Fleet Boston Banks Net Customers

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Fresh off an Oct. 1 merger, Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corp. are partnering on their first major Web marketing initiative to build traffic for its online banking services.

Today Fleet Boston Corp., Boston, the newly formed eigth largest bank in the world, launches personalized home pages for BankBoston's homelink.myway.com and Fleet's fleetwebbanking.myway.com.

Designed by MyWay.com, formerly Planet Direct, these portal sites are customizable gateway pages that offer an AltaVista search engine, a stock watch, the weather, Reuters headline news and, of course, a link to the company's online banking services.

The hope is that, much like MyNetscape and MyYahoo, users will customize these sites, keeping them as their home pages and keeping the bank's online service in front of their eyeballs as often as they hit the "home" icon.

Users stay at MyWay sites an average of 20 to 25 minutes per day, according to David Luff, vice president of enterprise solutions for MyWay, Andover, MA. "We're an enhancement to BankBoston's traditional marketing efforts. They have the ability to communicate with customers and solidify the brand 25 minutes a day instead of having them drop into a branch or sending them a direct marketing piece."

While these features are popular, offering this type of service is only advantageous if the company's main sites are well-constructed and customer friendly, according to Mark Hurst, president of Creative Good, New York, an e-commerce consulting and research firm.

"Obviously a lot of sites are [offering customized portals]," he said. "It's common practice. What companies need to remember is that these features should always be a secondary concern because if the basic site doesn't offer a good experience, the company won't gain much in offering a high-tech personalization experience."

To introduce consumers who may or may not be familiar with customizable portal sites, the company has launched MyWay Fantasy Getaway Sweepstakes from BankBoston and Fleet.

Upon registering for the personalized site, users are instantly entered into the sweepstakes. For every interest area they enter, such as the weather or stocks, the user receives another chance to win.

"The promotion 'incentivizes' them to use the MyWay sites as a home portal and an online banking site," said Peter Barnet, president of Promosis, Marblehead, MA, the promotion marketing agency that designed the sweepstakes. "It encourages them to explore the sites by giving them promotional offers to register as well as explore specific interest areas below the top level."

Banner ads promoting the sweepstakes and the new sites will run on both of the bank's home pages which reach 1.5 million visitors per month, according to Barnet. Additionally, banner ads will be placed on strategic regional news sites such as Boston.com.

Offline, a direct mail campaign will be sent to all of the company's existing online banking customers. Offline banking customers may also receive the mailing as "statement stuffers are not out of the question," said Barnet. The number of people targeted for the drop was not disclosed.

The sites were launched with six interest areas and should have 12 by the promotion's end on Dec. 20. Contestants can re-enter the sweepstakes daily.

Prizes, totaling $40,000, include a trip to Paris or Cancun, a Compaq laptop computer and a Sharper Image Getaway Massage Chair.
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