I am a highly accomplished digital marketer, advisor, and strategist for leading entertainment and technology-focused organizations. My unique combination of traditional branding and performance marketing skills has enabled me to successfully launch and scale revenue for multiple digital products and services.
I offer forward thinking CMO leadership and provide custom tailored plans to plot the shortest path to growth. Areas of expertise include brand strategy, competitive analysis, product market fit, roadmap planning, customer acquisition and conversion rate optimization.
In this episode
Clicky AND Sticky not Clicky OR Sticky. Brad Schlachter, a fractional CMO now with Simpler Media Group, advises not to get caught up in vanity metrics that drive clicks at the expense of getting your traffic to engage and convert. Startups and other rapidly growing companies often fall into the trap of scaling traffic rather than customers. Growing your vanity metrics isn’t the same as growing your revenues.
To obtain long term success you must focus on scaling the right customers, not just any customers. You have to consider not just the initial revenues, but margin, retention, engagement, satisfaction, among other metrics. Brad emphasizes the need for every CEO and CMO to keep their eye on the prize, growth in profitable revenues for your business.
There is no magic formula or playbook to get there so the key is to fail quickly and learn rapidly. Experimentation is critical as is the need to be nimble and agile. Brad shares that based on how well you have alignment with the management team, and outside investors if you’ve gone down that path, it should take you weeks to months to figure out what works and then you should put money behind the effort to build the scale you need.
As a gift, Brad shares what OTT means and offers a white paper he wrote on that industry.
A glimpse of what you'll hear
01:13 Sticky and clicky is what so many companies are missing out on. Don't be vain!
03:39 Focus on the right kind of conversions
06:30 A process of failing quickly and learning rapidly
08:24 Setting expectations and achieving alignment with management and outside investors
12:04 How long until you see results?
15:08 Brad's story. Email Brad at email@example.com
16:59. What's a fractional executive and how are they different from consultants?
Centricity Introduction 0:04
Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy, or spammy. Here's our host, the co-founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley.
Jay Kingley 0:42
I am really pleased today to welcome Brad Schlachter. Brad is a Fractional CMO based out on the west coast in Los Angeles. Brad focuses on working with CEOs and founders of small to mid market businesses with a particular focus on entertainment and technology based business. Welcome, Brad, let's get started. I want to ask you that tough question. Right off the bat. You work with lots of companies in the industries that we talked about? What do you see is the big issue that they are struggling to get right?
Brad Schlacter 1:18
Yeah, I see. You know, one thing I see consistently across a lot of my clients is that there is this focus on vanity metrics. And, you know, people were looking for content or ad campaigns that are clicky. But you really have to focus on content or ad campaigns that are both clicky and sticky. And by sticky, I mean, engaging, and leading to actions that you want your customers to take
Jay Kingley 1:43
Well, Brad, I hope you have a good intellectual property attorney, you should be trademarking. clicky not sticky. I love that. So how should people be thinking about this?
Brad Schlacter 1:57
Yeah, look, I think, first of all, it's sort of natural. In the beginning, especially with early stage startups, a lot of startups are trying to prove to their investors or just when they're getting started out that one can be scale. And so there seems to be no a lot of cases that there's a lot of focus on scale, and maybe at the expense of engagement and the expensive of conversions, at least initially. So that's why some of these sort of vanity metrics, you know, number of unique users per month to the website, or number of fans or followers on social media, all those things, in my opinion, take on too much importance because they're just an easy way for people to explain. You know, if there's growth there, it's easy to explain that you know, that the company's scaling, but if you look under the hood a little bit, you know, really, those numbers aren't there, they matter to a degree, but they're not nearly as important as the quality of the customers that are getting, and more importantly, what happens when those customers, once this customers landed on your website, or go to your social media channel? Are they interacting and commenting? Are they going to your website and providing you with a lead or, you know, converting to paying customers? You know, that's really what what what matters, those are the key metrics that people really need to be focused on it and look, in an ideal world, you want to be able to scale last up scaling quality customers, if you're just scaling customers overall, and they're not quality, they're not engaging, then you're you're really very little value
Jay Kingley 3:38
Makes a lot of sense. To me, Brad, it sounds compelling. But I'm wondering if you're a company that used to be focused more on the vanity side, and you understand what it is that you're talking about, make that transition? What kind of benefits you know, the quantitative or qualitative, can a company expect by shifting that mindset.
