Identifying quality business banking product leads from its online channel began proving a struggle for Atlanta-based SunTrust in 2009. Existing efforts netted a prospect's contact information, but nothing of substance to assist with guiding the sales approach. "Prior to engaging with a prospective client we wanted a better understanding of who the prospect was and what needs they had," explains Robert Ruffin, SVP and client segment marketing manager for business and commercial banking at SunTrust.
According to Ruffin, this led to a decision to "improve our strategy in this space." First, SunTrust ($169 billion in total assets) designed processes and procedures as a backbone. Next, it implemented various iterations of online lead-generation surveys, but the abandonment rate was unacceptably high.
SunTrust also investigated technology solutions in the market, but found them lacking. "We wanted a comprehensive online needs assessment tool that wasn't focused on a single type of account, such as mortgage payment calculator or vetting a loan application," Ruffin says.
Then, in early 2011, a SunTrust executive discovered Dallas-based Ignite Sales. "Ignite offered the first tool we'd seen that took a holistic approach," says Ruffin. "In addition to being based on actual client use and behavior, it also offered the ability to ask differentiated questions, the functionality to segment based on answers and the capability to calculate answers from a decision-tree science perspective."
After performing suitable due diligence, SunTrust began implementing Ignite's Recommendation Guides online interview and associated analytics solution in early 2012. While cloud-based Ignite required no IT systems integration, "some specific types of tagging and metrics weren't baked into Ignite, requiring development on our end," notes Ruffin.
"For example," he adds, "we wanted the granularity to understand things like differentiated experiences as they relate to the source of the traffic. This included determining where the traffic was flowing from, such as what percentage of leads came from SEM [search engine marketing], via a certain Web page or from a specific page within SunTrust.com site."
However, Web analytics development became a small slice of the approximately eight-month adoption process. "We spent about five months developing a robust automated internal lead-distribution system to enable leads to flow from Ignite into our sales environments and route to the right person or area," says Ruffin.
"In retrospect," he continues, "we probably would've delayed engineering the automated system and simply started with a manual process, initially. This would've permitted us to receive benefits from Ignite, faster."
Actionable Data Pours In
Once production began in August 2012 the rewards quickly piled up. Among the discoveries was learning a majority of SunTrust's website visitors were completing payroll manually, regardless of business size or type. This opened up new opportunities for the bank's payroll offerings.
For Ruffin, the only possible downside to Ignite is the relative lack of interface customization permitted when using the tool offline, on smartphones or tablets, as a sales conversation companion. "As we move forward, the user interface will be just one issue we'll be mindful of as we work to align the tool with our existing sales process," says Ruffin.
However, Ruffin is quick to say the offline interface is minor blip. "We're gaining vastly better intelligence," he emphasizes. "For instance, our right party contact rate was around 20-25% before. With Ignite, it's close to 40%."
Additionally, the nearly 10,000 Ignite "recommendation guides" completed thus far revealed completely unexpected, and actionable, segmentation information. "We were surprised to see our small business website was attracting three distinct industry types," comments Ruffin, "none of which were visually represented on the site." He continues, "That was a light bulb moment from a creative perspective, as well as causing us to rethink how we craft search terms for attracting industries."
Next up, SunTrust expects to begin refining banking product strategies as data from Ignite accumulates.
"Having immediate, granular, and relevant analytics available, rather than generalized information that's six- to nine-months old, is invaluable," he says. "Ignite provides a ton of data but we're hardly at the '101' level with using it. We're excited about the future because we've barely scratched the surface."
Institution: SunTrust Banks (Atlanta).
Assets: $169 billion.
Business Challenge: Gather actionable, timely and relevant analytics to generate higher-quality business customer leads and drive sales innovation.
Solution: Ignite Sales (Dallas); Recommendations Guides lead-generation solution.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio