All signs point to a booming economy and a general sense of optimism among consumers and businesses alike. This is good news for community banks and credit unions that want to generate commercial loans. You know business lending is a profitable endeavor, but how can smaller financial institutions compete against megabanks and non-traditional online lenders? The good news is that digital marketing and technology create new opportunities for smaller banks to attract and engage small business owners. You also have an existing pool of leads among your business deposit account holders.
This article will walk you through the steps of creating a digital and traditional marketing strategy for generating more commercial lending leads. As an industry leader with years of experience working with community banks and credit unions, BankBound understands the unique challenges your financial institution faces, and we have cutting-edge solutions to help you succeed.
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As a community bank or credit union, you don’t need to attract a worldwide audience to your site. Instead, you want to increase business lending leads on a local level. Local search engine optimization (SEO) is an ideal strategy for banks and credit unions because it optimizes your site for commercial clients in your area who need the financial products and services you offer. From listing your branch locations and hours, to mentioning the names of nearby towns and cities in page copy, local SEO will help you rank higher in organic search results for commercial lending options in the region you serve. Take these first steps to create and optimize individual business lending pages on your financial institution’s website.
- Each of the commercial loan products you offer – such as construction loans, mortgages, vehicle loans, and more – should have its own page on your website. This way, you can build highly-optimized pages with keyword-rich content that will yield better rankings in the search results. Greater visibility for each of these pages leads to more traffic on your site, which in turn yields higher conversions on these product pages.
- Fill those pages with unique content that is keyword-rich and region-specific. If you are located within a specific service area or market, be sure to include references to this region throughout the copy.
- Include clear calls-to-action on every page so potential customers will be motivated to contact your lending team.
- Include customer testimonials (or consider adding them) to the bottoms and/or sidebars of product pages. In the present “Yelp era,” testimonials and online reviews hold a lot of sway over consumers’ decisions to patronize a particular business or bank. According to research, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from a friend or relative.
- You should already have individual pages for each of your branch locations. Make sure that location pages are optimized with unique content, accurate contact information, hours and images.
- If you have dedicated loan officers at any or all of your branch locations, mention their names and profiles on the corresponding location page. This can help build a sense of trust and helps humanize your business.
SEO isn’t just about generating more traffic to your website. It’s about implementing strategies that will allow you to reach a highly-qualified audience when they’re searching for a solution to their needs. Taking these important first steps will optimize your site to attract and generate commercial lending leads, setting you up to close the deal once business owners land on your product pages.
Inbound Content Marketing
Choosing a lending partner is a big decision for any business. Make it easier for potential clients to choose your financial institution by providing original and informative page content and blog articles. These two primary sources of content marketing can help your audience understand their commercial lending options, build trust for your FI, and provide a forum for you to explain how you can help them achieve their business’ financial goals. With high-quality website content as part of your overall inbound marketing approach, you’ll drive your desired target leads to your site and capture their attention (and business) with useful and engaging page copy and blog articles. Consider these points to keep your content audience-centered:
- Who is your ideal audience? For example, is it all local businesses? Do you specialize in a certain type of industry or company size?
- What are the needs of your audience? How is your financial institution best poised to meet these needs?
- What are the primary goals of your intended audience? For example, obtaining startup funding or renovating office space to accommodate a growing business.
- What are the common obstacles your audience faces? How can you help them overcome these challenges?
- Brainstorm potential content topics that will help you bridge the gap with your ideal audience when they are in the most need of help. Don’t stick to generalities; get specific to appeal to different demographics. For example, what are the needs of new business owners as opposed to longtime company presidents?
- Page content should also inform visitors about the products and services you offer and explain why your bank is an ideal lending partner. For example, community banks and credit unions can be true allies to local small businesses because of their flexible financing terms and swift decision-making. You can also highlight your financial institution’s focus on relationship-building, a quality that small business owners tend to value.
- Consider the knowledge your audience already has about the topic, and what they need to learn. Craft your content accordingly so that it is neither too advanced nor too basic for your desired readers.
One of the “golden rules” of successful content marketing is to be helpful. When you offer genuinely useful content to address the needs and challenges of your audience, you will establish your financial institution as a valuable source of knowledge for your target audience. At the same time, you’ll produce keyword-focused niche content that is more likely to be picked up by search engines, so your audience can find you among the top organic results of their queries.
Search Ads in Google and Bing
We’ve covered Local SEO and Content Marketing, two approaches that drive traffic to your website through “natural” means such as organic search results, social media shares, and so on. With paid search ads, you can add another dimension to your inbound marketing campaign. Search ads appear at the top of the results page in an effort to grab the user’s attention. You can buy ad placements for certain key terms as well as the names of your competitors. Here’s how to launch a successful search ad campaign:
- Create ad groups surrounding each of your business lending products. That way “business line of credit” has its own ad group, as well as “commercial construction loan” and so forth. This allows you to have greater control over each of your ad groups and the keywords that are assigned to each of them.
