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The First 90 Days: Top 7 Keys to Success for B2B CMOs

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Tom McKeown, Owner of McKeown Strategic Insights: We help B2B CMOs

By: Tom McKeown

In 2023, the landscape for B2B enterprise technology companies is as competitive as ever before. Whether you are a seasoned executive or are taking on your first Chief Marketing Officer position, it’s never been more important to hit the ground running. With this in mind, here are my top keys for success for new B2B CMOs within their first 90 days.

1. Complete A 360 Review Of Your Company & Industry

Regardless of your previous experience, the transition period between accepting your offer and formally starting your new role as CMO should be solely centered on becoming a company and industry expert. Voraciously read market reports, analyst and influencer blogs, or any other industry thought leadership you can find. It is obvious, but I’d be remiss not to mention completing a detailed review of your company website and digital footprint. If your company is public, analyzing the 10-k is a must, as well as any analyst reports written in response. Additionally, look at every press release the company has issued over the past twelve months. Not only is this helpful for fact gathering, but it will also give you a sense of the voice/messaging theme that has been publicly communicated previously.

Conducting informational interviews with thought leaders in your space is crucial. This will help you ascertain key market facts quickly and plant the seed for building these key relationships. If your job acceptance is announced with a press release, many of these influencers will come knocking on your door. Having some talking points rehearsed before each of these conversations is highly encouraged. Make sure to connect to each person on LinkedIn after your call if you haven’t done so already.

The final component of this initial 360 review is to familiarize yourself with the company’s top five competitors. Put simply, I’d recommend following the same exact process you just finished for your company for each competitor. That is, market reports, industry thought leadership, analyst and influencer blogs. The good news is many competitors will be mentioned in the same pieces of content. Extensively review each competitor’s website as well as the public communications from the past twelvemonths. You will want to develop a general sense of how each competitor positions themselves vis-à-vis your own company. I suggest a formal competitive review (market overview) as part of the formal marketing audit, this would entail battlecard reviews, feature/capabilities matrices, win/loss analysis, and more.

2. Walk Through The Customer Journey

Ideally before your official start date, put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer and begin walking through the customer journey. First and foremost, extensively review all of your key personas as well as the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This will ensure you have the proper context to go through this exercise as a potential buyer.

Begin on your company’s website by reviewing all awareness-level marketing assets, blog posts, topic pages, and more. Fill out any forms so you can get exposure to the nurture streams. The key here is to ingest this content again from the perspective of the buyer. You will be able to put your marketing hat back on as you run through a formal audit process a little later.

As part of the consideration phase, attend a product webinar or view a recording. Also, review each product page extensively. If there is a trial version of your product, make sure to sign up.

Work with your future sales team to schedule a demo as part of the purchase phase. They may also grant you access to recorded demos.

Finally, you will want to review the customer experience assets, including how to guides, training documentation, the self-service portal, etc. Most likely, you will have to wait until your formal start date for access to these types of materials.

Ideally, you will want to keep notes of this experience for each persona. The more you can put yourself in the mind of the customer, the more impactful this analysis will be.

3. Build Your New Marketing Alliance

There’s no doubt you wouldn’t be able to reach the level of CMO without having extensive emotional intelligence and people skills. However, for first time CMOs there are certainly some nuances to consider when building your internal relationships. Therefore, building your new marketing alliance is a framework which will help efficiently and effectively get key stakeholders on your side and ensure your entire team is marching to the same beat.

Firstly, I’d recommend developing a specific engagement plan for each executive at your company. These plans should take into consideration the full personal dynamics, historical context, and their individual goals and motivations (implicit and explicit). Additionally, think about how these personal characteristics permeate throughout their specific organization. In other words, how does each executive’s personal vision impact how their organization functions day-to-day? After doing this exercise, you will be able to quickly identify areas of natural agreement and potential conflict with each member of the leadership team. From there, begin developing an individual one on one cadence with each executive with consideration to their preferences. This is an easy first step to building trust and goodwill.

