When you’re brought in as the new VP of marketing at a SaaS company that’s owned by an entrepreneur or private equity, you’re immediately thrust into the spotlight. They probably didn’t hire you because all is well in marketing. They have an issue or two in their mind that made the prior person or organization unacceptable. It’s almost a given that you’ll need to come up with a plan to solve these problems and demonstrate progress quickly. But how do you actually do this?
Having seen our share of new marketing leaders come in, and witnessed spectacular successes and misfires, I've built a basic template with some guidance that should help you set expectations with leadership, get your arms around the organization’s current state, gain agreement on the issues to be addressed by marketing and build a plan to drive to the goals you established as most important.
Here’s the basic architecture for a 100-day plan for the new VP of marketing at a SaaS software company (actually 114 days including two weeks before you start work). Take this as a good starting point and make this fit your situation and experience. The recommended plan here assumes there is no crisis as you arrive and that “business as usual” can go on without 100 percent of your time being dedicated to it (You will have to get stuff done to keep marketing commitments, and that in and of itself is important to establish as you join a team.)
14 days before you start work
The mission here is to set yourself up to hit the ground running.
- Sign NDA and any employment agreement.
- Provide leadership with your 114-day plan outline so they know what your process will be and seek agreement with it in principle (begin the important psychological process of gaining agreement / generating consensus in small steps).
- Request all plans that are run by, involve or impact marketing.
- Request organization chart and job descriptions for sales, marketing and customer success and any agreements in place between these peer organizations and marketing.
- Request competitive information used by sales (e.g., battle cards, assessments).
- Read the entire website, top to bottom. Test conversion paths and note any friction points. Test mobile experience.
- Get a demo from a high performing member of the sales team to begin learning the sales process and product, and start building your network within the firm.
- Take notes on things that appear to be working well and not. First impressions matter. Trust your gut.
Days 1-30 as the new VP of marketing
The mission here is to gather more information, learn a little about the political landscape and set the stage for your future success. You’ll be making important impressions on your teammates about how you conduct yourself and do business.
- Meet with your boss (likely the CEO) and ensure you have the mission understood; this almost should be like an interview… you’re on a fact-finding mission… what are the top problems? What is his/her goal for the coming year? Three years? What is the vision for marketing from his/her vantage point? (Make it clear you’re aligned with CEO and CFO goals and will build your plans to support them.)
- Gain access to the management KPI dashboard / report; it’s important to know what the team measures and how this figures into their vision of success..
- Review content marketing, advertising and email marketing plans in place and results that have been achieved; meet with outside agency execs if any, to establish relationship and begin subjective evaluation.
- Familiarize yourself with the new technology platforms and tools your company uses.
- Get sign-ons to the product(s) you sell and become competent at using them over the next 2-3 weeks. Start taking notes on any product management ideas you may have.
- Interview peer execs (sales, marketing, success, finance) with a script that focuses on mission as gleaned from your meetings with the CEO.
- Interview top clients and partners (if there is a channel). Ask them tough questions about the company and its products and service.
- Review customer success surveys for current and churned customers if they exist or write and field first surveys.
- Get current marketing calendar and reporting.
- Note any gaps or outliers in fact finding. (e.g., are KPIs / benchmarks standard or proprietary, is churn high, is marketing automation in place, etc.)
- Write up a summary of findings as a PPT and review with your CEO and then with leadership peers after any suggested changes.
- The mission here is to get a second agreement – you, your boss and the team all see the same things, agree on specific objectives to be accomplished and align on what should be addressed first, second, etc.
- If you already have established a simpatico relationship with someone on the team, share some of your insights and seek confirmation/explanation.
- Figure out a low-hanging fruit opportunity and get it accomplished ASAP. This might be a priority that is not done from the prior regime or a CEO pet project that you also believe in. Aim for something that will drive revenue or meet a shared objective that everyone is being measured on. This project will give you insight into what your new organization can do, and who’s who politically.