April 17, 2024

Episode 21 Transcript | Chad Jardine, Founder and CEO of CMOZen

Chad Jardine, Founder and CEO of CMOZen joins Host Peter Stevenson to talk about why marketing is about understanding the person on the buying side, Why he launched CMOZen, and where he sees AI being successful in the future of marketing. By Subject is a production of modern8 with support from Silicon Slopes + MountainWest Capital Network. 

PETER STEVENSON

Welcome to buy subject. Our guest today is Chad Jardine, founder and CEO of Cmozen. Welcome. Thanks for being here.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, delighted to be here. Thanks, Pete.

PETER STEVENSON

So, yeah, tell us a little bit about you. You know, we were chatting a little bit beforehand. You grew up here in Utah county, but, you know, tell us a little bit about growing up and what got you into marketing in the first place.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah, yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Thanks so much. That’s right. I was born in Seattle. I was a transplant to Utah as a young boy. Most of my growing up here went to Orem high school. Go Tigers. And really took my first marketing job. My first marketing job was my dad was a real estate developer. And so I started to kind of cut my teeth in sales and marketing working for him. And then my first real job that wasn’t for a family member was I was the marketing director over the retail Provocraft stores. And so this is, provocraft became cricket because of the popularity of their paper cutter. And my team was actually the team that launched that. We did the trial run of the cricket in the Roberts stores before they took it out to Michael’s and Walmart and Joann’s and whatnot.

PETER STEVENSON

So did you go to college for marketing and you were like, found. You were, like, totally in love with marketing and you decided, I’m going to do this for college, or you just go the work route?

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, no, so I actually went to college for fine art. I went to BYU. I went with the intention of being a painter. Really?

PETER STEVENSON

Do you still paint for fun now?

CHAD JARDINE

I find ways to scratch my creative edge. I sometimes draw on sketch. I do a lot of graphic stuff, and I do a lot of creative problem solving for my work. I don’t. I don’t paint in oils anymore. And I don’t. And I ultimately graduated in ceramics. And I rarely throw on a wheel these days either. But do you have one in the garage? That’s a great. No, I don’t. But there’s a couple of. There’s a couple of places around where you can go, really, and you just get wheel time and it’s great. There’s love. Love ceramics. And all of that sort of time that I spent there informs what I do now and what I have done over the past 20 plus years.

PETER STEVENSON

So what years are we talking about? I remember those provocraft days. My family business was selling stuff to them, and we were selling some of those products, too. So tell me a little bit about this. Must have been late nineties.

ALYSHA SMITH

Nineties. 798.

PETER STEVENSON

  1. Somewhere in that range.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

So this was essentially 2004 to about 2007. Okay. And so the, it was a little bit of the tail wagging the dog there. So they started as a chain of stores, and it actually was called Provo Craft before it was Roberts. And then they became both a manufacturer and a retailer, and Roberts was the retail side. And when I was there, they had eleven stores. These are all gone now, but they had eleven stores in Utah and Idaho. And so it was really my baptism into retail understanding what retail marketing was all about. And we had a budget of about a million bucks, and we did a lot of newspaper ads and stuff. That feels kind of old school what we’re doing now. But it was a great experience for me. I got to work with great people. The opportunity to do a big. This was their push into personal consumer electronics. To be able to play a part in that and just be in the orbit, I just learned a ton. And really, so my college days, like you graduate in computer science and recruiting letters show up in your mailbox. Strangely, that doesn’t happen in fine arts.

PETER STEVENSON

No one’s calling for a new ceramicist. No, that’s Novell in the early nineties, early two thousands.

CHAD JARDINE

Shocking, I know. And so I actually was doing marketing and sales for my dad’s real estate company to pay my way through college. And so that spun into my career. And really I kind of brought art with me into my career as opposed to bringing my career into the arts.

PETER STEVENSON

What kind of stuff was your dad building during that time? He’s a developer.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

So he had a multifamily condo development, and so I went and got a real estate license. Really, what that kind of triggered for me was a love of understanding the people on the other side of an exchange. So we’re all about whether in marketing or sales, it’s all about revenue. At the end of the day, there’s a human being somewhere that, and we’re matchmakers. We have products that solve problems and we’re trying to match, make those with the consumers who have those problems.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

And so that really is where I first started my journey. And going deep about what was, what was it that people wanted? What were they responding to and how could I best meet their needs as a marketer? It was a good start.

PETER STEVENSON

And so you jumped to provocraft, Roberts, cricket, whatever we want to call that, early years. And I remember those first couple of years of like, you know, the punch outs was essentially like, that’s right.

CHAD JARDINE

They had this, they had these physics things. They had.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And that was a huge product for them. Like, they sold bajillions of those.

PETER STEVENSON

I remember them and thinking, who’s buying these? And then they’d sell an enormous amount.

CHAD JARDINE

And this was like. And this was in the heyday of, like, the scrapbooking trend, correct?

ALYSHA SMITH

Yep.

CHAD JARDINE

Which essentially was a, was, was a paper crafting graphic design for people who wanted to tell the story of their family.

