November 17, 2023

The First 90 Days: Quick Wins, Curveballs, and Strategic Shifts

The success of a CMO’s first 90 days starts before day one, and its impact extends well past that 3-month mark.  

In this episode, we explore how to get that first 90 right with CMOs Jamie Gier of DexCare, Bernd Leger of Cornerstone OnDemand, and Isabelle Papoulias of BackBox, who at the time of this interview were freshly into or just out of their own first 90. 

Tune in as we explore the step-by-step methodology behind a fruitful first 90 days in the CMO role. We’ll cover topics like how to run your listening tour, how often you should communicate with key stakeholders, and how to get some quick wins while ramping up for long-term success.  

What You’ll Learn 

  • What to do in your first 90 days as a CMO 
  • How to manage curveballs and get quick wins 
  • How to build trust when you’re new on the job 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 371 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [3:49] The First 200 at DexCare
  • [5:24] Jamie’s First 90 Methodology
  • [13:48] The First 100 at Cornerstone OnDemand
  • [14:26] Bernd’s 30-60-90
  • [22:15] The First 60 at BackBox
  • [23:17] Isabelle’s 90 Day Plan
  • [29:22] How CMO Huddles helps B2B CMOs
  • [32:22] Sharing a 30-60-90 in the interview process
  • [36:33] How often to communicate with key stakeholders?
  • [38:35] How should vendors approach new CMOs?
  • [40:09] Where to get quick wins
  • [44:18] Final words of wisdom 

Highlighted Quotes  

“On a more tactical level, one of the areas that any of us can really lean into is with our sales partners and the impact that we can have to move a deal forward.” -Jamie Gier, CMO of DexCare

“You only have so much time yourself in those 90 days. Figure out where you can use external resources. For example, external vendors can do an audit to accelerate your assessment of your team, the processes, and the function.” -Bernd Leger, CMO of Cornerstone OnDemand

“Get yourself invited to join the board meeting before you start. That was the single most invaluable thing for me because that was the business download right there.” -Isabelle Papoulias, CMO of BackBox

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Jamie Gier, Bernd Leger, & Isabelle Papoulias


Drew: Hey, it’s Drew. I’m excited that you’re here to listen to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite. And if this is your first time listening, then welcome. This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness and that has a logo featuring penguins. Wait, what? Yeah, well, a group of these curious, adaptable, and problem-solving birds is called a Huddle. And the B2B marketers and CMOs in Huddles are all that and more, huddling together to heat up the coldest job in the C-suite. And now that CMO Huddles has three membership tiers, we’re ready to inspire B2B Greatness at all levels. To learn more, check out

Now before we get to the episode, here’s a shout-out to the professionals at Share Your Genius. We started working with them over a year ago to make this show even better and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at and tell her Drew sent you. Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals. You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that’s sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness every day of the week. This time we’ve got a conversation on the pivotal first 90 days for CMOs with Huddlers Jamie Gier of DexCare, Bernd Leger of Cornerstone OnDemand, and Isabelle Papoulias of BackBox. Let’s dive in. 

Welcome to CMO Huddles Studio, the live-streaming show dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness. I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. If you know a B2B CMO who has recently changed jobs, chances are you lost touch with them for a good three to six months. Many in this position use phrases like “drinking from a firehose” or “I just got my fireman’s hat on” or “hoping to come up for air soon.” But I’m not sure these phrases really capture the pressure cooker of those first 90 days. To help you both understand and provide you with strategies for getting off on the right foot, so to speak, we have three amazing CMOs who recently went through or are going through this trial by fire and are here to talk about it. With that, let’s bring on Jamie Gier, CMO of DexCare, and a returning guest who previously appeared on the show to discuss content marketing, rebranding, and board management. So hello, Jamie, how are you? And where are you?

Jamie: Hi Drew, good to see you again. I am in the beautiful city of Seattle, actually 20 miles outside Seattle in wine country. 

Drew: Okay, so this is like your third or fourth CMO role. And I think I counted roughly day 210 or so at DexCare. Tell us a little bit about the company, and what marketing challenges you sort of identified early on.

Jamie: Time is our most precious resource and it can be true in healthcare. What DexCare does is, we ensure that patients who are searching for healthcare can get timely access to that care based on the best capacity and resource use across different health systems and providers. And so what that ensures is when you’re needing care, you can get access to it as quickly as possible but you’re also matched to the right physician, the right location, because it’s all about quality care.

Drew: Interesting. I’m just thinking about personnel. So you’ll call your primary physician and you’ll say, you know, I’d love to come in because I’ve got this issue and they’ll say well, you can come in three months, which is why all these sort of localized city of D’s are doing so well. But that seems like a really big issue from a patient side.

