Calvin Coolidge famously stated, "The business of America is business." If CU research RFPs are an indicator, the business of credit unions is becoming business as well.
As more credit unions seek business lending as an engine for needed loan growth, prudence and research are advised in pursuing this largely untapped market. Especially if just getting started, research can provide valuable insights, and save potentially tens of thousands of dollars. Knowledge truly is power.
Consider the following questions to which we now see credit union's seeking answers:
Awareness: How familiar are business owners with your CU in general? How aware are they of your business services specifically? To what extent do they consider you a viable source for business services and what specific objections must you address and overcome?
Targeting: Your CU can't serve all businesses well. Which businesses (size, type, location, structure) should you target and which can you serve (and attract) best? How familiar is your credit union with desired businesses? How proficient can you be in adding value to streamline and service such businesses within your FOM?
Conversion Issues: Many members may be operating small businesses through their personal accounts. What opportunities lie here? In what ways can DBA members be transitioned to business accounts? How can existing member business accounts held elsewhere be brought on board? What obstacles exist?
Needed Services: Research demonstrates the importance of knowing members' businesses, and the loyalty-creating added value of helping them run them most efficiently. What unique value-add can the CU provide? Networking? Enhanced communication? Advisory services?
Time Factors: Small business owners are exceedingly busy. How can you make their lives more efficient? How can access needs be diminished? And which delivery channels should be emphasized, enhanced, or developed to be of most service?
Bringing It On: How to grow the business? What skills are needed in business development, account management, and the sales/service mix?
The push to raise the business lending cap is moot if we don't drive (and keep) new member business loans. The first step is to understand this ocean of opportunity before diving (further) in. To test the waters, research is the answer.
Mike Anstead is SVP with Member Research, a national CU market research firm. He can be reached at (949) 833-6901 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org