Success in Your First 90 days as a CMO


By Jeff Marcoux, CMO Lead, Worldwide Enterprise Marketing Microsoft

The first 90 days in any role are critical for success, so having a strong plan of action from the start is key. This is especially true for new CMOs, who are under increasing pressure to quantify their impact and show how they will leave their mark on the business going forward. I was recently asked by a student what I would recommend he do in his new role as a CMO in his first 90 days. Here are the 7 recommendations that I gave him.

  1. Align to business priorities. Understand the priorities and objectives of the company for this year, the next 3 years, and the 10 year outlook. Are they striving to become customer centric, are they going through digital transformation, or is it something else? What do those words mean to the executive team? Phrases like “customer-centric” or “modern marketing” get thrown around in meetings, but everyone has their own definition and picture of what they looks like; you need to understand what it really means to achieve those priorities. One easy way to do this is to ask your executives what marketing will have to do to hear them say, “well done,” “great job,” and “I like what I’m seeing!”
  2. Go through your customer experience. One of the first things you should do is go through your customers’ purchasing journey to experience it from end-to-end, from advertising to web to sales to customer service. Doing this exercise in the first 90 days is important, because it allows you to view the experience with fresh eyes, like a customer, opposed to an employee who has spent hours navigating the site for their job. Is it easy to navigate the website, what is the perception on social, how long does it take to be contacted when you request information, what is the quality of the content, how is the telesales pitch, and what happens when you call the customer service center? This will give you an idea of where the customer experience breaks down, and what needs a more thoughtful approach. It will also help identify areas of strength that you can take advantage of and build on.
  3. Ensure sales and marketing are aligned. This is an area that CMOs should be addressing at least quarterly, if not monthly; however, it is surprising how many never take the time to do this. I recommend this to every marketing executive I talk with; “Are you and sales on the same page when it comes to defining a lead, when is a lead qualified for sales, how does sales follow-up with new leads, is there a sales SLA, and can you track the leads through to opportunity and ultimately revenue?” We have all heard of sales complaining that the leads marketing provides are not good and that they need more leads, while marketing is always grumbling about how sales is not following up with the leads they provide. You are already off to a bad start if you miss this one! Bring together your sales and marketing teams, agree on a scoring methodology, align to the key sales priorities, make sales aware of your campaigns, and have a clear definition of when a lead is qualified and ready to be handed to sales. **One extra nugget here, ask the sales leadership where quota is lagging (product or geo) and go execute a campaign to help them out right away. That will get you a friend right off the bat.
  4. Connect with your team. It is always a good idea to have a sync with everyone that reports to you to hear their ideas for the business and how they think the business could be doing better.? All too often, executives ignore the people with boots on the ground who see how small changes can make big impacts, as they are the ones stuck in the pain of the current state. Take the time to connect with everyone from your team, not just your direct reports and managers.
  5. Create an Innovation Board. You need to setup a place where your marketing team can share their crazy ideas to help move the company and brand forward. I like to set up a team and a small honey pot of money (this may also be called an “Innovation Fund” or “Strategic Initiatives Fund”) that can be “invested” Shark Tank style. Employees then have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the team, explaining the impact they believe their idea will have on the business. The innovation team makes the decisions on where to invest the funds and helps those dreams become reality. This creates an amazing channel for innovative thinking, encourages strategic risk taking, and will help your team feel a sense of ownership in the business.
  6. Marketing technology check. This is like the annual doctors check-up on your marketing technology. What systems do you have in place, what gaps do you have in your technology suite, do your teams have the right training, and do all of your systems work together.? Take time to go through all the tools in your tool box. If necessary, schedule a refresher walkthrough and roadmap training with your technology vendors to make sure you team is getting the most out of your tools.
  7. Always be learning. This last tip is more personal but just as important. How will you stay up to date with the latest marketing trends and technologies that can give your marketing and business an edge. I personally like listening to a podcast everyday on my way into work or at the gym on a topic around marketing. If you don’t already have a favorite, here are several books and podcasts I frequently recommend as a good place to start:

    Read Jeff’s original article on LinkedIn here.

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