When it comes to banking relationships, credit unions are top performers in the eyes of small business users. The newest Battle of the Banks report from Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows that credit unions consistently outrank all the big banks on all of the four key areas: financing, fees, account manager experience and service.
Credit unions have a decided advantage because they have a strong local community focus, says Rob Martin, senior policy advisor with CCUA (Canadian Credit Union Association) in Ottawa. ‚ÄúOne of the things we hear consistently is that we don‚Äôt churn account managers. Unlike the big banks, where managers move through branches as part of their career path, a local presence means business owners get to see the same person again and again. That‚Äôs a big issue for small businesses.‚ÄĚ
As local institutions, credit unions also have a long-term commitment to their members through good times and bad, he adds. ‚ÄúBecause we are community based, we don‚Äôt look elsewhere for opportunities if there‚Äôs a downturn. We continue to lend and help members.‚ÄĚ
Often credit unions are the only provider within reach. There are more than 305 credit unions across Canada operating in 380 communities, Martin reports. ‚ÄúIn fact we are the only financial institution operating in some communities.‚ÄĚ
He adds that while banks have embraced fee income to make up for the current low margins, credit unions have not gone down that path and tried to maintain a low-fee environment. ‚ÄúWe also offer extra services to help facilitate cash management and record keeping for small businesses.‚ÄĚ
Overall credit unions‚Äô success in serving the small business market is not just one specific thing, Martin says. ‚ÄúWe operate on fairly traditional ideas about what banking is, but that‚Äôs what works for our small business members.‚ÄĚ
The Battle of the Banks report can be found here
Is your website good ‚Äď or just good enough?
When Marie Wiese conducts seminars, she often challenges people on whether their website is what it should be.
The founder of Marketing CoPilot and author of You Can‚Äôt Be everywhere: A common sense approach to digital marketing for small business, says consumer behaviour has changed dramatically in terms of searching for products and services. At the same time the social media options for businesses have gotten a lot more complicated.
Businesses seeking answers have to apply common sense and not try to be all things to all people on social media, she says. ‚ÄúThere are a lot of tools at your disposal that are part of the customer journey. It‚Äôs about being practical and in some cases, going back to basics. One of your core tools in understanding the customer journey is your website. You need to get that right.‚ÄĚ
As Wiese notes, websites are today‚Äôs new receptionists. ‚ÄúImagine walking into an office and the receptionist is either curt, not nice or not interested in talking to you. That creates a bad impression. The same holds true for your website.‚ÄĚ
Wiese offers up her top three things for move your website from ‚Äújust good enough‚ÄĚ to ‚Äúgood‚ÄĚ:
First, take the time to figure out who your best customer is and what they are doing when they go to buy a product or service like yours. ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt try to be everywhere to everyone. Figure out what they look for first.‚ÄĚ
Once you have that information, list the top five things your customers need to understand and make sure it‚Äôs clearly organized on your site. Consider what action they can take other than picking up the phone to call you. ‚ÄúIf you offer commercial office cleaning services for example, you can offer a same-day free quote rather than making them email and wait for hours.‚ÄĚ Also make sure that the site is clean, simple and easy to navigate, she adds. ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt try to put everything on your home page.‚ÄĚ
Third, always be testing and looking. ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt put up a site for five years and not do anything to it. The world is too complex and buyers too educated for that to be OK. Keep going back and looking each month.‚ÄĚ
If you get the foundations right, then you can start working on other channels, she says. ‚ÄúGet your backyard tidied up first, then start deciding if tools like Facebook will drive more traffic.‚ÄĚ
Airbnb usage skyrocketing in Canada with SMBs
Small business owners are increasingly turning to Airbnb for their travel needs, according to a recent report by Concur, a cloud-based provider of travel and expense reporting services. While global usage by SMBs has increased 38% year-over-year from Q2 2015, Canadian SMB usage shows a 224% increase between Q2 2015 and Q2 2016.
Concur analyzed global data over the course of two years, which unearthed these numbers around SMB use of Airbnb. ‚ÄúThis just shows that small businesses are looking for flexibility and control over travel costs,‚ÄĚ says Brian Veloso, senior director, SMB for Concur Canada.
According to the Hotel Association of Canada, average hotel rates per night is $144, while the average expense amount for an Airbnb stay is $119.27.
He claims that employees are really moving the trend, as they prefer to look for accommodations that more closely mirror their personal lives, he adds. ‚ÄúBusiness owners for their part are recognizing the benefits of leveraging lower cost accommodations, especially given the weaker dollar. These types of accommodations help them manage costs, especially when travelling outside of Canada.‚ÄĚ
MaRS Verge Corporate Innovation Conference coming soon
On November 15, the MaRS Verge Corporate Innovation Conference will be hosting 150 corporate innovators who are ready to challenge the way they think with a day of thought leadership, networking and training. New to this year‚Äôs conference will be dedicated sessions focusing on specific innovation challenges in the health, energy and financial services sectors and in the changing workforce.
Attendees will participate in open conversations with innovation experts and entrepreneurs who have earned their experience. Kirstine Stewart, founding head of
Twitter Canada will be the keynote speaker for the event.
First published at http://business.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/small-business-digest/why-small-businesses-love-their-credit-unions