Panning for data gold in small- and medium-size business transactions

The story behind the data may not always be obvious at first, but the trends over time can begin to bring customer needs to the surface.

By Beth Tancredi

For more banks, getting better at effectively sifting through and learning from more types of data while aiming to acquire and retain customers is becoming a bigger priority.

“There’s been a lot of conversations about how even in the B2B space it should be more like the B2C experience, because at the end of the day, you’re still marketing to human beings,” says Bryce Gartner, chief experience officer of The Cargo Agency, a data and marketing firm based in South Carolina and Toronto. “There’s still a person responsible for the financial relationship who is making transactions on behalf of the business.” In his 2023 ABA Bank Marketing Conference presentation Using Data to Enhance the Customer Experience in Small Business Banking, Gartner addressed a wide range of data issues for bank marketers.

And just like individual transactions, SMB interactions tell a rich story about the state of the business, their relationship with bank and product offerings that may be missing from their portfolio.

“So much behavior is captured by the bank, but if you let it sit there, it’s not doing anything. There’s a lot of gold there, but if you don’t dig for it, you don’t know it’s there,” Gartner adds.

Any data Is rich data

While some banks have the capacity to get their hands into the muck of data, others are more limited. Those limitations, however, should not hold back marketing teams from starting the SMB data collection journey with what the bank already has internally, Gartner points out. In other words, at this phase, there’s no need to hire specific talent or pay for new tools for the tech stack this early in the game.

Gartner suggests: First, identify the person or people on the marketing team who understand how to query the various transactions systems and communications platforms used by the bank.

After identifying the basic demographic information that can be pulled from the transaction system, determine whether there are other internal sources from which to gather information about the business’s relationship with the bank, Gartner adds These may include communications touchpoints such as website visits and online behavior, interactions with company emails or visits to the branch.

That data can all be pulled into a spreadsheet to start seeing the story behind the data.
Once data is organized in a spreadsheet, the information can work in one of two ways:

  • Create a profile of the SMB clients who should be using specific banking products. And then match that profile to existing or prospective customers.
  • Or evaluate the data to discern what products are commonly used by existing SMB clients and can then be reverse engineered to find those businesses that are not yet using specific products but should be introduced to them.

Great customer experience gets created when marketing teams can anticipate businesses’ needs. “Don’t wait for perfect data,” Gartner says.”Put what you have to work. Even with these small pockets of data, you have insights as a predictor of those needs.”

Also note that pulling the data is never merely a one-and-done operation. “New sources of data come into play all the time,” he says “You should always keep your blueprint- current and shouldn’t get locked into a tight process.”.

Lastly, before marketing teams share that information with customers, make a point to understand how the SMB handles interactions with the bank. Who is the primary point of contact? When the business has a need, does the business reach out electronically, by phone, or does a representative come into the bank? Using own internal data sources, bank marketing teams can note preferred communication style and reach out that way.

Reading the data

The story behind the data may not always be obvious at first, but the trends over time can start to bring customer needs to the surface, including:

  • Changes in payroll transactions, for example, can reveal that the company is either growing or shrinking, indicating there may be a need for different product solutions.
  • The same can be said about daily balance fluctuations. Is there suddenly more spending or less spending in the account?
  • Are you observing other changing behaviors? Are card payments being used now more than checks? Have there been any loan inquiries?

Closely examining all the customer touchpoints in the process can also identify any roadblocks or barriers that prevent SMBs from accessing or using the products available to them.

Gartner also cited the benefits of augmenting first-party data with third party sources such as:

LinkedIn. Regardless of whether a customer have set up a business page on LinkedIn, powerful information can still be gathered by tracking the number and the titles of employees whose profiles match up with the company name. Social posts and press releases promoted on the network may also offer insight into benchmarks, goals and company direction.

Firmagraphics. These third-party platforms crawl corporate and public websites, SEC filings, news sources and user contributions to create business profiles, providing added information about the status of companies.

Intent data crunches web content users consume to reveal when they are actively researching a solution and which products and services they are interested in purchasing.

Building loyalty from data

Consider the following finding from the 2023 Cornerstone Advisors report Reinventing Business Checking: The Key to Growing SMB Relationships: Two-thirds of all SMBs are at least somewhat likely to look for new banking relationships in the next 12 months. And that number increases to 77 percent for SMBs with revenue between $10 million and $100 million.

Together, any internal (first-party) data and external (third-party) data sources can provide all the gold nuggets of data you need to create a great B2C experience for B2B customers.

And a greater experience creates greater loyalty.

Beth Tancredi is a New Jersey-based writer whose focus is financial services, advertising technology, politics, healthcare and media.