One of the coolest — and most daunting — moments in a digital marketer’s career is when they score that next big dream job. You know the one. It’s based on your most recent successes but represents a good, strong stretch. You’ve interviewed perfectly and scored the position, but your inside voice is asking: “OK, now what hot shot? Can I pull this off?”
This is an inflection point I see all the time with our customers, and it represents a huge opportunity for personal and professional growth. While I don’t often see the self-doubt overtly, I do run across a class of progressive executives who leverage every resource at hand while carving their own path. Let’s look at a few common traits and strategies I see lead to sustained success over the first 12 to 24 months of a newly tasked digital marketer.
A Wide-Open Mind
In my experience, the best of the best come into a new role with a “blank slate” mentality. If they are promoted internally, they don’t ignore past successes and failures — but neither do they plan to simply replicate last year’s programs with small tweaks.
For external hires, the best folks don’t drop into a new organization thinking they know everything. Scoping your new colleagues for skills and strengths is something you should begin in the interview process — and never stop doing. And yes, this is equally true up and down your reporting structure. Understanding both your staff’s skills and your executives’ motivations are critical to a complete view of success — regardless of whether you’re a manager or a CMO.
The Big Three
Each industry has three to five key programs it should be executing at a very high level. If you’re an ecommerce retailer, for example, your cart abandon emails better be converting hard, and you should be thinking about browse abandon as the next frontier. If you’re a subscription-driven business, your paid-media acquisition better be hitting on all cylinders and delivering a channel-based attribution model that’s informing future spends based on conversion, not simple click-through measures.
Interaction without revenue won’t drive the kind of success you need in your first 90 days. If this blocking-and-tackling isn’t in place, slow down your long-range planning and get these programs out first. Go hire external resources for a short sprint if you need to.
For most new positions, the list of potential projects is long and complicated. Defining what you WON’T do is often more important than building a next-45-days list. I encourage most new marketing hires to think in this order:
Unless your business is based solely on lead gen, solving for success among your existing customers is an optimal place to start building programs — for the simple reason that revenue solves almost all ills, and virtually every existing customer will give you more if you ask in highly individualized, compelling ways.
From there, I encourage marketers to build out their own project-prioritization model based on your specific business. This will help you make your own decisions, plus give you a construct by which you can articulate your support (or non-support) of the many external projects you’ll be pitched. For most scenarios, starting with a combination of revenue potential + available resources (people and money) + time-to-completion should net you a solid way to stack-rank each project against each other.
It Takes a Village
If you want to achieve the objectives you identify during your project prioritization process, you can’t go it alone. I often meet with our customers at this critical juncture because they are open-minded enough to pull in all their trusted partners. The process is rarely confrontational — either externally with their vendors, or internally with their staff — but it serves to snapshot the existing effort and chart the immediate course. In almost every session, we cover a specific customer’s Big Three, and then discuss four to five other key opportunities in areas like call centers or CMS.
The same strategy plays perfectly internally as well. I’ve seen long-held chilly relations between marketing and IT thaw almost instantly when a new marketing director reaches out privately to their IT colleague to open lines of communications. Take the time to cultivate the internal relationships you’ll need to be successful, which can range from IT to Finance to your executive’s peers. In the first year, look to spend at least 15 percent of your time building these bridges. Ignore this step at your own peril!
A Special CMO Note
While every role needs to succeed quickly and show solid revenue contribution, the pressure is uniquely on CMOs. If you want to see the long list of issues that keep CMOs awake at 3 a.m., check out IBM’s benchmark CMO Study. This was reference content for me long before IBM bought Silverpop, so I’m excited to have even more insight into the process going forward.
The biggest error I see CMOs flirt with is what I call the “Big Bang Theory.” It’s the thinking that you have to go big or go home — that much is expected of a new C-level hire. You need to rethink CRM, introduce an all-new function around analyzing Big Data, or rework the brand.
These are all great strategies, but let’s keep one stark reality in mind: a new CMO has about 24 months to move the revenue needle. Thankfully we’re becoming more numbers driven, but I still see CMOs playing 48-month strategies that they only get 30 months to work on.
The Silver Bullet
For me, a wicked and unwavering focus on driving revenue is the single best way to succeed as a marketer — whether you’re a manager or a CMO. As we marketers become more quantified, our success won’t be measured in impressions or how well we washed out last year’s budget. We’ll be driving attributable revenue or increasing Net Promoter scores or reducing call center volume – all of which can be directly measured. It means we’ll need to get out of our marketing silos and go work with many other internal groups, but being a thought- and consensus-leader at this level has a unique value all its own.
So don’t miss this huge opportunity. Too many companies are still marketing like it’s 2002, and your numbers-driven approach will earn you instant kudos among your executives and peers. Demonstrating that marketing can directly contribute to the revenue side of your business will likely slingshot you into yet another promotion — and an all-new challenge you’ll have to map out again.
This is the perfect moment in time to define yourself as more action than talk. Hard work, deep thinking and measureable results pay off in spades. I see it every week with our customers. Now YOU go do it!
1) Ebook: “Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program”
2) Video: “3 Tips for Prioritizing Automated Emails”
3) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue”