You Just Became The Head of Marketing. What Now?
Congratulations. You’ve just landed the role you’ve been long searching for. You're now heading up a marketing team and have earned the title. You have seen first hand that being a senior marketer is no job for the faint-hearted. Each day brings pressure from many corners;
- Staying on top of the latest marketing buzz phrases is almost a full-time role
- Navigating a fast evolving maze of social media tactics. Yes, you need to know about Snapchat now.
- Digital media that is so measurable you risk suffering death by data.
- Countering accusations that marketing merely spends, rather than generates revenue.
- Convincing sales that it's their ability to close leads, rather than the actual leads, that are the problem.
- HR, Sales, Product, IT and Finance are now dabbling in communications. Didn’t this used to be your job?
- Ensuring that your team plays nicely with one another.
With the average CMO tenure amounting to a mere 44 months, you need something special to survive and thrive in the role. So how do you tackle your first 60 days?
1. Take a hard look at current messages in market
You might have stepped into a business that already has a bold marketing plan with a range of digital and above the line tactics. Or you may have just taken the reigns at an organization proudly boasting to be ‘not doing any marketing at all’.
If the latter, when you take a closer look, you’ll realize that there’s still plenty to assess. Marketing is more than advertising. There’s probably a range of print and digital collateral that needs your attention, a brand in need of a style guide, and a social media page or two that could use some structure and consistency.
Regardless, your first job is to assess both the current marketing messages out in the field as well as those that have been tried in the past. Set up an audit in an Excel spreadsheet to document what messages are being delivered across each of your social media channels, your website and blog, and any media your team (or agencies) are buying.
Get a quick handle on what is working and what is clearly not. Understand what needs immediate attention to stem any budget waste and what is harmless enough to wait until later.
2. Understand your customer
Have you determined who your customer is yet? Sure, you know what you want to sell them, but have you had a good think about their life goals, their needs and desires? As brand storyteller and strategist Bernadette Jiwa reflects:
...the products and services you sell create meaning for your customers beyond their utility. The truth is that as marketers, we often miss the opportunity to acknowledge and reflect that story back to them.
Understand your target audience by reviewing company research that has been undertaken previously. If none has been undertaken, look into that. Or use freely available tools to conduct your own desk research.
Look at Google Trends for keyword movements relating to your industry. Or run a few searches of relevant hashtags on Twitter to get a feel for what your propspective customers are speaking about, complaining over, and praising. Jeff Jones, CMO of Target, suggests:
As a marketer, you have to be driven by the consumer that you are serving, and you can only do that when you are insanely curious about them. You can’t change the world if you are not curious about it.
3. Get your head around company data
Don’t wait to be fed information by the company’s data scientist or insights people. Get hold of as much data as you need to understand the business, the customer and how your product or service solves their problem.
- Sixty-four percent of marketing executives “strongly agree” that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hypercompetitive global economy.
- Eighty-seven percent of marketers consider data their organization's most underutilized asset.
- Almost half (49%) of brand executives feel “significant pressure” to increase data’s role in their current strategy.
According to a report by Terradata;
The ultimate goal of data-driven marketing, of course, is to improve business. Yet as of today, just 39 percent of organizations are capturing significant business benefits – such as improved ROI, increased customer loyalty, or more sales conversions – from acting on customer data.
Be on very good terms with your data team and their outputs. Not only will this give you a thorough understanding of what your customers want, but also guide you towards new revenue opportunities.
4. Lock in your customer value proposition and key messages
You’ve now taken a good look at your audience and have a feel for what they want. You know intimately what it is that your product or service does well. Figuring out what your product or service does better than anyone else and marrying that benefit with a key customer need will go a long way to determining your value proposition.
A brand with a strong awareness and projection of its positioning will be an important differentiator between two similar companies and help you dominate your market.
In order to define (or redefine) your company value proposition(or CVP), Michael Skok suggests a 4 step process:
- Define the problem to determine whether it’s worth solving
- Evaluate whether your breakthrough is unique and compelling
- Measure potential customer adoption using the Gain/Pain Ratio
- Build the Value Proposition
Once this CVP is determined and agreed upon you can begin to craft the cascading marketing messages to best sell your value.
5. Determine your marketing tactics
There’s a tendency among junior marketers and senior non-marketers to rush straight into channel mode. Why don’t we put together a Facebook page? We should be on Google! Let’s make a TV ad!!
Your job is to get everyone to take a deep breath. Only once you have a comprehensive understanding of your customer and business data and have determined your unique place in the market, should you begin to craft an effective marketing plan.
Establishing a clear linkage between marketing and its contribution to sales or revenue moves marketing from being a ‘discretionary expense’ to a strategic business driver. .. As a marketing leader, you should clearly establish line-of-sight between your plans and the priorities of the business. If you cannot, you may reconsider if it is part of your plan.
Your plan should outline each marketing tactic, what you expect each to deliver and how that activity will contribute to achieving company goals.
