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We are working with in their search for a VP of Sales and Marketing based in Seattle, WA. (“OLS”) is looking for a highly effective, energetic marketing expert who is eager to roll-up their sleeves and lead the firm’s talented sales and marketing ecommerce team on its mission of delivering strong sales growth combined with an exceptional customer experience. OLS’ sales and marketing leader needs to be a skilled strategic thinker who is able to manage short term sales goals as well as drive initiatives related to the long term top and bottom line growth and vision for the company’s success.

The VP of Sales and Marketing’s key function is to drive growth and profitably by increasing sales and overseeing the strategy for acquiring new consumers and retaining existing consumers. In addition to being responsible for evaluating, developing and executing key marketing initiatives, the VP of Sales and Marketing is responsible for motivating and guiding all marketing functions to achieve a message and position consistent with the firm’s brand and company objectives. This role is for a proven innovator with demonstrated success driving key initiatives.

Again: is looking for an individual who has demonstrated the ability to achieve sales goals. This person must have the ability to mitigate sales shortfalls in one channel or program by quickly finding alternative methods to achieve established goals.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: Imagine a McKinsey & Company consulting case interview that begins with “Estimate the size of the North American shoe market …”.

Your heart races. Where on earth would you start? How many people are there? What percent of them wear shoes? How many pairs of shoes do they own? How frequently do shoes need replacing – and under what circumstances? Do they wear out, or do they simply go out of style in the opinion of their owner? And on average, what’s the average price of a pair of shoes in the United States? Broadly speaking, that’s the size of the market.

The case interviewer continues …

You are the VP of Sales & Marketing of a $100+ million online retailer who is charged with growing the business in the face of online competitors like Zappos and traditional retailers like Nordstrom, Foot Locker, Famous Footwear, The Walking Company, DSW and Payless ShoeSource.

What do you do?

If you apply for this job, you won’t be imagining anything. Indeed, this will be your reality: creating, communicating and executing plans to sell more shoes, to more people, more often, in a fast growing, fun, and competitive market. This role is all about rolling up your sleeves and driving results. To win in this role, you’ll need to have killer online marketing chops and have a history of driving significant growth in an online business.

It’s a massive market, as Dan Gerler well knows…

As’s Founder / CEO, Dan Gerler was a salesman in his father’s shoe business before he became an online retailer. opened its virtual doors as the first company to sell shoes online in 1996, but its legacy goes back more than forty years to the family shoe store established in 1968 by Gerler’s father in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood.

“From the moment I sold my first pair, I realized how important it was for customers to purchase the product that best fit their needs — shoes that both looked great and felt great,” says Gerler, who was only 11 years old at the time. “Shoes quite literally provide the foundation that gets us through each and every day. That’s why we at are obsessed with enhancing our customers’ lives with comfort and confidence … from the ground up.”

Today, has a great thing going on …

U.S. based ecommerce has become massive with over $228 billion in total annual sales (FY2012), and the portion of those sales related to apparel, footwear & accessories has grown to $45 billion, growing at a 21% clip in 2012. 14% of total apparel, footwear & accessories are now sold online.

Personal income and new styles drive demand in this market, and the profitability of individual retailers depends on effective marketing, merchandising and competitive pricing. Large retailers have advantages in purchasing, distribution, and marketing. Small retailers can compete effectively by stocking specialty products, providing superior customer service, or serving a local market.

The industry is concentrated: the top 50 retailers have about 75% of industry revenue. Standalone shoe stores compete with department stores, mass merchandisers, apparel retailers, Internet retailers, and some shoe manufacturers.

Against that competitive backdrop, seeks a VP of Sales & Marketing, but specifically, in Gerler’s OWN (emailed) WORDS, the firm needs (caps are his) …

  1. “Someone who LOVES online marketing, creating and executing plans, driving results, delighting CUSTOMERS and, well, SHOES!
  2. Someone who wants to make a BIG IMPACT on the business, PARTNER with the merchandise, technology, operations, and finance teams
  3. Someone who possesses serious customer analytic skills, but someone who also “GETS” PRODUCT and consumer behavior
  4. Someone who is SMART and knows how to get things done, is CURIOUS, detail oriented, business savvy, and maybe just a little bit of an ECOMMERCE GEEK

“But most of all, we are looking for someone with a GREAT ATTITUDE, proven LEADERSHIP skills, the DRIVE to get it right, and the ability to have FUN.”

