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How To Get Started As a New Director of Marketing

6 minute read
How To Get Started As a New Director of Marketing

Starting a new marketing director role can be a rollercoaster of emotions. On one hand, you're thrilled about the idea of leading a team and driving growth for your company. On the other hand, there's pressure to make the right decisions and prove yourself quickly —  especially if you joined a growing company with an established marketing department and significant annual revenue.For a new marketing director, the usual tensions of the first 90 days are bigger. The fact that marketing directors usually last for about 22 months is a result of the unique nature of the marketing industry and those who work in it. You might be asking yourself, "Can I handle this? Will I be able to navigate the company culture? How do I earn the trust and respect of my colleagues?" These are all valid concerns. Luckily, there are best practices that can help you succeed as a new Director of Marketing. Let's explore them!

Insights Needed to Start

In the big scheme of things, you'll have to get a deep understanding of the company from both internal and external, market perspectives. All your research will come down to understanding the following four things in as much detail as you can: Resources (funding, team, and partners), your role, the organizational structure, and the strategic situation (long-term objectives, short-term objectives, and obstacles).

Take the time to understand the dependencies between these areas, and how your role fits. To optimize each area, it's important to be aware of any cultural constraints that may impact your ability to achieve your goals. Learn as you go but avoid getting trapped in analysis paralysis. Make sure to execute as you're learning and get early wins on the board. This creates a positive snowball effect, where marketing wins earn you more support from the company, which in turn, helps marketing achieve even more wins.

What To Do In Your First 90 Days

Before joining the company, plan ahead

As you prepare to take on the Director of Marketing role, have a plan in place before you officially start. This "pre-plan" should include negotiating for the resources you need to succeed, such as marketing budgets and staff, as well as gathering customer insights and assessing the quality of existing resources and operations. Your pre-plan should also include an operating hypothesis of how you fit into the company, the company's strategy, and its established Go-To-Market motions. This will make sure you start your new role with everything you need to succeed.

Before diving into your pre-plan, be honest with yourself about your skills and strengths. This will help you identify areas where you may need to improve and where you can excel. This also means learning about the company culture before starting. Align with it enough to not let it hinder your work, but don't expect to change it.

Focus on the essentials

Before you do any research, start with the end in mind. The essential things you need to learn in your first 30 days with the company are:

  • Target segments and ICPs: Understanding different buyer segments, the buyer's pain points, jobs-to-be-done, and how the product solves their problems.
  • Company and product positioning: Understanding how the company differentiates itself from competitors, what story you tell, why buyers choose you, and what messages and narratives you use to support it.
  • Go-To-Market strategy and processes: Understanding how the company wins in the market, and the mix of strategies, channels, tactics, and policies the company uses to predictably grow business.
  • Organizational structure and dynamics: Understanding how marketing is structured, who reports to whom, what the team's roles and responsibilities are, and how different teams work together.
  • Sales funnel: Review the sales funnel to identify bottlenecks and drop-off points that slow down the pipeline.
  • Competitors and the category: Understanding your competitive strengths and weaknesses, the "rules" of competing in your category, and why some buyers choose competitors over you. 
  • Metrics and reporting: Understanding how you and your teams are evaluated, what the metrics incentivize, how targets are set, and how the metrics and reporting structure fit the strategic direction of the marketing department.
  • MarTech stack and workflows: Identifying any gaps or redundancies in the technology being used, how it fits the priorities of the team you inherited or plan to build, and understanding how the teams operate on a day-to-day basis.


Days 1-30 — Understand The Environment

Build cross-functional relationships

As a new Director of Marketing, your job will require you to be a team leader more than a doer. Establishing relationships will be one of the most important things you can do to get in touch with the company culture and earn the trust and goodwill of your colleagues. Proactively break the ice with your team, be personable, and get on as many calls as possible. Don't just do it formally — be very transparent and authentic. By doing so, stakeholders will feel comfortable opening up about business problems they otherwise wouldn't tell you. Don't just connect with fellow marketers; cultivate relationships with other stakeholders including the CMO, CFO, and especially sales if you joined a B2B company. Consistently reach out to salespeople and if possible, try to establish quarterly meetings with sales leaders. This can provide insight into problems before they arise, and make marketing more effective at driving business outcomes.

