The (formerly) Dreaded First 90 day Question

A question often asked of candidates is what they would seek to accomplish in the first 90 days of a new role, and how they’ll define success at the 12-24 months mark.

My approach to starting anything new, whether a project or new responsibility, is to quickly take a step back and learn as much about a current environment or landscape before acting. This involves conversations with key stakeholders, asking lots of questions, and a great deal of research and study of internal and external practices and forces. Here are several of my major goals for the first 90 days:

Days 0-30

1)    Understand business processes and how parts function together

a.    Create a process flow diagram for the organization

b.    Understand the brand & conduct personal brand audit

c.     Who is the consumer base, breakdown of digital vs. non-digital

d.    Identify efficiencies

2)    Understand needs of other departments

3)    SWOT analysis – what’s working and what’s not

a.    What are the major issues?

4)    Survey current marketing landscape and marketing mix

a.    Owned vs. Investment, Core vs. Amplification

b.    Automation abilities // comms & growth framework

5)    Understand current business intelligence practices

a.    Strategy & Research

b.    Data, Analytics, & Reporting

Days 30-60

6)    Solid understanding of the industry, the company, and competitive landscape

7)    Identify gaps in the marketing flow, prioritize, and start addressing them

a.    Marketing Mix

b.    AER framework application

c.     Acquisition & Engagement Loops

d.    Bottoms-up plan

e.    Business Intel

i.    Build automation

ii.    Build data foundation that informs strategy

iii.    Growth and persona opportunities

iv.    Setup empirical/ quant/ qual research

Days 60-90

8)    Assess/ build team

a.    Determine needs

b.    Hire quickly if needed

9)    Start meeting the goals that have been put into action

a.    Marketing Mix

b.    Bottoms-up plan

c.     Business intel

10)  Adjust actions items

a.    Marketing Mix

b.    Bottoms-up plan

c.     Business intel

Defining Success at 12-24 months.

At the 12-24 month mark there is a multitude of elements and indicators that should have gone into play in the initial year.  However, many of these elements are ever evolving and are moving targets. Here are a few of the elements and indicators that I have used in the past. 

Has the team adjusted to their roles and are they functional experts and mentors in their domains to the rest of the organization? It’s one thing for an individual to come into a role and provide value and feel comfortable with both the business and surrounding environment. It’s another when those individuals become curious teachers and mentors. I push my teams to be curious, to never stop learning, and to never stop teaching one another. This makes for stronger teams, better people, and long-term loyalty to organizations.

Have we identified bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and more importantly, what have we done about them? One of my mantras is for our team to question everything. If I develop an idea I expect to be pushed on my reasoning, and expect they’ll be ready when I push them on theirs. I encourage the team to take this line of thinking outside of our group as well. The advantage of this way of thinking is that it forces people to think through ideas and initiatives in greater detail, and leads to great collaboration and comradery. This method has helped my groups identify and take meaningful action on a number of bottlenecks to help create greater efficiencies – from organizational flow, to user experiences, to reporting, and to clearer marketing campaigns.

Have we gotten smarter and do we understand variable mixes and the predictability of how they influence one another? It’s a process with no end as there is always a new way to grow or leverage data. However, success should be measured on having become smarter and setting up foundational practices that allow us to continue to grow and learn about both our business and about our consumers. Part of this should be our ability to predict how changing certain marketing variables impacts sales and revenue.

 A simple example is understanding the CPAs of each individual channel – if I pour marketing dollars into social retargeting ads, I should have an estimate of cost of that acquisition channel, but should also be cognizant if I’m working with a channel of diminishing returns (I can only retarget people that have shown interest, so as I convert individuals form this pool, CPA would be expected to rise in time and be finite in respect to its exponential growth capabilities).

A slightly more complex example may involve additional layers of the marketing mix. I served you a banner ad that made you aware of our brand. I continue to serve you banner ads to build awareness and recall and eventually you come across an influencer you follow that talks about my organization which then leads you to visit my website where I collect additional information from you. Over the course of the next several weeks I’m able to serve you an email, targeted social ads, and a follow-up phone call to get you to come in-store. After several visits and interactions with staff you make a purchase. Each of these channels deserves credit/ attribution for the end purchase. This “slightly more complex example” within itself is not overly complex, but this is the extent of complexity that most marketers will come across. This is shocking as there are additional marketing layers that, when addressed, separate good organizations from great ones.

A complex example. Consider for a moment if the influencer you followed hadn’t been involved in the above marketing mix, and as a result your interest in my brand didn’t spike, leading you not to visit my site, and subsequently never making a purchase. The point is that the order and the mix in which marketing channels are deployed and hit individuals are important, but few marketers focus on the individual components and variables within the mix. Marketers may understand this conceptually, but putting this into action IS HARD. Additionally, everyone is different – the marketing mix that gets you to convert is different than the mix that gets me to convert. Studying behavior and trends based on what data you can collect from an individual is paramount to help one make inferences to help increase downstream conversion. Getting to a point where we’re collecting and identifying the data and trends that matter to this type of predictability is an important factor in being successful and moving in the right direction.

Have we identified the bottlenecks throughout the marketing funnel, have we decreased pain points and increased overall conversion percentages? Furthermore, do we understand why individuals are stalled in various portions of the marketing funnel? Knowing what variables we control and can manipulate (user experience, look & feel, interactions, etc.) and calibrating them such that we reduce pain points and increase conversion will be a strong indicator of success and moving in the right direction.

Has the database and market share increased? Ultimately one of the most important indicators for success will be increasing the database size, and continuing to carve out and increase market share.

How automated and turnkey are our processes now? Marketing campaigns can either be fun and impactful, or a drain on time and resources. Another indicator of success will be how turnkey and automated our practices have become (at least the ones that are able to be automated). Understanding how data informs strategy and how strategy gets executed efficiently (i.e. automation) should be a top priority and factor in evaluating success – make your life easy where you can.

Have we successfully built acquisition and engagement loops? Acquisition and engagement loops are processes that help organizations gain greater scale. For example, say the goal of a campaign is to grow a subscriber base to your organization’s email database. And let’s say one of the calls to action is to import their contact lists to be sent sign-up messaging. If 100 users sign up, on average ~30% will import their contacts (30 people). Of those 30, there is on average a 10X of the number of people who will receive a sign-up message (300 people). Of those 300, on average 40% will click the link (120 people), and 50% of those will sign up (60 additional sign-ups). In the end, creating an acquisition loop like this (if done correctly), should help grow 100 user sign-ups into ~166. These are easy wins that I think need to be set-up as part of the definition of overall success 12-24 months into the role.

Simply put, is marketing paying for itself? This will be a major measurement of true success. More specifically, will incremental revenue outweigh the costs of deployment and SG&A?