Jamie: What we try to do is load balance across the health system and sometimes, by the way, and what we learned in COVID is that you may not need to be physically seen, so we have a virtual care platform as well. So if you want to book a same-day virtual visit, based on your reason for visit, we can make that happen as well. The whole thing too, Drew, is that many patients when they need access to care, they’re not picking up the phone and calling, they’re actually searching, they’re Googling for it, trying to find the most convenient care close to where they live. 

Drew: Interesting, so I’m imagining DexCare has different challenges than your last one. Do you have a methodology for your first 90 days?

Jamie: I do have a methodology and it actually starts before day zero or day one of that 90-day window. So I think of t-minus and that really is setting expectations before I even accept a job. And that’s part of the interview process and recruiting process. And just making sure that I have a really clear understanding of how they view the role of the Chief Marketing Officer and the contributions that they’re expecting to get, but also having a really solid understanding of the stage of the company, because what you’re going to end up doing and the information that you need for that first 90 days will be contingent upon the stage of the business. So there’s homework that I’m doing even before I accept an offer. My methodology, once I do get in the door, is I spend the first 30 days really understanding how the business operates and up-leveling it beyond just my functional area to how does the business run, what are the operating principles, I spend a lot of time looking at financial information, the P&L, the balance sheet, and really just looking for opportunities to help improve and grow the company. Then it moves on to okay, let me evaluate what we’re doing in marketing or at the department level within marketing, but also with my partners in sales and customer success and spending time there. And then it gets down to the individual level, I break it down between first really understanding how the business operates, how the departments contribute to the growth today, and then who are the individual people that comprise the different departments and what are they doing. I consider it my listening tour and I think that’s important because we tend to really want to just go in hot and trying to have an impact. But you got to take the time to really understand first, the business before you can determine what your early wins are going to be but even the longer-term plan for your area.

Drew: One of the things that you really struck me is the pre-planning and managing expectations. It’s funny, the first chapter in my first book was about setting expectations and I feel like that’s where a lot of CMO jobs go off the rails. And I don’t think it’s just because or not that the CMO didn’t set expectations, it’s that the CEO, frankly, wasn’t committed to those expectations, they changed. I’m wondering how you really are sure, because so often it’s “we want to fix the brand, we want to fix demand,” we have these certain things that we want to do. And then when you get in there, it’s demand, demand, demand. So how do you make sure in that t-minus that the expectations that you’re setting are in fact, you at least get 90 days to commitment, if not a year commitment to those?

Jamie: I think we have to be realistic, we may think that we have the expectations nailed down perfectly, and you never will. So you have to be able to adapt to where there might be a mismatch and some of that is constantly educating your CEO once you do come in the door. But there’s a lot of things that you can do prior to that, a lot of it is through conversations and just being very frank and transparent and asking the right questions in advance to really understand their knowledge of marketing, not only their understanding of marketing but who was sitting in your seat before and really poking on that too. I’ve been in situations where I did have a predecessor and other cases I walked in as their first CMO, I actually think that’s more challenging and more difficult because they don’t know what they don’t know. And you’re coming in to set that, that’s where I think some of the expectation setting is really important. But I try to level set as much as I can, fully recognizing that when I come in, there’s still going to be some education that needs to be done on what the CMO can contribute to the business. 

Drew: You know, I’m thinking about the first 90 days of having worked on a client and I always remember that all my ideas and I write them down, I couldn’t share them right away. But that was sort of that moment where you can really see because your eyes are so fresh, and you’re used to seeing patterns and things. Did you find in your first 90 days you had some aha moments? And then how did you manage not to immediately say, “Okay, let’s do this”?

Jamie: There’s always those aha moments, you have to exercise some restraint in immediately going after those ahas because some of them, you want to go in and quickly fix things. And so I tried to restrain myself and the reality is I am a very action-oriented person. And so I have an inclination to want to just jump right in. And I’ve had to learn through experience that you’ve got to back off of that a little bit. But there’s always going to be the aha, the aha could simply be, wow, they don’t have the infrastructure in place, this is going to make my job a little more challenging, or it’s going to extend the time in which I can actually have really good, meaningful long term impact. And so there’s going to be those moments but I think some of the ahas really lead to us wanting to jump right in, and you got to show a little bit of restraint.

