Lester Wunderman cofounded Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline in 1958. He was 38. Nine years later he coined the term direct marketing. It was a strategy he had been employing for customers since the late 1940s.
Fast forward to 2012, when 40 of the marketing industry's young stars are poised to make their own industry-changing impact. In fact, the 2012 Direct Marketing News 40 Under 40 winners have already left an indelible mark within their organizations and on the industry as a whole. They've launched initiatives that have helped to grow their companies. They've wowed clients with creative or strategic plans. And they've influenced the industry in numerous ways—from product launches to book releases to education and more.
This group of influential young leaders is shaping the industry in much the same way as
Wunderman did in his early days. Their work is helping to guide marketers in mastering such areas as integrating digital and social within their direct marketing initiatives, using Big Data to inform marketing decisions, and building customer loyalty at a time when customers have never been more promiscuous. Their stories are ones of determination, creativity, and adaptability.
Read on and be inspired. Click here to download a PDF of the full article as it appears in the November 2012 issue.
Lars Albright, Cofounder and CEO, SessionM
Winning ways: Albright and his team founded mobile ad network Quattro Wireless, which Apple acquired in 2010. Albright proceeded to tackle mobile advertising at Apple and played a critical role in launching Apple's mobile ad network iAd. Albright launched SessionM 2011, a platform that rewards and recognizes consumers for spending time on a mobile application or website. Clients include Fox Sports, Honda, Volvo, and The Weather Channel; many of SessionM's clients have seen click-through rates of about 20 times industry averages within one month.
Words to live by: “Stay positive, keep trying, and have fun.”
Good read: “It Worked for Me by Colin Powell [discusses] 13 mottos for dealing with life and situations…that really resonate with challenges you face as a CEO or…when building a company. Also, I'm reading the Little Blue Truck [by Alice Schertle] to my 20-month-old son, which actually has a great business lesson in it about the importance of treating people with respect and building friendships.”
Good advice: “Not only do you yourself have to feel comfortable with taking risks, but you also have to get your target customers comfortable with taking risks, and that's a big part of the battle.
Audrey Berger, Principal, Richards Relationship Marketing (The Richards Group)
Winning ways: After studying marketing and psychology at The College of William and Mary, Berger worked at Rapp Collins Worldwide, where she launched Javelin Direct and handled marketing initiatives for AT&T Communications and Bank of America. She moved on to Richards Relationship Marketing and was promoted to principal in 2011. She has worked on accounts for LPL Financial, Corner Bakery Cafe, and more.
Words to live by: “Henry Ford's, ‘If you think you can do a thing, or you think you can't, you're right.'”
Good read: “The Loyalty Leap by Bryan Pearson. The loyalty landscape is really changing, and I couldn't be happier. For years we've advised our clients on using data to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers. I think traditional points-based programs are passive and easily imitated by competitors—and loyalty is about so much more than purchase frequency.”
Good advice: “Challenge yourself to apply data-driven, customer-centric, and ROI fundamentals of direct marketing to nontraditional direct marketing channels. It will help uncover new integrated strategies and performance optimization.”
Jordan Bitterman, SVP and Social Marketing Practice Lead, Digitas
Winning ways: Bitterman launched Digitas's social marketing discipline, whose client work has won numerous awards. He plays a major role in both the development of the company's brand content offering and its NewFront event. He has a laser focus on tracking consumers' use of social channels, and then based on that, determining how clients can build social engagement for their brands. Before Digitas, Bitterman worked at Ammirati Puris Lintas, on such plum accounts as Bacardi, Dell, Sara Lee, and UPS. At age 26 Bitterman was promoted to SVP and became the youngest member of the company's New York operating board.
Words to live by: “Partner well. No marketing reaches its true potential in a vacuum, so partnerships with the right media and technology companies are critical.”
Good read: “Besides loving the way David Brooks writes, Bobos In Paradise inspired me to consider the audiences we engage with as being truly multifaceted. Marketing should appeal emotionally to people, not just rationally.”
Good advice: “Don't just think about your immediate job; success requires that you consider all of the roles that touch yours, as well.”
Katherine Black, SVP, dunnhumbyUSA
Winning ways: Black specializes in helping businesses become more customer-centric through customer data and analytics. At dunnhumbyUSA, Black steers the company's relationship with Macy's, and she headed the launch of the My Macy's initiative. Under dunnhumbyUSA's guidance of the initiative, Macy's profits increased 38% and online sales grew 34% in the first quarter of 2012. Additionally, Black assisted in leading dunnhumbyUSA's executive team in developing a new business strategy and operational metrics, which is currently in process. Black has also served as The Kroger Co.'s head of solutions and Fifth Third Bank's VP of direct marketing.
Words to live by: “There's a normative curve for everything, meaning there's a customer who behaves almost any way or a business partner who behaves almost any way…. There's a normative distribution on every behavior.”
Good read: “Management in 10 Words by Terry Leahy. The essence of what he writes about—that success for companies and teams starts with trust and with loyalty and builds from there—is just brilliant. It captures just good common sense, but it captures it brilliantly.”
