In our #5QsForCMOs blog series, AgencySparks conducts short, informative interviews with CMOs and senior-level marketers to uncover insights about their brand, and to help us better understand their thought process as a marketing leader.
Harte Hanks is a global marketing services firm specializing in multi-channel marketing solutions that connect our clients with their customers in powerful ways. Experts in defining, executing and optimizing the customer journey, Harte Hanks offers end-to-end marketing services including consulting, strategic assessment, data, analytics, digital, social, mobile, print, direct mail and contact center. From visionary thinking to tactical execution, Harte Hanks delivers smarter customer interactions for some of the world’s leading brands. Harte Hanks’ 5000+ employees are located in North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.
Frank Grillo joined Harte Hanks as CMO in October of 2015.
1. What career experience best prepared you to become CMO of Harte Hanks?
Ha, that's a great question because sometimes I feel I'm unprepared for this position, but I think it boils down to the variety of marketing roles I've lead or been part of throughout my career at WorldCom, CenturyLink and a couple of companies in between. Whether it's product marketing, segment marketing, product management or sales, there aren't any parts of marketing in which I haven't been involved. Those experiences and a lifetime of studying marketing gives me a sense for the massive changes occurring in marketing and the CMO's role at both B2B and B2C companies. And of course the CMOs at those companies are my customers, so I relate well with them.
2. What has been your number one marketing priority at Harte Hanks this year?
Positioning Harte Hanks as the marketing thought leader to our clients and prospects. My goal is to elevate Harte Hanks from a services provider to a true strategic partner so that we have a seat at the table with the CMO and other marketing leaders.
3. What are Harte Hanks's biggest marketing strengths and weakness?
In many ways our biggest strength is our biggest weakness. Our biggest strength is our long history of being a partner to our clients at a different time in marketing when data and analytics were just up and coming – linking targeted lists, geographic and demographic data, and personalized messaging for direct mail. Harte Hanks was, and still is, a very strong player in this area. I'd venture to bet 7 out of 10 career marketers have hired Harte Hanks at one time or another in that era and will say we did a good job for them.
Our weakness is we haven't kept that same position relative to where marketing has evolved. And so now that the expectation of marketing is more data driven, more analytics driven and really omni-channel, Harte Hanks isn't as well known. So our weakness is that we are so well known for what we have done last decade that people don't associate us for what we are capable of today in the more data driven, digital, omni-channel world.
We have to overcome that legacy. Up until very recently we marketed ourselves in the context of who we were, even though our capabilities are as good if not better than our competitions. So our challenge is creating the new voice for Harte Hanks that's very different than the way people generally think of us.
4. Which marketing disciplines at Harte Hanks do you feel are better managed in-house, and what disciplines do you feel comfortable outsourcing?
We do almost all of our marketing in house, because all the things we are doing for ourselves are what we do for our clients. Other than areas like branding, where we don't do a lot of work, we do almost everything ourselves. Given that we are a B2B engagement marketing company just about everything we need as marketers exists inside Harte Hanks.
5. What's a quirky thing or a funny story that your marketing team doesn't know about you... yet?
When I was in college I gave Dom DeLuise a ride to a screening appointment. I was making deliveries for my dad's lighting business in an old beat-up station wagon in Manhattan. When I came outside after a drop-off at the Essex House Hotel on Park Avenue South, I saw him desperately trying to hail a cab. He looked at me and said: "I can't get a damn cab," so I offered him a lift and he said yes. He gets in the car... he's all dressed up, and he's squished with all these boxes and pipes surrounding him. I wound up driving him across town to his meeting. He was truly delightful, giving me his autograph and inviting me to his comedy club that night.