PETER STEVENSON

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

And it was a great time, and that has ebbed a little bit or transformed, but it was, it was really interesting to be there in the middle of that huge trend.

PETER STEVENSON

And so what were your, what was your role there at Provocraft? What were you hired on to? You, it sounds like you were there for about four or five years.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah. So I was hired to essentially run the marketing for the retail side. They had another marketing director for the wholesale manufacturing side, which was the side of the business that was growing. To put that in perspective, the retail side was doing a little under $30 million in revenue across all eleven stores. And at the end of 2004, going into 2005, Sorensen Capital made an investment in them because they had just closed their first year at about 100 million in sales. I wasn’t in the heart of that transaction, but actually watching how that happened. And in that process, I got a new boss and learned a lot of lessons about transition and what happens as companies raise money. That kind of spun into some other things for me, which was a great experience.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

PETER STEVENSON

And so bring in money, you get a new boss. What were those early years like? What did you love about marketing in the middle of the two thousands, kind of right before that crash there, what was working then? What are some of those through lines to what you’re seeing now 20 years later?

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Well, so it was, it was, it was really helpful to see, okay, what, what of the work that I was doing was attached to kind of core marketing principles. Yeah. And what if it was attached to the kind of tribal knowledge of retail? And since then, as I’ve gone through other industries, that’s been really helpful because there are some things that stay the same. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it’s because there’s a human being on the other side.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

But other things change all the time.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And so that was an opportunity for me to get a taste of what retail was like. I mean, we’re going to these stores that had, they had a relatively small footprint, five or 6000 or 30,000 skus. Most of those skus turned maybe once a year. And then there was a handful of kind of 80, 20 that turned enough to keep the store going. And then also the business question about should we keep, like, should we even keep these stores going? That there, you know, is the operation of this retail arm a drag or a boost to the manufacturing arm, which was growing.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And, and it was like the cricket kind of took over. Right, right.

PETER STEVENSON

That was the, that was the, that was the big, that was the big moment for that company was, you know, punching out holes out of paper.

CHAD JARDINE

We’re not just paper manufacturer anymore. Now you’ve got this plotter with a little knife on it that can cut out anything you want.

PETER STEVENSON

Right.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

PETER STEVENSON

So you jump from Provocraft and where’d you end up next?

CHAD JARDINE

Workfront. So workfront was called ad task in those days, and this was in 2007. So January of 2007, I moved over to workfront. Workfront was.

PETER STEVENSON

They were small then.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, they had just finished 2006. They closed out with it with about two and a half million in revenue. Okay, so not quite the one point whatever billion that they sold to Amazon or to Adobe for a couple years ago. It was early for them and I got another chance to watch them because in 2007, we went from 2.5 million to, at the end of 2007, we were close to 8 million in revenue. So it was a high growth period for us. And in the middle of 2007 is when they first took investment from open view. So it was the first sort of institutional round of investment. And watching how that dynamic at play, it was a really great time to learn both the marketing that we were doing and how that evolved. Understanding the mechanisms for b two B SaaS. I mean, SaaS was pretty early then. I think salesforce.com was around 40 million in revenue around.

PETER STEVENSON

That sounds about right.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And they were breaking trail with their no software pitches. It’s like, no, we’re not. We’re a subscription. We’re not a box full of CDs, you know, and understanding how that was going to transform things. It was great to be early in that. And all the old dogs, like, we did sass before it was sass, you know, it’s like, yeah, now we call it sass. And people know what it is when we talk about it. It was a great opportunity and great people, they’re great people in the early days of that company.

PETER STEVENSON

So you go from, again, selling to consumers to then selling to b two b. What was that transition like for you? Was that hard? Was it something that came naturally to you? Did you like that transition from b two c to b two B?

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah. So I did like it. I love both b, two B and b two c, and have been blessed to be able to do a little bit of both. But some things in b, two b. Right. B, two B is a more considered purchase. People generally take a little longer. Sales cycle is a little longer, more technical, a little less emotional, which really, to me, represents the challenge of trying to find the emotional connection in the middle of what’s a technical sale. Oftentimes, the buyers are not trying to satisfy their own needs or their own problems, but they’re trying to not get fired.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah. Right.

CHAD JARDINE

And so the psychology changes a little bit, and understanding that expanded my understanding of people buy for a lot of different reasons. And the better that I could understand that, the better I would do as a marketer.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

PETER STEVENSON

So who are some of those early mentors that really led you to grow into the marketer that you are now from those eras who was leading you and who was helping pull you along in your learnings there?

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

So a couple of shout outs. Sam Robinson was my new boss at Probocraft after Sorensen took over.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Learned a lot from Sam about management in general, but also about, because he was a retail guy. It came from Mervyn’s and Target and whatnot and Olla dollar greenbacks.

PETER STEVENSON

Mervyn’s lives in my head rent free for that open, open commercial for years. Still, all the time you bring it up, and in my head, I’m like, open the best commercial ever.

ALYSHA SMITH

Unbelievable.

CHAD JARDINE

We sometimes don’t realize just the abuse that we’re inflicting on people when we come up with these slogans.