Good advice: “Let the data be your guide. Trends will change over time.”
Heather Blank, VP of Strategic Services, Responsys
Winning Ways: With nearly 20 years of digital strategy development under her belt, Blank currently leads Responsys' 25-member Strategic Service team, which she helped to create upon joining Responsys in 2006. Before then, she served as a Responsys strategic consultant, but was promoted to lead the team after only a year based on her success helping clients to maximize results. She has worked with many Responsys customers, including Epson for whom Blank helped to increase return-per-email rates by 140%.
Words to live by: “Find the ‘seducible moment.' This is a term I coined that refers to the exact point when a consumer will convert because the marketing message has been delivered with exactly the right content, at the right moment, and in the right channel.”
Good read: “A Carrot a Day by Adrian Robert Gostick and Chester Elton, which talks about how small acts—as long as they are purposeful and frequent—of recognition are highly effective at increasing team morale and productivity. I decided to test out the theory and created Gold Star Alerts (inspired by my daughter's kindergarten class) for my teams.”
Good advice: “Find something you're passionate about. It is impossible to be successful if you aren't excited to get out of bed every day and go to work.”
Jeffrey Boorjian, Regional VP of Marketing, Eastern Division, Caesars Entertainment
Winning ways: Boorjian is one of the few marketing leaders to have grown property EBITDA for five consecutive years. He's responsible for boosting guest acquisitions by 17%. Over the past 12 months Boorjian worked alongside Caesars executives to create several direct marketing tests and strategies that have resulted in millions in profit enhancements.
Words to live by: “I would say that I approach everything with a ‘vision of excellence.' If I'm invested in something—whether it's a project, a team, or whatever the business challenge may be, or personal for that matter—I approach it with 100% rigor and expect an outstanding result.”
Good read: “When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. Give 100% to anything and everything you do. And if you do that…you feel a confidence that you did the best you could and you'll get the best outcome possible. You're not always going to win 100% of the time, but if you put yourself out there and commit to it 100%, from a team perspective, you can walk away exhausted but feeling good.”
Good advice: “Work as hard as you can, and value the importance of your teammates.”
Pete Deutschman, Founder and CEO, The Buddy Group
Winning Ways: Since launching digital engagement agency The Buddy Group in 2006, Deutschman has released more than 200 products across mobile, Web, and connected television platforms through the help of his team. Deutschman coined the term Connected14 in 2010—a précis of how 1-foot (distance between consumer and mobile device), 3-foot (laptop or tablet), and 10-foot (television) devices can blend with consumer engagement experiences. He also produced a CMS BUDeSYSTEM that powered YouTube channels for companies such as Google, American Express, and AARP.
Words to live by: “Paint the picture. For me, painting the picture is really [making] sure that you articulate what it is we're trying to accomplish so that everyone is on the same page.”
Good read: “The Last Season by Phil Jackson. What I found fascinating about [this book] was the dynamics that a coach has with his team and with the ownership, and how closely those dynamics resemble that of an agency.”
Good Advice: “When you do what you love, it's not a job. Don't go out there looking for a job. Go out there looking for the thing that has you excited and gets you excited.”
Nili Doft, Senior Director, Direct and Digital Marketing, National Hockey League
Winning ways: Doft has worked for the NHL for more than four seasons and has overseen direct-to-consumer subscriptions and e-commerce portfolios, which includes NHL GameCenter LIVE, Shop.NHL.com, and NHL Auctions. Doft secured a four-year CAGR of 70% in the number of subscriptions sold and 85% in direct-to-consumer revenue generated for NHL GameCenter Live. Before working for the NHL, Doft served as manager, consumer marketing, for Sports Illustrated, where she increased net subscription volume for SI.com by 45%. Doft also implemented targeted upselling and traditional marketing strategies to transform SI Cover Collection, which sells framed, commemorative Sports Illustrated covers, into a seven-figure company.
Words to live by: “Wayne Gretzky: ‘A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.'”
Good read: “The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, [which says] pay attention to things along the way.”
Good advice: “Measure everything. Do things, as much as you can, that are quantifiable so you can see what things move the needle and what things don't.”
Paul Elliott, Managing Partner, Retail & Consumer Products, Rosetta
Winning ways: Elliott found himself at Rosetta after the search agency he founded, eMergent Marketing, was acquired by Brulant, which was subsequently acquired by Rosetta. Because of Elliott's expertise, Rosetta has been recognized as the top full-service agency in search marketing by Forrester, and is a top-four search agency overall. Prior to the acquisition, Rosetta had no search expertise. Elliott's strategies directly resulted in several new accounts, as well as 20% growth in the retail vertical since 2010.
Words to live by: “Vince Lombardi's ‘Winning is not a sometime thing, it's an all-the-time thing.' I grew up playing organized sports all through college. Business has been an extension of team play.”
Good read: “The Edge, [compiled] by a wrestling coach [Howard E. Ferguson] from a local school in Ohio, is filled with motivational sports quotes. As I've moved into a number of different roles at Rosetta, each time I have a challenge with building teams or taking on leadership, it's helpful with each new opportunity.”
