For this episode, we decided to approach a legend who has made strides at several well-known companies and startups over the years - Brad Schlachter. Objectively speaking, I found his responses to be extremely detailed, eloquent and insightful. I hope you have a great time getting to know him, and if you want to work with him as your CMO, give us a ring at firstname.lastname@example.org! Or just put in your email on our homepage, and we'll reply in 30 seconds. Let's dive in!
Brad, it’s honestly so cool to finally have you on here! It’s not everyday that we get to talk to someone with 15+ years of experience in marketing leadership. Give our readers an intro about who you are and the kind of work you’ve done (so they’re just as excited as I am!)
I am a seasoned marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in senior marketing roles, specializing in the intersection of entertainment, media, and technology. As a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), I offer forward-thinking leadership and tailored strategies to guide companies towards growth and innovation. My areas of expertise encompass brand strategy, competitive analysis, product-market fit, roadmap planning, customer acquisition, and conversion rate optimization.
Some of my recent accomplishments include launching a new product for Fandom, a massive entertainment and gaming fan platform, significantly increasing subscribers and revenue for Motor Trend +, a prominent SVOD service for automotive enthusiasts, and crafting brand positioning and marketing strategies for Jukin Media, a viral video powerhouse with billions of monthly views.
Before my focus on web and OTT video services, I held senior-level positions for companies such as Major League Baseball, Disney, Microsoft, and Konami. I am passionate about assembling cross-functional teams that are data-driven, results-oriented, and dedicated to creating exceptional customer experiences.
You’ve held several senior-level positions in such large, well-known companies recently. But let’s go back to the early days of your career. When you first started in the field of marketing, what are some things that you did / learned which got you prepared for leadership roles down the road? And when did you know you were ready?
In the early days of my marketing career, I focused on building a strong foundation and gaining essential skills that would ultimately prepare me for leadership roles down the road. Here are some key things I focused on:
As for when I knew I was ready for leadership roles, it was a gradual process. I believe leadership readiness is not defined by a single moment but rather a culmination of experiences and personal growth. Over time, I felt increasingly confident in my abilities to make strategic decisions, lead teams, and drive results.
Talk to us about the kind of marketing work you enjoy doing, Brad! You’ve so many areas of expertise but I’m sure there are some things you love doing more than others! :)
Certainly! While I have expertise in various aspects of marketing, there are indeed specific areas of marketing work that I particularly enjoy and find most fulfilling:
Ultimately, what I love most about marketing is the blend of creativity and analytics or an art and a science. It's about finding innovative ways to connect with audiences, solve problems, and achieve business objectives while continuously learning and adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Each marketing challenge is unique, and that diversity keeps the work both exciting and intellectually stimulating.
Well now I’m curious. Since you've worked with teams at bigger companies and smaller ones, what’re some key differences you’ve observed in the way they treat their growth and marketing initiatives?
Great question. Having worked with teams at both larger and smaller companies, I've observed several key differences in the way they approach and execute their growth and marketing initiatives. These differences often stem from the distinct characteristics and resources of each type of organization:
1. Resource Allocation:
2. Decision-Making Speed:
3. Flexibility and Adaptation:
4. Innovation and Risk-Taking:
In summary, while both larger and smaller companies aim for growth and success through marketing, their approaches can differ significantly due to factors such as resource allocation, decision-making processes, flexibility, and the level of risk tolerance.
I’m aware that you love building out cross-functional teams that are well-aligned to their objectives and KPIs. Talk to us about how you’ve done that at larger companies (given the red tape and politics). I’m sure the readers would love to hear best practices to keep in mind, especially for bringing the marketing, product and sales teams on the same page!
It can be challenging but having teams that are well aligned to their objectives and KPIs is crucial for the success of any marketing initiative. As I previously stated, being able to drive consensus based decisions is key. In addition, following are some best practices I've found effective in bringing marketing, product, and sales teams on the same page in larger organizations:
1. Establish Clear Goals and Objectives:
2. Foster Open Communication:
3. Define Roles and Responsibilities:
4.Regular Cross-Functional Meetings:
5. Conflict Resolution Mechanisms:
In larger companies, the key is to create a culture of collaboration and alignment, where teams understand the value of working together to achieve shared objectives. While red tape and politics can present challenges, a commitment to these best practices can help break down silos and create more efficient and effective cross-functional teams.
Brad, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. I find that marketing departments of big brands often find themselves pulled in different directions (test short-form video content, hire that agency, build out the in-house email marketing expertise, etc.) Given your 15+ years of experience, what would you say can help such teams stay focused to their true objective and consistently deliver good results?
It is all about aligning marketing efforts with overarching business objectives and ensuring that resources are allocated wisely to achieve consistent, high-quality results. For every marketing initiative it should be clear how it fits into and supports the larger strategic business strategies.
In 2023, I think every founder and marketer is fully overwhelmed with how Generative AI is changing the marketing landscape. There’s just so many tools to use, so many channels to test using these fancy new AI tools and of course, competitors flooding social media with chatGPT-generated content. How should smaller teams (startups with < $2M ARR) navigate this space today?
It is challenging, however, it's possible to leverage AI tools effectively to stay competitive without becoming overwhelmed. Following are some key strategies to follow:
1. Define Clear Objectives:
2. Prioritize High-Impact Use Cases:
3. Start Small and Scale:
4. Invest in Training:
5. Competitive Analysis:
I see folks on Google always ask for the ideal chief marketing officer salary. In your experience Brad, what salary ranges are you seeing the full-time or part-time CMO / part-time executive in 2023?
Obviously salary can vary widely based on factors such as industry, company size, experience and physical location. However, based on my experience following are some general ranges:
Part-Time or Fractional CMOs:
Given that you’ve worked closely with the executive leadership team at larger and smaller companies, could you tell us how closely the CMO works with the CXOs and other leaders within an organization? And how does this change as the startup grows from a 10 people team to a 200 people company?
The level of collaboration and interaction between the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and other CXOs (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, etc.) and leaders within an organization can vary based on the company's size and stage of growth. Here's how it typically evolves:
Startups (10-Person Team):
Small to Mid-sized Companies (50-200 People):
Large Companies (200+ People):
Brad, tell us about your work in the professional sports industry! It’s rare (for me at least) to talk to someone who’s been in this field. And a fun fact for the readers, at Major League Baseball, Brad increased their royalty income by more than 200% – which is a crazy stat to me.
Certainly! My work in the professional sports industry was an exciting and rewarding part of my career. During my tenure at Major League Baseball (MLB), I had the opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of the organization's interactive entertainment and licensing efforts.
Increasing royalty income from the interactive entertainment or video game space resulted from developing a high level strategy to find the right balance of licensed products and platforms to support while avoiding over-licensing and cannibalizing sales. This strategic approach included the following:
Let’s close off with the burning question. It’s 2023. And everyone and their mom wants to cut marketing costs. And for smaller brands, this is an even bigger challenge. Can you share some un-intuitive tips on how founders and marketers can stay lean, and still deliver defensible results in this climate?
I always advocate to focus on investing for long term growth. SEO is a great example. While it may take time to see results, a strong organic search presence can reduce the need for paid advertising over time.
I am also a fan of promoting viral/organic growth via Referral Programs: Finding effective ways to encourage your existing customers to refer new customers by offering referral incentives via word-of-mouth marketing does not have significant upfront costs.
Brad, this was so, so fun. I personally learned so much and I'm confident that the readers did too! Readers, if you want to work with Brad in the future, come say hi at email@example.com, or just drop your email on our homepage! And check out other interviews on our blog page as well.