Like most CDCs, my old CDC’s fiscal year began October 1, and our marketing program coincided with the calendar year. Hey, no one outside of government and financial institutions really thinks of September 30 as New Year’s Eve. So I saved the party hat and noisemakers for January 1.
January is also when I began my Community Lender Commitment program. It’s a very simple marketing strategy that cost me absolutely nothing but paid good dividends. Here it is in two easy steps:
Community Lender Commitment Program. Step 1. Get a commitment from local lenders to make X number of 504 loans during the year. Of course X is more than the previous year’s commitment. The conversation goes like this:
Me. Hi Dave. This is Richard. Happy New Year! Hope things go well for you and your SBA department this year. I noticed that last year you did four 504 loans with our CDC. I’m getting out a press release congratulating your bank on your commitment to small business growth in our area. I think that will look good in your CRA file. I’d like to include a statement that this year the bank commits to making six 504 loans. What do you think? Can your bank president make that commitment? Or maybe your board chair?
Step 2. Establish a relationship with the editor and business reporter of the local business newspaper that’s good enough to cover your press releases. It’s not as challenging as you might think. Many local papers are looking for business stories. And you’ve got a story that affects all small businesses and lenders in your community.
Playing the PR game. Draft a statement from the bank president or board chair for their approval, talking about how important small business is to the local economy and to the growth of the bank, and how much the bank enjoys its relationship with the fine folks at your CDC, yadda yadda. When you get a commitment, the press release says something like, “XYZ Bank joins ABC CDC’s Small Business Loan Commitment Program.” And if multiple banks commit, it says, “ABC CDC Secures Loan Commitments from ### Banks for SBA Loans.” In March, get a commitment from another bank and the release says, “EFG Bank Joins ABC CDC’s Community Small Business Loan Program.”
Now you’ve got fodder for releases all year: “XYZ Community Bank Meets Small Business Lending Goal. Commits to More!” … “XYZ Bank Finances Auto Dealership as Part of ABC CDC’s Commitment to Small Business” … “SBA District Director Congratulates EFG Bank on Small Business Lending Success.”
There’s enough news for monthly or bi-monthly releases. Depending on the relationship, you don’t want to flood the newspaper. Save space for some of your big news like the annual celebration for all the community lenders that committed, the Lender of the Year award, and so on, and on.
The New Year dawned on January 1. So start marketing as soon as possible. Remember, nobody celebrates the new fiscal year by eating black-eyes peas on October 1.
The name of the game is to keep your name in the game! And the news.