Good advice: “Find the element that motivates. It's about understanding the inner drivers of the person you're hoping to sell to.”
Glenn Forde, SVP of Digital, TPG, an Omnicom company
Winning ways: TPG tapped Forde to create a digital marketing team, which Forde grew to 14 people and expanded its capabilities to include analytics, link building, paid search, and SEO. His focus on ROI and measurable initiatives at Draft Worldwide helped to develop Avis's first CRM program; at i-Traffic he created response-oriented campaigns for clients such as Experian and Sporting News; and at McCann Erickson he managed Johnson & Johnson's integrated CRM programs. That same focus at Razorfish helped him build a search team from four to 21 and grow revenue 400%.
Words to live by: “‘In God we trust; all others must bring data,' by W. Edwards Deming. My personal motto: Work hard, love what you do, and be nice.”
Good read: “In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg delved deep into habits and how you can leverage or tweak them for business. A section on Claude Hopkins, who launched Pepsodent in the early 1900s through advertising, was impressive. It was amazing and game-changing for business and for people's health.”
Good advice: “Find something that you're passionate about and become really good at it; don't try to be all things to all people.”
Marc Ginsberg, EVP of Merchant Services, Cardlytics
Winning ways: In just two years Ginsberg managed to grow Cardlytics' retail organization from 15 to more than 250 people and lock down national and local advertisers for PNC and Bank of America. Ginsberg and his team create direct marketing programs with more than 2,000 local retailers and more than 50 of the top 200 retailers in the U.S. Ginsberg built an analytics team to mine bank transaction data for retailers. The data provides insight into retailer-specific opportunities at the household level and measures marketing effectiveness. As the general manager for DirectTV, he helped the company increase revenue by 67%, profit by 93%, and locations by 67%.
Words to live by: “Hope is not a strategy.”
Good read: “Hope Is not a Strategy by Rick Page. It's about being proactive….It talks about understanding the needs, the problems, and the goals of your clients. I talk to people a lot about [not] understanding the needs of your clients…, which in the medical field would be malpractice. In our field, it's just bad selling or bad execution.”
Good advice: “Think about solutions not problems. It's always easy to point out all the issues, but thinking through the issues and being the person who thinks through opportunity, I think is valuable.”
Aaron Goldman, CMO, Kenshoo
Winning ways: Goldman has helped Kenshoo drive a 300% increase in qualified sales leads, contributing to a five-year revenue growth of 5,926%. He overhauled Kenshoo's marketing approach with companywide best practices and hard metrics, which have helped clients attain $25 billion in annual online sales revenue. Previously, he launched search engine marketing agency Resolution Media, growing the company from eight employees to more than 100—with $200 million in annual media billings—and landing major clients including Apple, Bank of America, and PepsiCo. The agency was acquired and integrated by Omnicom.
Words to live by: “It's not what you know. It's not who you know. It's who knows you.”
Good read: “What Got You Here Won't Get You There [by Marshall Goldsmith and Shane Clester]. The premise is that just because you've had success in your career doesn't mean that the things you've experienced are the reason for your success. So stop and assess what you need to keep doing or do more of versus stop doing.”
Good advice: “Take nothing for granted. The littlest things make the biggest difference, from the tactical level when you're planning to when you're executing. And take those extra moments to pat someone on the back when they're doing something right.”
Michael Gullaksen, SVP and Managing Director, Covario
Winning ways: Gullaksen has helped build Covario's agency team from the ground up, helping lead a strategic shift into search marketing for an agency that was known as a search analytics software provider. He and his team enhanced service offerings, increasing average client engagement size by 150%, which contributed to a 39% year-over-year growth in Q4 of 2009. This catalyzed 50%-plus growth in early 2010. In 2011 Gullaksen helped Covario grow to nearly $26 million. Currently, he oversees search and social strategies for clients such as IBM, Nikon, Samsung, T-Mobile, and Wells Fargo.
Words to live by: “People like to do business with people they like. Relationships in business are critical.”
Good read: “Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips. People talk about Lincoln being one of the greatest leaders in history, and about the traits that defined him. He was very open with people, always had an open door. The better you are at communicating, the better your business is run.”
Good advice: “Work hard and earn respect. I think perception is reality, and if people perceive you as being hard working, in reality it will benefit you. [Also,] try not to believe that you're owed anything by anyone. You have to earn everything.”
Winning ways: As the architect of numerous relationship marketing programs, Hartkorn uses a firm analytics backing to develop campaigns that combine brand marketing and customer behavior, while offering continuous refinement as each program evolves based on changing external trends. For instance, she smoothed out one client's email execution issues via a dynamic and automated email generation solution. Over the past several years she has managed one of the largest pharmaceutical engagements for Harte-Hanks' The Agency Inside. Due to her success, she was appointed to her current position.
Words to live by: “Make it happen.”
Good read: “Jon Roska's Ducks in the Henhouse. It helped me choose my career path. Jon's theory at the time was that brand marketers are about the sexiness of advertising. Direct marketers are more about ROI and the numbers.”