Brad Schlacter 4:01
Yeah, I mean, really, it all boils down to conversions. And what a conversion is for one company is different than it is for another company. So for one company, maybe they just are trying to get leads, and they're trying to get someone to fill out a form, so their sales team can get in touch with them. In other cases, I've worked with a lot of companies in the subscription space that are direct to consumers. So a conversion for them is typically someone starting a free trial or signing up for a membership. And ultimately, those are the metrics that are going to lead to increased revenue. And, and the way you're going to scale is you have to be able to convert, you know, your conversion rates need to be competitive. So if you're driving a ton of traffic, but they're not converting, then you're just going to get kind of traffic and you're not getting any closer to your end goal or you're getting so you need to get people into the funnel. You need content that's going to engage something get them know Refer to the funnel and lead to the next logical step in the process, so you can get them through the funnel. And only by doing that, and only by improving those conversion rates, will you be able to scale company cost effectively, right, because if you have really low conversion rates, lots of traffic and no conversions, you're spending money for the traffic, but you're not, you're not going to get the return. So ultimately, the only way to scale you know, is to have, you know, back those conversion rates, get those up so that you can get your customer acquisition costs into a range that works for your P&L.
Jay Kingley 5:33
And one of the things, Brad that I always think about is four key drivers of true business value, revenue, cost, risk, in my assets, in terms of efficiency capability, and there's a tent an intangible part of your assets, and particularly around your intellectual property and your brand. It seems like if you do this, right, you can expect benefits clearly on the revenue side. Clearly, you're managing the cost of customer acquisition, when you do this, right. From a risk point of view, particularly if you're funded, I think any entrepreneur understands the risk of getting out of alignment with their investor. And clearly, you're building your brand, and you're building a portfolio marketing portfolio, which certainly hits on the asset side, so I can really see how this can move the needle for any of the businesses that you're talking about. So given how compelling the cases, what should a customer or client do, who has this challenge? What are the practical steps to realize the benefits you're talking about?
Brad Schlacter 6:44
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's typically a process and, you know, most people aren't going to get it right, right out of the gate, there's going to be a lot of experimenting. And that's really part of the process. I always say in marketing, it's okay to fail, as long as you fail quickly, and you can learn from your mistakes. So really, the recipe for success is to be nimble, agile and open to experiment so that you can relentlessy test and optimize different types of campaigns, different types of content, different headlines, different calls to action, all those things, you know, you AB test these things. And over time, you're going to learn, okay, what types of images or content resonates, again, what kind of content maybe attracts people to your site, but doesn't convert. But then there may be content that maybe doesn't attract people to your site, or have a has a lower click through rate, but it has a higher conversion rate. And, you know, look, in a perfect world, you have a content that has a high click through rate and a high conversion rate, but it doesn't always work that way. So it just takes time to experiment with all those different types of content and different types of images and add lines and calls to action. different channels, different marketing channels, whether you're advertising on LinkedIn or Facebook, we're retargeting. And over time, you know, you're able to optimize, you see what channels are working, and what content is working, and you start shifting your dollars to the stuff that's working and, you know, retreating on the stuff that's not working.
Jay Kingley 8:25
It makes a lot of sense to me, Brad, you know, if you think about your typical well established company, one of the challenges for someone like you who's serving in the CMO role, driving the program that you're talking about, is making sure that people's expectations are set correctly, and making sure that they're in alignment. Now, you also in addition to dealing with that are often working with companies that have outside investors, who have a real interest in how rapidly they're scaling thinking about their exit, what do you find are the challenges of keeping not just the rest of the management team in alignment, but also dealing with third party investors whose objectives don't always align with what management is looking at?
