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Welcome to ‘Leadership’

AMA Boston Hosts Regional AMA Leadership Retreat

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

As president of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association, it was my pleasure to welcome representatives from several other chapters from the Northeastern Region.  Our guests included representatives from the New York Capital Region Chapter,  the Rochester New York Chapter, the New Jersey Chapter and the Hartford Connecticut Chapter.

On Friday evening, Amy Quigley, Maryanne Spillane McInturf, Keith Laferrier and Jim Gallant, members of the Board of Directors from the Boston Chapter, entertained our guests over dinner at the Tavern on the Water in Charlestown.

Tavern on the water, Charlestown, MA

On Saturday, we met at the Constitution Inn in Charlestown for an all day conference with work sessions guided by special guests, Michele DeKinder-Smith from Tampa, Florida and Karen Stone from Nashville, Tennessee. Both Michele and Karten are successful past presidents of their local chapters and accomplished leaders of the Professional Chapters Council, for the American Marketing Association.

The purpose of  the leadership retreat was to bring several chapter leaders together from around the regionso we could support each other and exchange ideas. It was good to see old friends and to participate in such a productive meeting.

Leadership Retreat Attendees

Market Research Hall of Famer Gives Insights on Marketing Consulting

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Kevin ClancyKevin J. Clancy, Ph. D., CEO of Copernicus Marketing Consulting, was recently awarded the prestigious Market Research Council’s Market Research Hall of Fame award. Clancy has co-authored seven business books, including his latest, Your Gut Is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head. Clancy gave a presentation to the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association earlier this year. I recently asked him to give his perspectives on obtaining high-quality marketing work.

QUESTION: According to your book, Your Gut is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head, there is currently an interest in marketing “from your gut,” and you strongly endorse marketing with marketing science. In the many years that you have been working in marketing consulting, has it been your observation that this trend has been gradually evolving and now people are really interested in the “marketing from your gut” idea? Or do you believe this is fad?

CLANCY: I see a definite trend, and I see a trend in two dimensions happening simultaneously. One, I see a trend toward more and more gut marketing, and I see a trend toward greater and greater marketing ineffectiveness. And they’re related, they’re causally related.

QUESTION: When a company needs to hire a marketing consulting firm, what questions should be asked to ascertain whether or not the firm is going to be producing high-quality work?

CLANCY: The first question that I would ask if I were looking for a marketing consulting firm, I would ask somebody to show me their case histories, to tell me about their case histories of marketing success. We have a lot of case histories of what I call transformational marketing. By transformational marketing I mean strategies which change brand trajectories, career paths, they sometime change entire companies and even sometimes industries—that’s a transformational strategy. So I would ask, give me an example of great case histories. Don’t just give me a presentation. I want to read something, I want to see it in writing. Because I believe if you put something in writing, it’s more likely for it to be true than if you simply talk about it. Second, I would ask whether the principals of the company are going to be involved in the engagement. For example, if you go to McKinsey for a marketing consulting project, they have a large marketing consulting practice, but the people who actually do the work are junior associates. They are people who know very little about marketing. They are kids who are fresh out of MBA programs and don’t have much experience. And they are the ones who are billing all the hours in marketing consulting. The third thing I would ask is to share with me the proprietary tools you use in your practice to develop these transformational programs. Do you have unique approaches, or are you just like everybody else?

QUESTION: If they do have unique approaches, how do you know that these approaches are effective?

CLANCY: In part because of the other two things. But in part, I am assuming in my organization I have people who can differentiate between really good stuff and not so good stuff. So I would ask people in my firm, maybe it’s the manager, maybe the director of research, or the head of IT. It all depends. But I would ask some serious people in my firm to make a serious appraisal of these proprietary tools. I would then go on to the fourth point. That is, I would ask the firm for examples of academic papers or published presentations relating to their tools that would help persuade me that they are serious people. Now a lot of companies start today by asking questions about costs. “What do you charge and how long will it take to get this done?” I think those are dumb questions. The question you want to answer is do I have a company that is proficient to accomplish the objective for which I am hiring it for.

QUESTION: When you hire other companies to work for you, what do you look for? Let’s say that you hire somebody to collect data for you. How do you know if the companies that you are hiring will do the work accurately, proficiently and thoroughly?

CLANCY: First, we don’t look for companies very often because we have a relationship with a number of firms. That goes back to the origins of Copernicus 14 years ago. I’m dealing with the same firms all the time. But if a firm came along and had an exciting new data collection methodology, we would spend our money to test them. We would give the firm a problem to work on, we would give them a sample questionnaire, a sample sampling plan, and we would treat it as if it were a real-world assignment. But it wouldn’t be. It would be an assignment just for us. We would take a test drive—at our own expense.

