The market for providing capital solutions to small business is dynamic and crowded. For every new company eager to launch is a lender at the ready to provide financial back-up.
And as a result of the rise in demand, funding companies and brokers are advertising and promoting their brands through every possible channel. They’re looking to drive customers to their web pages, complete online applications, and ultimately — sign contracts.
But how do business owners know who they can trust when every small business financing brand name sounds the same? A well-made logo plastered on a professional-looking website is not always an indicator of quality work.
Before you sign on the dotted line or even submit an application, follow these steps to get to know who you’re working with:
See Beyond the Website Template
A website is the virtual front door for most businesses — capital providers and brokers are no exception. The thing is, great-looking websites are relatively cheap and easy to create. All you need is a template and a call-to-action.
So how do you know – just by looking at a home page or an online application – if you’re interacting with a company you can trust? Maybe it’s a fly-by-night operation — or worse, an outright fraud.
Put the brand in a real-world context
A legitimate small business funding company is going to have some legitimate contact information and social proof to back up their offerings. Start by digging around their website footer.
Does the company list an actual street address? Does that address make sense for a company offering business capital products?
Every business has a “legal” or “true” name, aka a DBA (Doing Business As). You can verify these names through the Secretary of State, which will allow you to conduct searches around legal entity names. Searches that turn up press releases and news articles are a step in the right direction for validating a company of substance. Look for announcements from the company surrounding an important hire, financial milestones, or recognition and awards.
Additionally, look for social proof in the form of online reviews and client references or case studies. You can get a quick feel for how a company does business based on the feedback of their customers.
Review the “About Us” page
Good business owners are proud of their businesses and happy to talk about them. But too often, “About Us” pages for financial services companies come across as vague and fluffy — showcasing platitudes of vision or mission over actual substance.
There’s certainly a time and place for highlighting core values but if real people aren’t backing them up with a clear-cut approach, they might be too good to be true. Look for websites that highlight real people: with faces, names, and ways to get in touch.
Browse the company’s social feeds
It only takes a minute to review the social media presence of a would-be funding partner. And while a Facebook or Twitter page alone won’t tell you everything you need to know about a company’s capabilities, it can give context to their level of professionalism, know-how, and overall trustworthiness.
Look for posts and tweets that provide original content created by the company. Then, turn to LinkedIn when vetting individual salespeople.
Don’t be afraid to check out their profiles. Take note of their tenure on the job, previous experience, and professional contacts — do they make sense for someone in the small business funding industry? If they provide contact information, verify that it syncs up with who they’re currently listed as working for. Spending a few minutes with LinkedIn to see who you’re dealing with over the phone is an easy way to validate identity. Before ever handing over your information, there’s research to be done — just as there are questions you should always ask before taking a capital advance. And don’t forget, when looking up someone on LinkedIn, a photo of them is a must!
Final Thoughts: Do you know who your small business funding company is?
Applying for a small business loan or capital advance requires you to share private, personal information — not to mention sensitive company records and data. Don’t give those to just anybody. Do your due diligence when it comes to research and make sure that you can verify the identity of the person and business on the other end the phone, the email, or behind whatever curtain. The security of your business depends on it!
Looking for various options in accessing business capital? Get in touch with the experts at Wellen.