Allica is looking to build its brand as a full-service bank for businesses, says its Head of Marketing.
Chloe Fenton joined Allica three years ago, when the firm only offered lending products through brokers, so brand building was focused on that community.
“Our marketing approach was very much supporting that broker community, ensuring that we could give them the tools they needed to be able to sell,” she explains. “It also meant making sure they knew and trusted Allica, and that we gave them great product information.”
About a year into her time at Allica the bank started to go direct to customers, with the goal of being a relationship bank through a fleet of relationship managers.
While the overall SME market is fairly saturated in terms of finance and banking options, Allica’s niche within this is quite niche and underserved. The bank supports “established businesses” with around half a million in turnover, which are between the two extremes of sole traders or micro businesses and big companies. These tend to have relatively complex banking needs, but lack the scale to attract the attention of the larger banks.
Chloe says this group may be looking for finance for growth and want a bank where they can talk to a relationship manager who actually knows their business, rather than calling up, “spending hours on hold and talking to a faceless call centre.
“We think of it as the olden days of relationship banking, but bringing with it all the great stuff that comes with being a fintech.”
More recently, Allica has added a current account, which sits alongside its existing lending products.
“[It] allows us to be much more of a banking partner to businesses and not just offering only lending products and savings products.”
The broad marketing strategy has been building the direct business while maintaining strong relations with the broker community, while also courting accountants and other introducers outside of brokers.
“So the strategy has been making sure we’ve got a good marketing approach for all those different audiences and that we’re able to build what is a relatively unknown brand in a lot of those audiences into something that SMEs feel is the bank they want to work with.”
The move into brand
Previously, the campaigns had focused on customer acquisition, especially in the direct channel. More recently Allica augmented its approach with a move into brand marketing.
“As we look to scale, what’s been great is the buy-in from the top that recognises brand is a really important piece of that puzzle,” says Chloe.
“If you pump all your money into performance campaigns, you’ll only get so far. There’s got to be an investment at a brand level to help you build that presence and actually make those campaigns more effective.”
Simultaneously, Allica developed a plan to advertise its market-beating business savings rates of over 5%.
“So we thought it was a good time to combine our first brand approach with being able to tell that message and hopefully let people know that there’s also some really great products there that could be interesting for them.”
Working with agency Rooster Punk, Allica focused on the concept of smaller business owners needing to wear multiple “hats” and perform different roles. The ad cast three people as fictional business owners from different industries.
The pitch is that Allica is the right “money hat”, with the ad highlighting the 5.1% AER paid on business deposits. Neatly, the hat was created by turning Allica’s signature shield logo upside down.
“It’s this element that we’re bringing back relationship banking, which is something that’s kind of old and traditional but bringing it back and making it new.”
Unlike a mass consumer proposition, Allica is targeting a relatively niche audience with the ad. Allica works with a media agency called Mackerel Media which helped them identify the right channels.
Some of the out-of-home advertising was aimed at areas like industrial estates with high footfall from the business community. Also helpful was Sky Adsmart, which allowed some smart segmentation in terms of the TV audience, targeting business owners in certain target. Sky Adsmart also allowed the audience data to be overlayed with things like bank closure data allowing granular targeting.
The digital element was coordinated with digital campaigns run from the growth squad.
So far, Chloe says that there has been positive feedback on the overall concept, and there has been uplift in terms of metrics like website visitors.
“During the campaign period, we saw a strong uplift in people searching for branded keywords and a rise in applications for business savings, meaning we delivered an important message about savings rates to businesses who may have not heard of us before.”
Allica is currently undergoing testing on what it will tweak and amend and how it wants to approach the next campaign.
“What we’re trying to do here is create something that we’re going to keep building momentum on. We’re not just going to do one and stop. We’re going to continue this because we really want to build the brand. We’re up against big banks who’ve got much bigger marketing budgets and a brand presence that is undeniable.
“So we have to be clever about how we make sure that were coming across to the right audience and arguably with [this] campaign the reach was probably a bit broader because we were talking about a savings product.”
In the future, Allica wants to talk more about being a business banking partner rather than just specific products.
“It’s really important for us to make sure we really nail getting to those established businesses and that they understand that we’re a bank, we’re built only for them.
“We should be a good choice for them and the message that we need to get across is that we really do understand them and want to help them.”
This means talking more at the high level about brand rather than about specific products.
“We don’t want them just to think of Allica having really great savings rates – that’s a great thing for them to think, but overall we want them to think about us as a business banking partner for established businesses.”
Relationship banking in the past may have focused more on face-to-face branches, but Allica of course doesn’t have these.
“I don’t think all businesses want face-to-face and we try to offer both, because a lot of people actually just want to do things digitally.
“The real key is understanding them and listening because if you are going to be all digital, you can still offer the level of personalisation and the dedication of one person who supports them, who really gets their business.
“I think a lot of businesses feel that they’re not getting the support they need and that maybe the banks don’t care about their specific business quite as much anymore.”
She notes that the fintechs have done “an amazing job” at supporting micro businesses, building up digital services, and the big banks do a brilliant job of supporting the large businesses.
“There’s this group that just kind of get left in no-man’s land, a group that needs the best of both worlds, and that’s exactly the hole that we’re here to fill.”