As executive vice president of business development at IN Connected Marketing for the past six years, Valerie Bernstein has led enterprise-wide activity across multiple shopper agencies for an organization that values connectivity and harnesses data and insights to help clients maximize their business prospects.
“I get to ensure that each agency has a unique voice and proposition, and tailor services for new client audiences,” says Bernstein, who also handles business development for sister agencies EDGE Marketing and Advantage Marketing Partners at times. “That includes identifying client prospects, both established and emerging, leading all our RFI/RFPs, and then managing a rigorous onboarding process for each new client.”
Prior to her time at IN Connected Marketing, Bernstein started out after college as a copywriter at a small New York ad agency, then switched to account management and also retail as the only American at Marks & Spencer’s London-based headquarters. “I loved the creative process but after a few years, I wanted to marry creative thinking with business leadership,” she says. “Perhaps that’s where the seeds of a focus on retail really started.”
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IN Connected Marketing establishes its central focus on connectivity with cross-functional teams aligned to a client that provide equal emphasis on account, strategy, analytics, media, customer excellence and creative, Bernstein says. “And then there is the connectivity within our larger enterprise,” she says. “We flexibly cross-pollinate account teams with our sister agencies based on client needs, scaling up or down as they need.”
During the past few years, IN Connected Marketing has transformed itself with new branding, vision and mission, Bernstein says. “It’s enabled us to truly fuse shopper and e-commerce, bridge into pure play, add a whole new consultative function around commercial optimization, [and] a dedicated analytics function,” she says.
Now and in the future, Bernstein expects attracting and retaining talent to be the top challenge for her agency and others in the field. “We are a people business, at the end of the day, and we are eager to welcome more people into the agency [who] have a true understanding of where commerce is headed, an appreciation of how borderless it is, and want to be on a journey to transform it,” she says.
Clients should evaluate their agencies using tangible fundamentals like measurable impact, use of data and insights, creative that’s both striking and on-brand, and stellar account service, Bernstein says. “I think the best performance is stoked by an agency that is forward thinking, anticipates where you need to go next and dreams with you,” she says.
Clients of IN Connected Marketing need help harnessing, making sense of and applying data, Bernstein says. “But fundamentally, our clients are all asking how we can help them commercially optimize their business – run it more efficiently [and] more profitably alongside game-changing activation. And there is always the pressure of competing today but [also] looking at where commerce is heading. The disruption is real, and dynamic. We’re always looking at what the next five to 10 years will bring.”