The first several weeks of a new Chief Marketing Officer’s tenure are critical. They offer a window into the kind of impact he or she will have on the company in the years ahead. In fact, within 100 days or so, the climate in the marketing department will shift to accommodate the temperament of the new CMO, and the team will begin to act accordingly, even before they’re aware of it. And once new habits form, it can be very difficult to break them. This can’t really be avoided, and that’s why it’s essential to get a handle on your understanding, alignment, and commitments early – as you see in this recent guest post by Dawn Colossi of FocusVision.
A new CMO doesn’t just usher in a new vision. They shape the company’s appeal, steward its reputation, transform its approach to content marketing, envision the future, and craft the messaging to communicate with the public. In light of this, just about everything the CMO believes, says, and does will bubble up into the new marketing strategy itself. It’s the nature of the job.
Transformative marketers know that success depends on simplicity, clarity, and alignment of their brand’s story, strategy, and systems. Yet, they also understand that big change is difficult to achieve from the top down — there must be understanding, alignment, and commitment across the organization. There are plenty of articles out there that talk about this issue, but few bother to capture the bigger overall picture. That’s why my advice comes in three essential big picture verbs—research, repurpose, and relate.
To begin with, a new CMO has to take a hard look at the existing brand narrative, especially when it comes to making sure that the Story is customer-centric. Look at how your story is being communicated both internally and externally, and take the time to sit down and listen to actual people.
Listen to those above and below you in the chain of command. Compose questions ahead of time. Come up with anything you need or want to know. Now is the time. Get a good grasp on the organization’s idea of itself by taking 20 minutes or so to interview any partners or principals you can, and by talking to the members of your team, both new and near-retired. Be humble. Listen. And ask a lot of questions. You may not have the ability to ask so many questions so later on. These first 100 days of your tenure are the only chance you’ll get to examine your gaps in knowledge and resolve them. Your team can forgive you for ignorance now, but later it may be tougher to explain.
Take advantage of these first weeks to ask questions, think over the company Story and how you can transform it.
A lot of CMOs get bogged down in operational details and tasks, allowing Strategy to take a back seat to house cleaning. This has its advantages. It makes you appear diligent, perceptive and productive. But when it’s all just show, other people can tell. So don’t get caught just tidying up. Begin by doing the work necessary to take what your department has to offer and repurposing and realigning it with your strategic objectives. Be innovative—repurpose the existing organizational structure to your marketing vision.
It’s critical at this time to align sales and marketing. Make sure that these teams are communicating on a regular basis and understand each others’ performance metrics. After all, the ultimate goal for both departments is the same: revenue. You can learn a lot by talking to sales about what kind of content marketing works best. You may not have to recreate the wheel here and be able to repurpose content that has been archived or reinvigorate leads that have been stagnant for a while. Look at the sales numbers and use that information to establish a new revenue strategy. Consider operational costs later, but take a look now at how the numbers are performing and take advantage of the insights your sales team can offer.
Again, don’t just study numbers—talk to actual people. This leads me to my final big picture verb: relate.
I often like to remind colleagues and staff of a basic fact: marketing is about people. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, you’re still talking to a person on the other end who is buying your service or product. If you’re not listening to the voice of your customer, you’re not doing your job. It is only by fostering a system of strong, interdependent and meaningful relationships that you will get anywhere in this business.
In order to align everyone in your department with your chosen metrics and goals, one of the first things you might consider is going through new hire orientation yourself. Understanding the existing onboarding process will enlighten you about the existing ethos of your company’s culture. Try to see the department from the perspective of a new, inexperienced marketer. Doing so will help you communicate better and build an efficient, high performing team.
Part of a CMOs ongoing role is networking and stewardship. Attend sales seminars and C suite conferences to get to know as many faces—and therefore as many perspectives —as possible.
If you’d like to learn more about how to power up your channel relationships, get a copy of my new book Marketing, Interrupted. In the book, I share the stories of business leaders across a variety of industries who are driving significant transformation within their company on behalf of their customers and channel partners. You’ll explore the challenges marketing leaders face and discover how they are approaching transformation in a very different way – sometimes in ways that seem counterintuitive or even a little crazy! Check out the latest review by Debbie Laskey for insight into what she learned from my book about brand storytelling in particular.