Leading the Digital Marketing Solutions Business

Leading the Digital Marketing Solutions Business

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Kris Barton talks about his career and how his passion for marketing and technology has led him to where he is today. He shares some anecdotes about learning from noteworthy individuals, such as Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, regarding leadership and time management. Kris also discusses how he instills a culture of accountability and responsibility in his company through local focus.

About the Guest

Kris Barton leads Digital marketing solutions (DMS) and brings a unique mix of business, design, data, and technical acumen to his role. He most recently served as Gannett’s Chief Product Officer driving product development for Gannett’s consumer and marketing products. Previously he led a global team as ReachLocal’s Chief product officer overseeing product and technology, receiving numerous industry awards. Kris was previously Chief Operating Officer at Nero, a multimedia software company. Before Nero, he served in leadership roles at Microsoft Corporation, Omniture (later acquired by Adobe), and Novell Corporation. Kris is a graduate of Brigham Young University.

Connect with Kris Barton

Key Takeaways

  • There is no such thing as a perfect organization – trade-offs are always being made.
  • Set up the company’s design principle to establish good relationships with the team, allowing for better focus on the customers.
  • The key is to stay involved and be mindful of the customer experience.
  • In this economic downturn, think of longer time horizons instead of focusing on the now.


“As business leaders, one of the worst things you can do is remove yourself from your customers and get sort of in your little bubble. You’ve got to be seeing what they see, experiencing what they experience regularly. And that will tell you more than any report you’ll ever see.” – Kris Barton

Highlights from the Episode

Please tell our listeners a little about your background and how your passion has gotten you to where you are in your career today.

Kris Barton has had a love for technology and a passion for product management, which has led him to his current career. Kris has had the opportunity to learn from many different leaders in the field, which has helped him to grow in his role.

Any anecdotes, any people have interests that our listeners might like to hear more about?

Some of the biggest leaders and most successful people can quickly adjust their conversation to their audience and the situation. One example is Steve Jobs, who was very specific and detail oriented in his feedback. This is something that stuck with Kris, and he tries to emulate it in his own life.

Gannett recently reorganized into a Business Unit led model, where you are now the President of the Digital Marketing Solutions (DMS) business. Can you share the strategic intent behind this decision? 

The strategic intent behind Gannett’s recent reorganization into a Business Unit led model is to align the company’s organization with its business goals. The goal is to achieve speed, focus, and growth and to improve communication and collaboration within the company.

Can you explain to listeners the term Premium SMB? 

The term “premium SMB” refers to small to medium-sized businesses that are slightly larger than the average SMB and understand the value of marketing. They typically have 10-99 employees and spend $12,000-$240,000 per year on marketing-related services.

As the leader of digital marketing solutions, how do you look at the relationship between your customers and their consumers/clients, especially the opportunity it creates for you? 

The goal is to make the customers look good to their clients to build trust and credibility. This is done by creating opportunities for their customers to succeed and by providing tools and services that help them do their best work. For Gannett, the company’s commitment to helping small businesses is evident in its hiring practices, focus on employee resource groups, and local market focus. These elements all work together to help the company build relationships with its extended community. The company believes that the best way to find and keep customers is to be empathetic to their needs and to understand what they are going through. This can be done by having employees ride along with salespeople, spending time on phone support, and/or mandating that everyone in the company spend some time each month doing customer-facing work.

As an evaluator, what kind of buying behavior do you look for so that you can deliver a more segmented, personalized audience to the individual business?

It is about looking for segmented, personalized buying behavior to deliver a more targeted audience to the individual business. This includes understanding the business’s goals and the vertical they are in so that the conversation can be tailored to their needs. Additionally, evaluators help companies collect their first-party data to better understand their customers and give them a more personalized experience.

What is the actual solution being offered to the business? Let’s say I am a business that has identified the audience I want to sell to. What are the marketing services you bring to the table for me as a local business? 

Gannett has a platform called Local IQ that helps businesses find (getting found online), scale (advertising), and convert (analytics and customer communication). The platform uses cross-media optimization to help businesses advertise more effectively.

How are you and your organization adapting to the current economic downturn?

It is critical to stay rooted in your strategy and not get short-sighted when tough times come. Kris also says that part of understanding if someone is successful or not is based on their time horizon when talking about plans.

Is there a book, blog, newsletter, website, or video that you would recommend to our listeners?


Carey Ransom – Founder at Operate

Russell Brunson – Co-Founder of ClickFunnels

Shama Hyder – CEO of Zen Media


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