Good advice: “Never be afraid to speak up with a question or your opinion. That was one of the things I learned early on. I always paid attention and made sure I was relevant. Over time, my opinions now have more weight.”
Ashley Johnston, VP of Marketing, Experian Marketing Services
Winning Ways: In the past two fiscal years Johnston has helped drive double-digit revenue growth and more than $400 million in annual revenue. She has also helped streamline the organization by bringing five different company brands into the Experian Marketing Services portfolio, which helped the company save multimillions of marketing dollars and better positioned the organization for growth.
Words to live by: “Gandhi's ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.'”
Good read: “The Paradox of Choice [by Barry Schwartz]. As a society we've never had so many choices and options, but at the same time have never been so dissatisfied. I translate that into marketing. You want the relevant choices in the options, but you don't want to overwhelm.”
Good advice: “Be flexible. Don't be afraid to redefine the rules, especially now. Things are constantly changing and evolving. You have to be open and adaptable, especially as marketers, because our brands are depending on us. Ten years ago marketers owned the message. We don't own the message anymore and we have to give up some control to have that control.”
Scott Kellerman, EVP and Partner, Media Horizons
Winning ways: Kellerman, who joined Media Horizons as a summer intern, now oversees some of its largest clients, including Bose, GreatCall/Jitterbug, and Lifestyle Lift. Currently, he leads a team of 15 direct marketing professionals. Despite the economic downturn, Scott grew his client billings by more than 20% per year and oversaw the creation of the company's data and analytics group, as well as the introduction of proprietary data and analytics tools. Kellerman has introduced new products in both direct and retail markets, resulting in ROIs that exceed initial forecasts.
Words to live by: “Work hard, work smart.”
Good read: “Million Dollar Mailings by Denison Hatch. The book was written quite a while ago, before we had all this technology, but some of the basic premises, such as the statistical viability of testing, still hold true today.”
Good advice: “Spend your time learning the numbers. Direct marketing is a numbers game. I learned from the originators of the direct marketing industry, [who] taught me the old-fashioned way: entering figures with a pencil into ledgers. There are so many automated tools today….But sometimes I feel what gets lost is the art behind it. It's all about spending time with the numbers. That's how you learn.”
Jessica Kernan, Chief Strategy Officer, RAPP
Winning ways: Kernan's a trailblazer—not only is she helping RAPP redefine direct marketing and CRM, she's changing how high-profile RAPP clients like Toyota and Bank of America use those strategies and tools. She was instrumental in helping launch Behavioral CRM, the agency's proprietary platform-based CRM offering, and took lead on the creation of the Dynamo Platform, a joint venture between Annalect and RAPP designed to flip the script on how digital media is considered, bought, and measured. Kernan inspires RAPP's strategy and enablement team to action, effectively shaping and defining the company to both internal and external audiences.
Words to live by: “Either you win or you learn. I lean forward into everything I do, knowing there are only two possible outcomes and they're both good.”
Good read: “A book that has inspired my success…there are so many—The Fountainhead [by Ayn Rand] probably most of all. Howard Roark's belief that individuals propel societal progress, and his mission to stay true to himself despite the pressures around him, those messages really ring for me.”
Good advice: “Find people who are willing to take a chance on you and give them a reason to do it.”
Jeremy Kinder, Associate Partner and Group Creative Director, Rosetta
Winning ways: Kinder became Group Creative Director at only 32. He serves as the creative lead on Fortune 500 accounts including Dannon, Farmers Insurance, Forest Laboratories, OfficeMax, and JPMorgan Chase. He helped Rosetta grow its revenues from one such account by 300% in 2011. At his previous job at agency Ideocracy, Kinder served on a four-person team that developed a reality show for its client Adecco Staffing, to grow business within the 18-to-24 demographic. The show, FutureMe—which was picked up by MTV—gave Adecco free airtime and a 500% increase in recruiting via the company's website.
Words to live by: “Luck favors the prepared.”
Good read: “Truth in Comedy [by Charna Halpern]. It's about the rules of improvising, and that's the same as the rules of creativity. It's a great lesson on rules of engagement and creativity. [For instance], you don't want to be the person who walks into a brainstorm and says ‘No' to everything. That hits he brakes on creativity. Every idea has potential.”
Good advice: “Keeping it simple is always the best solution. If you stick with the simple human truths, the ones that are common that we can all agree on, you won't have a problem.”
Garth Knutson, Account Director, Wong Doody Crandall Wiener (WDCW)
Winning Ways: Knutson left Wunderman for agency Wong Doody Crandall Wiener (WDCW), where he began his career nine years ago as an intern. He made the decision to return anticipating that the experience at a smaller firm would better prepare him to one day run his own agency. While at Wunderman, he supervised engagement with Microsoft and was responsible for some of its multimillion-dollar campaigns. He used direct response best practices and innovation strategies to deliver twice the anticipated attendees for Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 2011 virtual launch event.
Words to live by: “Often the relationships within your agency are just as important as your client relationships.”