PETER STEVENSON

That ad still, I mean, like, lives rent free in my mind, all for 30 years now, 40 years, maybe. I don’t know, too long.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And then I learned. I learned a lot from watching at task work grow. Scott Johnson was. The intensity that he approached. Solving the problems of the business was really great. And along the way, I was doing an MBA at the University of Utah, and my instructors up there, right, Eric Schultz and Abby Griffin, they had a big influence on me to take the. They allowed me to take what was an academic view of marketing and be able to apply it immediately. And so that helped cement some of those early lessons in my head. I think sometimes. Sometimes today, too, it’s great to be able to go to the academic side of marketing and talk about the practical that we’re in every day. And then that was a time, too, where I did a lot of reading. I read a lot and tried to apply what I was doing. So I was reading, like, what are now old authors. Tim Sanders and Seth Godin. And that was really great.

PETER STEVENSON

So one of the things that it’s clear from following you online and seeing, talking to you earlier today and knowing that some of the teaching that you do up at the U, you definitely have more of a business leaning mindset to marketing. You’re often talking about pricing strategy, you’re often talking about the way to run a business. You’re talking about investment and things related to financial incentives. When did that come into play for you as a marketer? When did you lean into understanding the business side of it? Was it from your dad and that earlier, did it come later?

CHAD JARDINE

That’s a great insight. So probably a bunch of that is from my dad. I think I also have a deep seated belief that marketing is closer to the running of the business than just about any other department. My rationale for that is you don’t have to understand all of the parts of how the business works to run a great dev team or to run a great CS team. But great marketers are, in my opinion, great in part because they’re great business people. They understand what matters to the business and what matters to the customer, and that’s what makes them strong as marketers. So if they’re out of touch with that, then it’s hard as a marketer to really gain traction because who’s your boss?

ALYSHA SMITH

Right. Right.

CHAD JARDINE

You report into the CEO or into the structure that reports to the CEO. And if you’re. And marketing is one of the squishiest disciplines, and I think that’s in large part because marketing is a process of discovering things that are not yet known.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

You know, you don’t come into the process knowing everything that’s going to work. Like, you’re as much as people view marketers as, you know, like a paintbrush and a beret, we’re much more scientists with beakers and, you know, we’d like.

PETER STEVENSON

To think we’re more. Yeah, yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And it’s. Translating both is really, I think translating both to the business case is really, I think where we succeed. I had an experience, too, when I was at, so at workfront, part of that transition, they took investors, their dev teams moved to scrum. And in order to be like, and we were a software company. Right. Our product was the output of the dev team. And so we did as a marketing team. We also transitioned to scrum. We ran all our projects in scrum. We just adopted a scrum as a project management process. And it’s a little different because our marketing team didn’t have interchangeable roles. So it wasn’t like, okay, any of these five devs on the squad could take this thing, the data scrum, and go work on it. So we kind of adapted to that. And that helped us internally, it helped make it to where internally people understood what kind of projects we were working on and what their outputs were going to be. So I think all those kind of compounded for me in having a business perspective on where marketing fits.

PETER STEVENSON

I would say that out of most of the people that I interact with on the Internet in the marketing role, I see you leaning into that business first mindset more than most. And do you think that that’s one of the reasons why you’ve been able to become so successful in your role as a marketer, as you have thought carefully about that business, about the revenue? Not just revenue. Let me frame it even in a better way. We bring people in, they talk about being friendly with their sales counterparts, we talk about getting in front of understanding their understanding what the senior leadership wants or the CEO wants, or they talk about getting an understanding the buyer and what they’re thinking about. I think from what I’m hearing from you, is something different than any of those components. You’re actually thinking more about the business as a business and how to make the business better as a marketer than just those three components. Does that sound right?

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, I think so. And it comes down to what’s helped me to be successful or not. I think in my full time roles leading up to where I am now, I think I’ve always spent my career in micro cap companies, and some of them very early, but none of them haven’t worked in a big, in a company over, say, a couple hundred million in sales. That’s a territory that my career hasn’t gone through. And so the smaller the company is, the more like the business drives everything. And so being able to be a good sort of ally and confidant to the CEO or my other colleagues in the senior team, I think strengthens the ability to create value in my role. Now, CMO Zen is a fractional CMO firm, and so our clients are all sort of, they’re all youngish, it’s a sort of pre series b type companies. And so who am I selling to? Always the CEO or the founder. And so being able to understand and come up to speed quickly on this is the business case, this is how things matter for us as a business, I think does help, and it helps translate marketing into something that if they were deep in marketing, they wouldn’t be looking for the kind of extra value add that we would provide. And so as they look for that, being able to translate it and make it accessible to them, marketing sometimes feels like such a black box.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah. Right.

CHAD JARDINE

And so being able to unpack that box a little bit for them, I think is, is a strength for us.

PETER STEVENSON

And understand the business case around all of it. Yeah, I do want to dive into cmos end. So tell me why. Why now? You launched, what, a year ago, 18 months ago, two years ago? Why now as launching, you know, an outsourced fractional CMO company? Like what, what was right about the industry now that that allows for you to enter the market?

