Kellie Richter Discusses How Having Her Marketing Team Play a Strategic Role in Behringer’s Direction Has Been a Recipe for Success for Both
“My view of marketing is strategic,” said Kellie Richter, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Dallas-based Behringer. A firm believer that marketing needs to have a “seat at the table,” Richter oversees corporate brand and media relations, marketing of securities offerings, creative direction, events and conferences, and sales training at Behringer, which creates, manages and distributes alternative investment programs for individual and institutional investors.
According to the company, programs sponsored by the Behringer group have attracted equity of more than $6 billion and made investments into more than $11 billion in assets. In five years, Richter has transformed her marketing team into one that provides a strategic service to Behringer. She says it’s important that she reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), as does her sales leader counterpart. Having a seat at the table is important, too, because marketing is integral to shaping the future of Behringer.
Because Richter reports to the CEO, she can provide a thoughtful perspective to executive-level conversations and not find herself in a position where her team is tasked with executing on someone else’s vision. And because she’s part of conversations about the direction of Behringer, Richter has influence on those decisions up front. This means she can lend her marketing perspective to discussions about topics as varied as corporate messaging and revising the company name.
Building On a Legacy
“Our company has been around for 20 years,” Richter noted. “It’s named after our Founder, who’s the heart of our brand.” That said, the company is also very entrepreneurial. It has a tendency to break ground with new products and ventures, which requires evolving the brand. This is challenging, according to Richter, especially in alternative investments where there’s the need to educate the marketplace and regulators about the company’s business initiatives.
As Behringer makes that shift to broader alternative investments, Richter’s also making that shift with the brand. “Our messaging and approach is congruent with our culture and brand reputation,” said Richter, who often has to strike a balance between ensuring that marketing is supporting sales—whether by initiating a new campaign or by training the sales team—and ensuring that Behringer’s brand reputation thrives in a dynamic market.
Getting It Done In House
Initially, Richter had to “get her arms around” the company’s agency relationships to determine how best to leverage them. She determined early on that she wanted to bring all of the creative work in house, largely because of the tight turnaround cycles required on marketing materials in Behringer’s heavily regulated industry.
Keeping these marketing functions internal also has helped to clarify the company’s role with its outside agency, which is to serve as external counsel for public relations and brand initiatives. Today, Richter reports on her team’s successes to the executive team on a quarterly basis—something that hadn’t been the case before she came on the scene. Supporting her reporting is a tracking system that determines how much time marketing is investing in various projects.
Richter’s role as “servant leader” has been key to helping her team get to where they are today—where it provides a strategic-level service to Behringer. Richter defines servant leadership as taking a caring approach to leadership, one where a leader determines strengths, aligns them with business goals and ensures that team members are in the right roles.
Servant leadership can be challenging. It requires assessing where your team is and where members want to be in the future, according to Richter, who finds herself asking these questions on a regular basis: “Are they skilled to do those things? What’s their readiness? What about skill and will?”
She concedes that she’s been in situations as a leader in which she’s helped members of her team recognize that their current roles weren’t the best fit and that their strengths were best utilized in other roles. What adds to the complexity of servant leadership—or any management philosophy, for that matter—is that business needs change.
“You’re constantly assessing whether or not you need to ‘skill someone up’ or move them into a new role,” Richter said.
To ensure marketing success, she has focused on building centers of excellence around the company’s creative direction, media relations, social media/digital media, sales training and event marketing. Richter illustrates her commitment to serving her team by sitting with each person for 30 minutes weekly to determine what they’re working on.
“My job,” Richter said, “is to remove barriers to my team getting their work done.”
Aine Cryts is a freelance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts.
Kellie's Key Partners:The Richards Group (Strategic Branding Agency)
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