Your First 90 Days as a CMO – Month 1

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Congratulations – You’ve taken on your first Chief Marketing Officer role with a company that excites you and a brand you think you can refine and put your thumbprint on! It’s a big moment and right now, you’re thinking, “Holy Shit. What am I doing!?!”

No worries, I’m here to help you through your first 90 days as a CMO, which can be the most crucial time to determine your success or failure. So what can you not Fuck up in your first 3 months?


First 30 days: People and Processes

New Hire TRAINING

CMO can be a funny term. You’re either leading a small army, or you’re the only one on the marketing team. And let’s be honest, if you’re the single marketer, you’re really not a CMO yet – you just drew the short straw! 😉

However, if this is your first rodeo moving into the C-Suite, I really can not stress enough the importance of understanding your people and the issues and experiences they deal with on a day to day. Especially important in the starting experience for new hires, which you should go through yourself.

Come in as a coordinator and go through training with your manager. Go through the CS or CER training and get a feel for the systems, tools, people and process in that role. Jump into sales with the sales manager or leader ( more on this later ) and start your fluency in the sales process outside of the marketing perspective.

One thing to keep in mind here is that depending on the size of the company and how rigidly structured it is, these people you’re working with in your first week or so may never have the opportunity to work directly with you again, rather, they may end up working only with their managers whom report up to you.

This isn’t the time for coaching and change, it’s the time to ask questions and learn from those on the front line. Absorb. Take notes ( you do have a new notebook, yes? ). Reflect. Keep it to yourself for now.

I also don’t give a shit if you’ve been with this company for 15 minutes or 15 years. You likely haven’t gone through the training in a while, and this is an acceptable time to get in the weeds.  you’ve been with the company 10 years or 10 minutes, it’s probably been a while since you went through new hire training.

peerS AND DIRECT REPORTS

Before you even take the job, you should have already had at least a few meetings with the rest of the C-Suite, and in many cases, at least a couple members of the board. If not, get on these calendars.

Your next step should be to meet with your direct reports as well as the other managers that may be outside of your department or oversight. Remember, everyone is responsible for marketing, but not everyone reports to the marketing department. Don’t stir the pot here, your long-term goal is to ensure internal alignment with the company’s vision, and you need champions across the board to make that happen.

The purpose of these meetings is to gain perspective. Where are you in the market? Where has their team hit and missed? Most important, where has marketing failed their team and cost them results? This is going to open up a can of worms because the easiest, albeit sometimes correct, excuse is to blame marketing for poor results. Let them breathe and jot down some of your new internal challenges you just found out about. You’re prioritize them later.

THE ONE-ON-ONES

You’re going to sink or swim depending on how you lead your managers, so if you really don’t want to fuck up, you’d better understand your leaders. Set up your one-on-ones with direct reports and take them out for lunch for their first one-on-one with you. Get this done early on in your first couple of weeks.

You may be replacing someone previously in your seat, and it’s very likely that the one-on-ones from before were different than yours. This is your first opportunity to set the tone and expectations from you as a leader and mentor, and we all know the power of first impressions.

With one-on-ones, it’s your job to set the time and date, but have your team members to set the agenda. This is their one-on-one time and should be designed around improving people skills not tactical skills. Do not waste one-on-ones with status or tactical updates. Use the time to develop your people, and like a four year old, practice your listening skills!

What does your manager need help with? Who’s struggling on the team? Who’s winning? How’s life outside of work? What’s the weekend looking like? In one-on-ones, you shouldn’t give a shit about the metrics, numbers are for weekly team meetings. Instead, care about how best to coach and mentor your manager to be the best leader for their team.

In your first one-on-one, make sure the time is good and then schedule them out for the next 6 months and stick to them! Don’t cancel or reschedule one-on-ones. If you’re out sick, call in. If you’re traveling, make accommodations (yes, I know, sometimes impossible. But impossible is the only excuse).

The key is to be available and aware for your team. Don’t ever send the message that you value something more than your team, and that’s what cancelling or moving around one-on-ones does. These are the people that will make you successful. Or, they’re the people that you’ll enable to allow you to fail.

GET SOME TEAM TIME

After you’ve met with your direct reports, spend some time rubbing elbows with your team. You’ll get perspective from your managers on each member, but it’s important to have your own insight and do your own diligence here.