Secondly, you need to create a management framework for each of your direct reports. The key to management is to not use the same approach for every direct but find the right approach for every direct individually given their experience, personality type, and performance.

Thirdly, quickly identifying a right-hand person or strategic advisor is crucial to long term success. Ideally this person would be the Chief of Staff of your choosing. The role of this person is to be your principal surrogate in the company. Not only do they help disseminate your strategic vision, but they also are your chief factfinder. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is sometimes a big difference in what people say versus the truth. Having a trusted advisor who can find the truth fast is crucial. If your organization doesn’t have the resources to hire a full-time Chief of Staff, hiring an outside advisor to fill this role is highly recommended.

Think about how you engender the support of your entire team quickly. What are the team values that you’d like to espouse? What is the mission statement of the marketing organization? Ideally, you’d like every member of your team to have the ability to quickly articulate this mission statement to the rest of the company. This will reflect well on your leadership by showing alignment and buy-in at every level of your group.

Finally, think about your talk track for the critical introductory all-hands meeting. Humility, self-deprecating humor, and transparency are key to getting individual team members on board.

4. Complete A Successful Marketing Audit

When people hear the word "audit” a sense of dread may come to the forefront. It’s not just the budget, it’s the people and the processes too.

Completing a holistic audit with both quantitative and qualitative metrics is crucial to getting a true sense of how every facet of your team is performing.

In order to conduct a successful audit, I’d recommend the following steps:

  • Determine Scope: What are the marketing dimensions applicable to your organization? This would entail areas such as branding/messaging, overall market analysis, digital marketing, MarTech, and demand generation, just to name a few. Ensure this list is comprehensive and exhaustive. You want to have complete awareness of the full scope of your marketing organization.

  • Identify Metrics: You want to have specific metrics and criteria to quantitatively and qualitatively measure the performance of each dimension of your team. One such way is to build a maturity model that compares your organization’s performance across industry competitors and other B2B peers. Ideally, this will help conceptualize where you are today versus where you want to go (the ideal marketing state)

  • Determine Stakeholder Involvement: This truly depends on the size of your company and how well you are building your “new marketing alliance.” At minimum, you’ll need to have one formal meeting with all key stakeholders involved in each of the discipline areas. For example, to conduct a successful demand generation audit, you’ll need the appropriate sales stakeholders (BDRs/SDR leads, Geo-leads, Sales Ops lead, etc.) along with the relevant marketing leads (Head of Demand Generation/Growth, Marketing Operations, Field Marketing, etc.)

  • Conduct Analysis: Ideally, your Chief of Staff or someone in a similar role, should be the point person to organize and execute the formal audit process. If you don’t have the internal resources, hiring outside help to support this process is certainly recommended if possible. Having a truly impartial third-party auditor will ensure quality data.

  • Build Next Steps: Finally, the learnings from your audit should be organized in such a way that they fit seamlessly into your strategic vision and overall - plan. In other words, if you run a good audit, the output will be a prioritized list of next steps that should form the basis of your strategic vision and subsequent plan.

McKeown's Marketing Mastery: The Audit is one such tool that can be implemented fast. With 375+ inspection points across 11 marketing disciplines, a new B2B CMO will not only obtain the data to transform their team, but also the entire company.

McKeown Marketing Mastery: The Audit, for B2B CMOs

5. Build Your Strategic Plan Using OKRs & KPIs That Are SMART

Once you complete a successful audit, you will have the data to put together your strategic plan.

At minimum, your marketing plan should contain the following elements:

  • Executive Summary – intuitively, a brief synopsis of the entire plan.

  • Business Summary – how does the marketing plan tie into the overall business plan (growth focus, new market focus, consolidation focus, etc.). Ensure that the key marketing KPIs and metrics can roll up into the most impactful company metrics. Additionally, the marketing group has a strategic perspective on the overall company strategy, so any analysis or marketing inputs that are part of the company plan should be identified in the marketing plan as well.

