Company: General Electric Co.
Years in current job: 1 (after serving in the same post from 2003 to 2005)
Quote: "During this crisis period, your customers need friends, and you need to understand how their needs are changing."
Beth Comstock, senior VP-CMO at General Electric Co., leads all growth initiatives for the company and oversees its sales, marketing and communications efforts. Given GE's size (the conglomerate had 2008 revenue of $183 billion and has roughly 300,000 employees), her to-do list at any given time is lengthy. This year, however, has been particularly busy, with the introduction of GE's Healthymagination initiative, a $6 billion growth platform intended to improve global health care by providing better products, technology and financing.
Comstock describes Healthy---magination as a global, cross-company business strategy, like GE's Ecomagination environmental initiative, that will enable the company to create products and services to solve one of the world's biggest challenges.
"As a company, we've decided that "Eco' and affordable health care are the two areas where we want to make our mark, from growing our business and also from growing our brand," Comstock said.
In terms of growing GE's business, Healthymagination will allow the company to expand into new market segments, she said. "We're going to have more health products at different price points," she said. "The high end is critically important, and that's going to remain important, but we're also going to meet needs in different settings, whether it's rural health care in Montana or rural health care in India."
With both the Ecomagination and Healthymagination initiatives, GE has relied on "scorecards" validated by an outside company to help it determine how successful its products and services are at achieving goals. For example, with Healthymagination, it tracks how successful products are at delivering better quality health care at a lower cost to more people. The marketing team then uses the data to communicate those benefits to customers.
"We can turn around to a hospital and say, "Here's this new product,' or "Here's our performance solutions business' and "With this line of business, here's the path to get you 15% less cost. Here's how you can redeploy those costs to get more productivity,' " she said.
Comstock is committed to expanding GE's use of digital media and marketing—a pledge evident in the company's innovative application of emerging technologies. For instance, to launch the Healthymagination initiative, GE in May broadcast a live one-hour speech by CEO Jeff Immelt via video in banner ads on high-profile Web sites.
GE's marketing organization also has been busy with an internal effort to measure and document the impact marketing has on the business, Comstock said. It also is focused on determining how to take advantage of emerging opportunities surrounding increased government spending—both in the U.S. and abroad—on infrastructure projects such as hospitals, transportation and energy.
"Our marketers have spent a lot of time trying to understand the opportunity," she said. "How do we package ourselves? How do we get the right salespeople in the right place?"
GE's efforts are paying off. Within two months of Healthymagination's launch, Comstock said, the company had a $100 million pipeline of active leads and projects in process.