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HARRY’S COMMENTS: I’m very pleased that EcommerceRecruiter.com continues to make inroads into contingency recruitment at the C-level. We’ve closed C-level deals in the past, but the volume has picked up this year. Recently, we were contacted about a CEO search for an up-and-coming online retailer, and today I’m very proud to tell you about a CMO search for a west-coast based $800 million online retailer.

For now, I’ll hold off telling you who the client is so that I can be completely candid about their situation. Just so you know, the base salary for this role will be $300,000-$350,000 plus a 40% bonus. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s nearly half a million bucks annually at the top of the range – if you make your numbers.

This commentary is the result of a 60 minute phone call I had with the company’s president, Brian. Fantastic guy. Smart. Enthusiastic. Full of ideas. Incredibly business-oriented. I would want my own son or daughter to work for him.

In this post I’ll be speaking to you as a marketer, not as a recruiter.

The client’s short-term business is fine, but Brian wonders whether the company is well-positioned for long-term growth. According to Brian “each year our growth is up, but it gets harder to make our numbers. If I told you our growth rate, you’d think I was just being paranoid. And maybe I am. But I want us to mean something to our customers. I want people to know what we are and what we stand for, and I want everything about her customer experience to reflect that …”.

If you knew AIDA

The client is in an extremely competitive industry (who isn’t?) where the bulk of their customer acquisition occurs through paid search.

As a marketer, you are no doubt familiar with the AIDA funnel, where prospects move from Awareness to Interest to Desire, and finally to Action. You have to round these bases in order, and you can’t get to 3rd base from 1st by crossing the pitcher’s mound. It’s a sequence.

To my mind, there are three big problems with paid search:

  1. You’re only as smart as your dumbest competitor. Bids get driven up based on either no math, or the dumbest bidder’s math.
  2. Paid search customers are often motivated by price, discounts, and promotions. According to multichannel marketing forensics expert, Kevin Hillstrom of MineThatData, “Once acquired, we start pummeling these customers with direct mail and emails and 20% offers on Facebook. And if that doesn’t work, it causes the customer to appear to be less profitable.”
  3. Google can change the rules at any time. No need to elaborate here.

Building a brand can change the game through direct navigation, lower bounce rates, higher conversions, pricing power, and customer referrals. And it can mitigate the Amazon threat, too.

A brand that symbolizes the way you will add meaning to a customer’s life is the only thing that will allow your customer to develop an emotional bond with your company. In my book, customers should feel better about themselves for having spent time with YOU – whether that’s on the web, in the catalog, in the call center, or by using your product and enjoying the lifestyle it enables.

Aspirational / Indispensable / Dependable / Unique

Given that my client’s customer funnel most often starts with paid search, they need a first rate CMO with big ideas to establish a brand to 1.) Arrest the prospect’s attention in order to reduce their bounce rate, and 2.) Get repeat buyers to return without the aid of paid media.

How can one build a brand online? Many ways, but in my client’s case, it starts with:

A.) Better research and insights: Naturally, you can’t have an aspirational brand until you know what your customers aspire to. Currently, the company knows that its target customer is primarily a 35 to 55-year-old female with slightly higher income than average.

However, I asked Brian “If you shadowed your customer for 30 days, what would you learn about her?” His response: “I cannot answer that, but we’re in the process of conducting a major research initiative to figure that out.” It will be the CMO’s job to provide planning and direction for all quantitative and qualitative research, as well as analytical support on the backend. You’ll need to be insatiably curious about microdata (like the firm’s Google Analytics data), but you’ll also want to consider offbeat sources of macrodata, too (such as this nugget from Amazon). Get ready to channel your inner Malcolm Gladwell!

B.) Better product development: Customers want what they want. In addition to the client’s core business, the company develops 15-25 new products per year. These products complement the firm’s core business, and it takes roughly 18 months to take a new product from idea to marketplace.

18 months is not a long time, but ask yourself: “Do I know my customer well enough to know what they will want in 18 months?” Obviously, the risk is that you can develop irrelevant products that you will have to dump elsewhere while scrambling to find something else your customer wants. Not good.

Your job will be to with the Product Development Team to manage the conception, development, and introduction of new products and enhance the company’s current portfolio to match seasonal trends.

C.) Better positioning: The company is not looking to make a wholesale change in who it is and what it’s about. The company is already viewed as a premium brand. Mostly, the role is about managing the brand evolution and differentiation.

D.) Better marketing and brand strategy: The new CMO will lead the client’s entire consumer product branding effort while developing a marketing strategy that supports outlines with the clients long-term strategic plan. Obviously, you’ll need big-league branding experience and be able to help the client redefine what they want the company to be in take them there. It is essential that you have created a brand and a great brand image before. You won’t be able to rely on an agency to develop big ideas. That’s your job.

E.) Better marcom and activation: Traditionally, the company’s business has revolved around three major holidays. Yes, they run promotions throughout the year, but they are always gearing up for those three holidays. With which celebrities will you align? What types of content should you leverage? What PR efforts must be involved? Which products will you promote? What role do you expect your team and agencies to play? What can you do to market through the seasons?

Working with internal and external stakeholders, you will lead the development of big ideas and drive their flawless execution. To do that, you’ll need an incredibly strong background in online marketing, PR, advertising, promotions, and media. You’ll need to bust out your creative chops in each of these functional areas.

Of course, you’ll still manage the client’s IR-100 ecommerce business – which means that you’ll know all about organic and paid search, e-mail marketing, affiliate marketing, online merchandising, social media, conversion rate optimization, web analytics, and more. This is a big-league job paying big-league money.

You’ll have plenty of support. The client has long believed in the value of talent, and their bench is loaded with great players. But the company needs new marketing leadership. Some fresh thinking. Some big ideas.

In business, there’s an old saying that “You are who you hire,” which makes this a key hire for Brian. This is your chance to have a massive impact on a major online retailer’s look, feel, attitude, personality and outlook.

BUT: I’ll expect you to teach me new things during the interviews. I’ll be probing for new ideas and fresh applications of classic marketing concepts. I’ll expect you to think like an action-oriented, financially literate entrepreneur, and I’ll be looking for a teachable POV on the current and future state of direct to consumer marketing (like this guy, for example).

UPDATE: This search is now closed.

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