Susanne Lyons

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Susanne Lyons was named chief marketing officer at Visa USA in June 2004, the same month Visa launched its first major b-to-b ad campaign.

Since then, Lyons has overseen Visa's expansion into the business segment, particularly in the small-business market.

"We really have two primary marketing objectives for the business segment," Lyons said. "The first is to drive awareness among small-business owners of the specific products, features and benefits of Visa business cards, and the second is to drive usage and preference of our product over cash, check or personal credit cards."

To achieve the first goal, Visa launched an ad campaign, developed by BBDO West, San Francisco, with the tagline, "Visa. It's everywhere you want your company to be." The b-to-b campaign was an extension of Visa's consumer campaign, "It's everywhere you want to be."

The initial campaign was introduced in June 2004 with print, online, collateral and events.

This year, Visa expanded that campaign to include two TV spots, "Drycleaner" and "Matrix," which used humor to reach small-business decision-makers. The campaign also included print, online and radio. BBDO West created the offline effort, and AKQA, San Francisco, created the online component.

"The goal of the awareness campaign was to convince small-business owners that they want a Visa business card," Lyons said.

The ads highlighted the benefits of the card, such as the convenience of reporting. "Print allows us to do more specific benefits and drill down into more detail," Lyons said. The online campaign focused on rewards for small-business owners.

"One of the reasons small-business owners use personal cards for business expenses is they want to get their miles," Lyons said. So Visa rolled out new features on its business card, such as the ability to earn frequent-flier miles and other rewards.

Beyond advertising, Lyons spearheaded other marketing efforts for Visa's business segment, including partner marketing and events.

This year Visa rolled out Visa Partner Advantage, a program under which Visa partners with other businesses-including IBM Corp., Office Max, Pitney Bowes, Staples Inc. and Thrifty Rent-A-Car System-to offer discounts to small-business owners. It also developed the Small Business Economic Insight Series to bring together small-business leaders and government officials to discuss economic issues facing the sector.

Over the past five years, business card spending volume overall has exceeded 20% annually, while Visa's business card spending volume has grown at a rate of 33% annually, according to Visa's research.

Before joining Visa, Lyons was chief marketing officer and enterprise president of retail client services at Charles Schwab & Co. Prior to that, she spent 10 years at Fidelity Investments, most recently as senior VP-brokerage marketing.


-Kate Maddox

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