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Your First Days as Head of Digital Marketing

Jumping into the role of head of digital marketing is difficult for a multitude of reasons.  You are faced with the daunting tasks of putting together a team that will help drive more sale and increase engagement.  It is difficult to even know where to start.  There are often times a desire to hit the ground running and to make far-reaching and drastic changes out of a desire to help get things on track.  This tactic, as you would soon learn is a recipe for failure.  This article is not about which people you need on your team or even what strategies you need to implement.  It is about what you need to do on your very first day before doing anything else: research, research, research.

Even though execution is way sexier, research is how you set yourself and your team up for success.  Research will tell you how to market to your prospects and how to engage with your customers.  Research is the bread and butter of marketing and without it, you WILL fail.

Learning the business

businessIt is beyond essential that you learn everything there is to know about the business before you do ANYTHING.  You have to understand what you are selling and how you are selling it before you can understand how to best market it.  This means learning the following:

1) What are the products/services that your company/business unit sells?

This goes without saying.

2) What is the marketing/sales cycle like?

A longer sales cycle could mean that you will need to focus* more effort on lead nurturing with a stronger emphasis on top of the funnel non-sales related helpful content.  It also means that you can work on filling your sales team’s pipeline with leads that aren’t necessarily in the lower parts of the funnel (e.g. gated white papers, webinars, etc.) A shorter sales cycle means you might need to focus* on more aggressive sales related content and a lead gen strategy that is focused on targeting people who are ready to buy.

*(Disclaimer: Notice that I said “focus” and not “do only”.)

3) How is the sales team(s) made up?

This will give you an understanding as to who will need what.  A single sales team taking care of all levels of the sales cycle will require different efforts on your part than multi-level sales teams.

Understanding your customer

customersThere is an incorrect perception that a one size fits all approach to digital marketing is acceptable.  The million or so studies that show that everyone is social and that everyone uses search to research products have created a sense of complacency in many digital marketing teams.

Even though the studies have been consistent, they don’t take into account how YOUR customer segments use social and search.  You have to take into account the digital acumen of your customers before you can understand how to target them.

Your Sales Team

There has always been a love hate relationship between marketing and sales.  Simply put, sales always gripes about the quantity of the leads they receive and marketing always gripes about how well sales closes the leads they are given.  Deciding to skip getting intelligence about your customers from sales is an easy trap to fall into and no matter how badly it might irk you, no one knows your customers better than your sales team.  They spend hours a day talking to and learning from them.  You would be amazed as to how differently they see your customers as compared to the marketing team.  Remember that it isn’t about providing the support that you think sales needs, but the support your sales team actually require to be successful.  They can tell you about which lead sources have been most effective as well as which content types have been helpful in moving their prospects through the sales cycle.  In short, only they can tell you what they need.

Don’t forget that you must talk to a large group of high performing sales reps and leaders in order to paint a complete picture as to what is needed.  Interestingly enough, different sales reps are better able to utilize different content/collateral than others.  You must make sure that you don’t see your efforts as one size fits all (where have I heard that before?) when it comes to sales support.  Finally, many good sales reps have been doing lead acquisition and nurture on their own and could potentially give you ideas for engaging with your customers that you might not have even considered.  Talk to them in a way that shows that you want to help them make more money and they will tell you everything you need to know.

The Survey

How many of us of heard this from traditional marketers?

“C-suite executives are not social and they use admins to research products for them.”

Granted, this might be the case, but a belief is not something to base your strategy on.  A customer survey will take your assumptions and either prove them right or prove them wrong.  Either way you will have a proper understanding of your customers and of how to proceed. Your questionnaire can help you figure out such things as social engagement, which influencers to reach out to, potential advertising sources, and how tech savvy your customers are.  Marketing can not be done in a vacuum and without customers’ feedback you will have no idea as to which lead sources or content will be effective.

Learning from past efforts

puzzleThe fact that your company hired you to spearhead their digital marketing means that (most likely) previous efforts had failed.  It might seem best to start from scratch, but you must figure out what your marketing team has done in the past in order to not fall into the same traps or to build on prior successes (if there were any).

  • Which lead sources have been most effective and which ones have been bad?
  • Which lead nurture content types have helped/stopped progression through the sales cycle?
  • What types of social/PR outreach has been most/least effective?
  • Etcetera

Additionally, figuring out the relationship between sales and marketing is just as important.  We tend to focus on previous digital marketing efforts (content, social, lead gen, etc.) but we sometimes forget to look at our sales team’s challenges with regards to marketing?

  • Has there been little or no digital marketing support?
  • Have the leads in the past been terrible (and has the sales team been blamed for not being able to close those leads)?
  • Has there been incomplete or incorrect reporting?
  • Has marketing done a bad job at engaging with customers or prospects?
  • Have there any barriers to closing that digital marketing could help with such as reputation management (bad reviews), more content, new creative/assets, intelligence (customer/competitive), etc.?

All of these questions are essential to figuring out how to proceed and will give you a clearer understanding as to how to craft your digital marketing strategy. Stepping into the role of head of digital marketing is tough and there can be a desire to start putting together your strategy without a complete picture as to what the hell is going on.

Your first few weeks should be spent learning your company and the way they do business.  It should be spent getting to know the ins and outs of what you sell and who you sell it to. There are definite universals when it comes to digital marketing and though 90% of the time your assumptions will be correct, proper research will take care of the remaining 10% of uncertainty. Doing otherwise could mean the difference between success and your company needing to hire your replacement.


Image Credit:
business men graphic:
wholesale market:
puzzle 2:

Category SEO
Michael Davis Senior Director of Marketing, Communications, and Media at RZIM

Mike is an online marketer with over 15 years experience (in-house and consulting) in helping businesses drive traffic to their ...

Your First Days as Head of Digital Marketing

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