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Advice to a CMO on Day One

Sridhar Ramanathan

By sridhar ramanathan
Posted on January 2012 in Market Strategy

I had a delightful lunch with my dear friend and a colleague, Ann Ruckstuhl.  She is leaving Symantec to start at LiveOps as their new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).  Ann has an illustrious career having worked as a marketing exec at Sybase, eBay, HP and a few startups in between.  Since we had lunch on her last day at Symantec it was natural for us to talk about her plans for LiveOps, and what advice I might have for her on “day one” of her new job. With her permission, I’m sharing with you the top five tips we discussed.  We’d love to hear your take on this too.

      Set expectations and tone – here are just some examples.  Think of your own style and adjust.
    • “I start and end meetings on time”
    • “I’m one who needs a solid, data-driven business case before investing marketing dollars”
    • “I favor experimentation, testing, failing fast, and using that data to make smart decisions”
    • “I have a high bar when it comes to creative”
    • “If you come to me with a problem, you better have a recommendation”
      Don’t act immediately – it’s very seductive to jump in and start barking orders or making big decisions the very first week on the job.  The best CMOs use the first few weeks to validate assumptions in their 100-day plan.  Take inventory across the sales/marketing functions – demand generation, PR, social media, product marketing, sales/channel enablement, marketing operations, go-to-market planning, business strategy, product lifecycle management, etc.  You’ll have a pretty solid assessment of strengths/weaknesses by the time you have done this “audit” of capabilities and a more tuned 100-day plan.  Plan a 30-day checkpoint with yourself to ensure you’re on path to achieve the expectations you set in your 100-day plan.
      Reach out to stakeholders – take the initiative to setup 1:1s in the first couple weeks with a 360 view – CEO/GM, VP of Sales, VP of Engineering, VP of Product Management, your own direct reports, key “thought leaders” in the organization, a customer or two, and maybe even a partner or two.  Use these sessions to listen, listen, and listen.  You’ll have plenty of time to jump to action.  Build relationship as this group will make or break this chapter in your career.
      Flex your style – just as going from middle school to high school is a great opportunity to “re-make” yourself or shift others’ perceptions of you, this transition is the perfect time for you to make a conscious choice to doing things differently this time.  What lessons have you learned that you want to apply this time?  Maybe you’ll vow to better balance strategic and tactical concerns.  Maybe you’d like to say “no” more often than you have in the past.  Maybe you’d like to take more risks and be bolder. Maybe you want to use anger more skillfully to drive change.  Maybe you’ll be more consensus oriented or perhaps just the opposite.
      Get the scorecard right – most likely you got a good sense of the business outcomes, goals, and success metrics for the CMO role in your interview process.  But plan to revisit, re-negotiate, or re-affirm these specific metrics at the 30-day mark in your 100-day plan.  Ideally you have built a nice dashboard that you can use to better manage your organization and work with your boss and peers.  Some common CMO metrics we’ve seen are:  revenue, revenue growth, pipeline of sales-ready leads vs. marketing leads (e.g. inquiries, nurturing phase), press/analyst outcomes, product line profitability,  timely and high impact product launches, strategic planning thought leadership, and employee satisfaction rating