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We are working with Guitar Center in their search for a GM of Woodwind / Brasswind based in Frederick, MD.

Reporting to the EVP of Marketing and Institutional Sales, the Director Marketing, WWBW is responsible for defining, planning and implementing the on-line marketing strategies for the WWBW brand. This position will evaluate, develop, and execute marketing that maximize promotion objectives, enhance customer lifetime value, and contribute toward revenue growth, customer file-size growth, and ROI.

This position will lead and direct staff in acquisition and retention marketing efforts designed to drive online traffic and sales for the brand. The key strategic focus of this position includes the development and implementation of online tactics with specific focus on ensuring conversion, building customer loyalty, targeted marketing efforts, and overall effectiveness of advertising and marketing efforts.

These may include paid and natural search, affiliate programs, partnership marketing/content integration programs, and other media-based business building activities. As a critical member of the marketing management team, work closely with cross-functional partners both inside and outside marketing and the company to drive sales and profitability for the brand.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: It is amazing how profound’s impact has been on the business models of the Internet Retailer Top 500. Just two years ago, many fine companies were slugging it out in head-to-head competition with Amazon and finding out the hard way how impossible it is to compete with …

  • One click ordering;
  • A state-of-the-art website that gets smarter about its users with every click;
  • MAP pricing;
  • Free shipping in the guise of Amazon Prime (incentivized by free streaming content);
  • and an endless aisle.

Speaking of the endless aisle …

Several weeks ago I interviewed a very senior executive from Amazon for a CEO search. I asked this executive to tell me a success story about his impact on product sourcing at Amazon. His response …

“Oh, we have robots for that.”

“Robots?” I asked.

“Yes, Amazon has special software that scours the Internet 24/ 7 looking for products for sale, and constantly reconciling those offers against what is currently on Amazon’s website. When the software finds something that is not for sale on, it will bounce back out to the World Wide Web to find 4 other suppliers of that product.”

“When the software has 5 suppliers total, it will crawl all 5 websites, inhaling the names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers (if available) of the relevant parties who might list those products on That spreadsheet is then automatically forwarded to our buyers who follow up with each of those companies.”

I have no idea if this is true, but I can believe it.

Anyway, several years ago I handled my first search for Guitar Center’s MusiciansFriend brand (IR #44). At the time, I was working with a VP of Marketing whom I asked during the project kickoff call “Who are your top three competitors?”

His response was “Amazon and eBay. I can’t remember who’s third.”

He had reason to worry. I have been a drummer since I was 11 years old. After college, I played professionally for several years before getting a real job. Marketing gurus will tell you that these days, every consumer has one area of their life where they spend rich. My area is drums.

I have seventeen 22 inch ride cymbals in my basement. Paiste. Istanbul. Zildjian. Sabian. Plus little known brands like Pasha and Ottaviano. $5,000 worth of metal just laying there waiting for me to beat it with a stick. Six of my cymbals came from eBay. The others came from, a niche marketer of drums and cymbals geared towards the professional jazz player.

My kinda people.

Steve Maxwell is a model of trust and credibility for guys like me. A former management consultant, Steve understands that the only way to compete in retail is to have an emotional bond with your customers; to love the product and the niche so much that everything you do is essentially a labor of love. Everything this tiny little retailer does is a celebration of the artistry of jazz drumming. I could watch Steve’s content all day long. It’s almost like he runs a media company …

Is Steve worried about Amazon? Not at all. “Amazon is like a Coke machine. It’s convenient, but they’re not going to make anyone feel special. I’m not building a personal relationship when I buy from them.” Ebay is another story, but I have seen Steve buy foolishly priced drum sets on ebay and relist them on his site.

What does this have to do with WWBW’s search for a new GM? Lots!

Whatever Steve tells me to buy, I buy. If he gets a 22” pie that he knows I’ll love, he’ll send me a text and hold it for me until I respond. If I have a question about the diameter, age, origin, weight, or make of a cymbal on a particular record (like Pot Luck by Wynton Kelly), Steve will know. And so will his employees, who are excellent players in their own right.

I’ve learned to trust their judgment, and they’ve never abused that privilege.

That’s pretty much the direction music retail is headed in. The only thing more information intensive than a musical instrument is the relationship a player has with that instrument. It’s an intensely personal thing, and only a trained educator or merchant who knows both the player and the instrument is qualified to provide the player with informed and unbiased advice as to which instrument to buy.

The relationship between players and educators begins early.

Most musicians get their start in grade school or high school. According to First Research, there are more than 130,000 K-12 schools in the United States. Aside from a brief scare in 2008 when music programs and arts education were threatened with cuts, the future of public arts education looks very promising. In fact, there is growing sentiment in Washington around having more humanities in schools and teaching creativity rather than technical expertise.

WWBW has been selling to the K-12 market since 1978.

At one point, the business generated more than $90 million in sales, although the brand has seen a decline in the last couple of years. The brand was acquired out of bankruptcy by Guitar Center in 2007, and GC’s management has engaged top-flight business leaders to revive the brand.

Management seeks to return WWBW to what made it compelling in the first place: Deep knowledge of the category; knowledge of the key influencers; and a sales model that focuses on relationship driven selling as opposed to leveraged buying power and logistics (a la Amazon).

A significant portion of WWBW’s revenue is generated through schools by purchasing and/or band directors. Another large chunk of business is generated from consumers purchasing for their own use. For these private consumer purchases, WWBW believes that there is a significant amount of influence being wielded by band directors and private music instructors.

Obviously, one area of focus for WWBW will be to develop deeper relationships with the educators who are loyal to the company. Additionally, WWBW seeks to attract new educators an effort to extend its influence on the market.

