What I Did During My First 30 Days as CMO

Alina Vandenberghe
October 12, 2022
min to read

It’s only been a month since I decided to take over the marketing team for 12 months

What I Did During My First 30 Days as CMO

Alina Vandenberghe
October 12, 2022
min to read

It’s only been a month since I decided to take over the marketing team for 12 months

I’ve been building tools for marketers for the past 5 years so it’s only fitting that I spend time in their shoes to be a better builder...

Here’s how I spent my first 30 days:

First up? Getting aligned

We have 8 individual teams in marketing and each one of them did a v2mom exercise (v2mom stands for vision, values, mission, obstacles, and metrics). Basically aligning the team on what’s important and what stands in the way of achieving our mission. We spent the first 10 minutes filling up the respective buckets by ourselves with a timer (we ended up using Miro for some teams and Figma for others). See below.

Then, we spent 50 minutes calibrating our responses to come up with a team plan that we all resonated with. We ended with 8 v2moms that look a bit like this one below (we used this tool for this view since it’s a lot easier to process visually after the brainstorming session).

This one is for our content team: 

Takeaways 

Best part about this process is that once you do it as a team you finally feel like you understand what everyone cares about and how to measure of each member and the team is successful. Without it it’s tough to prioritize activities. And focus on what matters.

In some cases it took more than a meeting to agree on the things we listed on the board. 

The metrics are a vital part since they are the most objective way to assess whether we’re on the right track. 

Long-term planning 

One theme that often came through the “obstacles” part of v2mom was the ability to have a much longer-term view of our marketing activities. So we started having two tracks that we only managed to half complete:

  • Adding a list with all the things we want to do (both top and bottom of the funnel) 
  • Estimate the impact we can have. Add our level of confidence in the impact 
  • Estimate the effort for each
  • Prioritize them based on the estimates we have 

Long term planning is a bit harder to do in areas where constant experimentation is needed to see before something scales. I’m still working on this piece to see if our CRO activities have a play into this before anything gets scaled and how I can keep an open mind for the long-term plans. 

New game rules: Because I have a very high tolerance to risk as an entrepreneur and also am an engineer at heart I set up a new rule: no experiment is off limits as long as we can prove success first with a small budget. I rather everyone seeks to fail quickly and doesn’t ask me for permission.

Setting OKRs 

In parallel we have setup OKRs for Q4 for the entire team: 

The data goals determines our marketing team bonus. I hesitated on whether pipeline or this combined metric makes the most sense for the bonus but felt a lot more comfortable with a blend of top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel since it keeps the long-term activities in the mix.

Optimizing for my availability  

Since I have a whole new function to learn and a lot more new people to meet, I decided to get rid of all meetings where we just go through updates. All these happen async. See an example of a template that needs to be filled for the async report: 

Our weekly reports sometimes look like novels, but they allow me to process them at my own speed. The more context and data I have the better I can understand how something might be adding or not to our goals. It’s a lot harder to get the full context in a meeting. 

There’s also a reminder weekly on my calendar to pick from these reports highlights to bring to everyone else in the company so they are aware of what’s going on.

I only keep meetings with my direct reports to help them navigate their weekly objectives and also because I believe my primary job is to help each team member unlock their full potential.

The decisions we also make async via decision memos (here are some examples of our decisions memos) so we can all have time to digest the information presented.

We also get on video calls when we need to brainstorm something or someone might need help to figure out how something works or isn’t sure about how to proceed.

Rethinking my approach to personas 

Since I come from the product world I have an obsession with personas. I would constantly look at what my users needed to do and made sure that my software solved their needs a lot better than anything else.

But I was focused on their actions and their goals. 

In marketing, personas are a lot more subtle. You need to understand what personas resonate with.  Most specifically, what they resonate with at different stages of the buying cycle. And how they might resonate differently, depending on which segment they belong to (industry, size, culture).

And since our potential buyers get bombarded by a million messages from a million directions, Ii think it’s impossible to get them to pay attention using traditional marketing techniques.

Where you talk about benefits or pain points. Or industry jargon that you are the best “inbound conversion platform “ there is.  Nobody cares.

What I am focused on instead, as I create our personas and segments, is to understand how I can add value at every stage — outside my product: 

  • What can I create to solve a problem they have right now outside my product 
  • What blueprint can I give them to get them to make an impact in their organization right now 
  • What can I expose them to that might get them to rethink their process to better it 
  • What can I do to advance their careers 
  • What can I do to be of service to thousands of potential buyers at scale 

In essence, I think of our marketing organization as a creator of value to our potential buyers 

So far I only managed to do four things in this direction: 

  • Organize everyone in our different departments (Product, Sales, Customer Success, Marketing ) to work towards the same persona documents so we can keep our “live doc” updated together. Our customers change based on our environment and we want to keep that fluid. 
  • Start creating living documents where we see how our personas evolve in making decisions based on sales and marketing touch-points
  • Create quarterly loops to validate our findings on our personas together
  • Focus on segments as opposed to “fictional characters” 

Prepping myself 

I have watched/listened to lots of content from Refine Labs , Dharmesh Sha , read David Gerhardt’s book and content and Latane’s book.

