MarTech Interview with Lisa Brink, Senior Director, Client Consulting at Gongos

It is essential to reorient the relationship between customers and corporations to be mutually beneficial. How can companies achieve this agenda?

It’s important to remember that positioning is the promise a brand makes in the marketplace and the customer experience is the manifestation of that promise—these two are inherently connected.

1. Can you give us a brief overview of your career before Gongos Inc?
My career began with helping brands understand salient customer insights and how to apply them to address specific brand and business strategy challenges. That, and also identifying opportunity areas in the marketplace. From there I moved into more strategic planning and implementation roles in organizations where I became responsible for not only establishing the strategy but also executing it. Typically, I engaged in marketing, brand, brand portfolio, customer experience, and advertising projects. After being on the client side, I decided to jump into consulting where I helped brands strategize how they could use centralized enterprise data, insights, and segmentation to drive more personalization in marketing and customer experiences. 

2. How was the post covid initial phase of setting up at Gongos? What does a regular day at work look like now?
Since 2013, when I wasn’t on the road consulting, I was working remotely. In today’s terms, not a lot has changed for me except that I spend significantly more time in my home office post-covid. When I joined Gongos in late 2020, they had efficiently and seamlessly moved from an in-office environment to a remote work environment given that a large portion of their labor force was also telecommuter. My days open and close in Zoom meetings and a lot of collaboration with our client teams.   

3. How can organizations build the digital backbone of their business to enhance customer experience from your perspective? Can you give us some examples of brand strategies?
First, a brand needs to establish what it stands for in the marketplace—what its purpose is and how will it deliver on the multi-dimensional goals consumers have today. To differentiate itself from the competition, it will need a strong positioning and value proposition—encompassing a product or service and a great experience. 
Once established, brands that have their own enterprise data need to work toward centralizing it to better understand their customers. This enables the brand to do targeted and relevant marketing campaigns as well as construct real-time interactions/experiences with customers. 
The brand needs to have a unified view of how customers are interacting with them across various channels and leverage that information to create surprising and more relevant experiences.

It’s important to remember that positioning is the promise a brand makes in the marketplace and the customer experience is the manifestation of that promise—these two are inherently connected.

4. As a leader, what tips would you give to implement technology in a way that will help teams collaborate efficiently?
We do a lot of storytelling and design work for our clients at Gongos. That means when we’re creating deliverables there are a lot of hands touching the project at the same time. What can make this more efficient is utilizing shared environments such as PowerPoint in Teams where you can work on the deliverable at the same time and see in real-time how the work is progressing. While it’s a tremendous time saver, you have to get comfortable with a new way of working. You must ensure everyone understands the mechanics before fully implementing the shared technology or process. 
There are also multiple vehicles inside organizations today to engage in conversations with team members—each one can serve a purpose, but if that hasn’t been ironed out before they’re made available, it can create havoc. So just be sure that’s been decided ahead of time, so everyone has that understanding. 

5. What are the vision, mission, and values of your company?
Our mission is to help reorient the relationship between customers and corporations to be mutually beneficial. Closely following that is our core purpose, which takes into account both customer experience and employee experience, and that is to cultivate innovative and vibrant experiences that inspire people to achieve their best for our clients, our community, and each other. Lastly, our core values are to always be humanistic, intelligent, passionate, and proud of all that we put forth as a company.

6. What kind of challenges did you face in your journey as a leader?
I embrace change and am often excited by it, however, I realized that change can be hard on teams when there’s ambiguity, lack of transparency, and no clarity on the “why” behind the change or the intended outcome. It’s from that experience that I became passionate and inspired in driving change (big or small), reducing ambiguity, and creating excitement about change with teams—it’s probably what led me to consult. You have to be able to recognize when teams are struggling with change, and as a responsible leader, look for ways to simplify it, make it relevant, and engage team members in the conversation. Change is far easier when everyone is invested. 

