Chase to reach business owners through ‘business advice center on wheels’
- Chase is deploying a mobile business advice center called BizMobile across the U.S. to build relationships with business owners
- Beyond the ability to convert customers, BizMobile is an important brand-awareness play
JPMorgan Chase is taking a new twist on meeting customers "where they are:" A 27-foot trailer at business events across the U.S., offering free one-on-one advice sessions on marketing, business insights and small-business financing. The trailer, which is called Chase BizMobile, is the latest iteration of the bank's plans to grow face-to-face connections with business owners, alongside conferences and seminars it has organized for the last two years. The objective is to connect with clients and prospects who may consider taking up service offerings from the bank in the future. "Our strategy is to have a human presence everywhere we do business," said Brent Reinhard, chief marketing officer for Chase Business Banking. After the recession, large U.S. banks pulled back on most of their small-business lending activities, creating fertile ground for startups like OnDeck or Bond Street to grow market share. But now, banks, including Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are looking to the small-business market as a growth area, adding pressure on institutions to find new ways to reach customers. Chase has modernized its small-business product tech stack and is using OnDeck's technology to make the approval process simpler and faster. But in a competitive field of banks offering small-business products and services, face-to-face relationships are big differentiators. Chase is the fourth-largest lender of Small Business Administration loans; as of March 31, 2018, the bank approved 1,307 loans valued at $323 million. The emphasis on face-to-face connections with business owners is a way to build trust among clients who know they're entering a long-term relationship with a financial institution. Aite senior analyst David O’Connell said surveys he conducted of small-business owners seeking credit showed that while interest rates and repayment terms were important, relationships also figured prominently among their considerations, including the ability to turn to someone when problems arise. "Chase is smartly setting itself up as a trusted adviser among its small-business borrowers," he said. "They want to take advantage of their ability to deliver on that relationship as a way to acquire more customers." BizMobile is being rolled out in conjunction with business events in target cities; it will debut at the Women's Business Enterprise National Council Conference Detroit next week and will make stops in Miami, Orlando, Boca Raton, Sarasota, New Orleans and Jacksonville. It will include interactive digital content, and its covered outdoor space will feature refreshments, games and local client products. While business owners can visit one of Chase's more than 5,000 branches across the country, Reinhard said traditional branches aren't always set up to deal with bigger questions on the minds of business owners. Rather than a hard sell, the trailer won't have account set up or loan application capabilities; instead, owners can book free 2o-minute coaching sessions on marketing, social media and finding financing. Bankers will be on hand for consultations, but the thematic sessions will be led by external experts, including Zen Media, Jay Baer and Intuit. Chase isn't measuring the BizMobile's success by how many prospects it can turn into customers; instead, it's going to survey visitors on whether the BizMobile session yielded at least one piece of actionable advice. If the answer is yes, the visit will be considered a success, Reinhard said. While return on investment from pop-ups is sometimes difficult to assess, beyond the client relationship element, the mobile advice centers are important opportunities to raise the brand's visibility, said Forrester senior analyst Ananda Chakravarty. "It's a brand-awareness play," he said. "Small-business owners are [already] going to these events, they're reaching them there and that's the real value added -- you may get some leads and engagements with BizMobile, but having [Chase's] presence there is more about marketing than the ability to convert customers."