TLDR: Your first 90 days building a marketing strategy should be spent on the foundations – research, funnel mapping, and developing a kick-off campaign to validate future decision-making. While it’s tempting to just start doing stuff, it’s often a quick road to being relegated to just making decks look pretty.
It’s one of those words that is too often thrown around by executives like a fluffy snowball on the first day of winter – seemingly solid, but liable to melt when just a little heat is applied.
Most “strategies” are simply a series of buttoned up tactics backed up with a shiny deck that talks about vision and mission and destiny-brought-us-together-to-become-the-number-one-seller-of-HGV-mudflaps.
And as such they often fall flat. Like a bottle of soda pop that’s been left in a hot car for too long.
Marketing strategies are perhaps the most susceptible to being all waffle and no cream. Why? Because it’s easy – and often really fun – to just focus on execution.
“Let’s run a meetup!”
“Let’s chase that partnership!”
“Let’s start a TikTok!”
…all sound great and make everyone feel good – but what happens when something goes wrong?
You may find success across a quarter or two, but then a pandemic hits, or a relationship sours, or a new social media channel pops up, and you’re left standing there with your pants down.
At no time is the risk of falling into this trap greater than in the first 90 days of a new senior marketing hire’s tenure.
It makes sense. They want to come out of the gate strong and get some quick results on the board. They just start doing stuff and hope something sticks.
But before long, any early successes dry up. Throwing more money at the problem doesn’t fix it. Customers are confused or absent or uninterested. And our marketer is hopping from one channel to the next, chasing a win that seems always just outside of reach.
Their house of cards has fallen. And all because it lacked a strong, strategic foundation that should have been built at the start.
Your first 90 days as a new marketing hire are critical to unlocking future budget, headcount and trust. Here are the three things you need to exclusively focus on:
> Funnel Mapping
#1. Research (45 Days)
Your first 45 days are simple – information gathering. You need to dig deep into your company and its value proposition until you see daylight.
This means extensive research into your market, customers and product. If an encyclopaedia for your business were to be written, they would be knocking on your door to write it.
Essentially you’re trying to get to grips on what problem your company solves for who and why it’s better than everything else. Only then should you move onto the how you’ll market it.
Here are some of the questions that need answering. By no means is the list exhaustive, but it’s a starting point:
- How big is our market? What’s the TAM, SAM, SOM?
- What major trends and/or challenges are impacting the industry?
- If not us, where could our customers go to to solve X problem?
- Which regions show the highest rates of uptake for our solution?
- What does our space look like in the next five years?
- Can you describe what our company does?
- What is the #1 problem our product/service solve for you?
- What do you wish product/service offered that it currently does not?
- Where do you spend your time finding new info about the industry?
- How do you like to research new products and services?
- What problems do we claim our product/service solves?
- What features of our product are the most popular?
- What does the onboarding process look like?
- What are the most common customer complaints about our product/service?
- Why do we lose business?
How do I get in front of my customers? Depends on your business type. If SaaS, you’ll likely need to work with product. If enterprise, sales will be best ally.
How much time should you spend researching competitors? None. If you do your job right, your customers will tell you all there is to know about how any competitors are failing them.
What is the final output? Some of this information can be used to guide the creation of a buyer persona. Need help writing one? I recommend checking out this episode of B2B Better where I interviewed the Queen of Personas, Adrienne Barnes.
The rest can be used for…
#2. Funnel Mapping (15 Days)
Understanding the marketing funnel is the first step to gaining control over it. Without this knowledge, you risk spreading your budget and effort across a jumble of different channels that deliver little meaningful result.
Your goal is to get a grasp on exactly where your customers engage with and research your sector, how they evaluate new products and services, and what will convince them to make a purchase. Then you can map this information against a simple marketing funnel that will guide where you choose to invest your budget.
Usually, a funnel looks something like this in the early days:
- Awareness (Brand) This is where 95% of your potential customers will be 100% of the time. They’re not looking for your product or service – they may not even have the problem you can solve – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say. Your objective here is to build brand affinity, demonstrate thought leadership around your category, and create consistent free value. Most B2B companies suck at this and that’s the opportunity.
- Engagement (Demand Generation) When your customer recognises they have a challenge and they’re on the hunt for a fix. Here is the window meet the buyer at their point of need and position your brand as the top choice. Your must frame the market problem, present a solution, and generate demand for your unique offering. This is where most of your product marketing takes place.
- Conversion (Account-based Marketing) Your customer has shortlisted your product or service as a potential contender and needs some convincing to push them over the edge into becoming a legitimate qualified opportunity – and hopefully, revenue. Your objective is to establish your credibility to solve their specific challenge. ABM is often the best tactic here as the customer is looking for proof that you are the right choice for them. It’s also a natural handover point into sales.
There are more stages you can add to further refine your thinking and spend – Interest, Consideration, Advocacy, Evangelism and more – but I believe it best to keep things simple in the early days.
Some of this information will come from your market, customer and product research. Some will require a deep-dive into your CRM, conversations with sales and account managers, or existing marketing analytics platforms.
Ultimately, the point of this is to get an understanding of exactly where your customers are spending their time, how you believe you can deliver value, where there may be gaps in your funnel that must be filled, and what you want the journey to look like from the point of discovery to deal.
Once you have this, you can move on to the third and final exercise of your first 90 days – roadmapping.
#3. Kick-Off Campaign (30 Days)
Funnel Mapping. Check.
Now it’s time to get into doing some actual marketing.
Your goal during this exercise is to create an executional plan of attack for the next three months. Don’t worry about going after a full year. It’s very likely you’ll learn something over the quarter that will impact the next.
I like to tackle this stage by answering the questions within my ABCDE framework. Check it out:
- Audience. Who are the specific customers we are targeting over this campaign? This can be a broad market segment or a selection of individual accounts – but preferably in somewhere in the middle.
- Belief. What is it we’re trying to convey and why are we the only ones in the world who can do it? How can we add value to our customers? If you struggle to complete this step, you need to go back to your research.
- Creative. What is the asset(s) we’re setting out to create (e.g. blog, video, podcast) and what are the creative requirements? You need a clear idea of the production process – who is responsible for copy and design, and what are the timelines.
- Distribution. Where is this asset(s) going to exist? How will we get it in front of our target customers? Way too many marketers spend all their time creating and none of their time distributing and then wonder why their results are crap – don’t be one of them.
- End Objective. What is the quantifiable, measurable result we will use to determine whether our strategy is worth pursuing? Ideally this is one North Star metric – the more you add, the greater the risk you dilute your focus.
Key here is to start small. Focus on just one audience segment. Create just one piece of hero content per funnel stage (awareness, engagement, conversion) that can be distributed across multiple channels and formats. Target one objective.
Despite the title of this post, we’re not actually creating a strategy here. It’s still too early. We need to test the waters, get some data in our coffers on what works and what doesn’t, and validate our thinking before we spend too much money.
Your first 90 days building a marketing strategy should be spent on the foundations – research, funnel mapping, and developing a kick-off campaign to validate future decision-making. While it’s tempting to just start doing stuff, it’s often a quick road to being relegated to just making decks look pretty.