January 28th, 2020 | by

Fear isn’t a luxury a first-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) can afford.

Neither is hesitation.

Today’s CMO position – “a minefield where many talented executives fail” (Harvard Business Review’s words) – requires the courage of conviction to survive.

If you’re a first-time CMO, this goes double.

As we shared earlier, in the first few weeks on the job, first-time CMOs should plan a few quick wins and set a strong foundation. This means creating a vision and a plan, setting goals, building relationships, understanding your product, and implementing analytics so your marketing strategy is data-driven.

But what comes next is almost as important. Driving customer acquisition and sustained revenue growth requires strong follow-up (and follow-through).

Read it: So It’s Your First Day as the Chief Marketing Officer (Part 1)

Identify what isn’t working and make changes

Breaking old habits is hard.

A fearless CMO has the courage to honestly assess what’s working and what isn’t, and make changes where needed.

Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis with your marketing and sales teams to identify these areas, and then don’t be afraid to shift your direction.

Identify some quick wins

Marketers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate results. You need to quickly prove you can generate demand. This reassures your CEO and builds team morale.

Some quick wins:

  • Simple A/B testing in channels you’re already using regularly to optimize low-hanging fruit
  • Get attribution in place to learn which channels have the best conversion rates
  • Add 1-2 new channels to experiment with – e.g., content syndication, targeted advertising, or webinars – then test and refine quickly

Quick wins are no substitute for long-term vision. But by building momentum among those up and down the corporate ladder, those long-term goals will come a lot more easily.

Determine if your existing team is the right fit

You’ve probably inherited a team. Do they share your vision?

Every team has its own personality, and there are usually a few leaders in the group who bring everyone else along – for better or worse.

As you assess your human resources, ask these key questions to identify the long-term fits under your new leadership:

  • Are there bad habits (or bad attitudes) on your team?
  • Is there a particular person driving these habits?
  • Do the bad habits stem from a misunderstanding that can be resolved?
  • Does anything need to change, to get the team aligned around your shared goals?

You may need to move people around or have a conversation with key employees before your team can move forward.

Align sales and marketing with SLAs

We’re moving in the right direction! A 2018 HubSpot survey reports that 73% of marketers feel generally or tightly aligned (up from 22% of companies reporting close alignment in 2017!).

Having a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) in place between sales and marketing teams helps both sides of the house. According to the same survey, sales and marketing teams that have a SLA in place experience:

  • higher ROI from inbound marketing
  • sales teams more likely to grow
  • more likely to get increased budgets

Additionally, salespeople with SLAs call out marketing as the top generator of leads (#cred).

DiscoverOrg, we did this by getting sales and marketing in the same room to “whiteboard” the lead process.

We defined each stage of the process together, and created a common language in order to clarify and increase communication between the two departments.

We defined success metrics and service-level agreements together, with marketing responsible for sourcing 50% of revenue closed.

According to Forbes’ 2017 Marketing Accountability Report, this kind of accountability can lead to 5% better marketing ROI and a 7% boost in performance.

Read it: 7 Quick Wins for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Establish an “idea pipeline”

According to the Gartner CMO Spend Survey, 63% of enterprise CMOs expect their innovation budgets to increase in 2019 – but still struggle to identify ideas with real business potential.

This is primarily because they lack formal practices to drive the ideation process.

Create a pipeline of ideas that align with your innovation strategy.

These ideas may come from customers, partners, or employees. Some of the ways companies help fuel the idea pipeline:

Your options probably depend on your resources. But a CMO with staying power has an obligation to drive real innovation and momentum.

And just like your sales team, that takes pipeline.

These should be the goals of any CMO, first time or otherwise.

Tough decisions lie ahead.

Fearlessness is key.


Verified phone numbers and emails—straight to the decision maker.



Let us know when you’re ready to start winning.


Katie Bullard
About the author

Katie Bullard

As Chief Growth Officer (CGO), Katie brings 15 years of marketing, product, and strategy experience in global, high-growth technology businesses to her role at DiscoverOrg. She has a bachelor’s and masters degree from the University of Virginia.