If Lendio is to continue its impressive growth, it is imperative to increase brand awareness, and to accomplish that the company is taking a grass roots approach, founder and CEO Brock Blake said.
The small business loan marketplace has introduced a franchise model, which is the third in a three-pronged strategy to increase awareness of Lendio amongst America’s small business owners, Mr. Blake said.
“As we start to move into 2017, we start to think about how do we continue to grow and create awareness of Lendio to small business owners. That’s a big part of our focus right now.”
Lendio conducts direct marketing and has developed innovative partnerships with brands like Staples that are popular with small business owners, Mr. Blake said.
While direct marketing works in dense urban areas, another approach was needed to reach Main Street USA and those businesses in smaller regions where awareness of Lendio may not be as high.
“The question became how to penetrate into local communities and work with accountants, attorneys and chambers of commerce,” Mr. Blake said.
To answer that question Mr. Blake went back to a time before founding Lendio when he owned a company called Funding Utah that ran events that connected small businesses with financing options. It worked on a local level but did not scale nationally. Still Mr.Blake filed it away for future use.
That time is now. Lendio wants to partner with local franchisees who have an existing network of business owners. Perhaps they are experienced sales representatives or are active in their local business community. So far they have franchisees in New Hampshire, Vermont, Erie, PA and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Lendio has hired franchising veteran Ben Davis to run the program.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about who is our target profile, because it is one of the most critical things you think about, who you are bringing in and what are the most important attributes they have,” Mr. Davis explained.
The franchisee’s job is made easier because they do not have to be experts in small business financing or banking, Mr. Davis added. The borrower inputs the data and the technology does the rest. That leaves franchisees to focus on promoting Lendio to their networks. Lendio provides a one-week training program and detailed operations manual.
“It wasn’t that we were looking for someone who had great lending experience or commercial banking experience,” Mr. Davis explained. “What we really wanted was someone who was connected to their local small business community and had a demonstrated ability to build a rolodex.”
One current Lendio franchisee has a shipping and logistics background and is passionate about his local community, Mr. Davis said.
“He really believes in his local economy wants to see small businesses succeed in that area.”