Online lenders are expanding access to capital for small business owners across the country. In fact, in a world dominated by traditional lenders, these new players are changing the way small business owners look for a business loan. How they’re doing it might even help your business. Here are four things you can learn from the growth of online lending:
1. Provide outstanding customer service to each and every customer.
Having excellent customer service can make you a preferred choice among your audience. Online lenders might not always be the least expensive financing option, but many provide top-notch customer support. Avoiding the frustrating and time-consuming ordeal of calling a larger institution is worth it for many small business owners.
Depending on the business, outstanding customer service could mean going above and beyond with customer phone support, an easy-to-use help section on a website, or even a flexible return policy. Your customers will notice great customer service right away, and will thank you for it with return visits and purchases. They may even talk about it online, where potential new customers can read about it and form positive opinions about your business.
2. Customer experience – online or in person – should be a top priority.
Similar to customer service, customer experience should be a top priority to get customers returning and talking about your business to others. Making sure your customer is not confused and is able to navigate your checkout process is key. The same way that a potential borrower may not complete an online loan application if it asks confusing questions, a potential customer may not purchase your goods and services if they can’t easily determine the value proposition. “A confused customer does nothing” is common-sense marketing – and something I’ve always found to be true. If a confused customer does not understand how that newfangled product your offering works, or if they don’t understand exactly why they need your services, they are more likely to walk away and find something else.
3. Don’t leave your customer hanging – focus on speed and convenience.
One of the most tangible reasons why online lending was able to break away from the traditional lending pack, was the speed and convenience it could offer small business owners. Before online lending, a business loan was rarely faster than four to six weeks away — and came with an arduous application process. Eliminating these pain points was a huge plus for business owners looking for financing.
When trying to improve upon speed and convenience for your business, make sure you don’t sacrifice the quality of your offering. If you have an auto repair or construction business, for example, finishing your projects faster doesn’t necessarily mean a happier customer if you’re producing something of lesser quality. Something as simple as returning missed calls in a timely manner, or making sure you have enough staff to meet demand can make your business a top choice.
4. You need to be findable.
A huge part of the “growing your business” battle is placing your business where potential customers can find it. In today’s day and age, that means your business needs to be online. According to a 2014 AdWeek study, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. For online lenders, this point is a little bit redundant – the fact that these are “online” lenders means that a primary way to find them is via the Internet.
Today, many businesses, even brick-and-mortar businesses are finding more and more customers online. Your business can greatly benefit from appearing in local search results. Investing some time and resources into your online presence could help make sure that it’s your business, and not your competitors’ that are appearing in front of customers.
Whether you’re the owner of a restaurant, a marketing agency, an online lender, or any other business, one goal is generally the same – grow the business. In the past few years, online lenders have been able to hone in on the business qualities that stand out to customers and capitalize on those strengths. If you’re a business, large or small, take a look at how your business addresses the ideas mentioned above and if there’s anything you can improve so that your business, like online lending, can give the competition a run for its money.