Winning with Small Businesses—Part 4 (of 6-part series)

3 steps to designing effective products for small businesses:  easy to buy, easy to sell

Throughout this series (catch up on part 1, part 2, and part 3), we’ve been discussing what matters to small businesses, how financial institutions can better serve their needs, and the critical role of product design in acquiring and retaining small business customers. In this installment, we’ll continue outlining the three steps to more effective product design.

So what does it mean for products to be easy to buy and easy to sell? The easiest way to simplify the sales process is to limit the number of products that you offer. Most large financial institutions offer between two and four packaged checking solutions that include analyzed accounts. This reflects the relatively new phenomenon of the “segment of one” philosophy that led to broad-based products being replaced by a more efficient sales process with fewer products. Customer research suggests that for most banks, three products that are broadly aligned against targeted segments strikes the right balance between coverage of client needs and simplicity of the sales process. See more about this in our next installment that focuses on small business segmentation.

Beyond simplifying the number of products, the product suite and the sales process must align. If your financial institution has full-time dedicated small business bankers, you can afford a more complex product environment. Being able to provide one-on-one attention via the small business bankers can help customers find the right combination of products and services.

However, that level of attention is harder to achieve for financial institutions that rely on the branch manager or the platform banker to manage small businesses along with broader consumer businesses. In this model, offering simpler products, “soft bundles”, and limiting add-on features can be more productive.

Finally, online and offline sales aides must facilitate the buying process. Examining the websites of leading banks gives some strong hints at best practices:

Provide a guided shopping experience

Instead of presenting a long list of products or individual product specification sheets, walk the customer through the product selection process in a structured journey. This can result in a better product fit for the customer and give you a jump start on collecting insight about the small business to help enrich the overall relationship.

Offer “soft bundled” recommendations

Small businesses often need more than a standard checking account, but they likely won’t find the right solution by looking through a long list of add-ons. Present them with illustrative bundles that customers can select and then customize to help accelerate the sales process.

For specific examples of how financial institutions are bringing these recommendations to life, download our paper at Winning with Small Businesses. Stay tuned for our next installment that discusses how to keep products simple and segmented. If you can’t wait for the series finale—you can find Vantiv’s full whitepaper, and access a webinar, at the Winning with Small Businesses home.