Cover Story: Direct Marketer of the Year: Sandy Carter
"I tell people Sandy is simply amazing," says Clarissa Felts, vice president of collaboration, diversity and inclusion at Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's Home Improvement. "She is able to break down complex problems and diagnose how to overcome challenges and make them into opportunities."
Carter says that's something she's always enjoyed.
"I think that's the power of marketing, right? A great marketer," Carter says, pronouncing it marketeer, "can relate to his or her audience and help them to understand the value, without them really having to understand all the nuts and bolts underneath the value, right? It's the difference between dead fish—going out and marketing dead fish—or sushi. It's the way that you present the idea. And if you can present it in a way that people are attracted to, then they get excited about your product."
On a Roll
Carter earned her Master of Business Administration degree in managing technology and marketing from Harvard Business School and joined IBM in product development in 1989. Rather quickly, she saw marketers trying to sell dead fish instead of sushi. She stepped in.
"I was actually [working] on the part where we would actually produce the product," she says of her first seven years at IBM. "And it was so cool and the marketing folks didn't grasp it. Didn't grasp the value prop[osition]. Didn't really understand the differentiation. And so I would go and help them to do that. And it just was so exciting to see the light bulb go on when they finally got it and they said, 'Wow. This is really cool.' … I would say probably that was my first 'aha' moment when I decided, 'You know, maybe it's not sales. Maybe it's not development. But it's probably marketing that's stolen my heart away.'"
Right away, Carter had the advantage of diverse experience she could leverage in her marketing career, says Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Newton, Mass.-based consultancy Hurwitz and Associates. A skill Carter eventually added that improved her marketing even more was her sales experience. Carter understood the importance of ROI.