Chief Marketing Officer – Varsity Tutors, St. Louis, MO

Founded in 2007, Varsity Tutors is a live learning Internet platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. To date, students have accessed more than 1 million hours of live instruction. Additionally, through the company’s free online learning tools and mobile applications, Varsity Tutors has created a learning ecosystem of more than 100,000 free practice questions, answers and explanation sets across more than 150 subjects and tests that have been used more than 40 million times. The company recently raised $57 million in venture capital from Technology Crossover Ventures, the Answers.com executive team, and singer/TV personality Adam Levine and now is creating its first ever CMO role. Since its launch, the company has experienced explosive growth, attracting more than 15,000 instructors that have provided service to nearly 50,000 students.

Position Overview 

The new “Chief Marketing Officer” will be responsible for setting the strategic direction for the Varsity Tutors brand, driving digital and off-line customer acquisition, retention and engagement efforts, crafting and activating an insight-based segmentation framework, leading the portfolio and innovation pipeline strategy, and developing and executing annual Marketing plans which deliver Brand preference, equity gains and profitable growth. This role represents the first time the company will have a CMO, a role that is being created to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity the company has given its growth trajectory and the TCV-led financing. The CMO will be responsible for identifying and implementing strategies and tactics that enhance the brand’s equity, image and preference, for both customers and instructors, while meeting aggressive lead generation, acquisition, conversion and retention goals. As the Brand champion, the CMO must ensure that all client and instructor communications reflect the Brand’s core positioning, and support the achievement of the company’s broader revenue, profitability and strategic goals. The CMO will bring a commercial mentality and a sense of urgency, and will be responsible for filling both the student and instructor conversion funnels, with high-quality, qualified leads, and outcomes measured by Revenue, EBITDA, CPA, and LTV. This Marketing leader should be highly analytical, but with a creative flair and an ability to think outside the box, striking a balance between strategic planning and prompt action with a sense of urgency. The CMO will also be tasked with helping the company transition from a telesales-heavy business to more of an eCommerce model in the coming years. The CMO will be a “doer” and not a just a manager.

Scope of Responsibilities 

Brand Stewardship – Serve as a passionate steward, advocate and gatekeeper for Varsity Tutors’ brand equity. Champion an ongoing renewal and refinement of the Brand’s positioning and architecture, derived from a data-driven understanding of key Varsity Tutors and competitive brand health measures, as well as an informed understanding of an increasingly changing competitive, technological and student/instructor environment, both online and off. This executive must balance the goal of achieving higher-order emotional connections to, and preference for, the Brand, with the practical need to consistently achieve funnel conversion and engagement objectives.

Marketing Planning, Execution & Financial Delivery – Develop, and subsequently activate, the Marketing strategy that delivers new customers (both students and instructors) and profitable, organic revenue growth. Ensure that all activation, tactical plans are executed flawlessly, on time and within/under budget. The CMO will also be responsible for measuring performance across all tactical and channel programs, and then adjusting the plan (program type and execution) accordingly across the Marketing mix, to continually optimize efforts and improve CPA, LTV, and MROI. Along with other C-suite leaders, play a key role in the definition and delivery of agreed-to financial goals, including Revenue, Margin, Market Share, EBITDA, CPA, LTV and MROI. Gain alignment to, and effectively help manage, the annual Marketing operating budget and results. Own the budget and understand how to make tradeoffs and adjustments when performance exceeds or falls short of expectations. Work closely with CFO and FP&A team to understand impacting of Marketing on company’s financial performance.

Strategic Targeting – The CMO will be responsible for helping identify the highest potential customers who offer the greatest lifetime value (LTV) and appropriately allocate both Online and Offline Marketing resources.

Lead Generation/eCommerce/Acquisition – As a top priority for the company, and critical to maintaining the long-term health of the business, lead the Customer Acquisition process by generating quality leads and online eCommerce conversions, to ensure Varsity Tutors ultimately meets its net add goals for both students and instructors. The CMO will lead the digital Marketing team to optimize statistically rigorous testing capabilities (A/B, Champion/Challenger, Multivariate, Attribution Analysis, Media-mix modeling, etc.) and protocols, across an integrated, omni-channel Marketing mix (TV, Radio, Print, Collateral, Direct Mail, Social Media, Traditional PR, Referral Programs, Display, SEO/SEM, Email Marketing, Retargeting, Outdoor, and Mobile Media). This senior leader will develop and monitor performance of all Marketing activities, defining which channels and tactical programs lead to the highest conversion rates, and which drive the optimal LTV.

Retention & Loyalty – With input from the rest of the senior team and colleagues (e.g., Product, Educational Advisors, Customer Service, Research/Insights), and with activation support from CRM staff, help lead the definition of the company’s contact strategy to help determine “who gets what, when and how” in order to maximize instructor and student transactions, loyalty and LTV. In short, design the optimal contact strategy based on Research, Insights & Marketing Analytics to deepen Brand engagement and profitable transactions.

Digital Analytics Leadership – Collaborate closely with digital Marketing, Product and Educational Content colleagues to improve forecasting efforts, better evaluate Marketing programs and assess new business opportunities for Varsity Tutors. Develop a keen understanding of all sources of customer data and partner with the software development team to optimize how data is effectively utilized across the organization. Develop automated reports and ad hoc requests that monitor both instructor and student behaviors and provide a benchmark for actionable insights.

Media Strategy & Delivery – Develop and oversee the execution of Varsity Tutors’ Online and Offline Media Strategy, working in conjunction with key internal stakeholders as well as external agency resources. The Media strategy should both support and be aligned with the Brand’s overall strategic growth and targeting agendas. These Media plans and briefs should include crystal clear objectives, systems for measuring and assessing performance and ROI, and agreed-to points where prompt course corrections can be activated, as needed.

