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Indiana University Bloomington

Marketing

The Pricing Strategist

Bill Feldman BS'80

Americas Commercial Leader, GE Plastics

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Every day you market yourself, every day you market your product, every day people market products to you. If you understand marketing, you understand the world.”

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After earning his bachelor’s degree from the Kelley School of Business in 1980, Bill Feldman worked at a series of sales jobs in the automotive industry, eventually moving into his current position as the Americas Commercial Leader for GE Plastics.

At GE, he makes strategic decisions about marketing and pricing every day, ensuring that his division is selling plenty of core products while also focusing on technology to create new products and phasing out those items that are no longer profitable. Marketing is what drives business, he says.

“Every day you market yourself, every day you market your product, every day people market products to you,” says Feldman. "If you understand marketing, you understand the world.”

When GE is creating a new product, says Feldman, it’s important to create products that fulfill a specific market need and have line of sight to profitability. He looks at five-year projections for market trends. For example, laptop computers are becoming smaller and thinner, but also hotter. “You have to create new products that can go thinner, that can go lighter, that can handle more heat. We’re also trying to make them durable so if somebody drops it, the thing doesn’t shatter in 1000 pieces,” he says.

The skills he gained at Kelley prepared him well for the challenges he faces every day. “The Kelley core was one of the best structures I went through in school because it was a real-world business model. It forced you to become part of a team and contribute to the team,” says Feldman.

When deciding where to set prices with commodity products, Feldman says, you can’t create the market—and it’s crucial not to use times of inflation for profit. “We have huge inflation happening right now because of the oil industry, so we have to raise the price because raw materials are going up. But you have to do that carefully, with a strategy in mind. I believe you increase profit through new products and better products.”

As important as the company’s bottom line is the benefit to the consumer, Feldman says. Effective marketing means pricing that works for everyone.

“There’s a price that the market will pay for products and you can’t change that price unless you change your value proposition,” says Feldman. “At the end of the day, you have to provide a solution that’s the lowest cost to the customers or there’s no reason for them to do business with you.”

Published April 7, 2011