  • Market Summary – include a summary market overview and competitive analysis you conducted during your audit as part plan.

  • Strategy- at minimum, provide the 4P analysis (product, promotion, place, and price)

  • Messaging Summary – briefly outline the messaging themes for the ICP and the key personas.

  • Channels – what are the prioritized channels? What phase of the customer journey does each channel support? If you have a brief communications calendar, include it here.

  • Budget – the budget explicitly communicates the strategic priorities of your team. Intuitively, make sure the most important priorities have budgetary support. A year-to-year comparison is crucial to have for context.

  • Resource Requirements – these are related to budget, but I advise categorizing them into a separate category. Any net new investment requests should be outlined with a formal justification. This would apply to both people and system investments. Having the list prioritized by strategic importance and impact is also helpful.

  • Risks - finally make sure to identify any external and internal factors that have a realistic probability of impacting your plan. For each of the internal factors, it’s crucial to have a risk mitigation factor identified. By definition, external factors are harder to mitigate. However, to the extent that it’s possible it is wise to do so.

  • KPIs/OKRs – finally, and maybe most importantly, clearly identify the metrics that define success for your marketing organization. In terms of KPIs, I’d highly recommend a CMO executive dashboard be built to give you an always available tool to track progress. KPIs should be marketing controlled exclusively. This means the data collection, analysis, and data quality assurance are all owned by your team. Remember the SMART framework:

    • Specific – each goal should be narrowly defined to ensure effective planning and likelihood of success

    • Measurable – as mentioned, the data to measure your teams’ goals should be owned holistically by your team

    • Attainable – be ruthlessly realistic in determining what your team can achieve in a given amount of time. For example, don’t put a goal around “CMO optimization” as a Q1 deliverable.

    • Relevant – by following earlier steps, your marketing strategy should be tied hand in hand with the overall company plan. This means your goals will be relevant by definition. If you are having trouble articulating relevant goals that’s a huge red flag and shows you’re not aligned with the rest of the company. I’d recommend you need going back to step 1 on planning.

    • Time-based – more than just an assessment of attainability, can you put a completion date for each goal and hold you and your team accountable?

As you can see from this quick planning overview there are many factors to consider.

If you’d like a complete strategic planning template reach out to:

6. Communicate Your Vision!

We have already discussed the importance of communicating your team’s mission statement. However, building a formal internal communications plan is crucial to your long-term success. Your Chief of Staff, with some support from the PR/Comms function, should be doing the heavy lifting to build this plan. Again, if you don’t have the internal resources to build and execute your communications plan, outside support would be recommended.

The Know, Feel, Do model is a helpful framework when building the overall plan as well as individual communications.

Know: What is the one thing you want your audience to know?

Feel: Why is it important to your audience?

Do: What do you want your audience to do as a result

Once you brainstorm the main messaging tenants of your vision, think of all the communication channels at your disposal. Have your Chief of Staff build a communications calendar for the full year.

Finally, your Chief of Staff and direct reports should be serving as your principal surrogates. They will reinforce and disseminate your message throughout the rest of the company.

7. Adapt & Improvise

The best laid plans will still need improvisation at some point. There will be unforeseen challenges, opportunities, or threats that arise. A plan without execution is a theory, while execution without a plan is simply activity. The beauty comes when both blend together and can be easily adapted to changes on the ground.

To help make sure you’re on track, I’d recommend the following cadences: weekly direct one on ones, monthly team all hands, bi-weekly executive one on ones, weekly reviews with your boss. These meetings will serve both as information gathering and stakeholder management tools.

At minimum, having a monthly marketing metrics review (specifically to discuss the OKRs and KPIs you have identified) is key.

You will make mistakes along the way, but learning fast and adjusting is the key to long term success.

By following these tips you’ll be well on your way to success in your first 90 days and beyond!

If you have any questions, send me an email at:

If you are interested in our marketing audit tool, click here

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