Blueprint for a CMO’s First 100 Days

November 24, 2020
Contributor: Gloria Omale

Use a 6-phase approach anchored in effective communication to set the conditions for success.

CMOs are no longer just a bullhorn for the company brand. They now play multiple, critical roles: Brand leader, head of the marketing function, and senior executive expected to be well-organized, strategic and decisive — focused on business outcomes. This leaves new CMOs or CMOs with new management under a great deal of pressure.

“CMOs are operating against a backdrop of changing customer behavior and expectations of brands, triggered by externalities like a global pandemic, racial tension, political uncertainty, climate change and an economic downturn,” says Jennifer Polk, VP Analyst, Gartner. “CMOs who can adapt in this environment have an opportunity to not only weather the current disruption, but emerge on the other side better prepared for the next disruption that is sure to come.”

Doing so requires a strong six-phase plan for the first 100 days. Together, the six overlapping phases enable the CMO to establish clear expectations with the CEO, talk with customers, assess the marketing team, establish priorities, build key relationships and show quick wins

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Communicate phase (Days 0 to 100)

The Communicate phase spans the full transition and is critical for success. Focus on communication elements in each of the distinct phases, from interviewing key stakeholders and the CEO before Day 1 to using data to tell your story to reviewing key performance indicators in the Measure phase.

Prepare (Days −10 to 15)

The Prepare phase is all about assessing, or reassessing, cultural fit with the organization, understanding CEO expectations and developing conversational fluency. Ensure that expectations are aligned and check for passion. Can you envision yourself as the most passionate brand ambassador on the payroll?

Assess (Days 0 to 30)

Use the Assess phase to determine corporate goals and priorities, assess organizational structure and staffing, establish agency relationships and meet with customers. Use the first 30 days to conduct a maturity assessment and evaluate marketing spend. In this phase, it’s also important to share your process and time frame while keeping stakeholders apprised.

Plan (Days 15 to 45)

Use the Plan phase, which overlaps with the Assess phase, to baseline the marketing strategy, identify critical imperatives, assess and address capacity for change, and develop plans for early wins. Even though you’re starting to see some patterns form, don’t get ahead of yourself. It will take time to fully understand organizational dynamics at the proper depth before you can feel comfortable making larger, more sweeping decisions.

Act (Days 30 to 80)

In the Act phase, communicate and prove your strategic assertions, gain trust and gather operational feedback. By this time you’ll have a grounded point of view on what needs to get done and the discipline to contain your enthusiasm to a series of time- and resource-bound areas of focus. Kick off a test project from your marketing plan and meet daily with your test project team to detail the accomplishments from yesterday, priorities for today and any roadblocks to progress.

Measure (Days 45 to 100)

In the Measure phase, assess outcomes relative to your 100-day onboarding plan, identify new insights, showcase early wins, roll out new organizational refinements and update processes. Prepare a short presentation for stakeholders that tells the story of project outcomes and key findings in simple and summarized terms.


This article was updated from the original, published on September 4, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

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