QUESTION: With regard to managing your own firm, how do you make sure that the people in your own firm continually produce a high-quality product? When you bring people in, what do you look for?

CLANCY: We have a set of criteria, that’s down on paper for every position that we hire at our company. So we know what we’re looking for. For example, at a junior level, we’re looking for either a Ph.D., an M.S. or an M.B.A. in marketing or some related discipline like psychology or sociology. And the person should be very smart, should have graduated at the top of their class and should have strong recommendations from faculty. They should be able to articulate an interest in marketing consulting and/or marketing research and an interest in Copernicus. You’d be really surprised how many people come through these doors, and when asked what makes you interested in marketing consulting, “Well, I don’t know, you know, somebody told me it was a really interesting field.” “Why are you interested in Copernicus? “ “Well, that’s why I’m here, I don’t know anything about Copernicus.” So we’re looking for people who know what they’re doing and where they’re going and know a lot about us before the interview moves very far. And then again, at the junior level, we’ll give people an assignment to work on, in their own time and at their own expense. I would say that 30% of the people are not interested in doing a written assignment. So boom, they’re gone. But those who are interested in a written assignment, they’ll do it. They’ll submit it, and we’ll have a couple of people take a look at it. In the last analysis, there will be maybe five or six people in the company who interview each of these candidates. Based on their background, their ability to articulate a personal vision, their performance in our own exam, and the sense of the interviewers, we make a decision to hire or not.

QUESTION: Do you have people that specialize in different fields, different areas of marketing or special kinds of analytical techniques?

CLANCY: The answer is “yes” to the latter. People get pigeon-holed here into functions like statistical analysis, modeling, consulting versus general management. We make decisions pretty quickly as to which people are going to be out facing clients every day, as opposed to which people are not good at that—they’re going to stay working in the back rooms.

QUESTION: How do you decide that?

CLANCY: By watching them.

QUESTION: How they interact with clients?

CLANCY: Yes. We take everybody to client meetings. Some people are really good. Some people don’t talk or have a habit of saying dumb things. If I had a bigger company, maybe we’d take the time to retrain them. A lot of these characteristics have been imprinted in people from the time they were 13 years old, and they don’t change very much over time. I’m thinking of people in our firm who couldn’t give a presentation when they first came here. And 10 years later still can’t give a presentation. But we make a decision as to whether somebody is a consultant or a researcher. If they’re a researcher, are they into statistical analysis or not, are they an inside person, are they an outside person, and then, we just see what happens over time.

QUESTION: How do you evaluate the quality of people’s work?

CLANCY: Every project has a project manager or project director, typically somebody who has been with us for six years or more, like tenure in a university. Their responsibility is to monitor the work that goes on for the people who work for them. The project manager is responsible for every single thing shown to a client. And the project manager gets compensated, in part, based on the client’s delight with respect to that project. In addition, this is not a big firm. Between here and our other offices, we have maybe 100 people. And the senior partners in all of our offices in Boston, in Wilton, Sao Paolo, Brazil, in Rio—the senior partners see all the work that’s going out to a client before it goes out.

QUESTION: How many people do they oversee, on average? Do they oversee a couple of people or larger groups?

CLANCY: The groups are small, on average, maybe about three.

QUESTION: So they have a lot of direct contact?

CLANCY: It’s an important part of our business.

QUESTION: Do you emphasize that people in your company have an overall perspective of what is happening in the marketing community or what is happening in your firm? Is it more hierarchical?

CLANCY: It’s very important that everybody know something about everything. It’s also very important to us that our people are the best at what they do. I’m very competitive. My partner Peter Krieg is very competitive, and we run the company to be very competitive. In another life, we’d be professional football coaches. Our objective is to be the best. When we go into a meeting to give a presentation to a prospect or to a client, we think we’re giving them the best they could ever buy. That means that the young people in the firm are trained to deliver the best that money can buy. It’s important to us.

QUESTION: You state in your book [Your Gut Is Still Not Smarter Than Your Head] that what you really advocate is “careful analysis of unimpeachable data” combined with “judgment and experience.” In your many years of experience, which experiences have added to your keen sense of judgment?

CLANCY: I’m not sure that it’s any one, or two, or three experiences. If you were a surgeon, and you did the same operation over and over again for a period of years, you would become very, very good at what you do. You have come to learn which way of slicing the body is less invasive and less painful afterword. You just learn a lot. I was a pretty smart guy when I came into this business. I’ve learned as much about the business as I could over the years, and I have had a lot of great experiences with my clients.