This is a retail marketing job, not just an ecommerce job.

Based on my 90 minute kickoff call with the hiring committee, the band and orchestral marketing process involves many of the same fundamentals as strategic selling:

  1. There is an economic buying influence, i.e. someone who writes the check for the instrument.
  2. There is a technical buying influence, i.e. someone who screens out unworkable brands and endorses the best ones.
  3. There is an end-user, i.e. the grade school or high school musician who will actually play the instrument.

Each of these buyers has their own hot buttons, and each must be involved in the selling event. Some of these instruments are incredibly expensive and involve monthly payments, so the cost of making a bad purchasing decision is very high.

But there are ways to market to these constituencies such that each person feels included and appreciated. For example, each year WWBW in Columbus, OH, WWBW sponsors on event called Horns Aplenty that works like this:

WWBW representatives go out to local area schools, letting the educators know that for one day only, WWBW will have insanely great deals with special financing and an expanded assortment of instruments for students to audition and hopefully purchase. Manufacturers reps bring in extra inventory and a wider assortment.

A student might encounter 6 saxophones, 6 trombones, 5 trumpets, 4 flutes, and much more. Unless they lived in New York, Chicago, or LA, many of them would never see this many shiny new instruments at one time under one roof. It’s a very big deal — and it’s a ton of fun, too. Plus these events create a buzz around the participating schools’ music programs (which is precisely what these educators CRAVE).

WWBW will ask band directors to go through the inventory and recommend specific instruments to specific students. Appointments can be made to audition the instruments, and band directors are encouraged to join students during their audition. If a student has small fingers, or has trouble blowing into the horn, or prefers a baritone to an alto, etc. then those issues are identified and managed on the spot.

It’s brilliant. Not to mention profitable.

As someone who studies marketing, I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this strategy. It positions WWBW with the real decision-makers at the point of purchase. It enables WWBW to spot customer attitudes that can kill a sale, and it provides an excellent way to ensure happy customers and enthusiastic referrals. Additionally, “sales momentum” builds during the event and prevents sales from being sabotaged by naysayers. Plus, the event can be templated and rolled out in other markets.

Are you right for the job?

If you would like to apply for this role, simply ask yourself “What’s the strategy for going after private piano teachers or guitar teachers? What is involved in hiring and training the WWBW relationship managers who will reach out to educators around the country? There are tens of thousands of them! What third-party service providers must be involved? How can I use mobile, social, and web technologies to support these and other multichannel grass-roots marketing initiatives and amplify the buzz?

Think about it. Then apply below.

NOTE: Our kickoff call with this hiring committee lasted +90 minutes, during which we discussed very candidly the current and future expectations for this position. Our 10-point typewritten notes from the call exceeded six pages — and that’s before we pulled additional research from Datamonitor, First Research, Factiva, Forrester, etc. In short, we have an absolutely ridiculous amount of internal and external intelligence we can share with qualified candidates. To request that information, please apply below.


  • Define the strategic direction for the WWBW Brand and identify/validate key opportunities to drive profitable growth.
  • Create a comprehensive online marketing plan for a brand using all appropriate channels (SEO, SEM, Partnerships, Ad Networks, affiliate networks, social networks, blogging networks, E-mail lists, SMS campaigns, traditional media and market places like Ebay, Amazon (and others as they come on-line) to support the overall brand strategy and drive incremental sales.
  • Develop the promotional calendar for the brand meet or exceed business performance objectives.
  • Work closely with analytics to report on, analyze, and optimize campaigns to inform senior management on overall performance weekly.
  • Ensure effective creative development and execution to support program and media efforts.
  • Optimize marketing spend to meet or exceed budget goals and demand goals.
  • Lead cross brand initiatives, partnering with IT, Merchants, Creative Services, and Marketing Analytics to benchmark best practices and programs to support Internet Marketing initiatives
  • Partner with Marketing Analytics, Merchants, the Contact Center, and Sales to leverage the Internet to increase customer acquisition and retention, and drive incremental sales.
  • Stay abreast of competitive knowledge of marketing opportunities in the online and mobile communities.
  • Lead, manage, and develop the WWBW marketing team.
  • Measure everything, constantly striving for improved efficacy of spend.
  • Never be satisfied with the status quo. Innovate constantly, creatively and cost effectively.


  • Bachelor’s degree required, MBA preferred.
  • 5 – 7 years of online marketing experience.
  • Brand marketing experience required.
  • This person must be ROI focused and highly skilled in on-line marketing.
  • Strong organizational and analytical skills, as well as expertise in site conversion, SEM, SEO, Partnerships, Affiliates, display, and Internet business development required.
  • This individual will be an expert in all aspects of current best practices for online marketing.
  • Experience managing an external agency relationship is required.
  • Experience with behavioral marketing platform preferred.
  • Candidate must understand and have experience with fundamental contractual negotiation, concepts and language
  • This position requires excellent communication and relationship skills.
  • Well developed ability to multi-task and prioritize with strong attention to details.



  • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
  • Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in P&L management, human resource staffing and evaluation, leadership technique, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Computers — Knowledge of computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Communications and Media — Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.


  • Active Learning – Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision making.
  • Critical Thinking – Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making – Considers the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Management of Financial Resources — Determining how money will be spent to get the work done, and accounting for these expenditures.
  • Management of Personnel Resources — Motivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.


  • Deductive Reasoning – The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Oral Expression – The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension – The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.

Applications for this position are being coordinated by Harry Joiner. To apply, CLICK HERECandidates, please be sure to email Harry for a packet of market research and company / competitive intel that will differentiate you in your candidacy. Due to the intensely competitive nature of this search, thorough preparation for these interviews with this proprietary material is strongly recommended.

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