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah. So a couple of things. Like in the last year, there’s been a huge surge of sort of fractional roles.

ALYSHA SMITH

Sure.

CHAD JARDINE

I think that’s driven in large part because there’s been a lot of layoffs. And as people are, people are trying to, it’s hard scramble out there trying to make a living, and fractional is becoming a more well known approach. So like, hey, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and do that. I kind of started a little bit before that. I was transitioning out of a role and I was like, I had thought it might be fun to do some take on. It is both fun and maddening, as you well know. Right. The variety is amazing. Being able to, I feel like that my learning curve is way steeper. Like in a full time role, you kind of knock down the challenge. It’s right in front of you and move on to the next one. But now, like, I knock it down and then knock it down again, and you start to get really efficient and really good at the problems that early stage companies are facing. So that’s been fun. I have a friend who says that learning is happiness. I think that’s true.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

When your learning curve is steep, it’s like, yeah, it’s crazy. But also, this is great. And in terms of problems in the marketplace, as I was thinking about launching CMO Zen, I went, I talked to people, I tried to get smart at it before I lost my shirt. And so I called people. Some of them were doing other types of fractional work. And I was like, hey, guys, talk me off the ledge here. Let me take you to lunch. Tell me why this is a terrible idea. And they were really disastrous at that. They came, you should do this. This is amazing.

PETER STEVENSON

People are the worst.

CHAD JARDINE

So a combination of false confidence and some early traction was kind of, I was off to the races, but I am a believer in it, though. I think that there are opportunities where it’s just about proportionality. So when you’re young and you’re growing, every dollar is precious. And so it’s like you can’t afford to go hire a big, a big company experience. It’s an expensive full time hire. And also it’s usually the wrong hire. Like, I’ve been that wrong hire where somebody brings me in because what they want is a lot of marketing juice. And so why is that an expensive hire? Because what that job is, is leveraging the output of teams, being able to get teams to perform at their best.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

Also managing, understanding the business case, I think, is part of it. But managing more complex budgets, all of the stuff that you have to do, internal communication, all of that stuff. So a little company goes out and they’re like, okay, we’re going to stretch and we’re going to get this big CMO in here. And that CMO shows up and it’s like, all right, where’s the team? It’s like, oh, no, you’re the team.

PETER STEVENSON

Yeah, right, right.

CHAD JARDINE

And it’s like, okay, that’s, that’s a mistake. And so being able to get ahold of all of the positive value adds from that role at a price that’s more affordable, more proportionate to where you are in your growth, I think that’s something that’s going to be a secret to the success of young companies over the next decade.

PETER STEVENSON

It allows for a company to make a smarter financial decision, to hire someone who has the expertise, who can then actually afford to pay a team to do the work.

CHAD JARDINE

That’s right. It reduces the risk because you think about those big senior hires, they take a long time. They’re expensive, not just in terms of salary, but there’s benefits. Sometimes there’s an equity component to the comp. So they take a long time to hire. If you make a mistake, which happens a lot, they’re really difficult, they’re time consuming and expensive to fire.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

I like to tell people, it’s like, look, you could actually have hired and fired three fractionals before you make one full time hire. And so there’s a lot of risk reduction in that, in the model. And that risk is real. I mean, you make a bad senior marketing hire as a one or two year old startup and you just gave up a year of your growth.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

Because then you got to start the process again. Find a good one for the one that you, and it’s usually not that they are good or bad marketers it’s just about alignment and fit. Sometimes they’re being asked to do things that are not right for them. And if the CEO, the founder, they’re looking for marketing help because it’s not in their bag of tricks. And so sometimes it can be really hard. Like, a big part of what we do now is hire our replacements, know, we get going, get things up and running, and it’s like, okay, I think we’re ready for full time.

ALYSHA SMITH

So.

CHAD JARDINE

Great, well, let us help you set that person up for success. The new CMO and working our way out of a job in that way is a success for us.

PETER STEVENSON

Tell me, who in your, you understand you’ve gone out and you’ve understood the buyers of cmos in. So tell me, who is the right type of company to hire cmos in now?

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah. So I’m focused more on stage than anything else.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

Right now, I don’t have anybody on my team that is really strong on e commerce or DTC.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

So if somebody comes in and that’s their go to market motion, and it’s like, okay, I’m going to refer you to somebody else who’s great at that.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And so in the stage, what we’re looking at is usually there’s kind of a handful of maybe describing the sort of buckets of things that are missing, that the company needs to kind of get to the next plateau in terms of its revenue. It may be the very earliest go to market things. It’s like, hey, we actually don’t, our customer’s not validated. Our messaging may have problems or we don’t have it dialed in. We need a systematic way to go through that. Those are projects that we often do. Product could be pricing.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

You know, we think that our pricing is holding us back. And then after that, there’s this, this place where it’s like, okay, we’re looking around and all of our competitors seem like they’re, they’re doing every channel under the sun and they’re doing it like 100 miles an hour, and we’re lost.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

And so being able to come and say, well, here’s a, here’s a process. We’re going to take all of that stuff that’s like, you know, should we be on TikTok? Well, let’s see if we can. How do we figure that out? Right? Should we don’t go into events? Should we, all of the channels, should we be leaning into some sort of AI product in our marketing? And so being able to come to those companies and say, here’s a systematic way of nailing down your product, understanding what the budget’s gonna be beforehand, nailing down the channels that are available to you, and prioritizing them. It is amazing how clear things get if you simply have a rank ordered list of channels that you factored in cost preference, where’s the customer? And that you can start testing through those. It’s amazing how easy it is to develop a marketing plan and a marketing budget if you can get to that point.

