Magazine article American Banker

FirstBank's Pitch to Small Businesses: Ads on Us

Magazine article American Banker

FirstBank's Pitch to Small Businesses: Ads on Us

Article excerpt

Byline: Anthony Malakian

Recognizing the cash crunch many small businesses are facing, a Colorado banking company has come up with a plan to help them increase their visibility - and, it's hoped, their sales - without increasing their marketing budgets.

FirstBank Holding Co., a multibank holding company with 120 branches in Colorado, kicked off the program this month, offering its business clients free Web site hosting, free advertising space and a free listing in its business directory. The Lakewood company aims to set itself apart from its competitors and, in turn, grab the attention of business owners who might be banking elsewhere. "We want to attract more small businesses, but part of that is how you demonstrate how you support your current small-business customers," said Dave Baker, the chief operating officer at the $9.7 billion-asset FirstBank.

Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst at the Boston consulting firm Celent, said that, free or not, it is unusual for a bank to offer marketing services to its clients. He said he suspects that the package of free services, dubbed DotFree, will entice some small-business owners to move accounts to FirstBank.

"We are in difficult economic times," Jegher said. "Everyone is going to shop around and do the math and see if they are better off elsewhere."

Christine Barry, a research director at Aite Group LLC of Boston, said competition for small-business customers is fierce, so it's a good idea for institutions like FirstBank to offer services that help them stand out. "Anything you can do to differentiate yourself from the competition is worth the effort," Barry said. …

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