Marketer to Watch: Mary Harper of Superior HealthPlan

Mary Harper, Sr. Director,
Marketing Communications,
Superior HealthPlan

This week, we are featuring Mary Harper, Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications at Superior HealthPlan (a subsidiary of Centene Corporation), and a Future CMO Club Founders member. Here, she talks candidly about the important role great mentors have played in her career, as well as her ongoing plans for the future.

1. What was your first job? 

My first job was working at a small ice cream stand – the kind the T-ball teams flock to after games. To this day, I can still make a perfect soft serve cone! The perk I loved most? All-you-can-eat ice cream.

2. Can you name a particularly influential mentor during your career that helped prepare you for your current position? 

I’ve had so many good managers that have guided me professionally. As my career path has evolved and I’ve changed jobs, I made it a point to stay in touch with them. Having that shared experience from a past position not only makes them great friends, but amazing mentors that I can call on whenever I’m faced with a challenge. That is invaluable to me.

Another standout marketer that I learned from was the Sr. Director of Marketing when I worked in the sales division at St. Jude Medical. I was the second marketing person she hired, and I watched her build the department from the ground up. Fast-forward to 2012, and I was building my own team at Superior HealthPlan. What was a four-person team is now 32 people strong. It was my previous experience at St. Jude Medical that lent to how I organized and operationalized the growth of the marketing team in my current role.

3. How has marketing changed over the last five years? What trends are you excited about right now? 

I think marketing departments are more likely to have a seat at the proverbial table than they did five years ago – especially at small and medium-sized companies. They are no longer an expendable cost. Marketers are also being tapped to help with things like employee engagement, operating strategies, and business or systems integration. Companies really take advantage of the bullet in a marketer’s job description that says “other duties as assigned.” 

As far as exciting trends, I think geofencing is the new black. It’s a whole new level of macro targeting that demonstrates many benefits as it relates to digital strategies.

4. Name one CMO or Head of Marketing who impresses you today and tell us why. 

The obvious answer to this questions is Dave Minifie, CMO of Centene Corporation (and a CMO Club member) because I work with him so often. I think that one of his many strengths is identifying organic, unconventional talent within his team and fostering professional development. He’s also a great storyteller – Dave’s ability to articulate a purpose is the glue that helps align strategic initiatives and improve collaboration. Finally, I have to note that he is an entertaining heckler. From the baseball field to the conference room, he keeps things lively and light.

5. Name 1 or 2 characteristics that you think are invaluable for a marketer in today's world. 

Vision and adaptability.

6. Do you have a personal mantra, words of wisdom or favorite inspirational quote?

“So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact and remember that life’s a great balancing act.” Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka, Dr. Seuss).

7. Where do you see yourself professionally in five years? 

It may be idealistic, but for me, the formula is pretty simple: I’d like to work at a company with a strong brand, a nice marketing budget, a good purpose and for a manager who gives me a lot of rope. Company fit is more important to me than a title or specific job responsibilities. I’m happy as long I’m challenged.


Mary and her mentor, Dave Minifie, CMO of Centene Corporation