Good read: “Pat Doody, who founded Wong Doody, said that anybody who buys The Success Principles [by Jack Canfield] can expense it. I left his company because I got all riled up about how being successful means taking your career and life into your own hands. I left as an account exec and came back as an account director with digital skills I learned from Wunderman.”
Good advice: “Meet as many people in the industry as possible.”
Frank Magnera, Account Director and Team Lead, Catalyst
Winning ways: Magnera is taking B2B marketing and turning it on its head, bringing a creative, results-focused, client-centric vibe to everything he does. His integrated work for Eastman Kodak, in particular— which used PURLs, social media, email, Web, and of course, direct mail—produced a 23% lead rate for the brand. Magnera's B2B lead nurturing drip and pipeline development program has been adopted by Kodak Worldwide.
Words to live by: “In business—as in life—we are consumers first.”
Good read: “The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Change happens rapidly and unexpectedly and one small alternation can have a profound impact. I do believe that individuals can be positive forces for change and create their own tipping points—and that as marketers, we can generate tipping points through our ideas and campaigns—creating social epidemics, if you will.”
Good advice: “Work begets work. Do the work and jump into everything with both feet. Be committed and execute with passion—because it matters. Direct marketing isn't always sexy, but plug away and show your client something they didn't know before. Good work, executed passionately, pays off.”
Alexander Mahernia, Managing Partner and Executive Creative Director, North America, Rosetta
Winning ways: In 2010 Rosetta acquired LEVEL Studios, a company valued at $110 million that Mahernia helped build. Mahernia now manages and supports 150 people, overseeing design, customer experience, video motion graphics, ad copy, and studio operations. He has the ability to combine technology with design to enhance user experience and engagement. Ultimately, he has either led or significantly contributed to nearly every pitch at Rosetta, and his notable account wins include RIM and Sony.
Words to live by: “What I was given, I made better; what I made better, I then improved; and what I improved, I strive to perfect.”
Good read: “The book that stuck with me is Around the World in 80 Days. Out of literature comes imagination and the way Jules Verne described every piece of equipment, every environment, I as a reader was in the middle of his worlds. I've carried that vision with me into every one of my pitches.”
Good advice: “Choose a path. Create a destination or point of gravity for consumers to follow, or follow others and learn by mistakes. You have to define your path and decide.”
Click the image above for 40 under 40 candids.
Brendan McKenna, Creative Director, Ryan Partnership
Winning ways: Ryan Partnership originally hired McKenna to run the CRM and acquisition programs for AT&T U-verse. But his TV and publishing experience prompted the company to put him on the Adidas and TuneIn accounts, as well. He has spearheaded the creative efforts on winning pitches for American Express and Google. He developed the concept for the interactive U-Guide tablet magazine for AT&T and acts as its editor-in-chief and design director. His influence even extends to the NFL: A iPad app he built for Adidas's sponsorship group was instrumental in convincing Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III to sign a personal endorsement deal with the brand.
Words to live by: “‘Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful,' [according to] Dieter Rams.”
Good read: “A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, because this industry is absurd, but it's a fun ride. It also reminds me of my Southern roots.”
Good advice: “Don't let the first job you get dictate where your career is headed. If you don't like it, make a change and make it fast.”
Mike Moradian, Founder & CEO, CollegeBudget.com
Winning ways: Age is just a number—but sometimes it's a very low number. Moradian's just 27, and for the past four years he's been revolutionizing the youth marketing industry. CollegeBudget.com is more than a discount site or a marketing platform; it's a personalization engine that reaches two million customers nationwide with direct, individual offers. Under his guidance, CollegeBudget has fostered partnerships with American Apparel, Skype, and other large corporations, and led his company to millions in sales in its first year. And direct is in his blood: Moradian is personally responsible for leading his company's direct and database marketing initiatives.
Words to live by: “Anything is possible. Things can change up or down quickly. Believe anything is possible and a person will both dream bigger and analyze risks and threats more acutely.”
Good read: “Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh provided me with deeper insight into the value of corporate culture, both in the eyes of your company and in the eyes of your customers.”
Good advice: “Make sure to try something new every day and learn something new every day.”
Angel Morales, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Smarter Remarketer
Winning ways: Morales has the technical aptitude and expertise needed to envision new solutions to marketing problems. But more than that, he creates solutions that simplify, allowing clients to painlessly access and use new technologies. His company Smarter Remarketer, which in just two years went from a one-employee operation working from Morales's basement to a company with nearly 40 brand name clients, is a perfect example. His service helps clients make meaningful sense of their data to target relevant customers. It's the kind of thing that makes direct marketers want to dance.
Words to live by: “The difference between inspiration and innovation is the path to monetization.”
Good read: “These days my reading is tactical. I'm usually looking for answers to my next product challenge. Currently, I'm reading a collection of books to help define social data opportunities through productized business intelligence models. One example is Social Media Metrics [by Jim Sterne].”
Good advice: “Surround yourself with the best talent you can find and continue to learn from them at every step in your career.”