Diane Schmalensee - AMA Boston Past President Interview

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The history of marketing has always been a personal interest of mine; I believe we can learn a lot from reviewing the past history of marketing.

During my year as chapter President, I helped celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association; the chapter was started in October of 1940.

With this post, I am starting a series of interviews with Past Presidents of AMA Boston. My first interview is with Diane Schmalensee who was past president during 1983-1984. During my year as President I met with Diane and she provided a lot of good advice, and she has continued to act as a mentor to other incoming Presidents in recent years.


John: Welcome to the Past President’s interview. Perhaps we can start by you giving us a little of your background before the Presidency?

Diane: I joined the AMA in San Diego while I was in graduate school and quickly became head of membership (along with a fellow student). This was an outstanding way of meeting other members and getting connected. It also helped us get jobs!

When I moved to Boston, I joined the chapter there and held many positions in the organization before becoming president. I loved the camaraderie, learning new things at each meeting, and feeling part of the marketing community.

John: How long had you been volunteering with the chapter before you became President?

Diane: See above. I guess I had been volunteering for about 8 years or so.

John: I recall you had some interesting personal circumstances. How did you prepare for your chapter year?

Diane: I worked for the Marketing Science Institute, whose president was a past AMA Boston president and who encouraged us to follow our interests.

The biggest preparation as incoming president was to prepare an annual plan, complete with the big, hairy goal of becoming the best AMA large chapter of the year. I did that in August, and then had a late summer meeting with my team so that we could go over all of the plans and everyone’s role. It was a fun meeting as I recall, with everyone getting pumped up. After that, all I had to do was watch my team and help them when needed. After October or so, I was actually coasting.

John: Can you recall some of the highlights of the chapter year?

Diane: We made a LOT of money, which we badly needed. We did this by offering several conferences as well as our monthly meetings. We expanded our membership and increase our member retention. We started a networking group for young members and services, research and healthcare interest groups.

The workshops were our big money makers and brought a high level of education-content to the chapter. They usually consisted of 2 -3 speakers on a common topic and lasted half a day. I can’t recall the topics exactly, but we had a half day on research methods and a half day on internal and external marketing for service firms. The speakers were usually local experts (we have plenty here), but sometimes from out of town. If we held the workshops in conjunction with a dinner meeting, we were able to save money on the facility and negotiate better prices for meals. I think we had about 30-40 people attend these afternoon events and then would have them stay for dinner, which swelled the dinner audience to perhaps 100. Of course we always allowed plenty of time for networking during breaks and encouraged people to exchange cards with others there so they could benchmark or stay in touch later.

John: How did you run the chapter then, and how do you think it contrasts with today’s AMA Boston for changes in the industry?

Diane: Today I see the chapter being more focused on advertising and communications than we were then. This may reflect changes in the market. The Ad Club was very strong then, and we collaborated with them on sharing lists for appropriate events. So, our events were less about communications and more about research (about half our members then were in research) and issues such as new product development or internal marketing.

John: How did you communicate with members during your Presidency?

Diane: We had a printed newsletter that we mailed each month. We also had special mailings for our conferences and special interest groups.

John: Who were some of the friends and contacts you developed during your chapter year? Have you kept in touch?

Diane: I recall Chuck Comegys, Alden Clayton, Mary Lou Roberts, Tony Armor, Larry Gulko and many others. We were all good friends and I do stay in touch with some of them.

John: What has the presidency of the chapter meant for you on reflection?

Diane: It was a great chance to be a senior manager. I learned a lot.

John: What advice would you give to chapter leaders as they prepare for their new chapter year?

Diane: It’s best if you can hold other positions first and serve on the Board so you observe what other presidents do. Then, think about what you believe the chapter most needs and make that your goal for your year. Definitely have goals for your team.

John: Lastly, can you tell me more of your background since you left the presidency?

Diane: I have started my own market research and consulting firm, Schmalensee Partners, and feel good about how my clients have succeeded in achieving their goals with my help. I have continued my association with the AMA at the national level - serving on the Board twice, chairing several conferences, speaking at many conferences and now acting as the head of the national nominating committee. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of the AMA!

AMA Boston Board Meeting, March 11th @ 6pm

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Any member wishing to have a voice in the chapter is welcome to attend our monthly board of director meetings.  If you are a current AMA member and either want to participate or have an agenda item you would like the board to consider, then please write to president@amaboston.org.

-Steven Halling, President of AMA Boston 

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.