Monday, August 18, 2008

What’s it like to be an ....Independent Consultant?

My job title is:  President/Owner
My actual position is (if this differs from job title): Independent Consultant at present time. 
What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
A normal day starts out with reviewing results of marketing programs from prior day/week. Review information reports from research or database analysis.  Review program results summaries from completed database marketing programs.  Review (and approve) pro forma ROI plans for upcoming direct marketing activities, including discussion of test plans and test investment.  Many days include meetings with product development (for research), line management (customer satisfaction measures), IT (for projects/problems being addressed) and direct marketing teams in Marketing.  Most weeks there is a meeting/update for senior managers.  Special projects require meetings with various members of senior and mid level managers.

Often I met with outside vendors to learn about new information available for the customer database, or new statistical techniques that can help group customers for improved marketing performance.


What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
Vice President, Customer Information, Ameritech (AT&T)
Sr. Vice President, Retail Distribution, First Bank Systems
Sr. Vice President, Citibank, Head of Marketing for Chicago, Head of Consumer Direct Marketing for US retail businesses
Various VP level positions within Citibank
AVP, Customer Information, NBD/JP Morgan Chase
Manager, Channel Marketing, PepsiCo
Various positions in research, Survey research Center, University of Michigan

After receiving my MBA I started in consumer products with PepsiCo.  This led to a position at NBD when banks were trying to improve their marketing talent and my research background plus Pepsi approach was appealing.  A mutual friend introduced me to Citibank and over 8 years held positions of increasing responsibility.  All had a link to the consumer – either from a learning perspective or an application perspective.  What makes consumers do what they do and how can it be influenced either through Marketing or Sales.  As I headed this function at Ameritech, I became thoroughly convinced that customer satisfaction directly influences future sales through database analysis.  I turned more of my time in consulting toward the use and maintenance of databases as critical elements of understanding and influencing customer behavior. 

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
My undergraduate degree was in Finance and Quantitative Methods.  I did not look for work in Finance after graduating.  Even though I worked in research for about 5 years before completing my MBA, the most beneficial aspect of the work was understanding what I learned in the MBA program from a real world perspective.

My MBA, however, was far more influential in preparation for my career choice.  First, it was from a top rated school (Univ of Michigan), which opened interview doors, and second it was in Marketing.  Learning about the field I intended to work in was critical.  The more statistics courses and practice you have, the better for Customer Information and Database Marketing.  Much of my learning about email, text and Internet marketing come from on-the-job, as these did not exist when I was in school. 

Learn the terms involved, especially for email marketing.

Qualifications:  curiosity, accuracy, attention to detail, honesty (especially important in interpreting results), ability to communicate and collaborate with others (especially when “bad” news needs to be communicated), good statistics/modeling and interpretation ability.  Project management is an important skill as well.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?

My rewards are in the learning and application of learning to solve business problems or improve business performance. 
A good day is finding something new, or a good (or even bad) result.  Good and bad results mean you should do more (or less) of something.  Results give you information to make decisions in the future.  I also like to find a new way to do something.  Much of my work involves classifying customers into types.  The more information we can find about a customer, the better the performance we expect to gain. 

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
This field is going to be in more and more demand.  It is very difficult to measure advertising results, but very easy to measure direct marketing results.  Profit pressures require higher and higher ROI results, which in turn require more data and more analysis of customers and programs.

More and more marketing applications are going to use technology.  Understanding how this technology can be used and measured will be critical.

How could a person find out more about your field?
There are several industry publications that I like:  Target Marketing, and DM News (which is free).  Talk with people in this field – look at Internet Marketing, Email Marketing, Sweepstakes, Telemarketing and Direct Mail marketing.  Attend the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) conference, or any of their training classes to learn more and meet people.

An industry organization that offers useful perspectives is Forrester Research.

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work? 
Yes, I realized many years later that I was always in Sales and Marketing.  I made posters to advertise an event, sold tickets, sold Girl Scout cookies, etc.  I especially remember promotions for theatrical productions in high school.  Plus I was good at planning and organizing projects (which is a large component of database marketing).

What was your first job like after college?
My first job was at the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.  At the time I didn’t realize how much this job would contribute to my overall love of consumer information.  I learned the basics of research – how to write objective questions, and the entire research process from sampling, questionnaire design, coding, interviewing techniques, and analysis.  Some of my customers were General Motors and the Federal Reserve Board.  These organizations were making important decisions based on the accuracy of our information, so I also came to appreciate rigorous application of proper techniques.



Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 08/18 at 01:23 PM

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