Eric Pakurar, Executive Director, Head of Strategy, G2 USA
Winning ways: Pakurar is 37, but he's already had 12 years in the industry—and they're 12 years well-spent. Since joining G2 USA in 2010, he's become an integral thought leader to the firm, overseeing all strategic planning initiatives in the U.S. and helping to shape the agency's vision for the future. He's also had a palpable impact on its pitch/win ratio, which reached an impressive 47% in 2011. And G2 USA's client roster is nothing to sniff at; it includes Ally Bank, PlayStation, Sony, and Weight Watchers.
Words to live by: “My favorite quote comes from Charles Kettering, the guy who invented the electrical starting car motor, the first aerial missile, leaded gasoline, and Freon: ‘A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.'”
Good read: “A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. It's a work of fiction, not a business book, but there's no one better at picking exactly the right word and at packing a truckload of emotion into just scraps and fragments of sentences.”
Good advice: “As you're sitting there writing a creative brief for whatever you have to make—whether it's a mobile app or a number 10 envelope—have an eye on the bigger picture.”
Michael Peterman, CEO, VeraData
Winning ways: While the economy was headed south, Peterman was helping VeraData grow. Starting with zero dollars in revenue three-and-a-half years ago, the company brought millions in revenue in the past year alone, qualifying it as an Inc. 500 company. Peterman's business model is simple: provide a 17% reduction in the cost of client acquisition for every single business on his client roster. It's a goal Peterman has accomplished.
Words to live by: “Put yourself in the customer's place, do good, help others, work hard.”
Good read: “The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump. I hesitate to admit it, but I read it in high school and for whatever reason, it inspired me. Back then he has a different kind of influence and cachet. At 16 years old that was what I wanted to be. Say what you will about Trump, he knows how to market and build a brand.”
Good advice: “As I tell my VeraData team, we change how our industry markets. Any business sector needs future leaders to change how things are done. Read everything you can. Keep your mind-set on the edge of the industry, always looking ahead. Actively participate in the Direct Marketing Association on a council and seek out relationships with industry veterans to constantly learn as much as you can.”
Jodi Robinson, SVP, Marketing, Digitas
Winning Ways: In her 13 years with Digitas, Robinson has taken the lead on client relationships across a spectrum of verticals—everything from CPG to automotive. Leading a team of more than 150 professionals, she runs the consumer business for top-tier clients, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in the past 10 years—more than half of which was in the past two years alone. In addition to taking an active role in Digitas's mentor program, Robinson is responsible for designing client GM's cross-brand lead management email program and for creating a sales force automation tool for a top financial services company.
Words to live by: “You can only be as good as your team is.”
Good read: “Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It highlights how change within your organization—and in life, in general—is hard and why. Yet our brands and our abilities are like muscles and can be strengthened with practice. But just like many things in life, you have to be emotionally invested in that change. It's a reminder about how knowledge alone is not enough to motivate change.”
Good advice: “Focus less time on trying to prove that you're great, and spend more time making the people around you great.”
Dan Roitman, Founder and CEO, Stroll
Winning ways: What's the Pimsleur Approach? Before Roitman, it was an all-but-forgotten language learning tool. Today it's the second best-selling product in its category. Roitman started Stroll—an e-commerce platform specializing in marketing educational products that brought in $35 million last year—in his dorm room, leveraging $70,000 in credit card debt as seed capital. He deftly used direct response methods and a data-driven approach to transform Pimsleur into a product that's now taking market share from Rosetta Stone. Stroll hired 80 employees last year and plans to hire more.
Words to live by: “Small incremental improvements made over time snowball into huge results.”
Good read: “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got by Jay Abraham opened my eyes to the idea of not leaving any stone unturned in a business. There's never a lack of opportunity to scale a business rapidly—only a lack of ideas, which can often be solved by borrowing good ideas from other industries.”
Good advice: “Trade best practices with every proven marketer you meet to hone your intuition about what works so you're hitting home runs more frequently and with greater consistency than everyone else.”
Tim Ross, President, SolutionSet
Winning Ways: At the vanguard of implementing social technologies, Ross has taken SolutionSet—part of the Hyper Marketing network—in just three-and-a-half years and built it into one of the fastest-growing digital agencies in the U.S. In addition to growing revenue from $19 million in 2010 to $36 million in 2011, under his watch SolutionSet has produced innovative work for all the company's major accounts, including Cisco, Genentech, Nike, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
Words to live by: “The quality of your people and your services are important, but the market you choose to be in matters more.”
Good read: “The Person and The Situation by Lee Ross and Richard E. Nisbett. My father wrote an influential social psychology book about how the context we're in influences the way we behave and think. Malcolm Gladwell called it ‘the book that changed my life' and it has had that type of influence on how I think and manage.”
Good advice: “Marketing will increasingly reward those who can think across disciplines, so seek out opportunities to do more than just your job. Invest in your career by learning other domains, even if that means working extra hours and no additional pay.”
