Understand the Numbers, Trust Your Instinct & Go For It! says Simone Barratt, President of Global Marketing Agency e-Dialog

Simone Barratt was recently named as President of global marketing agency, e-Dialog Inc, having founded the UK branch of the company in 2000. After growing the UK company from start-up to working with high profile brands such as British Airways, Boots, and Nintendo, Simone will be the first British woman to run the global company.

With over twenty years experience in marketing, Simone has been responsible for building e-Dialog’s reputation as the leading email marketing services provider in the UK. Recognized as an industry thought leader she has represented the email marketing industry on behalf of the DMA in Brussels, presenting proposals that have contributed to the formulations of the latest EU legislation.  

Prior to e-Dialog, Simone managed two companies in the Interpublic group. In 1990, she launched Shandwick Interactive, one of the first new media agencies in London and subsequently integrated the company into the Interpublic Group’s network of new media agencies, Zentropy Partners. Prior to this she ran her own Direct Marketing Agency. 

We spoke to Simone about the rocky road from secretarial work to President of a global company; the lessons she learned along the way; and her tips for female entrepreneurs.

TNW: Tell our community a little about yourself and your career history.

SB: I chose not to go to University – I wanted to earn a salary as quickly as possible.  With two elder brothers there was little or no expectation or pressure to develop a serious career. I attended a secretarial course and that was my first job in London.  

Within 12 months I handed in my notice with the sole purpose of finding another job with ‘Executive’ in the title. I didn’t care what it was – I just wanted to leave the secretarial badge behind.

I spoke to everyone I knew and anyone who would listen – and eventually got a job as a Junior Account Executive at a small Advertising Agency in London.

From there I moved client side and stumbled across an opportunity to invest in a (very small) database marketing company which I then ran. Our largest client went into liquidation – and I didn’t see it coming. But we did have a lien over the data we held and so were able to recoup much of the outstanding monies – but the business itself did not survive.

I took a job as Sales Director for a Creative Design company and was made MD in 6 months.  Then in the early 1990’s I discovered the internet and launched on the first website/interactive agencies in London.   It was a rude awakening to find that traditional designers didn’t have the necessary skills to design for the web!  But we did some good early work for www.shell.com and www.egg.com

The Group merged all the interactive businesses around the world and I found myself a Joint MD. Good lesson – it never works to have two people at the helm!

It was then I met the CEO of e-Dialog Inc. He came over to the UK to network with the Interpublic Group (they were an early seed investor in e-Dialog) and asked if I would like to set up e-Dialog in the UK.  Email marketing was in a very nascent stage at that time and I was excited to be breaking new ground and establishing a new industry. Four months later we had the second dot.com bubble burst and I was ‘let go’. I was an expensive overhead, no sales yet, and the CEO had to protect the core business in the US. I was furious – but totally understood. But I was certain I could make a success of it.

So I stayed on board for 3 years in a ‘commission-only’ capacity. The company didn’t pay for anything at all.  That really focused my mind!  I closed Tesco, Marks and Spencer, British Telecom, Reuters and the BBC among others. It was an extremely lucrative 3 years for me. I then re-joined the Senior Executive Team at e-Dialog and grew the UK office to support a number of pan-European and global clients. Then two years ago I opened the office in Singapore and more recently in Sydney.

We were acquired by GSI Commerce in 2008 which has a number of digital marketing product companies within its portfolio.

And then GSI was acquired by eBay earlier this year. I was appointed President of GSI’s Global Marketing Services International earlier this year and then President of e-Dialog Inc in October.

TNW: How would you describe your company, e-Dialog, in one sentence?

SB: Head quartered in the US, e-Dialog is one of the world’s leading providers of email marketing technologies and services to global blue-chip organisations.

This coming year, with some significant investment from eBay, you will see us building on our email heritage and by integrating with the other marketing technology assets within the eBay/GSI marketing portfolio; we will be broadening our offering and will be providing an unparalleled mix of Commerce Marketing technologies to help our clients drive both off and online revenue.

TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?

Client focused. Enthusiastic. Collaborative. Instigators of change. And make sure the skills of your team compliment rather than replicate your own.

TNW: What is next for your company?

SB: Our clients, Chief Marketing Officers, are facing an increasingly complex challenge. Technology and the world of devices is exploding. Customers’ expectations are higher. They now expect and can control what marketing messages and offers they receive, when they receive them, and on what device. And it’s hard for marketers to manage insights, analysis and deployment across multiple digital channels – each of which is usually supported by a different service provider. 

We will be integrating multiple offerings in order to help the CMO exceed his customers’ expectations, and drive maximum ROI from each of these channels. We will be investing in our technology and broadening and deepening our product and service offering as we continue our global expansion. 

TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?

SB: From failures, acknowledge your role in them and make sure you learn from them . . .  I would always be wary of someone who always found someone or something else to blame. And from successes, make sure you acknowledge the role others played.

TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?

Understand the numbers. Trust your instinct.  And go for it.

TNW: How would you describe your leadership style today?

SB: Client focused. Enthusiastic. Collaborative. Passionate about my team.

TNW: How has your leadership style changed over the years, and why?

SB: I trust my instinct a lot more now. If I think something is right for the business and change is needed – I will mandate it and make a change quickly. Earlier in my career I probably moved with less purpose.

TNW: What is one lesson you would like to pass on to other women leaders?

To be honest – I never think about the ‘woman thing’ . . . so my advice to others would be don’t spend time thinking about it either – just get on with it. 

TNW: What is the best career or management decision you have made?

SB: To agree to the ‘commission-only’ term at e-Dialog. It really made me focus on and develop my sales skills – skills everyone needs.

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