Brad Schlacter 9:16
Yeah, no, and that's a good question. And I've definitely been at companies where there hasn't been for a while alignment or sometimes even as a as a CMO or a fractional CMO. I'm not always privy to all the details that the investors with the ultimate goal is right. So so you know, really look it in an ideal world, you do get that alignment, right? You know, everyone understands, there's agreed upon goal, we want to get X number of subscribers, we want to have X number of conversions or, you know, whatever the whatever, what is this? What defines success, you know, so if you can get alignment on what equals success, you know, typically the way I approaches Where are we now? Where do we want to be? And then the marketing plan is how are we going to get there? So, but you know, there are times when investors, as I said, will push for some of those vanity metrics. And then so the conversation, um, you know, I think, like I said, initially, I see the value in being able to prove to your investors that you can scale, but I think it's important that you're able to quickly pivot from this quantity to also to quality, and ultimately, that's going to be in their best interest as well. And so, you know, obviously, it's a competition if you have investors that understand that and most well, but sometimes it is a process. And I have been in companies where quite frankly, we focus probably on the vanity metrics for a little bit too long before we were able to convince the investors that that wasn't the right thing to focus on. Or even sometimes the management team was, was a stumbling block where they felt, you know, hey, if we just show investors, we can scale we're gonna be able to raise more money. Maybe that's true for for a time being, but ultimately, the health of the company, the conversions, the profitability, all those things will eventually catch up with you. So that's, that's a really short term thinking. So you have to really get to management. And investors, hopefully have a long term perspective,
Jay Kingley 11:22
You know, the journeys only worthwhile if you're interested in getting to an agreed destination, right? And if you can't ever make a destination, you got a question the journey that you're on, if you
Unknown Speaker 11:33
If you can't get alignment on the destination, then you know, obviously, that's it, that's a challenge. But you know, look, you, there's always, there's no perfect situations, and you do what you can, and you try to, you know, as an advisor, or as a consultant, or, you know, a fractional CMO, I can make recommendations, but ultimately, you know, the companies or the investors, sometimes, you know, they're the ones who make the decisions. So you just have to be comfortable with, you know, sometimes they'll take your advice, and sometimes people won't,
Jay Kingley 12:02
Right. And I think the last thing I have on this subject, you talked about a process, you've talked about testing, and continuously learning and improving, what do you find typically, is the timeframe people should have in their minds, before you say, we have a reproducible process that we can bank on that if we put X dollars into it, we're going to get a certain level of return.
Brad Schlacter 12:28
Yeah, that's also a good question. Um, no, it varies, but typically, it doesn't take very long typically, I mean, you'll find out pretty quickly, if you start scaling campaigns, whether there's a product market fit, whether there's whether the product or service you have is resonating, and you have good conversion rates. You know, I'm working with one startup now and the video streaming space. And fortunately for them, you know, they really have a highly, you know, very defined audience, they're very, you know, they're a niche OTT service that are really got their own, you know, their own niche that they're focused on, that really differentiates them from the competition. And they're getting really strong conversion rates, and having a lot of success. So we are now ramping up budgets, but I've worked for other startups, where honestly, you know, for a number of reasons, their conversion rates were really low and nothing was working, and so that it was really going back, taking a step back and saying, Okay, do we need to rethink the product do we need? Do we need to rethink the way we're presenting the product and the website and so that that became a lot more of a long term project, we knew what was currently out there and wasn't working, and we had to kind of restart and rebuild the website to try and improve everything. And so if you have to, you know, if you're in that kind of situation, this will take months, if you're in a situation where you're your product is immediately resonating. It could be a matter of weeks until you can start, you know, scaling and seeing that success
Jay Kingley 14:09
Makes great sense. Just real quick, you mentioned OTT, not sure everyone understands what an OTT company is can just quick explanation patch.
Brad Schlacter 14:18
Sure. It's an acronym, which is doesn't make a lot of fixes for over the top. It really just means internet, entertainment, or you know, video streaming services like Netflix is it's probably the best example of an OTT service. So how it compared to, you know, traditional TV, or cable.
