Too often we don’t give online business banking the coverage it deserves, both here and in Online Banking Report (note 1). Online services can be far more valuable for a business customer than for the average consumer. But consumer services, with bigger advertising budgets and much more press coverage, tend to be more visible when we search for examples of financial innovations.
That’s why I was especially intrigued with the PNC Bank ad in the Aug/Sep issue of BusinessWeek SmallBiz magazine. Not only had PNC Bank shelled out for a full-page ad (p. 20, see inset; note 2), the creative was interesting and included a tease for the CFO product combined with easy-to-recall URL <pnc.com/cfo>.
The new account, cleverly dubbed PNC|CFO, an acronym for Cash Flow Options, covers all the major headaches of business owners:
- Accelerate accounts receivable
- Improve your outgoing payments
- Invest your cash wisely
- Access information online
- Ensure access to cash (note 3)
Naturally, I was most interested in the second-to-last bullet, online information. The audio-visual online banking demo is thorough, but surprisingly neglects mobile banking services. The only mention of mobile banking is at the end of the last paragraph on the online banking landing page. With business owners increasingly tethered to their businesses via Blackberry or iPhone, mobile capabilities should be front-and-center.
The other thing missing from the web-based marketing: a human connection. The main call-to-action is the big orange Contact Request button (see screenshot below). Presumably a biz banker will quickly get on the horn and make that connection. However, the bank should make it clear that they have a bevy of qualified bankers available to usher new clients into the CFO account.
Simply changing the button to Contact a Business Banker would be an improvement. But I’d also like to see a bullet point that talks about customer service. The only thing I saw was a few generic screenshots in the online demo which talked about responding to most questions “within 24 hours.” That doesn’t make the reader feel particularly special.
Finally, a small rant about the bank’s contact form. I received error messages the first three times I attempted to submit it. Evidently, commas are not allowed in the company name or address fields. That not good programming and creates a needless poor first impression. There’s is also no space in the form for comments from prospective customers. PNC Bank has been on the web for 14 years, it should have flawless forms (note 4).
Grade: Overall, I really like what PNC is doing so I’ll give the marketing site an A for design and B- for execution.
Landing page for PNC’s Cash Flow Options service (link, 19 Aug 2009)
PNC new account “contact me” form with error message
1. Our last report on Online Small Business Banking is available here (June 2004).
2. Key Bank (p. 9) and Bank of America (p. 29) also bought full pagers.
3. The bank is referring to credit lines and loans; I’m not sure why they didn’t state that more clearly. Access to cash sounds more like a checking account feature.
4. While I’m at it, here are a few more minor flaws: (a) Even though I made two errors in the form, the error message only identified the first one; (b) When an error is made, the form automatically clears the checks in the bottom column of boxes; (c) The bank has neglected to turn off auto-fill (at least in Firefox 3.0) in the “confirm your email” field.