Gerler continues, “We want this VP to build our talented marketing and drive our online marketing functions to achieve our key marketing metrics (including customer acquisition and retention, purchase frequency, order volume and average order size, promotional spend, GM%, and advertising spend) for all channels inclusive of SEO, Paid Search, Email, Re-Targeting, Display Ads, Affiliates, and Social Media.

“We also need this VP to oversee the consumer experience in the web store by partnering with technology to create a comfortable experience for the consumer, and by working with the merchandise and customer analytics teams to introduce the right product, at the right time, to the right person.

Gerler adds: “But that’s not all: Our finance team will need this VP’s omniscient skills to plan and project the key marketing metrics of the business, as well as the VP’s ownership for achieving the corresponding results. To be sure, this new hire can expect to roll up her/his sleeves and drive results, while also working to fulfill our company’s vision, mission and overall brand platform.”

Whew! offers nearly 300 brands of high-quality footwear for women, men and kids, as well as clothing, bags and accessories. Customers are entitled to a 110% price guarantee, a 365-day return policy, and free shipping and exchanges on most orders. Most of its customers are affluent, aged 35/up.

The company seeks to serve a wide, yet relevant set of consumer footwear interests focused on both comfort and style. Accordingly, supports a lot of categories: dress, hiking, athletic, comfort wear, casual wear, and more. Because specializes in premium brands, its starting price points typically exceed $60.

According to Foresee Results, offers outstanding customer service for which they receive very positive feedback. Additionally, the website’s design elements make the shopping experience extremely intuitive.

Currently, the firm’s revenues are approaching $130+ million and there are plenty of opportunities for accelerated growth, both domestically and abroad.

According to my 90 minute kickoff call with Gerler, some of the responsibilities of this role that will really drive the business include:

  • CRM / Database Marketing: This is one of the biggest opportunities for Currently, the client is excellent at acquiring customers but they need to do a better job of maintaining a “top of mind” presence with their customers.’s new VP of Sales & Marketing will be expected to develop a plan for getting more business from current customers and learning more about who they are and why they buy. Ultimately, the opportunity to improve CRM will drive three major benefits of the business:
    • It will help define and reinforce its brand positioning,
    • It will accelerate top line sales growth, and
    • It will improve marketing spend efficiency.
  • Email Marketing: Currently, there is a major opportunity to improve’s email marketing efforts through more sophisticated e-mail segmentation by thinking more strategically about how the firm contacts its customers. The firm’s new VP of Sales & Marketing must be a database marketing wiz to help the marketing team identify and exploit new opportunities to grow this channel by treating different customers differently. Doing that will require extensive hands-on, “in the trenches” experience in slicing and dicing the house file; refining the promotional calendar; developing clutter-busting central selling themes for particular e-mail cadences; and creating irresistible product offers. World-class e-mail marketing is both an art and science, and it’s essential that the new VP of Sales & Marketing bring both approaches to the table.
  • SEM / PPC: Truly, the importance of paid search cannot be overstated for shoe etailers. At, the new VP of Sales & Marketing will be expected to bring focus, discipline, and a ton of intellectual curiosity to this channel. As’s new VP of Sales & Marketing, be prepared to work VERY closely with the marketing team and third party partners to:
    • Better understand’s value proposition and its success metrics
    • Research the marketplace to identify new opportunities for growth
    • Review, refine, recreate’s targeted keyword list and develop relevant text ads
    • Develop strong landing pages that convert as per the pre-defined success metrics
    • Ensure all tracking is in place and working across key data points
    • Manage appropriate returns on ad spend
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): For many of the same reasons that paid search is important, organic search is equally so. Candidates must thoroughly understand both off-site influences (document sharing; social bookmarking; press releases; pins; +1’s; likes; shares) and on-site influences (sitemaps; editorial calendaring; semantic indexing; etc). Seriously, the new VP of Sales & Marketing can expect to get into the weeds very early with organic search. Be prepared to make ground breaking contributions in this area.
  • Web Analytics: To say that the new VP of Sales & Marketing must bring an analytical bias to the way s/he makes marketing decisions is an understatement. There is no aspect of this position that won’t significantly test your acumen as an analyst because at “there’s nothing as devastating to an opinion as a number.”
  • Web Design / User Experience: Although you won’t be expected to get into the weeds on web design and UX issues, it’s essential that you are snow proofed on issues like wire framing; user flows; interaction models; style guides; CSS style sheets; page templates, and lo-fidelity / hi-fidelity prototypes. Why? Because a well-developed BS detector will help you work effectively with’s front- and backend-development resources to deliver attractive, functional solutions on time. (After all, vendors don’t do what you expect. They do what you inspect.)