Jay Kingley 14:37
Excellent. Thank you, Brad. Well, I think that was really insightful. And I think you really hit on an issue that is such an easy trap to fall into, which are these vanity metrics because in the short term, they make us feel better about what we're doing. They make us feel good. The problem is they don't lead to the results that we're after. And Having that discipline to set the right objectives, because if you have the wrong objectives, you're going to do the wrong things to achieve those that aren't going to align with what you need to. And it's pretty clear to me, you bring a lot of wealth and expertise to the table. So let me find out a little bit more about you. So from a professional standpoint, we talked about how your fractional CMO, and how you work with small mid market companies, lots of startup, lots of investor backed companies, what are the types of issues that they're typically bringing you in to address?
Brad Schlacter 15:36
Yeah, I mean, in most cases, I'm working, as you said, with, with startups and early stage companies, and a typical situation is actually a startup that recently was funded, and is now has capital and is ready to scale. And, you know, as I said, there's typically also a lot of pressure to scale as quickly as possible. And, you know, and one of the problems that I see is that, you know, you, you don't want to take shortcuts, right, so I talked about, you know, you know, clicky, non sticky, but the other thing is just, you know, sometimes a company gets funding, but they really haven't maybe proven that there's a product market fit yet, or that their brand positioning, and value prop is really clear. And it's been fully articulated. So, you know, to me, I always want to, before I dive in and start, you know, trying to scale, you know, customer acquisition, you want to really make sure that, you know, this, this product market said that, you have really clear distinct brand positioning, and you really are really clear about what your value prop and key messaging is. And, and then, and then it gets, then you get into developing all the marketing materials through that lens, and then to developing your ad creative and running, starting to do campaigns to try to drive volume to drive customers. And, you know, and that process, that endless process of testing and optimizing,
Jay Kingley 17:08
Right makes total sense to me. Now, you're a fractional CMO. I don't think everybody understands what a fractional executive is, let alone a fractional CMO, could you just sort of do a little comparing contrast that with someone who would hang a shingle and just say, Hey, I'm a marketing consultant? I am not a fractional CMO. What's the difference between those two?
Brad Schlacter 17:31
Yeah, I think, you know, it's a fractional space, as you know, is not just for CMOS, but for CFOs. And it's a growing area. And I think, really, you know, the distinction in my mind is, look, I used to be, I've worked for companies on a full time basis, in the past, and some, some bigger companies like Microsoft and, and Disney in the past. Whereas, you know, new companies starting out, you know, sometimes you can't afford to hire a full time person, like myself, but they have a need. And so the idea of, you know, a shared resource, you know, with that I can share my time with other companies, and they can get, you know, a fractional or part of my time, you know, that they could that works for their budget. That's really I think, you know, the distinction. And I do think it's, it's, it's something that, I think makes a lot of sense for, for startups. And it really gives companies the flexibility to, you know, to hire people that they may not otherwise have for in this capacity. And so I think it's, I think it's a model that's here to stay. And I also would say that the fractional CMO and the fractional space in general, with COVID, I think, also, I saw, you know, I think it increased at all, you know, companies, when we were going through COVID, there was a lot of uncertainty in the market, especially for certain businesses more than others. But whenever you have uncertainty, you know, hiring a full time, you know, executive is a big decision and somewhat of a risk. So this is a chance for companies to, you know, reduce that risk in time for
Jay Kingley 19:14
Yeah, I would just add to that, I think, when I think about a marketing consultant, there's someone with very deep and defined expertise, they come in on a project basis, there's a start, there's an end and there's a particular problem that they're being asked to address or solve, where a fractional CMO is more like a member of your executive team. They're just not full time. But as a member of the executive team, not only do you have to have domain expertise in marketing, but you have to now deal with all the personnel dynamics of at some point probably starting to build out a marketing team underneath you, how you relate to other executives participation in the growth strategy. So to me, it's really different between a someone coming into solve a particular well defined problem, versus someone who you're bringing in as a member of your team, just not on a full time basis. And I agree with you, definitely here to stay. Last question on you. And I always find this the most interesting is everyone, and I encourage people look you up on LinkedIn, and connect with you there, you'll see your depth of experience and expertise that you have. But of course, LinkedIn can't tell the story of why you've done what you've done. So what are the seminal things in your life professional, perhaps personal, that have caused you to end up where you are now?
