Creating Demand in the Small-Business Market: Channel Marketing Strategies

Credit union marketers have a variety of channels at their disposal to reach small-business owners and move them from awareness to conversion during the purchasing process. However, the sheer number of options can make it challenging to determine which channels are most effective for creating demand within the small-business market. An explosion of digital channels, including social media, mobile and web, have been thrown into the mix along with traditional channels, such as television, print publications, radio and direct marketing—and all are vying for business owners’ attention.

To optimize channel marketing strategies with small businesses, we recommend that credit unions do the following:

  • Develop a fully-integrated marketing strategy. By utilizing channels in a consistent manner based on the business owner’s buying process, credit unions can combine traditional and digital channels for maximum effectiveness. For example, social media can be used during the research phase to share information about an organization’s community involvement, add a customer service channel, and monitor and respond to consumer feedback. Actionable channels such as email and direct mail help promote a brand during the awareness phase and also help solidify the purchase during the decision phase. The messages communicated in each channel should maintain a consistent brand image and speak directly to business owners.
  • Think locally, act electronically. The majority of small-business owners (72 percent) use internet search engines in their research process, and more than half (56 percent) begin their research using a search engine. When they search, nearly twice as many owners use generic product terms rather than specific brand names (e.g., “internet” vs. “Verizon”). In addition, business owners tend to think locally, so including cost-effective geographic region keywords in search engine optimization efforts can help increase brand awareness and presence—and win business—at the local level.
  • Use microsites to target small businesses. Small-business owners can potentially get lost in a sea of multiline product and service offerings on a credit union’s primary website. Microsites, which are designed to be easily accessible from an institution’s main site, maintain brand consistency and provide an informative, targeted message to small-business owners during the awareness and research phases. These sites are most effective when they catch the attention of business owners, challenge their thinking and offer a deal.
  • Prepare the front line. During the purchasing process, 30 percent of small-business owners contact a prospective vendor to verify their research. A credit union’s front-line associates, whether in the branch or at a contact center, should be prepared to utilize that contact opportunity to discuss the small business’s needs and to move the business owner from research to purchase. A well-trained front-line team can make a significant difference in terms of obtaining the sale.
  • Highlight accolades. Awards, certifications and other recognition do matter; they help increase credibility and show that a credit union is strong and focused on its members. Credit unions should also mention accolades they have received in a prominent, high-traffic area on their website.
  • Make ordering and implementation easy. Small-business owners do not conduct exhaustive research during the buying process; they have a checklist with certain criteria, and when those items are satisfied, they stop researching through various channels and make a purchasing decision. At that point, they are looking for ease in opening an account or applying for a lending product.

The buying habits of small-business owners have changed. To create demand within this growing market, credit unions’ channel marketing strategies must be fully integrated and optimized for critical stages of the purchasing process.

To learn more about how Harland Clarke can help optimize your credit union’s channel marketing strategy, contact your account executive or visit


Questions? Contact Sales & Marketing Associate Craig Reed: 206.340.4789,

Posted in Advocacy News, Marketing & Communications.