3 critical things to do in your first 30 days as a startup marketer
Hello to you and hello 2022!
2022 has already been a YEAR, am I right? I hate when people say “this is going to be my year” but I do hope that this year is YOUR YEAR. Wishing you all the success and love and money and whatever else makes you happy."
It’s a new year so I want talk about a topic for the newbies: The First 30 Days.
Most of you are aware of the 30/60/90 day plan, where you and your new team outline what you are going to accomplish during each of those periods. This can be an incredibly challenging time for marketers jumping into new systems, meeting new people, and constantly shifting priorities. It’s also the most critical time in a new gig. It can make or break your success in the role, especially if it’s a leadership position.
There’s also SO many ways you can tackle your first 90 days. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check out The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. He does an incredible job of breaking down all the decisions, problems, and dynamics you will face in the first few months. He also provides a ton of tools on how to work through these based on your company type and where they’re at in their lifecycle. I’ll showcase one of these exercises below.
Plus, every chapter has a summary section to give you the cliff notes if you can’t get through everything (but again, I do recommend the whole book). If you get the book, you will definitely be referencing it multiple times throughout your career.
As mentioned, the first 90 days (real life, not the book) can be difficult and I’ll be focusing on what I think startup marketers (specifically marketing leaders) should do or at least heavily consider in their first 30 days.
Let’s dig in.
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1. Document EVERYTHING
When starting out in your role, you’re taking in so much information. You may have had some informative interviews and onboarding documents that prepped you on where to focus in the first few months. But once you actually have your first day, that’s where it really begins and you’re getting into the nitty gritty of it all.
There is a lot of information thrown at you when working in a startup. And trust me, a lot of it is just noise. If you paid close attention to everything you learned across the company, you would go insane.
It is impossible to remember all that early information. You’re learning so much and it’s challenging to know what to focus on because you can’t contextualize the information to your team, business, and goals. Enough time just hasn’t passed. Here is a cool visual from The First 90 Days that can help frame your first few months in the context of your time at that job:
So record everything and actually go back and listen to it. Take the time and headspace to revisit those meetings within a day or two of having them. Even if there is a lot more to learn, it will be clearer what to focus on and what to filter out as noise. You will ask better questions which will result in better answers from your team. This will get you going a lot faster. You’ll also get better and better at knowing what to filter out.
A former boss of mine (who I am fairly sure is subscribed to this newsletter) recorded everything. He had me transcribe a lot of meetings and in the moment I was fine with it. Yeah it was somewhat boring and monotonous but here’s what I learned:
how high-level executives think about marketing and the kinds of questions they ask to solve their problems (I'm really fortunate to have seen all this. Very few interns get this opportunity.)
the importance of recording your meetings! My boss was incredibly smart for recording these meetings because there is no way anyone will remember all the details. And the audience of these meetings were executives so it wasn’t exactly light chit-chat. They were talking about big, business-shifting stuff.
I’m actually doing some work with that same boss today and he still records every meeting and sends me the recording. While I don’t have to transcribe them anymore (thank god), you can bet I go back and listen because there’s always something I missed or when you hear something again, you come up with an even better idea.
So yeah, record as much as you possibly can because your future self will thank you for it.
2. Get on the same page with leadership using SMART goals
There’s a lot you COULD do in marketing but part of your expertise and why you got hired is to define what that is. You or your small team can’t do really well across 6 social platforms, 2 newsletters, PR, client engagement, a blog, website, events, integrated campaigns, etc.
So you have to choose! And your decisions should back up specific marketing goals that align with specific business goals (the bolding will make sense...)
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals are 5 things:
Specific (get it now?)
I won’t go too deep into what they are but here’s why they are important (from the link above):
• Teams often fall short of meeting their goals due to a lack of consensus on the definition of success.
• SMART goals use a specific set of criteria to help ensure that objectives are clearly defined and attainable within a certain timeframe.
• Working through each step of creating a SMART goal can reveal instances where priorities and resources are out of alignment.