I’m really grateful to content creators like them who put things out there for all of us to learn from.

What’s next 

My to-do list is a very long one. It’s geared towards optimizing processes at scale to get ready next year to bring a minimum of $100M in our pipeline from inbound and partnerships. 

Here are some things on my current to do: 

  • Work a list of accounts as an SDR would to fully understand myself what messages resonate best. I feel without this practice I will fall flat in my work 
  • Turn our website around from a “here’s Chili Piper “ to “here’s how I can help”. Different personas should be getting value from our content depending on their needs and their journey stage  
  • Figure out a process that can be scaled where all our touch points are laser focused on value add  
  • Start a process to optimize our Rules of Engagement (RoEs) with our Sales and Customer Success teams. Especially around how we can create more efficient feedback loops for expansion and contraction to allow for well-coordinated orchestration to happen 
  • A process to create many more motions happening at scale 
  • A more detailed framework for career progression in my team 
  • A process for effective product enablement 
  • Taking our early successes in customer marketing on a smaller scale and create a multiplier effect within the smb/mid-market/enterprise since they are all so different 
  • Learn from brilliant CMOs how to do my job better (and luckily I’m the company of many brilliant clients) 
  • Gather a lot more data to calculate Customer Aquisition Cost (CAC) per channel to double down on the motions most effective 
  • Figure out best training our team can get to for us to unlock our career goals 
  • Figure out ways to measure the perception and impact our brand has 
  • Do more good in the world and help people be kinder to one another 

Results so far 

Results from the month are not a truly effect on my work so far but on what we have previously built to date through all the work our team has done in the past. We’re at 107% of our inbound pipeline goals and you’d think I’d be content…

But my mind probably functions a lot differently than most, since I always look at we do well and think: “Ok but how do we 10x this. How can we make it 10x more impactful".

As a result for my next quarter I keep thinking how I can 10x our inbound pipeline and I don’t feel like I’m winning unless I figure it out.

If you find this content useful, then I will continue to do more updates on my way.

I’ve been building tools for marketers for the past 5 years so it’s only fitting that I spend time in their shoes to be a better builder...

Here’s how I spent my first 30 days:

First up? Getting aligned

We have 8 individual teams in marketing and each one of them did a v2mom exercise (v2mom stands for vision, values, mission, obstacles, and metrics). Basically aligning the team on what’s important and what stands in the way of achieving our mission. We spent the first 10 minutes filling up the respective buckets by ourselves with a timer (we ended up using Miro for some teams and Figma for others). See below.

Then, we spent 50 minutes calibrating our responses to come up with a team plan that we all resonated with. We ended with 8 v2moms that look a bit like this one below (we used this tool for this view since it’s a lot easier to process visually after the brainstorming session).

This one is for our content team: 

Takeaways 

Best part about this process is that once you do it as a team you finally feel like you understand what everyone cares about and how to measure of each member and the team is successful. Without it it’s tough to prioritize activities. And focus on what matters.

In some cases it took more than a meeting to agree on the things we listed on the board. 

The metrics are a vital part since they are the most objective way to assess whether we’re on the right track. 

Long-term planning 

One theme that often came through the “obstacles” part of v2mom was the ability to have a much longer-term view of our marketing activities. So we started having two tracks that we only managed to half complete:

  • Adding a list with all the things we want to do (both top and bottom of the funnel) 
  • Estimate the impact we can have. Add our level of confidence in the impact 
  • Estimate the effort for each
  • Prioritize them based on the estimates we have 

Long term planning is a bit harder to do in areas where constant experimentation is needed to see before something scales. I’m still working on this piece to see if our CRO activities have a play into this before anything gets scaled and how I can keep an open mind for the long-term plans. 

New game rules: Because I have a very high tolerance to risk as an entrepreneur and also am an engineer at heart I set up a new rule: no experiment is off limits as long as we can prove success first with a small budget. I rather everyone seeks to fail quickly and doesn’t ask me for permission.

Setting OKRs 

In parallel we have setup OKRs for Q4 for the entire team: 

The data goals determines our marketing team bonus. I hesitated on whether pipeline or this combined metric makes the most sense for the bonus but felt a lot more comfortable with a blend of top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel since it keeps the long-term activities in the mix.