If need be, conduct a competitor media activity SWOT analysis to determine where your key competitors are focusing their marketing tactics. This will help you make a call as to whether you want to meet them head on in certain media (a typically pricier move) or move toward the gaps.
While we’re on tactics, have you considered your company blog or a broader content marketing strategy as an adjunct to your more traditional marketing tactics?
Educating and entertaining your audience via informative thought leadership content is a great way to build trust and play an ongoing role in your customers’ lives. If you need to regularly update content on your website, you may need to look into a more nimble content management system. Visit Core dna for advice on that front.
6. Start executing quick wins and high priority tasks
Whilst you absolutely need to take the time to plan and strategize, you probably want a few early wins under your belt to gain momentum and build confidence. It's important to show the team that you’re both a thoughtful long term strategist but also a fast learner who can walk and chew gum simultaneously.
So whilst your marketing plan should outline the next 12 months of activity, you should also cover off a small and achievable set of tasks to get moving. Craft short execution plans that will be easier to manage initially.
One approach to this is to put together an Impact vs Effort matrix to help you determine priorities. Essentially you want to start by tackling all of the low effort and high impact tasks that will offer these sorts of momentum-generating wins.
You can then move on to the high effort and high impact actions that represent longer term gains and will take some time to establish. Anything that falls outside these two categories is what you might put in the low priority ‘maybe later’ or 'thanks, but no thanks’ zones for further consideration or a polite smile.
7. Assemble your team
You have your plan and can’t execute it alone. Time to get some hands on deck. Do you have a team in place already? Ideally, this group comes close to being exactly who you need to buy and optimize media, generate creative messaging and imagery, measure performance, and support your marketing goals. Each member of the team needs his or her own tailored goals to their role that ladder up to your team goals. For more on goal setting visit this handy resource.
But there may be a few gaps. Consider any efficiencies gained from outsourcing the gaps to external agencies or freelancers. Or perhaps there’s a member of the team who can be easily upskilled to fill one of those gaps? Or you may need to change up the team structure and make some new hires.
Even if formal upskilling of team members is not the solution, you should make continuous improvement and learning a fundamental part of their day. Doug Collier, CMO of La-Z-Boy, says:
The world is changing so fast, particularly from a marketing standpoint, that if you’re not interested in learning new things you'll be left in the dust very quickly.
Marketing is constantly evolving and you want your team to stay sharp and on top of their skills. Schedule a regular show and tell session, either with external experts or members of the team presenting the latest findings in an area of interest to your industry or the marketing niche.
8. Formulate a budget
Your budget will depend on several factors. The tactics outlined in your marketing plan should already have costs associated, so that’s the start of your budget.
Headcount is likely to be your biggest cost, so you’ll need to account for the current team plus any additional hires you wish to make. Remember to account for outsourced agencies, designers and freelancers.
Don’t forget your suite of subscriptions to various SaaS marketing tools and analytics providers. Here’s a handy resource from Entrepreneur magazine with further advice on building a marketing budget.
As a rule of thumb, it’s probably a good idea to start small and build as your marketing plan starts to produce great results. With the proliferation of new marketing technology, it’s a common practice to focus a certain percentage of your budget on a test and learn component.
Whilst 90% of your budget might be on tried and tested media tactics, you may set aside 5-10% to try new, riskier or innovative things. These are the interesting initiatives that might not work, but that could just as easily teach you many things about your audience or creative messaging and formats.
Perhaps investigate that Snapchat itch you’ve been wanting to scratch? Or set up a company blog and start trying to publish a regular thought piece on your industry.
You may just land on a hidden gem of an idea that you would have never known about had you not been willing to take those minor risks.
9. Keep your team updated
Even if you’re running a very small team, you should hold regular meetings to discuss progress and reflect on your strategy.
Also, schedule one to one meetings to address the personal goals, projects and development plans for individual team members. Be sure to uphold your end of the team meeting bargain, however.
Be on time and reschedule when you cannot attend. This is a vital part of earning their respect, among a range of other team management techniques.
Team meetings should never just be a casual run around the room for updates, suggestions and lunch ideas. Provide an agenda to give your team time to prepare in advance and know what to expect.
- Break the ice and have each attendee declare a personal and professional high for that week.
- Review team KPIs and see how these have contributed to company performance for that period.
- Assess progress and offer to clear hurdles on specific projects the team is working on.
- Review actions and assign responsibility for individuals to take away.
10. Report on your progress
Don’t wait for the formal reporting period to provide key stakeholders with progress updates. Send a casual note to your boss informing her of some of the quick wins achieved by the team.
Let a fellow department head know that you have tasked one of your team to liaise with one of his team on a given project.
In short, keep up the communications!
Particularly in your first few months, it’s far better to boldly over-communicate than wading in the other direction.
Encourage your team to do the same, providing regular updates on their progress to you and to their peers. Incorporate this culture into your team. It raises accountability and ensures that goals are being met efficiently.
Good luck in your new role. We’d love to hear how you are getting on and what is working for you. Let me know if you have any personal additions or feedback on this list and we'll develop a follow up post.