Merkle goes fishing for talent

Updated: 2013-08-05 13:52

By ZHANG YUWEI in New York (China Daily)

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Merkle goes fishing for talent

Merkle's executive team celebrate the opening of their first Chinese office in Shanghai in September 2010. From left to right: Zhengda Shen, president of Merkle Asia-Pacific; David Williams, CEO of Merkle; Tim Berry, president of Merkle CRM Capabilities; and Patrick Hennessy, president of Merkle Vertical Markets. Provided to China Daily

Merkle Inc, a US customer relationship marketing firm, opened its second office in Nanjing, China on Monday, aiming to boost its tech talent capacity by expanding recruitment in the world's second-largest economy.

It was the latest major move by Maryland-based Merkle, the US' largest privately-held agency specializing in data-based marketing solutions, opened its first office in Shanghai in 2010.

Merkle CEO David Williams said the company's global strategy into China is mostly driven by the tech talent pool there, with Nanjing having some of the country's most prominent science and technology schools.

"The China market is an ideal fit for Merkle," said Williams. "Besides the aforementioned proximity to top local talent, we are also seeing more and more overseas-educated Chinese people returning to China. This creates a unique opportunity for Merkle to tap into a truly global talent pool."

Of Merkle's global workforce of 1,700, about 250 are Chinese and Williams said they expect to double that number by 2014.

"As our client base becomes increasingly global, we have placed a greater emphasis on the expansion of Merkle's delivery capability in the Global Delivery Center in China," said Zhengda Shen, president of Merkle Asia-Pacific.

In addition to attracting first-class talent in Nanjing, Shen said the company will be focusing on "the development of local business inside China to meet their rapidly growing need to build deeper direct relationships with their customers".

Since there are currently no degrees tailored specifically for the data-driven marketing industry, companies in the field tend to hire people from a variety of scientific backgrounds, said Kate Kaye, a data reporter with Ad Age.

"They are all looking for smart people who come from all sorts of backgrounds, like computer engineering and statistics," said Kaye. "They need people who are creative thinkers; there just isn't a big pool of people who are perfect for these roles," said Kaye, adding that Merkle's talent hunt in China makes sense.

China will also serve as a hub to service Merkle's other Asian markets, said Williams.

Williams acquired Merkle in 1988 for $5.2 million and became its 24th employee. Its 2010 revenue of more than $250 million represented an increase by a factor 80 over 1988 numbers. Last year, Ad Age ranked Merkle No 6 of the top 10 customer relationship marketing agencies in the US.

"We believe Merkle can bring a very unique value proposition to Chinese companies by leveraging our core strength in data, analytics and technology (both offline and digital), together with best practices in customer-centric marketing from the US," said Williams.

Merkle's services and solutions include strategic consulting, database and analytical services, creative services, campaign execution and production management.

Unlike other more traditional western agencies that have entered the China market with strengths in media, creative and production, Merkle offers data, analytic and technical capabilities to deliver personalized customer experiences at every customer interaction, Williams said.

The company's clients include Dell, Samsung and GEICO. In 2010, Merkle acquired Dallas-based loyalty-marketing firm Metzner Schneider Associates, whose clients include Sears, Marriott International and Hewlett-Packard.

While the company has been mostly serving multinationals operating in China, it plans to expand its client base among Chinese companies taking advantage of a growing trend among Chinese brands to be more sophisticated and global.

"We have a great interest in building business relationships with local companies in China, supporting them in building their brands through customer analytics and data-driven marketing," said Williams. "Chinese companies are eager to develop sophisticated, customer-centric marketing strategies that support closer direct relationships with their customers and prospects."

The Economist's Sinodependency Index - an interactive graphic that gives a breakdown of revenues from China for US multinationals operating there - showed that the current total of 133 companies, including all S&P 500 members, are more dependent on China than they were in 2009 when the index was first created. China, on average, accounted for 11.2 percent of revenues in 2012, up from 9.8 percent in 2009.

Technology companies - including Apple, Qualcomm, Intel and IBM - are receiving increasing revenues from the Chinese market. After tech companies, consumer brands such as Yum! Brands, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson are also seeing increasing revenues from China.

(China Daily USA 08/05/2013 page2)