Another way of looking at this is through the OKR Structure, or Objectives and Key Results. Your Key Results are essentially SMART goals. Asana has a fantastic resource on this you can look at here.
So what you need to do in your first 30 days is understand what is most important to leadership and the business and boil that down into 3 or 4 high level goals, break those down into specific SMART goals, and create/prioritize your projects and tasks associated with each goal.
I cannot express to you how disorienting it can be as a one person marketing team or small team leader trying to execute on a ton of different things with no tangible goal to go off other than “more leads please.”
A few other thoughts on this:
The 80/20 rule definitely applies here and that means across all things marketing. You can only do so many things and you should allow yourself the space to do them well.
The 80/20 rule in this context is to spend 80% of your time on your strongest channel or marketing initiative and 20% testing out a few other things. There’s a few other ways to interpret this “rule” but essentially that’s the gist.
Creating goals and communicating them across the organization creates transparency and accountability to your marketing and it also creates a sort of unwritten contract with leadership (you can also literally put SMART goals in a contract if you wanted to).
If they want to dive down some new shiny marketing object and you don’t think it’s a good opportunity, you now have a board of goals and projects to back up why you don’t have the time or how it isn’t aligned with what you planned.
3.Get some quick wins
There are several reasons why the startup hired you for the new job. A big (and incredibly vague one) is they needed to make changes at the company. They wanted to bring someone in on the marketing side that can help them solve their problems and make those changes.
What could some of these changes be?
Well, if you’re now a team of one or a few more at a startup, they want to start building an internal marketing team. And that marketing team is going to be responsible for some really big things that could be tackled in a thousand different ways:
Web traffic/General online presence
Greater presence at events, and on and on
Let’s face it. You’re not going to move the needle in a really meaningful way in 30 days but there are always small things you can do that will:
show positive movement on mutual goals - things like organic search traffic, number of new event applications, or new segments identified in your CRM
get leadership and the team to trust you more - They obviously trust you (or should) because they hired you but it’s more than that. If you’re 30 days in and already making a change - even if it’s a small percentage - you’re making an immediate impact and confirming their decision in you.
Here is an awesome evaluation tool from The First 90 Days to use when deciding if the goal or area of focus ahead of you is worthy of a quick win opportunity:
A Case Study from 🤘yours truly🤘
When I was hired as a one person team, increasing online presence was definitely one of the focal points for me. I broke that down across several channels, KPIs, strategies, tactics, and specific projects.
I wanted to get a strong foundation started asap so I focused on organic search which was also our largest driver of traffic and drove in the most leads. I didn’t want to get fancy with anything right away. Just doubled down on what was working and executed.
There were a TON of improvements that needed to be made on the SEO front. Like literally hundreds of recommended improvements from the software I was using. This is a common thing most companies face if your site and SEO practices are not tended to. And this company had a lot of existing content which meant many URLs, content topics, H Tags, etc.
So I started knocking out each of those improvements: 404 errors, duplicate content, canonical URLs, redirects, page titles, all that good stuff. I also got Search Console hooked up which gave me a lot more data to go back to my boss and recommend some content ideas and website changes. Quick wins.
All that took about a week and I started probably 2 or 3 days prior. So let’s say I’m on day 10 of 30.
Now, SEO is a SLOWWWWWW marketing discipline. You won’t see significant results on for 3 - 6 months down the road at best. But every single company, from day 1 of their website, should be investing time in SEO. It’s like driving a semi truck. It takes a while to get going but once it’s moving, no one but you can stop that momentum. (I’m not a professional trucker).
By the end of the 30 days:
organic search traffic was up over 40%
our highest value pages were either in the top 10 or jumped to 11-20 range (about 7 URLs)
the domain was ranked #1 in domain authority and keyword ranking across our 3 main competitors
So, not too bad! Again, it needed to be nurtured to really keep growing and these results did not happen every week. But positive momentum continued, everyone was happy and it was a great start to the 30 days.
This is one of the resources I used to accomplish this.
phew this newsletter is getting long. I’m going to irish goodbye it here