Get To Know: Groupon CMO Rich Williams
Rich Williams has served as Groupon’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and CMO since June 2011.
Prior to joining Groupon, Williams ran worldwide marketing and advertising at Amazon. During his career, he spent nearly seven years developing marketing programs and technologies in a variety of leadership roles at Experian.
Currently residing in Chicago, Williams earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of Southern California.
CMO @ Groupon
- Age: 40
- HQ: Chicago
- First Job: Cartoon artist
- Apple or Android? Apple
- Hobby: Winemaking
What mobile device can you not live without?
My car; it gets me wherever I need to go, doesn’t text me or wake me up in the middle of the night, and gets respectable gas mileage (unlike my iPhone).
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Google Drive and Jabber. We’re a highly collaborative company and team that’s in virtually every corner of the world; staying open and communicative is a critical piece of the puzzle.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
Facebook and the forums of Cat Fancy Magazine. They both make me appreciate the power of the internet and stay close to friends.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
My clock, at which point I tend to wonder how it could possibly be right.
Take me through your typical workday.
Typically, I sneak in some time on my bike early in the morning, and then I have breakfast with my family.
Once in the office there’s no such thing as a typical workday. Groupon is a place for building and for builders, and that creates an extremely dynamic environment. It’s one of the best parts of my job and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
This is something that has involved teams from across our entire company — the transition from being a predominantly daily deal email business to a mobile-led local marketplace.
Marketing played a pivotal role in educating our customers and introducing them to a whole new way to engage with Groupon and take advantage of our great offers.
What does your desk look like?
Right now I’m sitting at one of my remote desks and staring at a three-foot tall panda piñata and two sequined cowboy hats. Welcome to Groupon.
While seemingly whimsical, every part of our office space is designed to inspire collaboration and creativity. Meetings often take place in our enchanted forest on a set of swings, or near the giant cat spaceship located in our atrium (pictured below).
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
I’m in the 100K range. I am a huge fan of Berlin. It’s an amazing city that’s changing so fast. You can feel the history and the tension between the past and the potential future.
There’s a great entrepreneurial vibe, it’s culturally diverse and they make some of the meanest fried chicken in the world (Henne in Kreuzberg).
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
We are constantly iterating, testing and learning fast, so do-overs are just part of what we do. As long as we learn quickly from tests that don’t pan out, we’re happy.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors in my career who gave me both sage advice and plenty of chances to fail fast.
One of the most influential however was my grandfather. He was fearless, brilliant at boiling things down to the basics, and a master at knowing what fights to pick and when to win people over with a dose of Kentucky charm and storytelling.
Unfortunately, I grew up in Michigan so I had to trade charm for Midwestern sensibility. I’ve stolen a bunch of his anecdotes though and still liberally apply the lessons he taught me on influence and work ethic.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Three things: being curious, creative and relentless.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I bought a kit to make a ukulele. It’s still sitting in its box in my garage waiting for inspiration and free time.
Why did you go into marketing?
I was attracted to the balance of art, instinct and science in marketing. The science component has been a big part of my career in marketing, and it’s becoming more deeply rooted in marketing fundamentals everywhere. It’s also making marketing roles more interesting and impactful.
I still however love that there’s a requirement of creativity, high business judgment, and strategic chops in marketing.
What other career would you like to try and why?
At some point I’d love to cook in a professional kitchen. I don’t want to be yelled at by Gordon Ramsay or anything, but I’d love to be able to make a perfect pan sauce and never need to see another meat thermometer in my life.
What’s the last business book you read?
I just finished reading Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro by Phil Gaimon. It’s not a business book per se, or at all, but there are some great themes in it for business: get cool with paying your dues; don’t cheat; working harder and smarter delivers results; learn from your mistakes; don’t let winning the battle keep you from winning the war; eating well and regular exercise really does work; get things in writing.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
I’m a total sucker for Geico’s dogs playing poker ad. How can you ignore such a perfect use of “cattywampus”? I still have Progressive insurance, but I love that ad.