Drew: At least save it for a moment or two. And this is interesting because we know that 80% of CEOs have no experience in marketing, although they probably had marketing obviously report to them, but they’ve never actually pulled the levers themselves. So many CEOs, particularly at smaller companies are like these idea person, all the time. And so you’re trying to learn the business, learn the other departments, you’re trying to figure out, do you have the right team? And at the same time your CEO is like hitting you up with, here’s five things that you could do. Again, talk a little bit about the juggling act that goes on in those first 90 days.

Jamie:  I’ve got to be honest with you Drew, I haven’t experienced that so much with the CEO as I have the CRO. I think with that, it’s the expectation setting with it but you have to also figure out some short-term wins and that’s just going to be part of the 90-day process anyways because it does a few things. One, it starts to build your credibility, it starts to build trust, that’s second, and third, it’s going to buy you time for the longer-term things that you need to get done as well. And so people are going to be eager when they get a CMO hired because there is a lot of expectations around pipeline contribution. Everyone thinks we’re magicians, that’s fine. I think the work that we do is very magical but we’re not magicians, you and I have talked about that before, I think on a prior podcast, but it’s going after some low-hanging fruit and some wins that will satisfy the appetites of those that have these expectations as you’re buying time for the longer term as well. And the reality is a lot of the time you can come in with your wisdom from prior experiences and see things so I immediately go to how is their PR function operating. How is paid media? Where can I look in real quickly and see where I can get some wins? But also, the area that I tend to first focus on is how can I just help with a couple of different deals. In healthcare, it’s a little easier for me, because I’ve spent so much time in it that I have a pretty vast network. But I’ll get close and go, hey, how can I contribute to this particular account and just start leaning in and showing some contribution as I’m spending the majority of my time still getting ready and laying the framework for a longer-term contribution.

Drew: I love it all. Now I’m going to have this ask for all three guests. We have a first 90-day quick wins worksheet that a number of CMOs from CMO Huddles have contributed to I’m going to now ask you all to go back and look at that list and add to it, see if we missed anything. I’m going to come back to you we did have a question from the audience. I’m going to come back to that, now we have to move on to bring on Bernd Leger, CMO of Cornerstone OnDemand. And an industry expert who has graced our stage before to delve into the topic of category creation and board management. Hello, Bernd.  

Bernd: Hey Drew, great to be here again.

Drew: Tell us a bit about Cornerstone. 

Bernd: Yeah, sure, I’m happy to. I’m close to four months into my journey. Cornerstone is a learning and Talent Management solution. We look at how do we optimize the limitless potential in every employee and how do we match that up with the strategies that a company has and driving the right skills with the right people and bring that talent together and someone in the world consumes our content every three seconds in the world. So pretty cool. 100 million users on our platform. So yeah, I’m on day 100 or just past that almost coming up close on four months.

Drew: Congratulations on that. And you heard some of the things that Jamie said I’m imagining your playbook. So my first question is sort of dialing back. Before you started, did you have a 30-60-90-day plan? First of all, were you asked to do one and did you have one going in?