Your goal is to understand what skills your team has as a group, who has what individually, and where the gaps may be. The keyword is may be. Don’t make any rash decisions here as you really know nothing right now. But take notes and observe.

Another key here is not to interview the team members as if they’re jockeying to keep their jobs. Just work with them and get some clarity on the role they play in keeping the bus moving forward. Are they mechanics, ride-alongs, engineers, or drivers on their team’s bus? Are they on the right bus? Are they going to be in a good seat on your bus?

Have fun with these guys and give them a reason to want to work for you.

ALIGNMENT: DATA, GOALS AND METRICS

I love marketing. At all levels. I also love data and analytics. But I also hate data and analytics. I don’t care what anyone says, I think the most challenging part of being in the marketing hot seat is ensuring that everyone understands what the data is saying and that everyone knows exactly which goals your chasing.

It starts to be crunch time now and you need to start getting everyone to agree on the key metrics that matter. How do the metrics look? Ask 5 people and you’re likely to get 5 different answers. And by the way, they may all be correct. How do leads and conversions look? Ask another 5 – 5 more answers.

Gain an understanding of all the data and metrics being collected, and then silo yourself for a while so that you can make sense of it all. Prioritize these data points against your company goals and then sit with your management team to determine:

  1. Your single source of truth. What is the single, raw source of data that you will rely on for the truth. No two analytics platforms or sources will ever agree, so you need to agree on the right one, then use the others as supporting indicators
  2. Which key data and metrics are being tracked. These should be the ones that lead you to business results against the company goals. If you’re goal as CMO is net new customers, then everyone had better be on the same page of the same book for leads, acquisition cost, conversions, closed-won, etc..
  3. The accuracy of your data. If you rely on sales reps to input accurate data, I can tell you right now that you’re likely using a lot of useless data. Identify gaps in potential data integrity so that as a team you can resolve

Align your metrics with your company and executive goals. In order to do that, you need to ensure everyone is operating off the correct numbers and outcomes.

Alignment: Sales and Marketing

Let the battle begin! As the incoming CMO, you have a fun challenge. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you current VP of sales or sales manager isn’t succeeding because Marketing isn’t providing what his team needs. I’m also going to just assume that the Marketing team thinks that the sales team is full of idiots that aren’t properly working all the leads they’ve been driving through the door.

Time to put an end to this shit and start to mark your territory. There is this really stupid term that someone coined called Smarketing ( Sales + Marketing = … you guessed it ). Obviously this was made by a fourth grader, however, the logic is sound.

Without sales and marketing working in tandem, both are just going to spin cycles and advance very slowly. Go sit with your sales leader and take the blame for whatever garbage has been thrown their way in the past, then commit to working together to find a resolution. Yes, you have your marketing team, but your success in marketing is mostly determined by your sales team more than anything else. Does it really matter if you drove 10k more leads than your predecessor if they aren’t closed – ie, driving revenue?

Go through the sales process from top to bottom and left to right. Establish your weekly meeting with the sales leader, and then schedule your monthlies with the sales and marketing leadership ( managers ) to ensure complete alignment.

The first meeting will be fun. Have everyone put it all on the table then explain, in that room, how you plan to address the challenges and lead the way. You won’t have solutions, but you will have a clear and concise plan out of whatever shit-storm you just walked into. Your next weekly is time to present that plan and start driving your bus.

Don’t leave these meetings with anyone in confusion. End these with every individual in absolute clarity with the plan and the metrics that measure success of the plan.

ALIGNMENT: ESTABLISH AND CLARIFY Responsibilities

It’s been close to a month now and you’ve been basically meeting with everyone, digging into data, seeing the business from all angles and laying your foundational plan. It’s time to take your fresh eyes and start solving for the opportunities and gaps you’ve found.

Your company may already have a marketing plan in place that they’re working off of. That’s ok, so don’t derail current activations. This isn’t the time to change, but it is time to clean up and establish leadership.

Assign DRIs to own the opportunities you’ve identified while meeting with them, doing your audits, etc. Provide them with OKRs, SMART goals, KPIs, or whatever you’re going to use ( or your company uses )  for measurement and build the dashboard or reporting instrument to ensure everyone knows where they are against the goals.

Obviously, this is all useless unless there is pure clarity. Meet with your leaders and have them repeat what you’re discussing, then give them a couple of days to digest and develop their plan forward. Meet again, iterate if necessary, then agree on the path and move forward.

Month 2 as a New CMO
Month 3 as a New CMO