Liz Diedrich is the President and CEO atIW Research & Diedrich Marketing Group which she founded in 2008. The company conducts quantitative and qualitative research through it’s research division and marketing strategy and execution of marketing plans including advertising creative, production and fulfillment through it’s marketing division.
She also has a hobby-business which she runs with her husband, called Triplebgalleries, where they make handmade bridles and blankets for horses and through this business contribute 10% of the tack proceeds to the Emergency Food Shelf and 100% of the path painting proceeds to the Emergency Food Shelf.
What is your background in regards to your education and experience?
I got my Bachelors degree in a private school in Minneapolis, MN, called MCAD. There I took a lot of classes about graphic design, product design, environmental design, marketing and advertising. In my third year in college I invented a cake slicer named Cakeater TM, which was sold to Tupperware. Also in my 3rd year of college I went to Valencia, Spain where I enrolled in a Spanish University called: La Universidad de Filosofia y Letras – I wanted to learn another language and felt an immersion program would support that goal. While enrolled there I also worked in an import/export company called Valencia Fruit which primarily exported oranges. After graduating, I got married and moved to Germany. While there I taught for two colleges and a university, the University of Maryland, City Colleges of Chicago and Central Texas College. I taught drafting, marketing and advertising and creative programs for the American military living there. I came back from Europe and worked as a boy’s toy designer at Tonka Toys (The Steel Monster Series characters). After that I was hired as Director of Marketing and Sales for a Cruise Line and Resort in Florida. In that role, we grew ticket revenue from $1.4M to $17.5M in annual revenue in 4 years. While in that position, I set up an in-house agency. It was a great experience but I missed home, so I moved back to Minnesota where I worked for a couple of other agencies and really had my own idea of how I would do things. I left in 1994 to start my first marketing agency called Creative Marketing Consulting which grew to $6M in gross billings in 10 years which than I sold in 2005. The company who bought my agency asked me to stay on and gave me a percentage of ownership of the company back and then I bought the research division back.
Did you have a vision when you started? How is your company now compared to that vision?
Yes. My vision has largely stayed the same; the commitment to managing and being responsible for my client’s marketing investments and results from a marketing prospective. I feel like I have a responsibility to manage their research and marketing investments as if I was making these decisions on behalf of my own company. We do that thanks to marketing research as this allows us to understand who our client’s customers are and what they really want. We believe, in order to create a performing marketing strategy, it should be built on strong research foundation. Our new tagline is “research propelled marketing” because it pays off what we do. We collect buying behavior data which enables us to garner a better result. Our marketing programs also are piloted first – ensuring a lower risk and higher reward in terms of results, because the roll out is predicated on best performing tactics tied to a targeted ROI goal.
Which knowledge or experience has facilitated your career?
The experience at the Cruise Line for sure. I personally monitored every tactic, hence I use the same approach (updated technology wise of course) today.
If you could go back, what would you do better and what wouldn’t you do at all?
What I would do better is say “no” more and be kinder to my family and my spouse. What I wouldn’t do is work too much and think I could do everything, it’s ok to ask for help! That’s also why I sold my business the first time. I was raising my children, trying to have a family and I burned myself out. This time I’m kinder to myself, more balanced. I don’t go to work at 6am and work until 10pm, I do what I want more. This also means that I’m better to my clients, to my employees and to my family.
What were your biggest difficulties?
When you run a business difficulties come in many forms. For example I had one client who I worked for a very long time who died and losing those relationship and the people at that company was what I found to be the most difficult. Growing and financing the business during that growth can be difficult (and exciting), right now I’m in a big growth phase and I have to make sure that I’m doing it well.
Who was or is your mentor?
I have mentors in my family. My grandfather was a business man, he was with the grain exchange, with grain elevators in 5 States. I always had good conversations with him. Also my father and older brother have been good mentors for me.
What motivates you at work?
3 things motivate me: -Achieving what I’m meant to do, this bring me happiness -Allowing my employees to do the same, where they can use the gifts that they have been given and this makes them happy -Providing results for my clients, and this make us worthwhile
What gives you satisfaction at work?
Results, nothing gives me more satisfaction than that.
What would you suggest to the people who want to start a company?
I think they should write a Business Plan. Then, what I did was meet a retired entrepreneur, from SCORE thanks to the Eden Prairie Chamber of Minnesota. He looked at my plan and gave me lots of helpful advice. I think it’s always good to talk to others who have been there. I would also suggest to hire people who complement your ability, who bring skills in that add value to the team, and who are great team players.
What do you think is the best habit which allows you to get the best results in your life?
Exercise and take care of myself. Also my faith and to lead with my heart. I exercise and pray every morning.
How do you set your goals?
I have a growth and revenue projection. I have targeted industries that I want to go into and services I want to provide to support these industries; this helps me set my goals. To achieve them I have a plan and I make sure that all my employees know what our goals are and what is their role in this plan.
What do you think makes a company successful in your industry?
I think reputation and if you can think outside of the box, so you can help a client compete in ways that they hadn’t thought of. I think that’s one of the keys.
What are the critical success factors for your company?
We measure all of the outcomes. If we make a recommendation to a client who should run an ad or who should be targeting a certain industry I measure the effectiveness; how many leads, how much is converted into sales etc.. I noticed that the agency I used to work for didn’t do that and I think is very important to be accountable in order to have a good relationship with our clients.
What is success for you?
For me it goes back to the 3 things, where everybody is rewarded: me, my employees and my clients.
What would you suggest to your child if they had just graduated?
Pursue their dreams. I wouldn’t guide them to do something that they are not good at. I want them to follow their passion because that’s what makes you successful. And lastly never stop learning. I am still learning and I know that it is important for everyone. (I hate it when I have to learn something the hard way..still happens but, at least I am learning!)
Would you like to add something?
I think is important to have white space, where you give yourself a break from work. These moments free your mind and enable me to have new ideas for myself, my company and my clients. I also fill this spaces with hobbies, like my bridles and blankets business, painting, reading or playing cards with my husband. Another thought, someone told me once, “be there when you are there”. Meaning, turn off your phone, stop typing on your computer and really listen. This is probably the best advice I ever got! My phone is usually on silent for that reason. It works well for that white space thing too.