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Rob Palmatier honored for contribution to marketing strategy research

If Rob Palmatier seems to be in a hurry, it’s because he is.

A professor of marketing and the John C. Narver Endowed Professor in Business Administration at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, Palmatier got a late start in academia, only commencing doctoral studies after attaining dual degrees in electrical engineering and an MBA, serving five years in the Navy and another ten as a senior executive in industry.

“I was the oldest doctoral student in my program,” says Palmatier. “I had to catch up to my age group.”

He’s done that, and more. Since adding “scholar” to his curriculum vitae, Palmatier’s research around relationship marketing and strategy has been so prolific and impactful that he received the American Marketing Association’s Varadarajan Award for Early Contribution to Marketing Strategy Research earlier this year. The prestigious award recognizes the young scholar (less than 10 years removed from his or her doctorate) who has made the largest impact on strategy research and practice.

Spirit of reinvention

Palmatier started out a fair distance from marketing. He earned BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech before serving as an officer on a nuclear powered submarine in the US Navy. He followed that with an MBA from Georgia State University, then went to work for Raychem Corporation, a Fortune 500 producer of industrial electronics components, in 1991. Palmatier directed worldwide strategic planning and marketing for a division of Raychem, and rose to general manager of its European operations before its 1999 acquisition by Tyco International. In 1998 he became president and chief operating officer of C&K Components, a $110 million producer of electro-mechanical switches.

After C&K was purchased at the height of the dotcom bubble, Palmatier tried early retirement.

It didn’t take.

“It turns out that I just don’t have the personality for it,” he admits. “I tried a lifetime of hobbies in one year. None of them was enough.”

So on to graduate school to study marketing at the University of Missouri, a new adventure to sate his intellectual wanderlust.

On a roll

After postdoctoral work at Northwestern, Palmatier joined the Foster School in 2007. He’s been on a remarkable run ever since.

To date he’s authored 25 papers published or forthcoming in the field’s top peer-reviewed journals, with another five currently under review or revision. He’s contributed another 13 monographs, book chapters and MSI Working Papers. And his papers have been cited more than 2000 times—a testament to their influence. He has a 500-page book titled Marketing Channel Strategy, in press at Pearson Prentice Hall, due to launch at the end of the year.

Palmatier’s research is directly relevant to industry. “My papers contribute new theories that allow businesses to more effectively execute marketing strategies,” he says, “or they test existing marketing strategies to see if they really work.”

A recently published study outlines the conditions under which it makes sense for a firm to shift strategically from providing products to providing services. A recent paper on “relationship velocity” finds that a more effective way to predict customer decision-making is through surveys that chart the trajectory of satisfaction or loyalty over time rather than in a single snapshot. Another new study identifies the conditions under which an organization’s customer-centric restructuring pays off financially.

Next chapter

All of this has earned Palmatier a surfeit of honors. He is a six-time AMA Sheth Foundation Doctoral Consortium Faculty Fellow. And, prior to winning the Varadarajan Award, he was named the Palgrave Youth Scholar of 2008 and a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar in 2007. In 2008 he received the Journal of Marketing’s Harold H. Maynard Award for significant contribution to marketing theory and thought.

But he spends little time dwelling on his accomplishments. So much yet to do.

Palmatier has collaborated with the Foster School’s marketing group to better identify and understand prospective students to its work-compatible programs.

And he’s planning to spin his extensive consulting experience and academic work into a new UW Center for Sales and Marketing Strategy (CESMAS), headquartered at the Foster School. The Center’s mission will be to align important sales and marketing problems with academic research and analysis techniques to develop strategies that improve business performance and to facilitate business-academic collaboration to create and disseminate sales and marketing knowledge.

“Stay tuned,” he says.