By Martha Bartlett Piland
Mat 76 million people, the illennials form the largest adult generation in north america.
Thirty percent of them have a small business or a side job, and “Entrepreneurship is the goal of 56 percent of them,” reports Forbes.
This should be a wake-up call for bankers around the world. While baby boomers are still the majority of business owners, there are also an estimated 23-43 million millennial business owners with financial needs that differ greatly from those of other generations. And their number should increase.
Bankers who pay attention to these unique needs and meet them will win.
Banktastic recently held focus group sessions with some of these millennial small business owners to learn more about their likes, dislikes, and unmet needs from their banks.
Several eureka moments emerged in these discussions. But a key issue was that they want more guidance from their bankers. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” says one participant. In the course of the discussions, one topic kept coming up, namely the need for a success manager for business customers.
Why a Customer Success Manager?
Many consumers who adopt new CRMs, automation platforms, databases or other technologies are assigned a customer success manager. These managers help clients adopt and use new technologies as fully and effectively as possible. This leads to a higher perceived value for the spend and greater customer retention.
These success managers do more than onboarding. They are coaches, analysts and consultants. Many schedule future check-ins and assign homework to educate this new customer more deeply on product usage.
Millennials, the first generation to grow up with purely digital technologies, are used to this type of service from other areas. It makes sense to extend similar support to their business finance life. Attention innovative bankers.
In her own words
Many Millennials say they are less financially savvy than other generations. They report being hungry for financial literacy, citing searching the internet, watching YouTube videos and asking parents and friends for advice.
But are these really the best resources? Entrepreneurs have complicated financial problems to solve. No one is better placed to help small business customers use banking products successfully than bankers.
Here are some direct quotes from Banktastic research on the subject:
- “I just think from the start they have more support and they’re like, ‘Hey, how can we help you be successful?’ … For me, at least, that would have been a long road.” — Health drink maker.
- “I needed someone to say to me, ‘You don’t need that much cash in your checking account every day. Go and invest some of it and only keep what you need for regular cash flow.’ I assure you I have a Masters, MBA, I understand money and business. It just never crossed my mind, and if my bank had called me and said, ‘Look, we have this great CD, put the money there,’ I would have said, great, where do I sign?” – Professional owner of a service company.
- “I was very fortunate to start with the bench that I did because they were … my biggest cheerleaders and pointed me in directions I hadn’t even thought of. You were there to guide me in many ways. That’s a strong relationship.” – Arts/Entertainment Retailer.
- “My bank is in no way my partner. I don’t feel like I have a contact person. I don’t feel like I can turn to them with questions… I don’t feel like they are there to help me with my business.” —Boutique owner.
A customer success culture
At MidWestOne Bank, no one individual fills the position of Business Success Manager. But the bank’s team approach of connecting multiple bank departments to advise business clients serves this purpose.
Scott Jamison, Business Banking Officer, and Angie Brown, VP and Retail Manager, invite their colleagues and come together as a team.
“We’re working together to try to get as many of our employees in front of customers as possible,” says Jamison. “This team approach brings together experts in each area who work together for the benefit of our customers. It also means they still have great service if a banker isn’t available. Others familiar with the account can take care of it.”
Team meetings are scheduled every other Monday to discuss business customer accounts, what’s happening and how the bank can proactively offer tailored support.
“We have regular electronic onboarding notifications for new clients, and we also make pretty full use of our CRM,” says Brown. She adds that they also work at the branch level to help clients meet people at their nearby bank branch to create the connection between bankers and clients.
“It makes customers feel more comfortable when they come in,” she says. “We bring business units into our industry meetings so they know how we work and how to recommend us. Together we work to best support this customer.”
Finding ways to engage with customers in the way that’s most convenient for them is especially important for millennials, Jamison said. “Millennial business owners in particular will say, ‘Text me,’ so we need to find new ways to add value to them,” says Brown. “That can be more difficult with these short messages. We need to figure out how to tailor our communications to them, not the other way around.” She says MidWestOne Bank often does this through dedicated welcome pages, on its blog, and through in-person visits. “We don’t just wait for them to come in,” Jamison continues. “We visit and talk.”
Think outside the industry
Britney Campbell, CFMP, senior vice president of marketing and public relations at Legends Bank, is also the founder and co-founder of Her Bank, a Legends Bank brand specifically designed to appeal to women business owners in the central Tennessee area. That’s a different approach to customer success, and one that also deserves a closer look.
“I found a women’s co-working incubator literally right before the pandemic,” says Campbell. “Events have been suspended. People had to change and companies needed their banks more than ever. I took this unique opportunity to learn and create solutions that matter. I wanted to understand women’s relationship not only to banking, but also to money. I wanted to know what is valuable, what topics they would like to know more about or what resources they could access, why they loved or disliked the bank they worked at, what fears they had about money and finance. And ultimately what they wanted from their banking experience.”
Campbell interviewed numerous women entrepreneurs to find out how to create a valuable banking experience for women that goes beyond the transaction. Through this process, she and a small team of “bankHers” founded their bank and created a space, whether in person or virtually, to meet women to support them on their financial journey.
In addition to branded services marketed to this group of young businesswomen (mostly ages 30-45), Campbell and her team have helped build an ecosystem of women who are connecting, building new relationships, and nurturing each other’s business and personal lives Refer development resources. This has built considerable trust and has become a valuable resource.
Campbell says she finds it very rewarding to surround these business owners with opportunities for success. She has made Her Bank a go-to resource for these young entrepreneurs, both financially and with other resources such as business coaching and a place to find other essential services. “We are a resource of resources,” she says. “We have created an ecosystem within our own customer base. I love that we are a trusted specialty lifestyle brand for banking.”
It can be difficult for bank leaders to consider funding staff positions that do not directly correspond to income, such as on the credit side.
“It takes more resources to do something like this,” says Shelly Loftin, CFMP, senior VP, retail banking, payments and lending at the American Bankers Association. “There are many banks that want to be relational rather than transactional. It’s on her wish list. But it is difficult. What is the measure of success?”
It is possible for a bundled business account with business success support to generate fee income that offsets these costs.
One focus group participant who owns a product promotion business says, “I’m not opposed to (the bank) making money. Just give me something for it like there’s value. I actually feel supported.”
MidWestOne Bank thinks long-term. Brown says early-stage companies need confidence building. “We want to make sure we don’t lose her,” Brown says. “Maybe they’re not ‘there’ yet. But we don’t want to lose sight of them. If the bank gets in front of them early – and gives them the expectations – we can stay in front of them and help them succeed.”
Campbell asks, “How do you put an ROI on helping people?” At the same time, she says they have tremendous social media engagement, tremendous local media recognition, and significant growth in new small business customers.
Fee income aside, if banks can build value-driven, more enduring relationships, ROI for the bank will follow. While banks support the business owner to thrive and grow over the long term, customers see banks as a partner who will continue to help them as their financial needs grow. If you do, you won’t look anywhere else. Multiplied by many customers – that’s a big return.
A rose by another name
In order to attract millennial customers and earn their loyalty, it is important to focus on proactively supporting their success. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Whether establishing new titles and org chart positions, introducing improved teamwork structures and systems, or creating brand extension, a strong focus on the success of millennial business customers offers the opportunity to separate banks from a sea of competition that lies across the street and on the other hand, there is the Internet. Their investment in the success of millennial business owners is key to their loyalty.
Martha Bartlett Piland, CFMP, is President and CEO of BANKTASTIC, a marketing agency. Her second book, Beyond Sticky, is available at all major booksellers. She is also on LinkedIn.