A Guide for New CMOs
For a crash course in what to do first, plan your listening tour and ask the right questions.
Are you in a new role as chief marketer, or perhaps new to your category? This simple guide offers straightforward ideas and insights that can help you succeed.
To start, think about what you need to do in your first 100 days. It is important to consider:
- Do I need to develop a transformation agenda?
- Can I create a more compelling go-to-market strategy?
- How can I make our brand more relevant to customers?
- Are there foundational tools to put in place, such as a documented customer journey or a marketing plan?
Given the rapid change in marketing and the greater need to prove immediate impact, we help new CMOs flex the most impactful levers including content, data and digital marketing, as well as reimagine their marketing organization for the modern era of growth engine marketing.
Here’s a quick guide of what to ask, what to do and where to look in the first 100 days.
What to Ask
Asking the right questions up front can help craft the right agenda, identify potential initiatives and create an actionable roadmap. Below are six questions you should explore with your team, colleagues, and agency partners.
- How relevant is/are your brand(s) to your most important customers and stakeholders? How relentlessly focused on the customer are insights, strategies and tactics?
- Is the marketing strategy aligned to the business strategy? What is marketing’s contribution to the enterprise? How do the rest of the C-suite and the board see marketing’s role?
- Are brand and demand priorities clear and integrated—or in competition and at odds? Is there a portfolio marketing strategy in place or is the strategy purely product-focused?
- How are you going to engage and empower the sales, communications and product teams? Is there a shared end-to-end customer journey? What culture of collaboration exists or doesn’t exist?
- What is the maturity level within the marketing organization for key digital capabilities such as customer data, content, personalization and attribution?
- Is your marketing team organized in the most efficient way possible and around your business priorities? How might you set up your operating model?
What to Do
Here are some recommended actions passed on from other leaders, proven to get you on solid footing and off to a smart start.
1. Schedule your listening tour
Meet with your direct reports and colleagues across the organization, and ask these questions: What do you want me to create? What do you need me to protect? What do you need me to prioritize? Be sure to share back the results and your plan.
2. Create these CMO assets
- Introduce Yourself Presentation: Prepare a “top 10 list” presentation that addresses these questions: Who are you? Why are you here? What kind of change initiative are you leading? What do you believe about marketing? What do you value? How do you like to work with others? What are your top priorities? What are key milestones for your first six months? What do you expect from your team? What can they expect from you?
- Vision, Agenda and Roadmap: These are often created in a workshop over a few weeks with a suite of collaborations They should include a description in which the brand can fulfill the business potential, and the springboards, or starting places, that exist now. One key artifact to create is a dashboard to help track progress.
- Growth Era Marketing Plan: This plan is a modern replacement for the integrated marketing plan and has many of the conventional elements updated for marketing’s new role as a growth engine for the enterprise. Topics include business vision, opportunities, strategies and tactics, customer data strategy, calendar, investment, and key enablers (e.g. content, technology, people, partners).
3. Work in outcomes
Translate your priority initiatives from marketing objectives to business impact. For example:
- Reducing cost: Investing in a content strategy that leads to search engine optimization will, for the business, reduce the cost of digital marketing that may need to be done.
- Increasing revenue: Engaging in brand and marketing campaigns that increase customer loyalty can, for the business, increase the share of wallet and customer lifetime value.
- Improving efficiency: Improving digital experiences can be a reason for a prospective client to work with you, therefore improving the volume of incoming leads, lead quality, conversion rates and retention.
- Product innovation: Customer insights gleaned from marketing activities and shared with product management can optimize product performance and uncover new opportunities.
Ask your teams to quantify and report their work against broader business impact, not only marketing KPIs. A dashboard that integrates marketing KPIs and business performance can help sustain that conversation and connection.
“When asked business questions (e.g. what have you delivered for the business?), don’t give marketing answers (e.g. NPS).”Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Mastercard
Where to Look
Prophet helps new and tenured CMOs set an agenda and transform their marketing inside and out. Talk to David Novak, Mat Zucker, Marisa Mulvihill and our brand and marketing strategy teams. Here are some additional resources which might be helpful:
- The Next CMO: A Guide to Marketing Operational Excellence, Peter Mahoney, Scott Todaro and Dan Faulkner (2020)
- Lies, Damned Lies and Marketing: Separating Fact from Fiction and Drive Growth, Atul Minocha (2021)
- Chief Marketing Officers at Work, Josh Steimle (2016)
- CMO Manifesto, John Ellett (2012)
- Owning Game-Changing Sub-Categories, David Aaker (2020)
- Creating Signature Stories, David Aaker (2018)
Articles & Speeches
- “2021’s Most Relevant Brands Include Apple, Peloton, KitchenAid, Costco And Lego—Here Is Why,” Scott Davis
- “Now’s The Time To Create Your Transformation Agenda,” Ted Moser, John Ellett
- “The Cure for Your Stalled Transformation? Your Brand.” Marisa Mulvihill, Chris Burzminski
- “Eight Essentials of Modern Marketing Plan,” Mat Zucker
- “7 Retired CMOs Share Advice To Their Younger Selves,” John Ellet
- “You’re a CMO, Now What,” Korn Ferry
- Apple brand purpose, Steve Jobs (1997: 6:54s)
The Chief Marketing Officer is a C-suite role that can lead, shape, and help deliver uncommon growth for the organization. Marketing is evolving fast, and every leader—new or tenured—needs the mindset and toolset to stay in front.
Reach out to our brand and marketing experts for advice and support on getting started with your agenda. Have a resource we should mention? Let us know.