New marketing gig? Design your first 90 days to win.

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of starting a new marketing role.  There you are, super pumped, right at the starting line feeling like all your training has prepared you for this next new challenge.

And like most of us you want to make an impact right out of the gate.

No doubt you’ll have that opportunity to get some quick wins, but to avoid hitting the wall too fast you’ll want to get some important stuff set up so that you can win the longer game too.

That’s where your 30, 60, 90 day plan comes in.

If you’re stepping into a senior marketing role, especially a Director or VP position, chances are you were asked for that 90 day plan as part of the interview process.

For me, this has always been a mission critical step in my success.  Even when I am not asked I still put one together and walk them through it prior to signing on.

I believe in this process so much that I even call it “The first 90 days – setting Mitch up for success plan”.

In 90 days you want to be set up to succeed – not get sucked in

Time flies in a startup. If you don’t start with a plan for your own success, you’ll quickly get swallowed up by everyone else’s.

A new role also affords you something unique – time.  You’re new.  You’ve got your orientation, people to get to know, customers to talk to, and data to digest.  And you’ve got this 90 day window to get yourself prepped.  After that it’s all systems go so you want to use that time to build confidence and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.

My 90 day roadmap

Everyone operates from a different place, but if you’ve been at this long enough you know there are certain things we all need to have in place to give us the insight, data, trust and confidence we need to drive forward.  Maybe it’s that spreadsheet or dashboard that you live off of, or a budget framework or an exercise or analysis that you’ve run in every other job.  Write all those things down and put them in your plan.

For me, my 90 day plan is quite simple and is broken down into 3 key 30 day phases and 1 add-on:

Phase 1:  Deep customer understanding/talking with customers

Phase 2:  Identify the most immediate priorities for growth

Phase 3:  Launch initiatives that line up with Phase 2

Add-on:   Find and act on low-hanging fruit wins

Talking with customers

In every role that I have taken on I always spend the first 30 days going deep into understanding the customer.  That doesn’t mean just reading support tickets, it means customer calls – and lots of them.  I want to know about who they are, what their world is like, what events drove them to find our product/service, how they found us, what impact choosing us has had and how they would describe us to others.

I typically reach out via email and ask for 20 minutes of their time to understand their business.  However, we typically end up spending 45 – 60 minutes on the call.  If you design the call properly it is unreal how much customers are willing to share about what they do, their lives and how you fit it.  For me, this is all gold and it’s these insights that give me the confidence to know what and who it is I am dealing with.  Customers will give you 95% of the answers to your key marketing challenges of “Who am I serving?”, “What problem do they have?” and “How can I reach them?”

Armed with this information and insight I can operate with conviction.  Without it, really, what’s the point of being a marketer?

Establish what’s important “right now”

While I am busy talking to customers, I have also started to make my way through the different departments, the data that may (or may not) be available and talking in depth with my team members and the CEO or founders about the business.   What is happening now?  How does our funnel look? Our LTV and CPA?  Are people clear or fuzzy on what we are doing? Long term, what is it that we want to be and what’s getting in our way?

Just like with customer insights, this information is a combination of truths, perceptions and aspirations.  For me, it’s worth letting all that input sink in.  Remember, it’s your first 90 days so use the time to accumulate and digest without yet having to act.  Why?  You were smart and mapped it out that way in your 30,60,90 plan before you started.  For me, implementation starts in the last 30 days.  If I get there faster, good for me, but I’m not going to rush it at the expense of the initial clarity I need to move forward more powerfully.

The goal of Phase 2 is to be in a position to have the answer to the most important question I need to ask myself which is “What efforts should we apply ourselves against right now?”

So much of being a great marketing leader has little to do with marketing but everything to do about decision making.  In growth mode for any startup the size of the opportunity always dwarfs the size of the resources you can apply against it.  There are literally endless things you can do.  A colleague of mine would say “We can do anything, just not everything.”.

So, before day 60 I want to establish and gain alignment with the CEO and my team around what challenges we are going to take on right now.  The “right now” is one of the most important pieces of that because as you grow and scale the business those “right now” needs will change.

Setting short and long term growth priorities

When setting those “right now” priorities it’s super critical to include items on two different timelines.  First are those items that will impact the business sooner vs later.  The second, and even more critical, are those that will move you towards your longer term goals that need chipping away at right now.   Again, this is about setting yourself up for success.  So as much as you want to impact the right now, you absolutely must also set the stage for what the business is going to need to really take off.  This could be anything from infrastructure, marketing tools, or overall positioning and messaging.

This phase is super powerful.  Put it all together in a simple presentation and take everyone through it.  Once you do, you’ve basically created your next 90-180 day plan.

Get going

Phase 3 is all about executing on the priorities and efforts you delivered in Phase 2.   This is typically around day 60 for me.  With a clear outline of what to work on in place you can attack your plan fully with everyone behind it.

Satisfy your hunger for immediate impact with low hanging fruit

It’s hard for anyone that loves to work in a startup or growing business to sit on their hands and plan for 60 days.  You also want to come in and nail some short term wins.  There’s no doubt that in the first 2 weeks on board you’re going to salivate over all the immediate opportunities to “fix” stuff.

So go for it, but don’t let it consume you.

Immediate fixes to some low hanging fruit can help win over some friends and make you feel good about yourself, but getting to Phase 2 and setting your priorities for what’s really needed to propel the business should be your core focus.

You only get your first 90 days once – use it and enjoy it

Coming into a new marketing leadership role is an exciting time.  You are full of passion, nerves and anticipation.  So turn that energy into a 90 day plan that will set you up for success because if you’re going to win, so is everyone else around you.  That’s what it’s all about.

I've lead marketing for some of Canada's top startups - how about yours? If you're a founder or CEO with an existing marketing lead in place who is looking for part-time, proven, CMO level leadership to drive a new level of success - we should talk.

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I help founders and CEOs instantly add part-time CMO level leadership to their marketing teams.

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