- Dedicate some of your search ads to targeting local competitors. This gives you the opportunity to appear in their branded search results, potentially diverting their customers to your site instead for a chance to win new clients.
- Your primary platform should be Google AdWords, but don’t ignore Bing altogether. While it has a smaller reach, many people continue to use it; in fact, Bing reaches 33% of consumers in the U.S. who use search engines. Don’t neglect the portion of your audience that conducts searches on Bing. This could be especially advantageous if your competitors are not advertising there.
- Push your target audience to specialized landing pages for your most prominent business products. Getting them to click on your ad is half the battle. Now you have to engage their interest–and follow-through–with a landing page that is designed to push your visitors through the sales funnel.
- Engage with previous visitors to your website through a remarketing campaign. This means they will see your ads on the other sites they visit after yours. Remarketing ads allow you to provide additional touch-points and special offers to people you know are already somewhat interested in and familiar with your products.
- Beyond Google, Bing, and remarketing campaigns, look for other target websites in your market. Where does your ideal audience spend the most time online? Buy ad placements on those sites. For example, websites that focus on business and business news are usually good bets, since these are valuable resources to business owners.
- Local news websites can also make for successful platforms for reaching a commercial audience. This is another way to demonstrate your local involvement and expertise.
Whatever the size of your search ad budget, make sure you create a combination of text and image ads with messaging that is relevant to your audience.
Social Media Ads on LinkedIn and Facebook
One place you can be sure that most of your target audience spends its time is social media. Small business owners are especially likely to hang out on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms because it enables them to advertise their services and engage with customers at no cost. Therefore, it’s important for your financial institution to maintain a consistent and professional social media presence for your brand.
Whether you’re promoting content organically or using paid ads on Facebook or LinkedIn, either method is an effective way to reach your audience. A recent survey of senior marketers revealed that 39% of them saw a return on investment from organic social media posts, while 36% saw ROI from paid social media ads. You can make the most of your social media efforts by taking advantage of the extremely specific demographic targeting that Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites offer. Identify and reach your niche audience on Facebook with information about your commercial lending services and products. LinkedIn is an especially useful platform if you’re trying to generate business loan leads because it offers granular targeting specific to professionals and professional groups.
Paid ads are not the only way to get your message out to business owners. Both LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to post blog content that can drive traffic organically to your website. You can also participate in relevant professional groups on LinkedIn, where you can post content that will resonate with your target audience. When you speak to the financing needs of business owners with high quality, useful blog content, you provide an easy gateway to your bank. It’s also important to engage with group members beyond content sharing in order to form relationships that will establish you as a helpful resource.
Finally, don’t leave out existing customers in your social media ads and content marketing. The Financial Brand reports that 65% of businesses with commercial loans use their primary financial institution (where they have a deposit account) as their source of business financing. This demonstrates that nurturing relationships with existing business deposit account customers is just as important as developing strategies to increase business loan leads.
Integrate Traditional and Digital Marketing Strategies
While SEO optimization, content marketing, and search ads get most of the attention in current discussions of digital marketing, other aspects of technology are just as important for attracting and winning new business. For example, some marketing experts argue that smaller banks and credit unions can generate more small business loans by paying attention to business owners’ preference for “technology-enhanced loan origination and onboarding.” In other words, potential clients who find you online are more likely to apply for a loan if the entire process can be completed online. In particular, a mobile loan process can be extremely helpful for increasing business lending conversions: 93% of business customers prefer a mobile commercial loan process, according to a recent study.
Here are some non-SEO and traditional marketing approaches to capturing their attention. Integrating digital and non-digital strategies is an effective way to target leads, build relationships, and provide a convenient way for them to close the deal.
- Email Marketing: Contrary to what you might think, email marketing campaigns are still an effective means of communicating with your audience. Emails from financial services businesses had an open rate of 27% as of April 2018.
- Email Drip Campaigns: Target your existing and potential commercial clients with a series of emails delivered over a specific period of time that promote your business financing products. Track the success of your email campaigns by utilizing unique URLs for each business banking campaign.
- Direct Mail and Cold Calling: While these methods work fine on their own, evidence shows that a combined strategy of sending appealing mailers to the right person and following up with a sales call can increase your chances of success.
- Cross-selling to current clients: As we’ve discussed, existing clients are more likely to open additional accounts with their primary bank or credit union. Make sure your business deposit account holders are aware of your commercial lending services by cross-selling during branch visits, special events, and other relevant opportunities.
BankBound can help you build a successful marketing strategy!
Sure, you can take many of these steps on your own, but if your experience as a bank marketer or loan officer at a smaller financial institution is typical, you probably have more than enough on your plate already. BankBound specializes in partnering with community banks and credit unions to supplement your existing marketing strategies and provide access to cutting-edge techniques and equipment. SEO is an ever-changing game, but our digital marketing strategists stay up-to-date on current trends and rules. If reading this article makes you feel inspired but also overwhelmed, contact us today to learn how we can help you market your commercial lending products to the right audience.