Learn the fundamentals and set expectations

When you're starting out as a new Director of Marketing, dive into the company's marketing strategy, go-to-market strategy, and overall strategic situation. This means collecting data about the customers, the product, and all the items we listed earlier. The earlier you do it, the better. The longer you wait, the more pressure you'll face to produce results, and it's hard to achieve results without these fundamental insights.

This is the time when you'll also be trying to balance the challenges the company is facing, the resources you have, and the company culture. Get a clear idea of what you're inheriting. Understanding the current state of marketing in the company will help you decide whether a complete marketing transformation is needed or if gradual improvements will be enough. In any case, having the right data is the key to setting short-term and long-term goals. Use this data to align with the leadership on what resources are necessary to achieve these goals and set expectations. At the same time, think about how to balance short-term goals with your long-term vision.

To do this, you'll need to identify key milestones and metrics for resource development, marketing strategy, and operational delivery. Remember, while marketing's impact on revenue isn't that linear and easy to prove, it's important to not over-index on short-term wins at the expense of long-term growth.

By setting the tone and having a clear understanding of the company's current marketing strategy, go-to-market strategy, and strategic situation, you'll be set to steer marketing in the right direction.


Days 30-60 — Build Your Plan

Set the initial marketing plan

At this point, you have enough data and alignment on the direction with your teams to start creating your initial marketing plan. What are the most important things to improve, and what are the most important targets to hit soon? With that in mind, your priority becomes establishing a budget that aligns with these proposed goals. While it may be tempting to dive into all the projects that the team has been waiting to accomplish and all the targets you have in mind for the long-term strategy, make sure to keep things in perspective. What can realistically be done within the budget? Even though planning for big-picture marketing strategies is essential, conducting smaller, visible marketing programs can build stakeholders' confidence while keeping the long-term plan on track. Time to get some wins on the board!

Build relationships with external partners

Assuming you have the budget, establishing strong relationships with external partners like marketing agencies will help you execute your initial marketing plan more successfully and efficiently. Don't rush into partnerships, though. Take the time to evaluate your external partners' capabilities, alignment with your culture and priorities, and your partner's reputation. Once you've selected a partner, work with them to integrate them into your initial marketing plan. You should look to establish these relationships early on, as you will likely need them in the long run once your marketing programs become bigger and more demanding.


Days 60-90 — Execute Quick Wins

Start executing

As the final days of your 90-day plan approach, it's time to put your strategy into action. This is the most exciting part of the plan, where you get to see your hard work come to life. Keep in mind that executing the plan will require coordination and communication among team members, so it's important to stay on top of progress, adjust strategies as necessary, and maintain open lines of communication.

As you begin to see the results of your initial marketing programs, make sure to celebrate successes and share them with stakeholders, pointing back to the strategy and planning that got you there. This will not only build confidence in your team and your plan but also demonstrate the value of the marketing function to the company as a whole. 

Review performance and continuously improve

Look back at your performance and continuously optimize your work. This is where you analyze the data and metrics to see what worked and what didn't. Find areas where you can improve and execute those changes in your marketing plan. Establish a cycle of improvement that includes measurement, analysis, and adjustments. Remember to share your results with your team and leadership to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. By sharing wins and continuously reviewing and optimizing your marketing efforts, you can ensure long-term success for your company's marketing strategy.

Marketing leaders use BrandOps to achieve this. BrandOps is the most complete platform for setting winning marketing strategies and continuously improving marketing performance across all channels; relative to competitors, benchmarks, and business outcomes.

You're off to the races!

Your first 90 days are crucial, but this is just the beginning. As you get established in your role as a marketing director, remember that you have the power to shape the future of the marketing organization and the growth of the company. Setting consistently high standards and delivering strong results is key, but it's also important to remember that successful leadership is about more than just doing marketing.

You'll need to be a consistent people leader, a glue between marketing and sales, and someone who can balance the needs of the task, the group, and the individuals. It may sound daunting, but with patience, focus, and a commitment to never stop learning, you are sure to thrive. Enjoy the ride, embrace the challenges, and don't forget to celebrate your successes along the way. Good luck!

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