Brad Schlacter 20:39
Yeah, so it's a good question. Um, you know, I was always in college, I took an interest in the social sciences, and I was actually a psychology major. And I always had an interest in understanding human behavior, you know, what makes people tick? Why do people why are people you know, what shapes your personalities and, and, you know, so being a psychology major, and having that interested in human behavior, led me to marketing, you know, it's, and that's actually kind of common, a lot of marketing people have psychology backgrounds, because marketing fundamentally is understanding human behavior or consumer behavior. And then also brands, ideally, you want to move beyond just acquiring customers, right? But ultimately, it's about building that emotional connection with your customers, and, and building loyalty and advocacy, which, again, is really the psychotic psychological part of advertising and marketing. So that's how I ended up getting into marketing. And my first job out of college was at a pretty big advertising agency in New York from originally from, called gray advertising. And, just by luck, honestly, I was assigned to some entertainment accounts. So I was on ABC television, and Warner Brothers motion pictures. And that, you know, so and that, really, you know, it was exciting, and I was fine. And so I've been fortunate this that I got exposed to if you're saving accounts early on, and that's really, you know, primarily what my focus my focus has gone from, from TV and movies to now video streaming and music, licensing and music streaming. So, and that's also really, you know, the other thing that is, led to me, led to me being where I am now is evolving with the times, you know, so when I first started out at grey advertising, it was there was no internet at all, you know, it was about TV, it was about print advertising, you know, traditional media. But, you know, the, the industries that I was ended up gravitating for, they ended up doing video games, and video streaming and music. As everyone knows, the entertainment industry evolve to digital pretty quickly, right? You know, you don't go to the record store anymore, you you're streaming on Spotify, or you're streaming on Netflix, and, you know, etc, etc. You're playing games online. So that forced me really to stay current, I had to stay current and relevant and really learn about all the digital technologies and performance marketing and customer acquisition, along with my traditional branding experience that I had from my earlier my career. So you know, I think it's a combination of always wanting to learn, because I knew if I didn't evolve, you become extinct, right? And having the big fortune of being exposed to entertainment and media at an early an early point in my career, which allowed me to, you know, continue to work with a lot of other companies and overall space.
Jay Kingley 23:58
I was surprised, I have to tell you, you, you give me inspiration. Because I have a 21 year old daughter just graduated college. She just moved to LA this past this past weekend. And she's marketing. And she's working with an agency that has Warner Brothers as an account, and she's helping to market your movie, really. So may her career be as successful as yours. But at least there's hope, and sometimes in life, hope is what gets us through. So So I love that. You're, I think a person well worth getting to know for people that are in the space that you serve, what's the best way for people to reach out to you?
Brad Schlacter 24:43
Yeah, no email and calendar link. So either one of those is fine. and phone calls are welcome.
Jay Kingley 24:51
Okay, so we'll put those in the show notes and what have you to make it easy for people and Brad to sort of get to the wrap up here. I I'm going to put you on the spot. Because I sort of have this thing that when I have a guest on the podcast, I want them to be able to give something to our listeners. So Brad, no pressure, what can you do for our listeners who reach out to you?
Brad Schlacter 25:16
Sure. So I've written some white papers on the video streaming space, or as the OTT space, as we've now defined it for, for the audience. And so I'm happy to provide one of those white papers as a gift for people who reach out
Jay Kingley 25:31
Super well, let me thank you, Brad, for coming on, I can tell you that the issues that Brad works in and and talked about today are critical issues for any business that is looking to scale and ultimately become financially viable and successful. Doing it right versus doing it wrong. There's a world of difference. But it starts with the very simple thing of what are you really trying to achieve? So the I can tell you that the return on investment of reaching out to Brad, talking with him will be astronomical. Let me encourage everybody to do that. Brad, thank you so much for being on.
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