PETER STEVENSON

What’s working for you on sales for cmos in what’s working marketing wise for you as a small outsourced agency?

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, great question. And I also think that this is probably the hardest marketing challenge I’ve ever run into.

PETER STEVENSON

I mean, we’re marketing ourselves as an agency all the time. And I was like, I have no idea how to sell this.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah. And I think part of that is because our customer is getting bombarded.

PETER STEVENSON

Totally.

CHAD JARDINE

Right. And so being able to both connect with them and then also help them in a legitimate way show why we might be a better choice than what they have in front of is obviously self serving.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

So we’re going to be biased and we work really hard to try to tell people no if we’re a bad fit.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

I think that’s a really important thing when you’re, when you’re an independent group. But, so where do we find them? Same places that a lot of people find them. Right. We do a lot of networking and word of mouth and referrals.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

A lot of, um, events. A lot of places. You know, we do a lot of education.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

I think education is a, is a way to kind of let people sample.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

They get like, oh, these guys, it looks like these guys know we’re talking about this and I like how they’re approaching it.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

That’s probably how it’s going to be for other things.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And shoot, I had a thought there that I lost. Must have been a lie.

PETER STEVENSON

There’s this comedian who had this whole joke about if someone said to him, it must not have been important that his response was always, oh, yeah, I’m radioactive. You know, you have some unbelievable talent helping you at CMO’s end. You know, you started that. You founded it with Jordan Harris and Mark, and you’ve got Jill and Dave there. Tell me about how important that mix of like, finding the right person for the right company in that fractional space.

CHAD JARDINE

So it is, I mean, the team is kind of the whole thing.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Right. And for a couple of reasons. One is that for us, we’re like, hey, our vision of this is maybe not to be the biggest thing in the world, but to have an appropriate scale that makes to where we get all the advantages of that scale, so that everybody who’s not just the partnership, everybody who’s working in CMO’s end, gets economies of scale that are hard as a solopreneur, but you still have the freedom and flexibility. That is why you’re not taking a full time job. And so all of that team has helped us as we’ve tried to find our way and we’re not done, but as we’ve tried to find our way, everybody has been really great in terms of having the flexibility to try things, try to figure things out, be on board with kind of the vision of what CMO Zen is trying to be, which is essentially, we’re trying to encapsulate what is the absolute best way, as a young startup to grow your marketing operation, and then also to blend a balance of talents and skills. So, for example, I think it’s really common among marketers to lean more to either the creative side or the analytic side. Kind of a right, brilliant brain, left brain, totally. But companies need both, so that becomes a really difficult thing to find in a single marketer. And how do you balance that? But I think for us, too, to have marketers who are really strong in revenue, operations, marketing ops, and also really strong on the creative side has helped us kind of figure out the right balance, because clients come in sometimes they need. It’s like, hey, I really have a rev ops problem.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And it’s like, okay, well, we can lean into that. Or, hey, we don’t really know who we are, right? And it becomes a branding problem bringing Jill there.

PETER STEVENSON

How unfair is it, how good looking David Baker is? It’s a little unfair, right?

CHAD JARDINE

You know, I mean, I’m not gonna lie. There’s a little bit of shaming. He shows up in the room, and it’s a little bit ridiculous.

PETER STEVENSON

I hate that guy.

CHAD JARDINE

He’s a great guy.

PETER STEVENSON

One of my best friends from high school. I love him so much.

CHAD JARDINE

I didn’t know that. Yeah.

PETER STEVENSON

Long, long, long time friend and a great marketer. Unbelievable marketer. Personal tragedy all over the place, but one of the happiest, most unbelievable people I’ve ever been around. Him and his family are the greatest, 100%. And I’ve been so happy seeing him land with you and seeing the success that he’s been able to pull there, too. So tell me, I would love to know from your opinion, where you feel like marketing is headed over the next five to ten years, what do you see? You are in the middle. Your fingers are in a lot of different companies. You’re at the forefront of what this world is like. What do you see as the next round of marketing? What do we need to think about in this new world?

CHAD JARDINE

Great question. So I think about this a lot. I’ll try to steal that down into something that’s coherent. I do think that the fractional model is going to, and I’m going to be a little bit heretical. Like, you wouldn’t probably hear this from other fractional folks, but the fractional CMO role is not the same job as the CMO job.

PETER STEVENSON

Right?

CHAD JARDINE

Right.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And so we call it fractional CMO. And really what you have is companies that think they need a CMO or some type of marketing lead, and they have a budget that is fractional. Right, right. So it’s not that this fractional CMO is really what they need. They need a CMO and they can only pay fractional. So they need to find some way of dovetailing those. And I think in that environment.

