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Chieftains: Who Was Your Marketing Mentor?

By Dec 01, 2010

QUESTION: DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR IN THE MARKETING WORLD? WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HE/SHE TAUGHT YOU?

CHRIS DEMARTINE, DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, NEXTMARK INC.

I had two, Rick Wilson and Fran Green. Rick was my manager at Canon USA, where I was responsible for sales and marketing of digital office equipment solutions in the Southeast region. The most important thing he taught me was to “slow down.” In a fast-paced, competitive environment with low margins, it’s easy to burn out. In my late twenties, when I finally started to see the fruits of my labor, it was a little too late. I had decided to move on shortly after it “began to rain.” It was not the usual resignation, as I had left when commission checks were quadruple my average salary. All things worked together for good, as this transition led me to my next mentor, Fran Green. She was president of ALC Data Management in Princeton, NJ, where I managed an analytics team. While Rick had taught me to slow down, the data marketing industry was pressing me and my staff to speed up. Fran taught me that “better is better than best.” This was yet another tagline that I consistently remember. While it may sound like a contradiction, the point is valid. Focus simply on better — not best, and you’ll be better off.

MICHAEL SAWITZ, CEO, AIM MAIL CENTERS

I have been fortunate to have had several marketing mentors in my career, but the one who had the greatest impact on me was the first, Charlie Byrd. What I learned from him was the power of humor — especially, the ironic and the irreverent. It may have been that those are also two my personality traits (or flaws), but I have found that most human beings have time for a giggle no matter how rushed or stressed they are. Providing a humorous respite is usually reciprocated by attention to “the message.” If this quid pro quo is achieved, you have success. Thanks Charlie.

MELODY A. CAREY, FOUNDER/CO-PRESIDENT, RX COMMUNICATIONS GROUP

Nancy Lurker, CEO of PDI Inc., is one of my most influential mentors in the marketing industry. I learned from Nancy that key messages should be crisp, clear and concise. In other words, keep it short and simple. I can honestly say that both my firm and my clients have benefited by following her advice. Today’s society as a whole suffers from information overload. Consumers receive countless messages in multiple forms, yet without simplicity and clarity readers and/or viewers may absorb nothing. Many times after marketing documents have been reviewed and edited by the various channels of authority, I have found that my original message has disappeared within what I call B.O.V., or barrage of verbiage. At that point I reinstate the desired message in the first sentence and use the additional information to support the original intent. There should be no second guessing by the reader regarding the meaning. Say what you mean and then back it up with supporting themes.

LEE WEBER KOCH, PRESIDENT, WEBER & ASSOCIATES

My mentor, Brady Hodge (whom I have continued to be in contact with off and on for the past 30 years) was my first “real” boss in my career. He was the director of marketing for Heavenly Valley Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe, and I was his marketing assistant, making a whopping $2.50 an hour for drafting press releases, placing advertising and handling nationally televised NBC World Cup and celebrity ski events. It was my first 90-day review and he had a few things that he wanted me to improve on. I’ll never forget what he said: “Lee, you have the opportunity today, in the next two minutes, to improve in your career, or you can choose not to listen.” From that day forward, I learned how to accept advice (which felt like criticism at the time — remember, I was just out of college). That has been literally priceless for me to this day. Because of his mentoring and his gentle way of hinting on improvements that I “may” want make, I continue to be a better person.

GOT A QUESTION YOU’D LIKE TO POSE TO THE TOP MINDS IN THE INDUSTRY? Like to participate as a “Chieftain” yourself? E-mail brian.quinton@penton.com or beth.negus@penton.com.