Target Marketer of the Year: Rich Smith
The Early Years
Smith says the financial services marketer that got him started in the profession still holds a spot in his heart.
“I think that I was very fortunate to start my career at a place like MBNA America, which was a credit card company, [and] is now the credit card division of Bank of America,” Smith says. “MBNA, at the time in the 1990s and the credit card industry, was definitely one of the thought leaders in direct marketing, particularly direct marketing financial services. It was largely the birthplace of affinity marketing in financial services and credit cards. [MBNA had] a lot of really amazing, creative work and quantitative work in direct mail, and in the area of financial services.”
So after his internship, Smith graduated from Penn State in 1991 and began working for MBNA in June 1991. By August 1995 he’d gained management experience, and from September 1995 to November 1998, he served as MBNA’s First VP of Product Development. “I would say that the end-to-end organizational, absolute, 100-percent dedication to top-notch customer service that company lived and breathed was extraordinarily unique,” he says.
Yet he left MBNA. While he was earning his mid-career MBA at the University of Delaware, he worked from November 1998 to June 2000 as First VP of Balance Build at First USA/Bank One’s Chase Card Services. Then came AIG.
Still, MBNA’s customer-centricity stuck with him.
“I tried to bring that mindset and bits of that culture to every place that I’ve worked since,” Smith says. “At the end of the day, that’s really the key. If we’re not efficiently, fairly and exceptionally serving our customers, they’re not going to continue to pay us to do what we do. Someone else is going to come along and do it better.”
He believes it’s important that every employee in an organization have that mindset, too. “Marketing is everyone’s job,” Smith says, “and the impression that you leave on someone who might be just stopping by the office to drop off a package could lead to a positive customer impression and perhaps a future consumer of your services.”
Giving Back to Marketing
Smith’s a member of the B-to-C branch of the North America Advisory Board for the CMO Council. He also serves on the Governing Body of the CMO Collective, and he frequently speaks at industry events and conferences.
“As I grow in my career, I enjoy spreading knowledge about how marketing works and what’s important about marketing,” Smith says. “We’re not necessarily saving the world. But again, in my biased view of the world, I think marketing actually provides a lot of benefits to economies, societies, to organizations.”
Rebranding continues as 2 million customers learn about their new mortgage servicer, Ditech. On Aug. 31, Saint Paul, Minn.-based Green Tree Servicing merged with Ditech under the Ditech brand.
“Ditech has always been a mortgage originator, meaning we lend new loans, but we don’t service the loans,” Smith says. “So Ditech, for the first time, will be both an originator and a servicer.”
As an end-to-end service provider, he says Ditech will disrupt the mortgage industry with its customer experience.
“We’re in the midst of an onboarding campaign for the Green Tree customers to welcome them to Ditech,” Smith says. “Mainly consisting of direct mail, statement inserts, email, website. ... We’re going to do some special ‘Welcome to Ditech’ campaigns involving a sweepstakes and a few other fun things ... Longer-term, our plan is to completely re-engineer the new customer onboarding process.”
The onboarding process displays Ditech’s multichannel capabilities, but Smith says the brand does have a couple go-to channels for its other programs.
“I’d say that … all of our customer loyalty and retention programs benefit from direct mail the most,” he says. “I’d say [for] new customer acquisition right now, digital marketing channels are our workhorse.”
For Smith “digital” means “mostly search, industry sites, rate tables, LendingTree. It’s a wide range of lead sources.” Content marketing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ even weigh into Ditech’s marketing mix.
That’s a lot to learn in 25 years. But it means during that time, he had the opportunity cost of not achieving his goal to become a professional surfer, as he states on his Twitter profile.
Still, Smith ponders how a 20-year-old intern, as he was at MBNA, would see him now. “Hopefully, [I’m] the coolest old guy in a suit that they’ve ever seen,” he jokes.