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Close-Up with Dianne Hardin, digital marketing director-commercial bank division, Fifth Third Bank

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Fifth Third Bank operates more than 1,200 branches in the Midwest and Southeast. Its services include business banking and merchant transaction processing. At the beginning of last year the company launched a four-month acquisition initiative called Switch, designed to encourage trials of its image-processing solutions, with the offer of a free month of processing services if prospects switched from their current providers. Marketing created real-time alerts and visitor notifications for sales that were segmented by territory. Coordinating the campaign was Dianne Hardin, digital marketing director-commercial bank division.

BtoB: How is the switch to more digital marketing processes helping your outreach?
Hardin: We're further along in some aspects of the journey than in others, but it's much more than a change in process. Going to a more digital world changes your thinking, from brand awareness to targeted, personalized conversations. It also means better database management and the knowledge we gain from profiling our prospects through their journey.

BtoB: What significant steps did you take into this journey?
Hardin: We've built a new site, www.53.com, with about 200 pages oriented toward business customers. Our new online Resource Center in particular is the lead bait, with white papers, videos, podcasts and webinars. This is where conversations about solutions drive down to products. Now we have something for prospects to experience on the site and a reason to be there.

We're now in a position to merge the knowledge that accumulated in our CRM tools into our marketing automation database, to understand the behavior of these people. And we're on the verge of deploying lead scoring from the analysis we've done for the past four months—who's doing what, what is high-value behavior, what assets are important and interesting.

BtoB: Explain a bit about your targeting and your goals.
Hardin: For external acquisition, we use lists from such companies as D&B, Harte-Hanks and Jigsaw for contacts and segmentation. Also, we use what I call more organic efforts with marketing automation, using progressive profiling of who's on our site and what buying behavior they're displaying.

Historically, banks have led with a lending product, but as the economy has changed, businesses have become less concerned about investments and more about simply surviving. As a result, we structured our conversations along the lines of capital management, risk and efficiency, and the need for business people to really understand what business processes they have in place. That means understanding cash flow, lines of credit and knowing where the money is coming from and going. You could say we're moving more from the vendor phase to the partner phase.

BtoB: Tell us what marketing ingredients complemented the Switch campaign.
Hardin: Last year we experimented with webinar programs. We also attended a major trade show, the Association for Financial Professionals, and used digital marketing as a significant strategy to communicate with that audience. And we executed a nurturing program, with e-mails and other channels beginning in January 2010, based on our new marketing automation investment.

When the program began, we promoted the Resource Center and found that it was still being referenced as a result of that campaign nine months later. We also had significant close rates and new prospects in the pipeline. From that first program, we directly attributed $3 million in closed revenue and $18 million in new pipeline in the first nine months. Our marketing automation investment was less than $100,000.

BtoB: What do you have planned for this year?
Hardin: We have a few infrastructure components to complete, but this year we're looking at three major digital projects to encompass all our clients and prospects. We're planning a digital news program for current customers, which will be customized; we'll drive relevant content to them based on the products they have with us. We also plan a weekly program for investment advisor groups, and we'll do private events with our affiliates, who are very close to their clients.

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