In January 2020, I joined the recruitment app MeetFrank as their part-time CMO.
I’d worked with them before, but coming in after a year, it all looked like a big mess to start untangling.
There were some ongoing marketing partnership deals, ad campaigns that had developed over the years, different brand messages used across marketing channels…
Basically, A LOT to grasp, review, fix or build up. 🔥
I mean… That’s how it always feels when joining a team with ongoing processes. And this is fine.
Regular “starting to work with a new brand” situation
However, after 3-4 weeks of an intense period of meetings and documenting the new strategy, things finally seem to be falling in place: we’ve got the fully new Facebook ads strategy live and running, we’re publishing blog articles (again), and the B2B leads’ number is shooting up.
I figured it would be interesting to write about how joining a new company as a CMO looks from the inside and what are the first things to work on.
How does it feel? Where to get started? What to prioritize? What mistakes to avoid?
I hope this will be helpful for all the new (and not new) marketing team leads out there.
Week 1: Understanding the big picture + meeting the team
The first thing I ALWAYS do when taking on a new client or joining a new company is to meet the team and understand how they see things.
I started by meeting with both the management team + all marketing team members to ask them a list of questions.
You just can’t review/create a marketing strategy without knowing the company’s high-level goals.
The top-down planning goes like this – Image source
Some of the things I asked the management team:
- What are the top-level KPIs you want to reach in the next 3, 6, 12 months? Why?
- What’s in the product plans for the next 3, 6, 12 months? Why?
- What’s currently the biggest revenue-driver? Where’s the bottleneck? Why?
- What do you think the marketing team can help the most with? Why?
Asking “Why” as a follow-up to each question helps to better understand the logic behind.
E.g. by asking “Why do you want to grow the GMV over expanding the marketplace” I can either understand that the company needs to grow their revenue to land the next investment round, or we discover that revenue doesn’t matter and we need to 10x the size of the marketplace.
Also, it’s surprising how many CEOs can’t answer the question about the company’s high-level KPIs and long-term plans. Not the case with MeetFrank. Anyhow, I really recommend asking the above questions even before accepting a marketing job in a company.
So basically, instead of jumping to the projects right away, start by understanding the mission, objectives, KPIs, etc.
Mission ➟ strategy ➟ objectives ➟➟➟ Projects Image source
By being aware of the top-level KPIs and objectives, I’d be able to come up with the best marketing strategy to help achieve those.
Knowing the management team’s vision, I took a step closer to the action and met up with each marketing team member individually.
Some of the things I asked each of the marketing team members:
- Who’s in the Marketing team and what are their owned projects?
- What are the Marketing team’s KPIs and OKRs?
- How do you document things? How do you track MoM results? What charts and tracking tools do they check?
- Where are the B2C and B2B users coming from right now?
- What user acquisition tactics have you tested before?
- Who’s the typical user? What value do they get from using the product?
- Who’s the typical B2B client? What value do they get from using the product?
- What are the biggest challenges and blockers?
- Where could I help the most?
My personal goal for these meetings was to understand what’s working, whether the team understands what they’re doing, and how are the inter-team relationships.
I also wanted to understand how marketing results are tracked and measured, what are some of the things that were tried but didn’t work, and much much more.
MeetFrank recently did a CVI rebranding
In addition to meeting the team, I also did research on my own, reviewing the website, social media accounts, and ad accounts. 🕵️♀️
Most importantly, I user tested the product, both on B2C and B2B side. You can’t do marketing for a product that you haven’t tried out yourself.
As a result, I had many notebook pages’ worth of notes and felt even more overflown with information and ideas what to work on next.
Me telling Kaarel, the CEO, about all the ideas
At least I felt closer to untangling the mess in my head.
After 10 meetings, I had more or less the information I needed to start outlining the macro-level marketing strategy. In the case of MeetFrank, it felt easier to build the strategy from scratch than to adjust the existing one.
Above all, it meant creating a ton of new spreadsheets and guides. 🐿️ 🤓
Week 2: Creating tons of reports & documents
People have different styles of leadership.