Insights & Product Innovation – Strive to continually uncover and identify new marketplace, consumer and customer trends, in addition to a keen understanding of the competitive set, thereby enabling Varsity Tutors to set the pace for “what must come next” from a category standpoint. This understanding should be leveraged to define, develop, test and validate a portfolio of new financial products, predominantly for an expanding e-commerce business.

Organizational Development – Review and enhance, where necessary, all lead-gen, acquisition, conversion and loyalty and CRM processes, measurements, information systems, analytics capabilities etc., that are needed to enable the Varsity Tutors Marketing team to operate efficiently and effectively in the delivery of its CPA and LTV objectives. The new CMO will be responsible for hiring, developing and promoting high-performing Marketing talent, as needed.

Performance & Success Measures 

• Increase total Revenue and EBITDA
• Lead Generation – # Qualified Student/Instructor leads, CPA ($) and LTV ($)
• Continually improve NPS
• Improving critical Brand Health measurements (Awareness, Consideration, Preference)
• Marketing Effectiveness – Increase ROI
• Performance Feedback – From colleagues and external work partners

Reporting Relationships

The new “Chief Marketing Officer” will report to the Founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, Mr. Chuck Cohn. Chuck earned a BSBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Washington University in St. Louis and started Varsity Tutors during his junior year of college. Upon graduation, Cohn worked in the Energy & Power investment banking group of Wachovia/Wells Fargo and then later worked on the deal team of Ascension Health Ventures, a Healthcare growth equity fund. In 2011, Cohn left his venture capital opportunity to focus on scaling Varsity Tutors nationally. He has won numerous entrepreneurial awards and writes a weekly column for Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine.

Staff & Resources 

• Vice President, Marketing
• Marketing Director
• Online Marketing Manager
• Marketing Coordinators (3)
• Director, Learning Tools
• Associate Director, Learning Tools (9)
• Educational Technology Sales Director (8)
• Educational Technology Sales Associate (10)
• Search Engine Marketing Directors (2)
• Search Engine Marketing Manager
• Email Marketing Manager (open position)
• Executive Assistant

As the business scales, the CMO will continue to build the team, as-needed, likely covering other channels including Direct Mail, Email, Referrals, and other roles that he or she deems important to create.

Key Internal Operating Relationships 

• Chief Executive Officer
• Chief Technology Officer
• General Counsel
• Vice President, City Operations & Sales
• Vice President, Marketing
• Chief Product Officer (open position)
• Chief People Officer
• Chief Financial Officer

Compensation & Benefits 

• Competitive base salary
• Annual performance bonus
• Stock options
• PTO/Vacation, Health/Dental Care
• Relocation assistance (as needed) to the St. Louis, MO area

Experience Base 

Brand Development – Prior experience developing Brand Architecture, and Marketing and Communication plans that reflect that Architecture. This could come from a more traditional CPG experience as a Brand Manager. Alternatively, or additionally, someone who had responsibility for managing and developing the brand of a service-oriented business/company. If a pure client side role, seek demonstrated experience leading internal creative team.

Direct Marketing – Candidates must be highly analytical and quantitatively oriented and have current experience leading an omni-channel Lead Generation/Acquisition/Retention-based Marketing operation in a Direct Marketing-driven business.

eCommerce & Digital Marketing – Candidates should have recent experience managing Lead Gen, Customer Acquisition and/or CRM/Loyalty for an online business or an online Retail channel (for a business also selling through brick & mortar). Must be familiar with a variety of Interactive and Digital Marketing tools, including Email, Retargeting, Display, Affiliate/Partnership, SEO/SEM, Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), and Mobile.

Entrepreneurial Experience – Ideally, experience in a smaller, more entrepreneurial, brand-driven, consumer-facing company. Of particular interest, experience in lean businesses within industries with multiple communication and distribution channels. Key here is learning how to be resourceful, adaptive, and moving to market with urgency and clarity of purpose.

Vendor/Agency/Functional Management – Experience building a roster of external Marketing, Agency, Consultant and Supplier partnerships, leading the RFP and SOW processes, and negotiating mutually beneficial agreements. Demonstrated success building organizational capabilities through process design, organizational development, recruiting and training.

Skill Set 

• World-class Direct and Digital Marketing skills (technically proficient)
• Innovative and creative thinking balanced with pragmatism (fresh, big-picture thinking)
• Organizational leadership and team development (leads through influence)
• Intellectual horsepower (highly analytical & strategic)
• Drives for results in prioritized manner (balanced sense of urgency)
• Listening skills, minimal ego (listen first, then respond)
• Complex problem-solving, with hands-on ability (create options, then converge)
• Organized and attention-to-detail approach (strong tactical execution)
• Highly resourceful (stretches people and money; compresses time)
• Collaborative (works with peers across many functionalities within the company)
• Financially minded (P&L responsibility)

Personality Profile 

• Strong leadership skills
• High degree of emotional intelligence
• Self-directed/motivated
• Flexible and adaptable
• Results orientation with keen commercial mentality
• Enthusiastic with pride and passion for winning
• Blue-collar work ethic
• Frugal – treats company resources as his/her own
• High integrity and trustworthy
• Flexible intellect and highly flexible work style
• Comfort working in a fast-paced, highly dynamic work environment

Search Contact

David Wiser
Principal Partner – Cincinnati, OH Office
david@wiserpartners.com
513.919.4000 (M)