ALYSHA SMITH

The.

CHAD JARDINE

Things that kind of unlock efficiency for early stage companies, especially in the building blocks, like just the core elements of their marketing strategy, I think become really important. I think as a fractional CMO, your process and systems are every bit as important as your expertise and experience, which is like, when you first start, you’re a little bit of a disadvantage. Right. Like, you’re building these things as fast as you can go, but you encapsulate so much learning into these processes that you can knock out something, you know, once you have that baked, you can knock out in a fraction of the time what used to take you, you know, much longer. I think that in that same vein, I think as we, as we see AI go from being more. AI’s so great.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Like, I mean, as a, there’s a, there’s kind of two camps about AI and marketing. Like the fearmongers and the. Holy crap, look what we can do. I tend to be a little bit in the second camp because I see the problem as how do we deliver big company, big team, big budget outcomes for companies that don’t have any of that? I think AI has the potential to unlock some of that. Certainly marketing is like every other discipline in the fact that there are tasks that are not the highest and best use of our brains, not the most creative work. And I view that from the perspective of, I’m a big believer that creativity is productivity, that spark of inspiration that solves a problem you’ve been chewing on for two weeks. That moment is worth many thousands of dollars per hour. When the other moments when you’re pounding your head on the sidewalk trying to figure it out, not worth as much. And I think AI has the potential to free us up to spend more time on the really innovative and creative things because it will commoditize the mundane efforts. I think AI is a great copilot. A great ride along takes some of the heavy lifting and drudgery off of us. And exactly what that will look like, I don’t know. I have a theory. I believe that we’ll start to see, as we’ve seen, income inequality since really triggered in the 1980s and has spread. So the lowest rung is still way higher in income than it was before, but the highest rung is way, way higher than that. That creates this kind of disparity among the, among people. I think that we will see something similar in tech. There will become a technological inequality. So people that have access to tools, access to build things from AI, like, I think some of the core resources to do things in AI will start to start to be dominated by players at the top. And I think that’s going to create an interesting dynamic for us.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

PETER STEVENSON

One of the things that I’ve sort of, you know, I’d love to get your feedback on sort of this idea on the AI front, but, you know, if. If I take two things that I loved this year, last year, you know, the Barbie movie and, and hating on Marvel movies, those are two things I love this past year. So, like, the Barbie movie was all real. They built those sets. It was, you know, you filmed a real thing and then you go watch one of those superhero movies and it’s all fake.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right?

PETER STEVENSON

And I kind of see this idea of where marketing going in those two directions. You’ve got the company that’s going to spend the money to get the real person to film them, do the actual thing, then put that out in an ad. Then you’ve got the other people that are like, I’m going to spend 100 times less, and I’m going to do it on computer with AI and not use a real person, and it’s going to look fake and not be interesting, you know, and so that’s. Do you see that kind of disparity, too? Like, the people who can afford to do the real thing are going to be more successful than those who can only afford the AI component.

CHAD JARDINE

I don’t think I think the success or failure of those are types of execution.

ALYSHA SMITH

Sure.

CHAD JARDINE

So, for me, the success or failure is more about the underlying idea. I think, like, an analog for AI would be, like, the advent of photography. Okay, so portrait painters like, oh, crap. Yeah, we’re gonna be out of business.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right?

CHAD JARDINE

Is fine art painting, you know, gone away? No, but there’s a. There’s a democratization of photography, especially right now. Right? Like, everybody’s got, you know, a film studio in their pocket.

PETER STEVENSON

Everybody’s got a spouse that loves photography.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Well, and think about this, right? Like, we’re gonna. We’re doing a podcast. It was essentially a radio show. We’re sitting here in the middle of three black magic cameras, which are cheaper than any camera. You could have done this. There’s a certain accessibility that comes, and I think that’s positive. So now, if I’m a young kid and I have an idea, I can make it. Sure. I can make a movie or I can make a podcast. I can make a series of videos. There’s a lot. The tools are less of an inhibitor to people, people’s creativity and innovation.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

I think that’s positive.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

But I think the thing is, like. Like, you know, when I went to art school, like, I had. I had. There’s. There’s these kind of strata. Like, there’s some of these professors. Like, yeah, I grind my own pigments, mix my own paints.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

Stuff them into the tubes. It’s like, yeah, there’s something kind of authentic and real and cool about that. Right. At the same time, like, you’re doing, like, a painting a year.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

So I think there’s a type of value that’s created in that. It’s awesome. And I think there will just be this balance. Right. People still paint portraits.

ALYSHA SMITH

Sure.

CHAD JARDINE

Even though you could take a photograph. So I think that’s how that will shape.

PETER STEVENSON

So you kind of see this idea of the future as there will be an opening up of people’s ability to be more creative because the things that inhibited it before are less.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

There’s less speed bumps from the brain to whatever you want to put out there.

PETER STEVENSON

Okay, interesting. So you think we’re going to have a more creative future?

