With Patti Newcomer, VP at Intuit
Always ensure that the customer is satisfied. At the end of the service, ask and confirm that the customer is satisfied and keep going back until the customer is satisfied. A happy customer is a referring customer and referrals are the backbone of a growing, young small business. They are also nearly free marketing for your business, which can be critical, especially in the early stages.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Patti Newcomer, Vice President of Marketing within ProConnect, Intuit’s business that serves professional tax preparers. She is responsible for all aspects of Marketing for ProConnect Tax Online, Lacerte, and ProSeries. Her leadership and extensive experience in product development, marketing strategy, brand strategy, and analytics guides Intuit’s efforts with tax professionals.
I graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Chemical Engineering. I spent the first 10 years of my career at Procter & Gamble in New Product Development working on how to make better antiperspirants, and then soap, on a global basis. I left P&G because I wanted to do something with more growth and with more of an entrepreneurial spirit in the culture. I went to Capital One, which was growing at 40+% / year with a very entrepreneurial spirit in a market research role in the Brand Marketing organization. After several years, I moved to a New Product Development consultancy role, and then to a more general Marketing role. I stayed at Capital One for 5 years, and have stayed in Marketing in Technology and Financial Services companies / roles for the last 12+ years after leaving Capital One. Although I’m not in a traditional chemical engineering role, I believe that my education trained me how to think and solve problems analytically, and that has served me well and differentiated me from others for my entire career.
So many amazing, interesting experiences throughout my career, but one that comes to mind is a powering learning experience that I had fairly early in my career. One year, we had some expense dollars to spend at the end of the fiscal year, and we wanted to do some consumer understanding globally. I was working on personal cleansing and how to improve body wash adoption across the globe. We did a global consumer immersion where a group of us traveled to London, Paris, Munich, Rome, and Prague in Europe, and to China and Japan in Asia to conduct multiple focus groups, in-home visits, and public bath visits across these countries to understand global personal cleansing habits. It was an amazing learning experience both personally and professionally that influenced our product development agenda for several years. It also taught me the importance of watching consumers in their own habitat to truly uncover insights about products and opportunities.
Early in my career at P&G, in one of my first product research (similar to marketing within new product development at P&G) roles, we were working on a new initiative that was an alcohol spray antiperspirant. We conducted many sessions with consumers trying to figure out how to position this new technology in a compelling way. We called it a dry spray, a powdery spray, a spray that went on dry, everything that we could think of to emphasize that it dried after being applied. Customers kept saying “why would I want to spray something wet in my underarms that I want to be dry? The entire point of antiperspirant is to keep my underarms dry, why would I spray them with something wet?” Never mind the fact that the spray was alcohol… On freshly shaved armpits?! Ouch. Consumers just couldn’t get to a place where how we described this technology was in any way compelling or desireable. We finally had to give up and recognize that this technology was not solving a customer problem. In fact, it was creating a new customer problem. I learned that just because the technology is interesting doesn’t mean it’s compelling for the customer. It was an early lesson in focusing on solving the customer problem and not falling in love with an interesting technology. It’s a lesson that has stuck with me throughout my career.
Intuit is focused on all of our stakeholders — employees, customers / partners, and shareholders. We talk about it as our employees are the air, customers are the water, and shareholders are the food. We need all 3 but you can only survive for less than 5 minutes without water, less than 5 days without water, and less than 5 weeks without food. It’s a very important analogy that very much is supported by the actions that the company takes. We invest meaningful dollars in our employees and ensuring their engagement and helping to ensure that our employees feel like they’re doing the best work of their lives. We also always focus on our customers, and sometimes make decisions that favor our customers, even at the expense of the shareholders. Other companies just focus on the shareholders and decisions within the business reflect that.
In the business that I’m in at Intuit, ProConnect, we focus on serving tax professionals, with an emphasis on tax professionals that also provide bookkeeping services for their clients. We are working on solving these multi-service firm customers of ours most important problem, the inefficiency within their firm — they spend ⅔ of their time just tracking down the documents and data that they need to complete tax returns and they have upwards of 20–25 different tools that they use to manage their firms. We’re developing products that will enable them to manage their firm, all of their clients, and all of their work in one place, and that will automate getting the data that they need from their clients. This will help the firms by enabling them to spend more time doing what they really want to do, which is to provide coaching and advice for their clients that will improve the financial outcomes of their clients and their clients’ small businesses. Because we have access to information found in clients’ books and taxes, we will also be able to provide our customers with insights that will further enable them to provide the advice that their clients need to make better decisions about their finances and their small businesses.
