Diary of a first-time CMO - The first 100 days
Hey B2B marketers
Here it is. Four years, $50m+ ARR and 200 pages later… My journey as a first-time CMO.
Covering the key learnings I've gathered in four years of leadership. This diary reveals the lessons that helped me scale Cognism from $3m to $50m ARR, build a team from 3 to 39, and transform our set-up from a classic lead gen function to a demand gen engine.
It’s my handbook for B2B marketers looking to thrive in leadership.
(especially if you’re as daunted as I was when I started out!)
The first 100 days
The first 100 days are going to be when most eyes are on you.
If there is ever a time to be getting your head down and working all the hours (sorry but this is the unpopular reality), then it is during these first 100 days.
You need to balance immediate wins vs laying down the foundations for longer-term growth.
Something that really helped me was having 1 very clear goal that I was given by the CEO and executives: ‘build a repeatable marketing revenue engine’.
So I approached it like I would any engine repair job. I needed to work out what parts were working, what wasn’t and what was causing the most damage.
This highlighted a very early issue: the view of the engine was partially blocked by lack of data due to the way things had been assembled.
So operational set-up and reporting was added to my list of ‘jobs to be done’, but it did not block progress.
When I joined Cognism, Google Ads were shut off and Pardot was a no go zone.
This wasn’t because there was no demand for Cognism to capture via Google Ads, or because there was no use for Pardot, but both had been misused previously and so had been cast aside.
The caution around Google Ads was actually linked directly to both misuse, but also lack of reporting. I identified this as a quick win area for me to be able to clean up, optimise and start to regain trust.
Focusing just on brand and competitor campaigns, coupled with dedicated landing pages and forms paired with UTM tracking, I was quickly able to get things live and within a few hours we had leads from big brands entering our CRM and correctly being attributed.
I could have spent weeks on a planned restructure of the account, on a roadmap for campaign creation and execution, which I could have proposed be handed off to an agency to execute at vast expense, but instead I focused on launching the low-hanging fruit, building trust early in order to secure buy-in longer term for wider sweeping changes.
Next up I wanted to get under the hood of the role of content marketing at Cognism. Very quickly it was clear that content was being dictated to marketing via sales, and it was not welded in any wider strategy or planning.
The long-term play here was to build out the plan for content and for delivering a competitive advantage through content for Cognism. However, I wanted to spend more time understanding our customers and diving into the data in order to do a good job here.
So I decided in my first month that I would run a Cognism first, a webinar, using external and internal speakers, and we would use Pardot to run the email campaign side of this.
Queue mass panic!
The last time Pardot had been used for mass emailing, the marketer in charge had managed to kill a number of live opps (according to Sales!) by sending the wrong email to everyone in the CRM.
The win here happened because it was a controlled activity, to a focused list. It also happened through introducing a new content format to the business and showing them the kind of value that marketing can bring to content when given ownership. So much so that after the webinar, the CEO and CRO wanted a plan for a webinar a week!
I think the point here that I am trying to make is that in the first 100 days at Cognism, my goal was to build a predictable revenue model. I could have got lost in the building of ‘predictable’, and over-indexed on longer-term strategic planning, but I wanted to show what marketing could do when it was executing, and I wanted to prioritise the low-hanging fruit and the baseline.
This builds credibility early on. It meant that plans I produced after this were trusted.
The reality was that I spent my days executing and ticking off the low-hanging fruit, while my evenings and weekends were dedicated to the longer-term items.