CHAD JARDINE

Well, that’s a. I don’t think I actually said that. I think it’s. I think there’s more possibilities. Okay. But I also think, like, if you look at what’s happening with AI right now, essentially, like, if you look at AI as, like, a crowd of. Of interns.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

No experts.

ALYSHA SMITH

Sure.

CHAD JARDINE

And the output is the amalgamation of the crowd.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

Sometimes. That’s awesome.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Like. Like, you know, there. There are things that I like. I’m not a programmer, right. So I have a crowd of mediocre programmers. They can run circles around me in. In writing code.

ALYSHA SMITH

Sure.

CHAD JARDINE

That’s pretty cool. Yeah. But. But also the output is. It’s built into the program that the output is mediocre.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right. It’s.

CHAD JARDINE

It’s a crowd of average.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

It’s what? And. And you may find that there’s a place for virtuosity in AI that’s still coming.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

But we don’t have it right now. No, you don’t. I mean, AI is not going to write a Pulitzer winning anything, you know, not going to build a clear winning ad.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Because it’s. It can’t.

ALYSHA SMITH

It’s.

CHAD JARDINE

It’s. It’s dragged down. Like, it’s dragged down by the average.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

PETER STEVENSON

Interesting.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

PETER STEVENSON

We don’t have much more time, but I do want to touch base. I know that you’re. You do some adjunct professing, you know, professorship. So tell me a little bit about where you’re doing that, what you’re doing as far as education.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

So, for the past 15 years, I’ve taught some courses in venture capital as an adjunct at the University of Utah.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

PETER STEVENSON

In the business school.

CHAD JARDINE

It’s in the. Yeah, it’s in the business school. It’s in the finance department. Okay. So, usually my students are. And it’s a graduate level course, so my students are usually either MBA students or master of finance students. And that’s been a huge blessing in my life to just be able to interact with the students. The students are great. And entrepreneurship is a lot less closed now than it was ten or 15 years ago, but there’s still a lot of lessons that everybody’s learning them as they go for the first time themselves, and that’s a painful way to learn.

ALYSHA SMITH

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

So I like the opportunity to try to give students some shortcuts where they can kind of. It’s like, look. Yeah, this is what this universe looks like, and they don’t come out of there, you know, knowing everything. They just come out. Having been exposed to some things that I think put them better, make them better prepared as they go, and do it for themselves.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

PETER STEVENSON

So maybe let’s finish up with a couple of things. Give me some recommendations that you would have. What are some learnings? People should have both on that VC front, what your professorship is, and then also, you know, how should people think about you know, becoming better marketers. What are some tips and things that people, that you can help people with there?

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah, yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Okay. So, I mean, no surprise for me. Like the, the, if I’m a, if I’m a founder and I’m looking to raise money, that’s a marketing problem. Yeah, right. It’s a marketing sales problem.

ALYSHA SMITH

Exactly.

CHAD JARDINE

So I’m gonna, and so it’s the same, the same way that you would approach that with marketing for a company. It’s about understanding the audience and speaking to the audience. Something that, and that in itself is hard. Right. VC’s a hard job. Like, okay, if you’re good at it, you make a killing. That’s great. But it’s a hard job. I mean, I like to think about it. Think if you’re one of these VC’s like Andreessen, Horace, like a big, newish, big firm in the Bay Area, if you had $2 billion in your pocket and the only way that you could generate a return for investors was to find 1020, $30 million at a time, that you could put that into the riskiest companies in the world, that’s daunting.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah, right, right.

CHAD JARDINE

And that’s no small feat. And so having a little bit of empathy for just what that is like. And I’d also say that in our ecosystem here in Utah, man, we have some great investors.

PETER STEVENSON

Oh, tremendous.

CHAD JARDINE

So, I mean, we don’t have very many big investors, but our small investors, which is kind of the heartbeat of where I’m operating, those are the companies that I’m working with. There is a ton of empathy. It’s still a job of saying no most of the time, but there’s a ton of empathy for the plight of founders. There’s a ton of sort of humanity in that group and some really, really smart people. So it’s a great place to be doing that. I would much rather be raising money at that stage here than I would almost anyplace else.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

PETER STEVENSON

It is such a small network, and all of those people who were involved in that world here are just the, are really, really great human beings. Well, most of them, yeah. I mean, yeah. Okay, so give us some marketing tips.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah. So definitely it’s a customer first world.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

Right. So, and there’s, this is where I think it’s the hard work that, and it almost at any stage, but the hard work is understanding the customer.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

You got to be talking to the customer. It’s really easy to pass that job off to the customer. Success or sales and say it’s like, those guys are actually on the front lines, and they, and they are. And your sales team will probably talk to customers more than you do, or maybe even your product team, but you should always be doing some.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

I would say one other thing is that diagnosing marketing problems, this is the framework that I use for diagnosing marketing problems. I think is, has helped me a lot. And that is these four things. If you have these right marketing works 100% of the time, and that is the right customer, the right product, the right message, and the right channel.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

You can diagnose almost any friction, any problem you have in your marketing by looking at those. Sometimes if the product is a dog, not a marketing problem, and really hard to try to solve that with marketing. And that’s an awareness for both the marketing team and for the founder. It’s like, hey, look, nobody wants what I’m selling. I need to make a different thing or I need to change it somehow. I need to solve a different problem. I think viewing marketing is essentially matchmaking between products and customers helps make sense of it. I like to the relationship with marketing and sales. Like, if you have friction with your sales team, marketing doesn’t sell anything. So you need to figure that out. And a big part of that is understanding the roles. Right. I like the metaphor of the sales team as kind of like the Navy Seals.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

And so who’s the marketing team? We’re like the guys in the van with the satellite up the customers over sneakers. That’s helpful.