At the end of the day …

There is quite a bit of low hanging fruit in the business. Lots of opportunities face, and senior management needs a VP of Sales & Marketing who knows how to organize and prioritize, saying in effect “Here are the 5 things we are going to go after, and here are the people who are responsible. I’m going to meet with these people every single week and make sure that we are making progress against these 5 things.”

According to Gerler, “We need a doer. You can’t fake it here. We’re too small. We need someone who really wants to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. We aren’t looking for a “big picture” delegator. We don’t have that luxury. Nobody operates like that here. We need someone who’s hungry, lean, and doesn’t necessarily come from a $2 billion company. Of course, there can always be exceptions to the rule. Someone from a $500 million business, possibly. We don’t have a hard-line that we are drawing. But we want someone who can come in and make a difference with a small team and a small business and grow this thing in a resource friendly way.”

Gerler continues, “The ideal candidate needs to be clever, creative, smart, and experienced in the field. But more than anything, it’s critical that they have high energy and discipline and can create a roadmap and a plan to start making real progress in our key areas of opportunity. They must have high throughput. They must love their job. And they must get stuff done.”

Key Responsibilities:

  • Achieve targeted results and ensure timely and effective execution of sales and marketing programs and tactics.
  • Sales and EBITDA growth.
  • Accountable for key business metrics, annual, monthly and daily financial forecasts and the overall sales and marketing budget maximizing profitability.
  • Analyze, review and build strategic and tactical changes to increase visitors and customer loyalty, improve conversion rates and elevate margin performance.
  • Build and manage retention programs.
  • Manage sales and marketing team, to ensure the site communicates an effective value proposition to prospective and existing consumers.
  • Have a seamless integrated approach to sales with the Merchandising team.
  • Foster and improve innovation.
  • Represent marketing in Executive team and work collaboratively with other Executives/VPs to achieve department and company goals.
  • Perform and present detailed quantitative analysis aimed to increase marketing effectiveness.
  • Communicate, unify and bring clarity to strategic direction and short term decisions, up, down and laterally, across organization. Manage the overall relationship with our various marketing partners to ensure a common understanding of expectations.
  • Handle PR and corporate communications designed to deliver a brand-consistent message.
  • Must have strong soft skills in managing our team and our business partners.

Experience & Education:

  • Requires a BS/BA in Business or Marketing.
  • MBA with concentration in Marketing preferred.
  • 7+ years of etailing with etail being exclusive focus or close to it.
  • 10+ years of consumer marketing in both online and offline environments.
  • 10+ years of management and team building experience. Exceptional leadership skills.
  • Proven experience accomplishing initiatives and reaching annual goals.
  • Proven experience developing, maintaining and building brand equity.
  • Strong analytic skills. Ability to leverage data, channels, methods and tactics to impact short term goals.
  • Experience managing the creative development process to ensure strong brand communication.
  • Able to adapt leadership style to effectively communicate and build consensus across functions that are both highly analytical and highly creative.
  • Executive level strategic, communication, and presentation skills are required.

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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