My key tipping point was when I realized that the role of a leader is different from the role of a high-performing individual contributor. My role as a leader is about articulating a vision, identifying strong talent and empowering them to do the best work of their lives, and getting obstacles out of the way and ensuring that they have the resources that they need so that they can achieve their goals. My role is to think about the long-term, to be inspired by external learnings and bring game-changing ideas to the organization, and to be developing the capabilities of my team. I spend much more time developing and cultivating relationships internal to the business, across the company and outside the company and listening and learning to what others have done.
Put the customer first. Always be learning. Define your work / life boundaries and stick to them. Spend time building relationships with your peers and growing and developing your team. Be inspired by what others are doing outside of your company and leverage the learnings in your work. Focus on how to accelerate the growth of your business. Network when you can give, not just take.
Little m marketing (the work) is creating compelling communication and stories that changes the behavior of a customer. Capital M Marketing (the organization/function) is the function that listens to the voice of the market and recommends plans that will accelerate the growth of the business
My first boss at Procter & Gamble had a unique background compared to most new hire managers in NPD at P&G — rather than being a chemical engineer just a couple of years older, my new hire manager was a PhD chemist that had been at P&G for over 10 years when he became my boss. He gave me so much good advice that I’ve realized years later has influenced my entire career. He taught me things like “the company will take 24/7, so you need to decide what your boundaries are, share them, and stick with them”, “always have a point of view, especially when it’s different from the prevailing view or your boss’ view”, “it’s your responsibility to learn what else is going on in the business, not just your own project”, and finally “feedback is a gift, but you can ignore feedback that makes no sense”. One of my favorite stories is that when I started, he and I shared a lab office. He prepared a notebook for me as a new hire explaining my project and expectations, but he insisted that I seek out the building people to get a desk, chair, phone, etc. His reason for this was to teach me that I had to take care of myself and be resourceful in finding what I needed.
There are 3 that I think are critical — (1) social channels — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter — to get out there what your business is about and how to interact with you, and to enable you to provide commentary about your area of expertise, (2) a simple email tool like constant contact to communicate with your customers and prospects that you have contact information for and (3) referrals — ensure that your customers are satisfied and then be specific about asking for the referral, and then say thank you when they do so and additional business results.
(Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Be responsive to potential new business — there’s nothing worse than reaching out to a small business for a service and not hearing back or setting an appointment and having the small business owner not show. It’s crazy, but this can often be a true differentiator for a small business.
2. Always ensure that the customer is satisfied. At the end of the service, ask and confirm that the customer is satisfied and keep going back until the customer is satisfied. A happy customer is a referring customer and referrals are the backbone of a growing, young small business. They are also nearly free marketing for your business, which can be critical, especially in the early stages.
3. Have a user-friendly website that enables customers and prospects to learn about your business and services and interact with you in some way. This also can be a tool for your customers to use to refer new business. Ensure that the site is structured to have good SEO results (when searched for the appropriate business, your site will come up in the results of the search).
4. Have a social strategy, consistently post about your business, and be responsive to customers and prospects that communicate via these channels. You can pick one channel or do many, but only add social platforms if you can keep up with each of them. Don’t just post “sales messages” but post content about your expertise and your business.
5. Find ways to give back to your community on behalf of your small business in ways that are important to you. This provides a terrific platform to gain awareness about your small business in a positive way and gives you an opportunity to network with others that have similar interests.
“Sugar gets you more than vinegar”. In this divisive environment, staying positive and focusing on the positive I think could inspire a movement to eliminate the hate in our society. I believe there are so many benefits that could come from a focus on the positive rather than inciting hate and negativity, and I think people could learn from others’ example here.
My parents taught me that “with hard work, you can achieve anything”. This has impacted me my entire life, from going to an engineering school, to working at Procter & Gamble, to getting my MBA at night while I was working full-time, to overcoming obstacles and difficult times in both my worklife and my personal life.
@pattijns on Twitter and Instagram
Patti Newcomer-Simmons on LinkedIn and Facebook