For banks that want to court the often misunderstood SOHO market, Terri Lonier, president of Working Solo Inc., a New Paltz, NY-based strategic adviser to companies targeting SOHOs, has these suggestions:
* Be willing to educate.
SOHOs generally may not have a lot of financial knowledge or business experience. "SOHOs are intimidated by banks in that they aren't totally comfortable in understanding financial terminology, or the difference in financial products," she says.
* Act like an ally.
While a mom-and-pop shop may seem pretty lightweight to even a smaller bank, financial service firms that position themselves as "partners" in small business success will have a much better chance of winning the business.
* Not all SOHOs are created equal.
SOHOs have become a catch-all for all sorts of businesses from retail and restaurants, to independent contractors, freelancers, and virtually everything in between. Therefore, banks cannot expect to target this market as they would a specific business category.
* Help them save what matters most-time.
The more mundane financial and administrative aspects of the business just take time away from SOHO owners' passions and their personal lives, as they see it. So anything a bank can do to make their lives easier, like simplifying forms, will win them a loyal following.
* SOHOs want practical IT.
Successful SOHOs know that all technology-from accounting software to their Web site-needs to have a practical purpose. Few business owners have the time to fiddle with the latest in tech. Instead, SOHOs want their banks to use all channels, from the Web to the branch, to give them the best and most flexible service. As Lonier cautions, "Remember, these customers are their own IT departments."