I personally love to have a clear structure with spreadsheets and guidelines in place, so that everyone has a quick overview of their priorities, tasks, and results. It just makes me feel more on top of things and less messy. #tidy
Here are some of the spreadsheets and documents we created:
- Marketing team masterplan with KPI tracking
- Marketing team Q1 2020 roadmap
- Content marketing planning sheet
- Social media planning sheet
- Online ads strategy + creatives
On top of that, I wrote some Confluence guides on more specific topics, e.g. how our Facebook ad campaigns should be set up or what types of social media posts we publish.
Basically, I just wanted to get things moving fast, have everyone know their responsibilities + priorities, and create an overview for other teams. The latter is important to keep the entire company aware of what you’re working on and also share the timeline for projects, so they can also better plan their work.
Want to know how the spreadsheets look like? 😉😉 Here’s a sneak peek:
Marketing team roadmap
The goals of this document:
- Outline the projects that the marketing team is working on
- Give a timeline for each project + show how it’s progressing
- Have a weekly/monthly tracking for all marketing-related metrics and KPIs
Here’s how the roadmap part looks like:
Surely, the columns and first rows are completely different for each company.
The roadmap shows what’s planned + what’s done
Marketing team KPI tracking
To have a quick overview of whether our work is bringing any results at all, we created a KPI sheet with all relevant metrics.
Here’s a snapshot of the KPI tracking sheet. It includes close to 200 rows of metrics and formulas.
Currently, as we’re still figuring out our marketing strategy, we monitor the results on a weekly basis to see if there’s an uplift in results thanks to marketing activities we did the past week. Later on, we’ll likely switch to monthly reporting.
The sheet has more than 200 rows with different KPIs
Big thanks to MeetFrank’s performance marketer Olena for helping to fill in this monster sheet. 🙏
Content planning sheets
To help team members working on social media and content marketing to get up to full speed, we also set up new planning sheets for those two areas.
Here’s the social media plan we’re currently using.
The format is too scrappy for long-term but worked for a quick kick-off
The social media plan is not yet complete, and we’ll likely restructure it + add performance tracking metrics for each post (to understand what works best).
We review the social media + blog content plans on a weekly basis and inform the Design team of all the needed creatives.
Want to learn more about marketing strategy? See the list of best books on marketing to dust up your skills.
Online ads strategy
To get the new Facebook ad campaigns live, I took a bit of a shortcut through the brainstorming and planning process.
So we created Confluence guides with ad creatives and campaign setup specs together with MeetFrank’s performance marketer Olena.
That’s how the Confluence guide looks like for each campaign:
We have clear setup rules for all global ad campaign types
Instead of spending (wasting?) a few weeks of time at team meetings, discussing the best ad strategy, I just outlined the one to get started with. The goal was to get ads live fast. And later on, we can optimize and A/B test all we want. We know most of the best practices anyway, so why not implement them right away. 💁
Once all the documents were ready, we reviewed them together with the team, confirmed with the management team, and set to work: hands-on and fast-fast-fast.
MeetFrank marketing team’s spirit animal – Image source
Week 3: Launching the new strategy and checking results
As we built the entire marketing strategy more or less from zero, we also needed tons of new ad copies and visuals.
We wanted to get the ads live fast, but the designer working on ads was on vacation. 🙃
So I created the first designs on my own and then asked another in-house designer to review and improve them. We probably saved around 2 weeks in time.
Ad creatives are a constant work in progress
Our performance marketer Olena set up all the new acquisition, remarketing, and engagement ad campaigns in around one week while our designer Mo worked on all of the new designs.
After that, we could start waiting for the results to come in, optimize the campaigns, and keep working on new ideas to test.
I’m not going to touch upon creating the Facebook ads strategy for too long, as more can be read in some other articles:
- Copywriting hacks and tips for Facebook ads and social media posts
- B2B Facebook ads: building a marketing funnel + best practices
We kept looking at the results in the Facebook Ads Manager, our KPI sheets, and also asked the other teams if they see a positive trend.
The initial picture is looking good, but there is SO much more to do. 🔥
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, we can dive in to analyze each marketing activity’s results and ROI + double down on things we see driving the highest growth.
By now, the first blog article is out after a month-long pause, we’ve launched a few social media giveaways, and all acquisition, remarketing, and engagement ad campaigns are up and running. 🤜💥🤛 to the team.
Our marketing intern Yelyzaveta is testing new post types on MeetFrank’s Instagram page
Looking back at the first month working with MeetFrank again, I collected a few learnings that might also be helpful for other marketers.
So here they are.