Zihla Salinas, Chief Development Officer, U.S., RAPP
Winning ways: Salinas has taken her knack for articulating and defining cogent strategies and put it into practical play at RAPP, where she's been instrumental in recent high-profile client acquisitions for the agency's L.A. office, notably Disney, Gerber, and Nestlé. But while strategy is a passion, so is the creative process and relationship building.
Words to live by: “I have two favorite quotes that sum up my business philosophy: ‘Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia,' [by Charles Schulz]; and, ‘Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus' [by Martin Luther King Jr.].”
Good read: “Blink by Malcolm Gladwell taught me that what we do is both rigorous and instinctual. As much as we would like to think that every decision is logic driven, the truth is, people are complex. To motivate clients and teams, you have to know how to navigate the complexities of human nature.”
Good advice: “Given today's technology landscape, the only limitations you will face will be your own lack of curiosity and creativity. Approach every challenge with passion, remembering that there is always a way forward.”
Avi Savar, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Big Fuel
Winning ways: A former TV producer for Good Morning America and VH1, Savar started Big Fuel in 2004. His mission was to bring storytelling to branding, and he produced hundreds of “webisodes” for the likes of Bacardi, Clorox, and Nutrisystem. Over the past two years Big Fuel grew from 20 to 140 employees as revenues increased by 600%. In 2011 Publicis Groupe acquired Big Fuel and propelled it to worldwide prominence as a social media agency. Savar stepped down as CEO to assume his current role as creative chief, after deciding to “delegate the business to the people who are good at that and go back to doing the things that I love to do.”
Words to live by: “‘Comfort is the enemy of growth.' I have some other favorites, too: ‘Successful people do what unsuccessful people don't.' and ‘What would you do if you weren't afraid?'”
Good read: “Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. [The book is] about how to tell stories that stick and are memorable and how to connect to audiences from a brand perspective.”
Good advice: “Don't do a job if you're not passionate about it.”
David Selinger, CEO and Cofounder, RichRelevance
Winning ways: At 26 Selinger was recruited by Amazon to head up personalization R&D. His vision for what is now the world's biggest e-commerce player was to monetize the site in a way that enhances, instead of diminishes, the online shopping experience. The approach he pioneered for the company to use data to drive real-time decisions online has become the foundation for a billion-dollar industry in analytics and optimization. In 2006 Selinger founded RichRelevance with a vision of delivering retailers results by wrapping consumers in customized personal experiences online. The company today serves six of the top 10 U.S. online retailers, delivering more than 350 million recommendations each day. RichRelevance takes credit for registering $5 billion in attributable sales to date for clients the likes of Sears and Target. This is the second 40 Under 40 list Selinger made this year, the first being that of the San Francisco Business Times.
Words to live by: “My father said, ‘Integrity is defined by the decisions you make when no one is watching.'”
Good read: “Good to Great by Jim Collins.”
Good advice: “Listen to your gut, but follow the data.”
Jason Sutterfield, COO, Campfire
Winning ways: At only 33 years old, Sutterfield has nearly 20 years of digital experience. A self-taught Internet developer as a high school student in the early 1990s, he built a reputation as a pioneer in building effective digital teams. He joined Campfire in 2010 to help create digital campaigns for Audi, Harley-Davidson, HBO, and Snapple, among other brands. Little more than a year later he was named a partner and COO based on his acumen for winning new business and recruiting top talent. His efforts have resulted in a more agile creative company that uses storytelling, social media, and cross-platform engagement to launch products and change perceptions.
Words to live by: “‘Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be,'” by Coach John Wooden.”
Good read: “I turn to a range of sources rather than a single guiding book or philosophy. My responsibilities cover a tremendous amount of understanding of topics… so I read a lot of blogs and follow individual experts covering [different] topics.”
Good advice: “Work hard, but be patient. Your achievements will be noticed, but not always as quickly as you expect. Earn the respect of your peers. Seek out ways to learn from the people and situations around you.”
Jason Tabeling, Partner, Business Unit Leader, Search and Media, Rosetta
Winning ways: Tabeling was selected in January to head Rosetta's 125-person search and media team; he was chosen following a competitive selection process that included both internal and external candidates. He helped grow Rosetta's search and media business by 30% in 2012. These efforts resulted in $5 million in new revenue. He also restructured the career path for employees seeking internal advancement. The search and media group at Rosetta thus has the highest rate of retention for both staff and clients.
Words to live by: “‘The road to success is always under construction.' My great aunt gave it to me. She cut it out of the paper when I was maybe nine years old.”
Good read: “Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It's about why some ideas stick and some don't. [The ideas in the book] help us know why clients might not understand what we're telling them, [and] helps us better get our point across.”
Good advice: “Find your passion. In our business, the people who read and spend time thinking about their clients' problems because they're interested in the subject matter do the best. Those that aren't don't last that long. I find myself…, pulling data, pulling reports, chopping it up, just because I'm interested in it.”
Ryan Tuttle, COO, BrightWave Marketing
Winning ways: Tuttle became involved in digital marketing at college and turned the experience into a stint at TBS as an interactive marketing producer promoting TV movies and episodic shows. After three years he took a job at a small email tech company and found a different side of direct. He joined BrightWave two years ago, instituted a targeted sales approach that resulted in a shorter sales cycle, and helped the company to a 50% revenue increase in 2011. In short order he was promoted to COO.
