What to expect from your startup marketing leader's first 90 days


You’ve brought on your first marketing leader—exciting times! But what happens now? Find out how to guide the new head of your marketing department to success by laying out a solid 90-day plan.
When you bring in a new marketing leader, it can be difficult to know what to expect—and what expectations to set. That’s especially true if you and your co-founders aren’t marketers yourselves.

That was certainly the case at Tango when we hired our first marketing leader.

What we found is that establishing clear guidelines during onboarding was critical to smoothing the transition on both sides. It sets your marketing leader up for success in their first quarter with your company. They’ll know their responsibilities, and you’ll understand exactly what to expect from them in their first 90 days in their new role.

In this guide, you’ll get a clear roadmap for your marketing leader’s first few months, so you can ensure their success in their new role.

The first 30 days: Get clear on the current state of marketing

In your marketing leader’s first 30 days, they should focus on observing and assessing the full picture of your company’s current marketing operations. This is a “listening and learning” period.

Ask the new employee to do a complete audit of what’s working—and what’s not—in your marketing efforts. This is a great way to get people on the right footing, let them know you’ve hired them for their expertise, and their ideas are welcome.

When we onboarded our first marketing leader at Tango, we looked for someone who was on the rise and had high potential; someone who would thrive given the right marketing leadership role. 

We also looked for someone who would be experimental, and who wouldn’t come in with an agenda. We sought out these traits because it was important to us that our marketing leader wouldn’t just ask what the budget is, but instead evaluate every channel and double down on what was working.

In fact, your new marketing leader should be talking with people across multiple departments to gather information—not just focusing on marketing team members.

Here are some questions they should consider asking during this period:

●  What is the mission of our company, and what are our values as an organization?

●  Who is our primary target audience?

●  What channels are working well right now for reaching our users, prospects and customers?

●  Who are our biggest competitors, and how do we stack up against them?

●  What are our current customers saying about their experiences with our brand?

●  What are the biggest roadblocks to marketing success right now?

●  Who are the key players in our company (inside and outside the marketing department) that contribute to us reaching our goals?

Your marketing leader should also be examining website and social media analytics, reviewing the existing editorial calendar and sales funnels, and taking a close look at any current advertising contracts.

Days 31-60: Formulate a plan

After your marketing leader has performed a thorough audit, they should take the next 30 days to formulate a plan and get people aligned around their vision for the department.

In their second 30-day cycle with your company, they should focus on the following:

●  Setting clear goals for themselves and their team that are informed by their understanding of the current state of the marketing department

●  Defining KPIs to measure how the company is performing at every level

●  Establishing processes that enable data-driven decision making

●  Figuring out their marketing budget and deciding what campaigns and strategies are feasible with your current financial constraints

●  Aligning the marketing team and other departments around the plan

Days 61-90: Bring in some quick wins

In your marketing leader’s next 30 days, they can truly hit the ground running and build up momentum for their department.

After they’ve formulated an overall marketing plan, they should prioritize low effort, high value activities that build towards goals set during the planning phase. This helps build momentum and orient the team around making progress over chasing perfection. This could include things like a lead magnet, welcome email, or short campaign. These quick, strategic wins should align with your marketing leader’s prior research and planning.

Small, visible marketing victories can show board members that work is getting done, and also give your internal teams a confidence boost.

In this period, it’s important for your marketing leader to be transparent with the founders and the rest of the executive team about the marketing goals for each project. This makes it easier to tie successes back to the strategy and plan, and bring visibility to the contribution marketing is making in the business.

A map for your marketing leader’s first quarter

It can be intimidating stepping into any new position, regardless of whether your marketing leader is new to your company or to the role—but that doesn’t mean your new leader needs to overhaul your entire strategy the moment they walk in the door.

During the first 90 days, the marketing leader should focus on getting the lay of the land and charting a path for success. Don’t put pressure on them to immediately generate value or risk losing their position—they may need to be in the role for six months or more to achieve maximum impact.

Here are our guidelines for what your marketing should focus on in their first quarter:

●  The first 30 days: Observe and gather data

●  Days 31-60: Establish your company’s marketing plan

●  Days 61-90: Execute some small projects to gain quick wins

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