7. How do you plan to leverage the evolving technology in the MarTech space in line with the changing client preferences?
We’re agnostic when it comes to the selection of technology for our clients, as that is not our expertise. We’re more focused on the functionality it brings to help them better understand their customers and serve up experiences that are more relevant. That means we encourage our clients to centralize all customer data (e.g., purchasing, shopping, interaction, primary, secondary), analyze those data to uncover insights and actionable strategies, productionize the data so it can be used across the organization in marketing, CX and operational work, and democratize it all so that everyone is working from a shared understanding of the customer.   

8. Tell us about the executive team at Gongos.
Our leadership team is a very tenured and collaborative team of experts across the consumer insights, marketing, strategy, innovation, data science, and change management sectors. Our CEO (now Managing Director, North America of our new global company) rose up through the ranks of market research and is a steady leader whose vision guides our true north as a company and the many leaders within.

9. As a seasoned leader, what advice would you offer to budding entrepreneurs and aspirants who wish to venture into the MarTech sector?
I think the MarTech space is incredibly complex and fragmented—there’s a lot of opportunity to reduce that complexity and simplify the decisions organizations need to make about their tech stack. If you’re working with legacy brands that have dated infrastructure and have the desire to be more progressive in the experiences they deliver, it likely means they likely have significant investments in time and money to make—road mapping, staging, and planning will be critical in making that happen, and it’s not a fast process as capital budgets will likely be required. That said—it’s an exciting space to play and those who can help reduce complexity and steer organizations to activate will have success.

10. What practices do you follow to strike a balance between your personal and professional life?
For me it’s about fluidity and flexibility—there are peaks and valleys in your personal and professional life and being able to manage that through a flexible schedule is what makes it all possible. There are core hours when we need to be available to our clients and sometimes, it goes beyond those core hours, but you have to manage your own calendar. I’m disciplined in mapping out my work calendar and being transparent about my schedule. That helps teammates plan, and if there is a time when personal and professional areas conflict, we will pivot accordingly. Still, it should never come as a surprise—except in the case of emergencies. 

11. What is the passion that drives you to keep going? Any book, series, or podcast suggestions that you have for our readers?
I love to help teams and organizations transform. I also love to see people grow and develop in their careers. So any time those two things come together, I’m pretty passionately engaged. 
One of my favorite podcasts is called how “How I Built This” by NPR which focuses on stories about innovators and entrepreneurs. Their stories of perseverance and commitment to vision are inspiring. And any book about brand building. I can’t wait to read “The Future of Purpose-Driven Branding” – it’s an area of personal interest and on my list for over the holidays.

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Lisa Brink, Senior Director, Client Consulting, Gongos (part of InSites Consulting)

While guiding clients’ customer-centric business decisions, Lisa is responsible for the strategic direction of key accounts, as well as diversifying Gongos’ Strategy and Implementation practice. Her experience is duly balanced among client-side and consulting agency work, focused on leveraging customer insights that shape and operationalize brand, customer experience, and business strategies.

She often partners with C-Suite executives to transform teams to deliver strategies that required paradigm shifts across the organization. Prior to Gongos, Lisa was Senior Director, Customer Strategy/Business Consultant at Elicit Insights, and has also held
key brand strategy and insights roles at Advance Auto Parts and Best Buy.

Gongos, Inc. is a consultative agency that places customers at the heart of business strategy. Partnering with insights, analytics, marketing, strategy, and customer experience groups, Gongos operationalizes customer centricity by helping companies understand and activate on customer needs.

Gongos works alongside B2C and B2B companies in guiding strategy, insights, innovation, and transformation initiatives. From product development, to customer experience, to marketing optimization, Gongos helps organizations enhance customer retention and acquisition. Spanning the entire customer centricity value chain, Gongos’ consultative approach ensures internal adoption and implementation that inspire customer-committed cultures.

Through its mission to reorient the relationship between customer and corporations to create mutual value, Gongos leverages two key pillars. Its patent-pending Value Exchange Model enables companies to gain marketplace advantage by strengthening Customer Performance Indicators. The model identifies explicit opportunities where providing the intrinsic outcomes valued by customers will increase Future Customer Value. Its Customer as a Stakeholder™ service model aims to enhance engagement strategies to ensure a more authentic fusion of the customer into corporate decision making.

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