Branding in the World of Small Business Alternative Lending

Branding reflects what a company aspires to be — but it’s not something that a company can dictate completely on its own. To a large extent, a brand is defined by how customers and the market perceive you.

When I joined Credibly in March 2015, we had ambitions to build a stronger, more direct relationship with consumers. Up until that point, the majority of our business was done through indirect channels, where branding wasn’t as important. We decided to re-brand as a way to better connect with the public.

Differentiating Our Brand

During that process, I wanted to figure out how to differentiate Credibly in an alternative lending landscape where a lot of companies were communicating very similar messages around access to capital. The market perception was that small business loans were just another commodity based on price, like car insurance. So what could we aspire to be? What did Credibly do better than everyone else in the market?

Having built multiple brands before, I understood that what makes a successful brand or business is very high customer satisfaction levels. There’s more to branding than messaging and how you merchandise — user experience is the most important element.

The Credibly Advantage

Understanding the satisfaction levels of your customers and what they want is essential, because if you don’t listen to them, you’re not going to improve your brand. Successful branding means aligning your organization to have a 360-degree feedback loop from your customers. It’s about accessing voice of customer to inform and refine your business.

Credibly launched the three pillars that form the foundation of our brand architecture because we aspired that when prospects and customers think about us, they think about us in terms of Right-Sized Capital, a long-term partnership (Grow, Don’t Just Owe), and a high-end user experience — the Credibly Experience. We committed to make our business as customer-focused as possible, and calibrate our user experience and products with our guiding principles.

So how do we quantify the impact of branding? Credibly has been turning more focus toward measuring Net Promoter Score and customer satisfaction levels, so that we can understand what areas of the business we need to improve on. In turn, that will drive our marketing and product roadmap efforts.

We can measure aided awareness — how much our brand influenced the decision of the buyer — through exit surveys of customers that have done business with us. Had they heard of us before? What do they think when they hear our brand? Finally, there’s overall awareness, which you can measure by the amount of direct traffic that you’re getting to your website and the numbers of search queries your brand is generating online.

Offering More Than Just Speed

So many of our alternative lending competitors tout speed of funding as their primary differentiator. (“Get your money fast!!”) However, we know from our research and customer interactions that speed is actually low on the list of our borrowers’ priorities. What they’re really looking for is a trusted relationship with a lending partner who operates responsibly, reliably, and transparently — credibly, in other words.

That’s what our brand aspires to be. It’s the reputation we want people to think of when they hear our name. And it’s up to us to earn it.