historically been a differentiator for big banks – the fact that they are established institutions, trusted by governments, and thus a safe bet for a small business account.

This means banks need to show they’re collaborating with other financial players to be as helpful as possible – without losing sight of their brand voice, and what makes them special.

So the question for comms teams at banks is: How can we be as helpful as possible while keeping an element of brand differentiation?

3. Going local

Although there’s lots of financial relief on offer, a big question is whether SMBs can get it quickly enough to keep their business running – and how that experience will affect their relationship with the bank in the long run.

Of course, customer service teams are extremely stretched – but there are still measures to put in place that can help make SMBs feel heard and supported.

A huge part of this is devolving power to local relationship managers – if a customer feels like they can get help from the rep they already know, rather than dealing with a big, corporate machine, it’ll strengthen existing relationships.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank have recognised this, making sure their relationship managers can approve certain mortgage holidays.

So the question for comms teams at banks is: How can we optimise the experience of getting financial support from the bank?

Business continuity measures are the lynchpin of SMB support – and marketing teams can be a huge help in positioning these in the right way to ensure their bank’s work is accessible now and well-remembered when the crisis is over.

For more insights on small businesses – specifically why they stick with banks and what help they most need – based on our YouGov survey of 1000 SMBs, sign up for early access to our report here:

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And if you’d like more good guidance and advice for small business owners during the coronavirus crisis, we’ve created an online resource that we’re updating daily:

(Header photo: Gustavo Campos on Unsplash)