David Tracy: Marketing in a Global Economy

David Tracy: Marketing in a Global Economy

David Tracy has lived an uncustomary life. Having grown up, lived, and worked in dozens of countries, he’s a global visionary who, if he came home one day and announced to the family that they were all packing up to join the circus, well, they’d believe him. His latest venture, however, is excitement of quite another kind. These days, he serves as CEO of Northgate Marketing, a company he conceived and started earlier this year and that has taken off as though shot from a gun.

Much like David’s life, Northgate has, at its heart, a global presence. “The world is an interconnected place,” he says.

“Almost every purchase that people make comes from somewhere else across the world. It’s a fact of daily living. The global effect of COVID-19 is a grim example of the same principle. Because the world is so globalized, businesses have to sell in an international market, learn what makes each place unique, and how to best serve them.” From a marketing standpoint, that’s done, David says, in a process called contextualization, which simply means that we help transmit a message to which people who see the world in different ways can relate.

What’s important isn’t to create a market presence for a client that is like us, but to showcase who they are. We adapt our marketing personality to that of each client.

“For instance,” David says, “If I were selling something in Panama, where I grew up, I would use bright colors and excitement—lots of action and noise. Central America is a celebration culture and that is what appeals to them. But, if I were selling in Asia, I would use pastel colors and consider integrating the “kawaii” cartoon mascots that connect in that culture. What’s important isn’t to create a market presence for a client that is like us, but to showcase who they are. We adapt our marketing personality to that of each client.”

In fact, David talks a lot about who his clients are, often in terms that have little obvious connection with what they sell or what service they provide. He wants to understand what makes them tick. He and his team then put that identity front and center. It starts with character. Every company has a set of values that’s important to them, a way of approaching what they do every day. “All companies want to make money, but they do it in different ways. Their values can lead them to provide quality services, consistent delivery, innovative technology, or job security for their employees.” But their personality, he says, is something else entirely. It’s how they do what they do—the spirit they project. “A company can have a personality that says fun, or careful, or chill, or sassy. In fact, one of our clients has that sassy personality, but it wasn’t coming out in the way they marketed themselves. We helped them change that, made their advertising agree with who they were, and it worked for us both.”

For David, doing business isn’t only about getting accounts, or constant growth, or padding the bottom line. “Money isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. We all want to earn enough to support our families, but we want to do more than that. When the Iowa Secretary of State’s office interviewed me, they asked me what I wanted to tell other people considering starting businesses. I’d tell them to look past just having and doing a job. We all want to do more than go to work each day. I’ve always known that I wanted to make a difference and if we operate Northgate the way we want to, we can do that here.”

One of the ways David tries to make a difference is to maintain a strong connection with non-profits. He grew up in a mission setting and held nonprofit leadership positions most of his adult life, so his understanding of their needs and contributions are familiar territory. Northgate actively seeks nonprofit clients, for whom they can adjust their fees in a number of creative ways in order to get them first class service at reduced or pro bono rates.

Another way David operates imaginitively is the way he assembled his team. “I had a list,” he says. “I had a list of people I’d come to know along the way and with whom I’d maintained a relationship through the years. They lived all over the world–I liked them as people and knew their talents. I thought that, if I ever got the chance, I’d like to work with them. And here we are. It’s happening.”

David has had a lot of time to think about this. Still in his thirties, he’s not only experienced plenty of adventure through his travel and international living, he’s also lived through two unrelated bouts of cancer. The first was at the age of fourteen, when a lengthy recuperation forced him to consider what he really wanted from his life, what was important enough to fight for. He recovered. Then, in 2018, while he, his wife, and their four daughters were serving a nonprofit in Kona, Hawaii, doctors discovered another cancer whose treatment required them all to return to the mainland. After surgery, the doctors informed him that despite all previous evidence from biopsies, scans and other tests showing that it was cancer, that they had good news. There was no cancer! David was the recipient of a miracle!

Now, David knows exactly what he wants to do with the life he’s been given, what he wants Northgate to accomplish. “Life is hard. Everybody has to carry a lot of burdens. I want my life, and this business, to show another way. I want partnering with Northgate to be a life-giving experience for everybody involved. I don’t want to add to the weight of life. I want to help make it better.” That’s not only an uncommon business goal, not just a desire for excellence. That’s a vision for transformation.

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