Kirsty Spickett, Marketing Director
Circle helped Blenheim Chalcot to assess a new business opportunity and develop a market entry strategy. In its first year of operation the new venture, BusinessFinanceCompared.com, has supported more than 35,000 SMEs in their search for business finance and won the ‘Jim Mellon Start-Up Prize’ at the 2015 Master Investor Show.
Blenheim Chalcot is an incubator. Its raison d’etre is to buy, create and build companies that transform industry sectors. FinTech is a key focus with group brands in this area including Modulr, Liberis and Oakbrook.
The end goal
In the years after the financial crisis of 2008 credit markets froze up and many businesses, especially SMEs, were finding it tough to access the growth finance they needed. Furthermore, if turned down for finance many SMEs simply shelved their growth plans as they didn’t know where to turn or simply couldn’t face the thought of another tortuous round of applications.
But where traditional lenders who controlled 80% of the SME market saw risk, Blenheim Chalcot saw an opportunity. And so BusinessFinanceCompared.com was born – an online portal where SMEs could enter a few simple details, instantly see the credit options available to them from traditional and alternative lenders, and then apply online.
Before investing in developing and launching this service, Blenheim Chalcot wanted to better understand the nature of the opportunity, determine whether it was a sound investment and, if so, develop a market entry strategy. They engaged Circle Research to support them in this by:
- Establishing key trends in the SME finance market
- Sizing the opportunity by volume and value
- Profiling the target market and identifying high potential ‘hot spots’
- Mapping the competitive landscape and profiling competitors
Our task was then to make recommendations on whether Blenheim Chalcot should pursue the opportunity and, if so, where to focus their sales and marketing efforts.
To take informed decisions Blenheim Chalcot required fact rather than opinion or perception. This meant that a secondary research approach was ideal.
We began by running a workshop with Blenheim Chalcot’s key internal stakeholders using our DISCOVERY methodology. This ensured that as it progressed the project could constantly refer back to a clearly articulated set of goals and decision making needs.
Having defined ‘success’ we then identified a comprehensive list of potential information sources. Our approach left no stone unturned and resulted in a library of several dozen documents and data sets including:
- Official statistics
- Regulatory and Government reports
- Reports and analysis by trade bodies and media
- Third party market reports and surveys
- Competitor publications, e.g. marketing materials, Annual Reports
The next step was to thoroughly review each of these sources to assess their reliability and extract key points of relevance. The sheer volume of information meant that this required several days of dedicated analysis, but the effort was worthwhile as it revealed a wealth of valuable insights.
This information then needed to be distilled into insight and to do so we linked key facts together to form a coherent story which always related back to the business decisions which Blenheim Chalcot needed to make.
Finally, we translated insight into action by developing a series of evidence-based business recommendations. Our advice was to enter the market as the opportunity is large and growing. In doing so, we advised Blenheim Chalcot to focus on certain segments within the wider SME population as they seemed an especially attractive opportunity. We also made recommendations about how to position the brand in the market and key marketing messages to communicate.
The business outcomes
The research led Blenheim Chalcot to launch BusinessFinanceCompared.com and it is already showing strong early signs of success. The site receives 5,000 monthly visitors looking for finance advice and has enabled over 3,500 lending enquiries in just the past 6 months. Due to their early successes and potential they won the ‘Jim Mellon Start-Up Prize’ at the 2015 Master Investor Show.