1. Make the company’s business strategy crystal clear to yourself
Do not even start to create a marketing strategy before you don’t fully understand what are the company’s 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month goals and high-level KPIs.
It took me multiple meetings with Kaarel (CEO) to fully grasp what we want to achieve and how the marketing team can best contribute to that goal.
Yes, it took some time, but at least everything we now do is supporting the broad-level company growth. Which is why the marketing teams are for.
2. Prioritize your time + delegate
Joining as a part-time, not full-time CMO created an urgent need to make the most use of my time. On the other hand, I’m quite impatient and want to roll things out asap. #cognitivedissonance
And then there were all the other teams, coming to the marketing team with their ideas and requests… Which is not a bad thing in itself, but can easily derail from the top priorities.
We actually get along very nicely with the sales team ❤️
How to handle the load of ideas and requests as a new CMO? Should you try to tackle the small things first and then focus on the big picture? – Definitely not.
It is easy to get caught up in small daily tasks and in 2 months’ time look back and understand you didn’t get to the high-ROI activities.
As a team lead, you’re hired to work on things nobody else in the team can.
So I did my best to set my focus on developing the strategy rather than helping with daily tasks.
Looks familiar? – Image source
Here’s the approach I used to prioritize my time, more or less:
- Make a list of the 100+ things you’d like to do / that people are asking you to do in the first month
- Prioritize the tasks based on the potential ROI, urgency, and their “delegateability”
- Choose 5 most impactful things and plan to finalize these on the 1st month
- Choose 10 next most impactful things and plan to finalize these on the 2nd month
- Avoid being a blocker for your team: if you can’t give them input fast enough for a task, delegate the full responsibility to them
Here are some of the things I wanted to work on, but postponed as they were low ROI (compared to writing documentation and guidelines + creating an online ad strategy): reviewing email and push notification copy, writing social media posts’ copy, writing blog articles. They’re still important, but can be handled by someone else and later.
3. Keep everyone informed about the progress
Even if you can’t do everything that all teams expect you to, show them the progress. ⏳
On top of keeping the marketing team roadmap updated, I like to post weekly updates on the entire team’s progress for the entire company to read.
Keep the entire company informed
The CEO knows we’re moving things forward.
The other teams know we probably have higher priorities than some tasks they asked help with.
Everyone knows what’s been done and what will happen next.
4. Roll out the MVP, then start optimizing
I am not 100% sure whether this is always the best approach.
But at least that’s how I personally like to work: Get the first campaigns out fast and leave the optimization for later stages.
We managed to create 20+ different new ad creatives and launch 10+ Facebook ad campaigns in less than 2 weeks. Now, we can focus on focus on testing new creatives, targeting, and optimization methods.
One of the new ads we created
I don’t see a big point of working on a strategy and running brainstorming meetings for 1-2 weeks, then launching a campaign, and still having a high chance of it not succeeding.
It’s much better to test things fast, fail/win fast, and then pivot or scale the marketing activities.
5. Find a good balance between micro-management and getting things moving fast
When joining a new team, I do my best to give everyone my immediate trust and assume they know what they’re doing.
At the very beginning to get things running fast + share my past experience with the team, I write more specific guidelines (like how much to spend on social media boosts, whom to target, how to write blog/ads copy, etc. to get things to top-quality faster.) In the long run, I really like the idea that my team could also get everything done without me.
It’s always better to explain the macro-level plans, the right logic of thinking, and share the best practices than to say to people “here’s exactly what to do.” Even if I don’t 100% agree with the output all the time, it’s better to have an independently working team.
As a new CMO, you’re allowed to change the rules of how things should be done quite a bit. But remember that you also need to earn the team’s respect by sharing guidance that’s relevant + then also acting by it yourself.
6. Bonus tip: Get social credit by bringing plants to the office
If you’re the creative CMO type, one thing you can do that affects the entire team’s work results is to make the office look nicer. Yes, it’s quite low-ROI to just make the office feel better to work at. But then again… Is it?
It feels so much better 🌿🐒🌿
O.M.G. there is still so much to do.
Currently, the highest priority is to measure results, roll out the next test projects in our global marketing strategy and scale up the acquisition on both sides of the marketplace.
We’re also hiring a full-stack marketer to work on our blog content, email marketing funnel, and many other projects. Download the MeetFrank app to see the job offer and apply.