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How CIT is using videos to reach the small-business loan market

  • CIT, in partnership with Operation Hope, launched a series of video mini-profiles of business owners to chronicle the human side of running a business
  • The videos present the image of the bank as a trusted adviser -- an important relationship-building consideration on the minds of business owners
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How CIT is using videos to reach the small-business loan market
CIT Bank has launched a video series focusing on the growing pains of small-business owners. Called "Launch and Grow,"  the two- to three-minute video profiles of entrepreneurs speak to the human element of running a business including team development, branding and scaling. The videos appear on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter along with targeted media buys including on Entrepreneur.com. "We thought it was important to kick off a series hearing from small-business entrepreneurs about their journeys and even about some tougher conversations," said John Donohue, head of CIT Direct Capital, of the video series that will run throughout April, Financial Literacy Month. The small-business lending market has become crowded, and CIT Capital is positioning itself as a tech-first company that offers business customers human advice when they need it. Offering loans under $100,000 is often seen as unprofitable by larger institutions because of the costly underwriting process. In 2016, of the small businesses with revenues under $1 million that applied for credit, only 53 percent were approved, according to a recent Celent study. Digital lenders like Amazon, OnDeck, Kabbage and Fundbox are filling a void. CIT, which lends small businesses $1 billion a year, is looking to engage customers and would-be customers with compelling stories. The bank created the video series called "Launch and Grow" in partnership with Atlanta-based Operation Hope, a nonprofit that advances financial literacy. The stories feature a mixture of CIT and Operation Hope clients addressing the human side of building a business, with topics like "How Confidence is Key," "Building Your Team" and "Recovering from Big Mistakes." CIT emphasized that the focus is on empowerment and education for business owners rather than a hard sell, but CIT isn't alone among financial brands delivering content to build mindshare among stakeholders. As customer experience analyst Blake Morgan recently told Tearsheet, every brand is a publisher that needs to find ways to captivate and inform target audiences in an entertaining way. The bank, which lets customers apply for loans in person or digitally, is positioning itself as a trusted partner, an important consideration for small businesses seeking funding. "The advantage they've got is brand recognition and a marketing machine -- they don’t just need to focus on word of mouth or social media ... that can give them advantages in unit cost of customer acquisition," said Celent senior analyst Alenka Grealish. The videos are complemented by reference documents that correspond to themes outlined in the stories. By focusing on the bank as a knowledge center, they're appealing to the instinct of many business owners who don't just to look to the price of a loan, but other advisory services that could be useful to an entrepreneur in the growth phase of their business venture. "Small businesses seeking credit have a handful of things on their minds, including low interest rates, and the next thing on their priority list is relationships and easy processes," said Aite senior analyst David O'Connell. "They're presenting themselves as the trusted adviser that provides solutions for small businesses based on an understanding of how they operate -- alternative lenders can't do that." The bank acknowledged that the availability of in-person advice is an important differentiator against online upstarts, but like any incumbent institution, it has to meet customers in the channels where they're most comfortable -- and for millennials, that also means an easy digital onboarding experience, too. "The approach we take is to leverage technology and combine that with the stability and heritage of CIT," said Donohue.

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