Words to live by: “Colonel Owens, a mentor at the military school I attended, said, ‘If you're going to be successful, you've got to know two things: Who your bosses are and how to give them what they want.' Some people go about their business and have not identified the stakeholders or what it is they truly want.”
Good read: “Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's a sci-fi book about a guy learning to fight in zero gravity. It's inspired by the first fighter pilots who had to be able to react in three dimensions. Pilots who could think that way were successful; linear-thinking ones were not. I like to use examples from the book to inspire my team.”
Good advice: “Don't be afraid to ask questions. Identify the real problem.”
Jenny Vance, President, LeadJen
Winning Ways: A three-sport athlete at DePauw University, Vance started her working life in sports management and vowed she would do anything but inside sales. Things can often change, however, when one finds a different way to look at them. Jenny found herself doing inside sales at a small company in Indiana and, born competitor that she is, looked to devise an edge. She found one, it worked, and it led her to launch her own lead generation business for sales organizations. One of LeadJen's key clients, First Databank, reports that 43% of appointments set by LeadJen over a three-year period converted to sales. Vance is now adding a social media component that helps clients develop leads through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Words to live by: “A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.'”
Good read: “The book I rely on most is the Bible. It provides me with a strong ethical background and helps me as a young business owner.”
Good advice: “Find something in everyday life and continually ask the question, ‘How can it be better?' Don't be a business owner for the sake of owning a business. Start something you're passionate about.”
Mike Volpe, CMO, HubSpot
Winning ways: Volpe started blogging and exploring social media in 2007 and has since drawn a community of more than a million to HubSpot, which has been singled out by Forbes and Inc. as one of the most dynamic software companies in America. In the past five years his efforts helped take HubSpot's revenues from nothing to $50 million and its workforce from five to 300-plus. Volpe and his 25-person team's practice of inbound marketing generates some 53,000 new leads every month, and untold members of sales and marketing community are eager to learn how they do it. He has some 40,000 followers on Twitter. Volpe has presented at more than 50 industry events in recent years, generally drawing thousands of registrants to his webinars.
Words to live by: “Build your own marketing assets, don't rent attention from someone else.”
Good read: “The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. It is a classic and will be the ‘Ogilvy on Advertising' of our generation.”
Good advice: “Learn as much as you can about inbound, content, and context marketing. During your career the customer will gain complete control. You will no longer be able to buy attention; you will need to earn attention by becoming what your customers are interested in.”
John Wernz, EVP and CMO, Wealth Enhancement Group
Winning Ways: Wernz is the first marketer ever to join senior management at the Wealth Enhancement Group. His 30-person team uses a model he developed to drive business to advisors that also helps to maintain the company's 97% client retention rate. Earlier, Wernz was chief advertising officer at Marketing Architects, where he helped create a method to better target radio audiences.
Words to live by: “Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent….”
Good read: “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute…tells how to understand our own psychological processes to realize your greatest potential.”
Good advice: “Don't confuse tactics for strategy. In a landscape changing as quickly as direct marketing, the rules may change, but the fundamentals don't.
Angeline Yeo, VP, Account Management, Ryan Partnership
Winning ways: Whether orchestrating emerging media trials for a Facebook app with Microsoft Office users or employing gamification to create excitement about a public utility like PG&E, Yeo can be found at the center of critical development for clients and marketing. She has had a meaningful impact during her short tenure with Ryan Partnership. After helping achieve an 18% boost in account activity and an 11% revenue increase for one client's CRM business, Yeo was asked to evolve the marketing mix for AT&T and create a new messaging framework for USAA.
Words to live by: “David Ogilvy said, ‘If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.'”
Good read: “In Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy had good insights on management and personal growth that I apply today. Others include Good to Great by Jim Collins and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.”
Good advice: “Take risks and don't be afraid to try new things and fail, no matter how scary and daunting it may seem.”
Sumant Yerramilly, GM, Platform Products, Compass Labs
Winning ways: When Yerramilly was a student at the University of Illinois, he and a friend had the idea to put credit card terminals showing video ads in taxi cabs. They had no technology, so they used a digital picture frame for their demo. Yerramilly showed up 10 days in a row at the Boston taxi commissioner's office before a sympathetic admin let him in. The commissioner made it mandatory in Boston cabs, and Yerramilly and his pal ended up selling their first company before their 20th birthdays. He moved on to Compass Labs, where he led the initiative for Compass Labs IQ (CLIQ), a social media campaign management and insights platform that now runs social ad campaigns for Febreze, IKEA, and Walmart.
Words to live by: “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” by Samuel Goldwyn.
Good read: “The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Essentially, his idea is to execute quickly. Start with a minimally viable product. Just get something together and sell it. That's what happened with us.”
Good advice: “I would tell young people that time is on your side. Spend more time reading and learning about the industry than partying with your friends.”