ALYSHA SMITH

Interesting.

PETER STEVENSON

All right, well, last question. Give us some places to eat or drink or get a cup of coffee here in Utah.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Okay. So I’m going to lean a little bit on the dessert side.

PETER STEVENSON

Oh, I love it. I mean, you are, you do live in Utah county, so this is perfect.

CHAD JARDINE

That’s. Desserts are our vices. Right. So first off, if you, if you haven’t ever had a cruffin at Beaumont, just off 215.

PETER STEVENSON

I love Beaumont bakery. What a great, great.

CHAD JARDINE

Oh, my goodness. If this is, this may be a little bit of a sleeper, but the creme brulee oatmeal at Gormandy’s, if you haven’t had that for breakfast, like, you know, you haven’t lived.

PETER STEVENSON

I used to live 20 yards away from Gormandie’s, and I hated it. They, we, and, but I’ve come in to love what they’re doing nowadays. It’s been great.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, yeah. And, well, and they, and just open to one Utah cannon down in.

ALYSHA SMITH

They did.

PETER STEVENSON

Oh, amazing. They, their growth over the last I don’t know. Ten years has been really exciting. They’ve turned around kind of their customer service and their food, and that really turned into being something more than what they were. And I’m not really sure why, but they’ve really turned into a real, a real great business here in the state.

CHAD JARDINE

Yeah, I think the last one is. So I live in Pleasant Grove. If you haven’t been to Alicia’s cupcakes, Alicia’s cupcakes is downtown Pleasant Grove, which, downtown Pleasant Grove is like this, and it’s on main street. And they’re like, these guys, like, you know, they won cupcake cupcake wars. Like, you ever.

PETER STEVENSON

I’ve never seen that, but.

CHAD JARDINE

So it’s, it’s called cravings. Alicia’s cupcakes. Okay, that’s great. They actually, there’s a, there’s a cravings bistro right around the corner, which is also great if you like.

PETER STEVENSON

Same ownership.

CHAD JARDINE

I think they’re sisters. Okay, Alicia, if that’s wrong, like, forgive me, but.

PETER STEVENSON

Okay, so, so the cupcakes at Alicia’s cupcakes, uh, what’s the go to cupcake? Do they have a rotating menu or is it like the seasonal menu?

ALYSHA SMITH

And.

CHAD JARDINE

But it’s. It is really tough to go wrong there. So they have, um. My wife’s a huge fan of their pumpkin chocolate chip, which is seasonal. They only have that in the fall.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

CHAD JARDINE

So it’s kind of as it should be.

ALYSHA SMITH

Yeah.

CHAD JARDINE

Um, but I don’t know. I like, I like peanut butter, so I like it. Like, they’ve, they have a Reese’s cupcake. That’s pretty amazing. It’s got a. Yeah. And also, like, I’m. As much as I’m plugging them, I’m actually trying not to go so much. You know, it’s probably trying for. There’d be less of me.

PETER STEVENSON

Right.

CHAD JARDINE

But you kind of can’t go wrong. They’ve got a great assortment.

PETER STEVENSON

I’ve been wondering when Utah is going to turn into a cupcakes town instead of, instead of a cookie place, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen. But I’ve been looking for a good cupcake place, so I’m going to check it out.

CHAD JARDINE

They’re, they’re great.

ALYSHA SMITH

They’re great.

CHAD JARDINE

And, I mean, you know, if you need an excuse, right. They make great, great company gifts and, you know, bring them into the office in the morning.

ALYSHA SMITH

All right.

CHAD JARDINE

That’s a good, good choice.

PETER STEVENSON

I’m on board.

ALYSHA SMITH

Okay.

PETER STEVENSON

Thank you so much for being here.

CHAD JARDINE

Hey, it’s my pleasure. Thank you, Pete.

ALYSHA SMITH

Bye bye.

PETER STEVENSON

Thank you for joining us today on this episode of Buy Subject podcast. If you have any guest recommendations or other comments, you can send them to us at info eyesubjectpodcast.com. Buysubject Podcast is a production of modern eight and agency in partnership with Silicon Slopes, the Mount West Capital Network, audio production by Dave Mecham, video production by Connor Mitchell and the music by the insanely talented Josh Johnston. If you need any place to eat, or if you need any of our old interviews, you can find that all on our website@buysubjectpodcast.com.

 

*Pardon our transcriptions, They’re transcribed using ai.

By Subject is a production of modern8 with support from Silicon Slopes + MountainWest Capital Network.