Optimizing for my availability  

Since I have a whole new function to learn and a lot more new people to meet, I decided to get rid of all meetings where we just go through updates. All these happen async. See an example of a template that needs to be filled for the async report: 

Our weekly reports sometimes look like novels, but they allow me to process them at my own speed. The more context and data I have the better I can understand how something might be adding or not to our goals. It’s a lot harder to get the full context in a meeting. 

There’s also a reminder weekly on my calendar to pick from these reports highlights to bring to everyone else in the company so they are aware of what’s going on.

I only keep meetings with my direct reports to help them navigate their weekly objectives and also because I believe my primary job is to help each team member unlock their full potential.

The decisions we also make async via decision memos (here are some examples of our decisions memos) so we can all have time to digest the information presented.

We also get on video calls when we need to brainstorm something or someone might need help to figure out how something works or isn’t sure about how to proceed.

Rethinking my approach to personas 

Since I come from the product world I have an obsession with personas. I would constantly look at what my users needed to do and made sure that my software solved their needs a lot better than anything else.

But I was focused on their actions and their goals. 

In marketing, personas are a lot more subtle. You need to understand what personas resonate with.  Most specifically, what they resonate with at different stages of the buying cycle. And how they might resonate differently, depending on which segment they belong to (industry, size, culture).

And since our potential buyers get bombarded by a million messages from a million directions, Ii think it’s impossible to get them to pay attention using traditional marketing techniques.

Where you talk about benefits or pain points. Or industry jargon that you are the best “inbound conversion platform “ there is.  Nobody cares.

What I am focused on instead, as I create our personas and segments, is to understand how I can add value at every stage — outside my product: 

  • What can I create to solve a problem they have right now outside my product 
  • What blueprint can I give them to get them to make an impact in their organization right now 
  • What can I expose them to that might get them to rethink their process to better it 
  • What can I do to advance their careers 
  • What can I do to be of service to thousands of potential buyers at scale 

In essence, I think of our marketing organization as a creator of value to our potential buyers 

So far I only managed to do four things in this direction: 

  • Organize everyone in our different departments (Product, Sales, Customer Success, Marketing ) to work towards the same persona documents so we can keep our “live doc” updated together. Our customers change based on our environment and we want to keep that fluid. 
  • Start creating living documents where we see how our personas evolve in making decisions based on sales and marketing touch-points
  • Create quarterly loops to validate our findings on our personas together
  • Focus on segments as opposed to “fictional characters” 

Prepping myself 

I have watched/listened to lots of content from Refine Labs , Dharmesh Sha , read David Gerhardt’s book and content and Latane’s book.

I’m really grateful to content creators like them who put things out there for all of us to learn from.

What’s next 

My to-do list is a very long one. It’s geared towards optimizing processes at scale to get ready next year to bring a minimum of $100M in our pipeline from inbound and partnerships. 

Here are some things on my current to do: 

  • Work a list of accounts as an SDR would to fully understand myself what messages resonate best. I feel without this practice I will fall flat in my work 
  • Turn our website around from a “here’s Chili Piper “ to “here’s how I can help”. Different personas should be getting value from our content depending on their needs and their journey stage  
  • Figure out a process that can be scaled where all our touch points are laser focused on value add  
  • Start a process to optimize our Rules of Engagement (RoEs) with our Sales and Customer Success teams. Especially around how we can create more efficient feedback loops for expansion and contraction to allow for well-coordinated orchestration to happen 
  • A process to create many more motions happening at scale 
  • A more detailed framework for career progression in my team 
  • A process for effective product enablement 
  • Taking our early successes in customer marketing on a smaller scale and create a multiplier effect within the smb/mid-market/enterprise since they are all so different 
  • Learn from brilliant CMOs how to do my job better (and luckily I’m the company of many brilliant clients) 
  • Gather a lot more data to calculate Customer Aquisition Cost (CAC) per channel to double down on the motions most effective 
  • Figure out best training our team can get to for us to unlock our career goals 
  • Figure out ways to measure the perception and impact our brand has 
  • Do more good in the world and help people be kinder to one another 

Results so far 

Results from the month are not a truly effect on my work so far but on what we have previously built to date through all the work our team has done in the past. We’re at 107% of our inbound pipeline goals and you’d think I’d be content…

But my mind probably functions a lot differently than most, since I always look at we do well and think: “Ok but how do we 10x this. How can we make it 10x more impactful".

As a result for my next quarter I keep thinking how I can 10x our inbound pipeline and I don’t feel like I’m winning unless I figure it out.

If you find this content useful, then I will continue to do more updates on my way.

Alina Vandenberghe

Alina Vandenberghe is Co-Founder & Co-CEO at Chili Piper. She’s passionate about building fun SaaS products to solve hard problems and a company where employees thrive. Today, the Romania native and her husband are on their way to IPO — all while giving back to the community through our Citizens Of Our Planet foundation. Alina earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, Romania. She currently resides in New York City. Connect with Alina on LinkedIn.

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