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.
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.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes, of course! I graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Chemical Engineering, and then spent the first 10 years of my career at Procter & Gamble in New Product Development. While there, I worked on how to make better antiperspirants, and then soap, on a global basis. I enjoyed my time there, but ultimately left P&G to do something with more growth opportunities and more of an entrepreneurial spirit in the culture.
From there, 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, leading me to Intuit.
Although I’m not in a traditional chemical engineering role, I believe my education and experience has trained me to think and solve problems analytically, which has served me well and differentiated me from others for my entire career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I’ve had so many amazing, interesting experiences throughout my career, but one that comes to mind is an empowering learning experience 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.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early in my career at P&G, in one of my first product research roles (similar to marketing within new product development at P&G), 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 couldn’t get to a place where 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.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
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 air, 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 they feel like they’re doing the best work of their lives. We also always focus on our customers, and sometimes make decisions that favor them, even at the expense of the shareholders. Other companies just focus on the shareholders and decisions within the business reflect that, which makes Intuit stand out.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In the business I’m in at Intuit, ProConnect, we focus on serving tax professionals, with an emphasis on those also providing bookkeeping services for their clients. We are working on solving one of their most important problems, the inefficiency within their firm. Some tax pros spend ? ? 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. In my business, we work on developing products to enable them to manage their firm, clients, and work all in one place, which will automate data collection. This helps the firms by giving them more time to do what they really want to do, which is to provide coaching and advice for their clients.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?
My key tipping point was when I realized 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 people to do the best work of their lives. I learned to think about the long-term, to be inspired by external learnings, bring game-changing ideas to the organization and develop the capabilities of my team.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Put the customer first. Always be learning. Define your work and 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.
How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?
I like to define it in two ways. First, little m marketing (the work) is creating compelling communication and stories that changes the behavior of a customer. Then 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.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My first boss at Procter & Gamble had a unique background compared to most new hire managers in new product development 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 great advice that I’ve realized years later has influenced my entire career. He taught me things such as:
· “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.”
· “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.
Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?
There are 3 examples 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.
What are your “5 Non Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?
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.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
“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.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
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.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@pattijns on Twitter and Instagram
Patti Newcomer-Simmons on LinkedIn and Facebook
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.