We recently surveyed our small business and accounting communities to better understand their relationship with, and views on, lending options and providers. We asked. We listened. And we put it all in a single report to share with you!  
The survey opened by enquiring about the awareness of different funding options, to which 88% claimed that they are most aware of credit cards and overdrafts while only around 50% are conscious of options such as asset finance, commercial mortgage, grants, home equity release and invoice factoring.
These results present an interesting contrast to the findings revealed when we asked about the first port of call for information on funding, where just 16% suggest they go straight to their high street bank – instead half prefer to research online while 22% turn to their accountant for guidance.
In addition to the more black and white quantitative part of the study, we also asked a number of qualitative questions to fully gauge the opinion of small business owners in relation to the overarching performance of high street banks. The answers, as you will see in the report, were insightful and numerous, with the clear takeaway being that small business owners feel they don’t get enough support from lending providers and that they are hungry for more information about the finance options and services available.
Lending providers can take a positive view of this insight in that it presents an opportunity for them to step up marketing efforts with the confidence that their target audience really want to hear from them!
The 5 steps to marketing success
From the findings of this particular survey, and the insight from previous studies (and from running endless campaigns targeting this audience) we have put together 5 key steps that will expand the reach of financial services marketing to the millions of small businesses in the UK:
1. Understand who the audience is
If you’ve read any of our previous blogs you’ll know this isn’t the first time we’ve offered this tip, but the most important step before planning any campaign is to take a step back and think about the person you want to engage. Understanding who an SME is and the nuances between the different types, sizes and stages of that SME is critical to being able to talk to them in a language they understand about a topic which resonates with them. Is there a particular section of the SME market place that you wish to reach (remembering that they are not all the same!). 
“Being more interested in me” was one of the most desired actions from a bank according to our small business owners. Taking the time to step into their shoes and understand what makes them tick is perhaps the best best way to show that you have an interest in them and their needs. 
2. Consider where your prospect is on their buying cycle
The best content-driven campaigns can appeal to readers across any point of the buying cycle, but when it comes to having a wide appeal the most effective approach may be to target those at the early stages of researching a particular product or service where the need for insight is greater. This is not only important when it comes to marketing messaging but also the format of content in question. Generally speaking “how to” or best practice guides, checklists, top tips and definitions tend to engage well with readers in the investigative phase.
As one respondent put it, “Small business owners don’t always look for help but if it’s offered it will be taken.” This is true wherever they are on the buying cycle, but some content types will work better than others depending on where they are on that cycle.
3. Think about how they prefer to digest content
Close to a third of SME readers view content via mobile or tablet devices, suggesting that these entrepreneurs are increasingly working on the move. There is an argument that engagement via mobile can be considered somewhat more personal and therefore a friendlier tone may be more appropriate. Regardless of the device used, time-sensitivity is likely to be an issue so aim to keep the initial communication (and especially the call to action) clear and concise – of course they may choose to download your more in-depth content for review at another time.
50% of participants said they’ll first research options on the Internet. It is critical then that lenders ensure their websites are engaging, responsive to mobile devices and that visitors can easily find relevant content.
4. Create content that is aligned to needs 
As you develop a greater insight of your audience and start to consider what their challenges may be (our report can help here!), try to create content that directly addresses those challenges. Be sure to provide practical and actionable insight that can be taken away and used to make your prospect’s life easier. Tell them something they don’t already know and aim to create that ‘ah-ha’ moment, that will ensure they see you as a thought leader and turn to you for support in the future.
One respondent gave a direct request to banks: “Market your products more effectively. Most really small businesses are unaware of what is out there". Ensuring your marketing activity directly addresses their needs is the key to effectiveness here.
5. Make it personal 
Whether in relation to your customer service or your marketing messaging, the more personal you’re able to make it the better it will be received. They may want efficient processes that are likely to make their lives easier, but small business owners are also looking for a relationship with their finance provider; someone they can reach out to when they need them and get the advice they’re looking for. It may end with a named advisor at the end of a dedicated phone line, but it should start with a personal and well thought through approach to marketing.
The good news is that 47% feel they have very positive relationships with their bank or finance provider. The even better news is that those who step up their marketing efforts with a more personal approach are likely to acquire more customers and increase this percentage further. 
Get the full insight report to understand how your finance organisation can better reach and engage with small business owners.