Bernd: I did. I think what was interesting, so one thing that I try to do in every company that I assess, or that I’m serious about, I actually put together an assessment, which was I would say about 40 slides of things that I could see from the outside based on interview conversation based on just tools that I could use that are open source that I can use to actually assess things that I can see and I actually sent that to the CEO and the leadership team and they felt that was a lot of due diligence and a lot of insights we already have. So I think, to Jamie’s point, building that trust level even before you start, and based on that, I had some initial thoughts on how I would look at my 30-60-90. I think for me, the key thing that I wanted to get out of those 90 days, number one is building those personal relationships. What’s unique about Cornerstone, this is not a space I’ve been at, most of my career has been in cybersecurity, so this is a completely new space for me. And in some ways, actually, that was a benefit for me coming in, because the CEO said, you will not have any preconceived notions, you’re looking at this with a fresh set of eyes. So for me, I had to understand the industry a little better, like in cyber, I would know exactly where you would market, which trade trustee you would go to, which analysts you would talk to, I didn’t have that benefit here. So one, you need to just get to know the industry a little better, understand who’s who, and who are the players. But from there, I think for me, it was all about building to Jamie’s point, listening, and building personal relationships. So what’s unique here is I’m in Boston, the company has 4000 employees, we’re a global company, we sell in 250 different countries, and our headquarters is in Santa Monica and California, in the San Francisco Bay area. So I’ve made it a point of traveling about 60% of my time and making sure I had face-to-face conversations with the leadership team, with sales leadership, with my own team, which is also dispersed. And I think that allowed me just to have a different level of conversation. And I would agree with Jamie, I think we all have that tendency, we all want to jump right in, we’re immediately seeing things that we’re noticing and it’s so hard not to do that. and just to take a step back and saying, “You know what, I’m not going to problem solve right from the get-go, I’m just going to listen, and I’m gonna then observe and make comments later.” And actually, one of the qualities my CEO called out, he said, like, I’m really impressed when you speak, it’s very meaningful, but I’m interested that you’re not jumping in all the time. So he actually called it out as a quality that I was more observant but then when I said something, for him, it was like, okay, that’s really meaningful. Like, I can see that you’re very thoughtful about it. and you’ve given that a lot of thought, so that was interesting. For me, the key goal for the 90 days was I wanted to come out of that with a clear mission for the team, a clear operating principles like, “Who are we, what do we stand for?” I wanted to have a full marketing plan ready of budgets, investment errors, changes that I would propose, having a good understanding of my team, and presenting that both to the CEO and the leadership team with my specific asks. I was thinking like, in your 90 days, you kind of have one shot and making sure you get the initial assessment right, and making that ask of whatever it is like, I want to make changes here, or we need something over here, I need more money over there. Like you can’t do that in piecemeal, you have one good shot and doing that right. And so for me, I kept on saying, “Just give me that time, I will come back and I will have an end-to-end assessment.” My CEO gave me 90 minutes in front of an entire team to share my observations and my thoughts and my ask, and I think that helped me gain that little bit of time. And I agree with Jamie, you have to identify those quick wins as well, like pick one thing you can focus on and you can fix right away. But I was very deliberate and not trying to jump in too much right away and giving me that 90 days and then coming back with a really comprehensive plan with an ask for approval, and then moving forward from that, and that’s been very good. I would also say making sure you’re keeping your CEO in the loop along the way. So I would send him a wrap up every week, on a Friday, just like, “Here was my week, here’s what I learned, here’s who I talked to, here’s some initial thoughts, just so he felt like he was always in the loop. I would say like stakeholder management is so critical early on, like your sales partners, particularly your CEO, and you bring him into the bolt early, where you almost leading the witness, and how you think about and you want to make sure you have that buying along the way. So when you’re proposing what you’re proposing, you’re hoping you’re gonna get the answer that you’re hoping for, because you’ve already seeded it in some ways.

Drew: Yeah, this isn’t a big Tada moment. So many things I want to just make sure that folks in my mind, word of the day is restraint. And I think that’s so interesting, because marketers, CMOs in particular, the ones that are in our community, are so quick, and they’re ready, they see the answer, and they’re used to doing it and the challenge with that quickness, that quick brain, is strategy is something that takes time, tactics are quick, and you can’t confuse the two. And both you and Jamie really talked about is getting that strategy right at the highest level, which requires actually doing the homework. Among the many things that you said that I wanted to put a checkmark on was, I love the weekly recaps, because first of all, you’re letting them know you are working, your process is clear to them and the fact that they acknowledge your methodical, thoughtful approach, suggests that not everyone in the organization is that way.

Bernd: Yeah and I’ll give you a little tip. Actually, I wouldn’t work phenomenally well, because you know, I think the question is, you come in with a preset playbook. And I think you certainly have an understanding of how we think about your 90 days, but I do think every company is slightly different. And so I asked, for example, to participate in the quarterly business reviews when the sales leaders had a meeting and I made sure that my presentation was at the end of the session. So I had the benefit of listening for two days what I was hearing and when I presented I actually incorporated the quotes from the sellers into my presentation and what that accomplished was they said Bernd listens really well, he’s not just coming in with his preconceived notions of what he wants to change, he’s actually listening and incorporating our feedback already in his thought process. So that worked quite well, to the degree I went to LinkedIn, I took their picture, I posted their picture in the PowerPoint, and I put a quote next to that, and one of the salespeople said, “Oh, I’m actually offended, my goal would be to make sure that I make it into your next presentation.

Drew: Well, you established immediately, it’s a Bernd media channel and that’s hilarious. But again, I think that it’s such a thoughtful part of this and both you and Jamie mentioned the need for a quick win, but it’s surrounded by getting your ducks all lined up and not rushing to judgment, because I’ve seen this happen so many times where someone says it’s a brand problem, and like two days in, go off and say, “Oh, we got to change the color, we got to change the website, we got to change the logo”, all that stuff, and it’s not going to move the needle anyway. Fascinating. Alright, we’ll be back. Now let’s welcome Isabelle Papoulias, CMO of BackBox, who has previously joined us on the show to shed light on the intricacies of acquisition and the B2B analysts’ relationship. Hello, Isabelle. Welcome back.

Isabelle: Hi Drew, always a pleasure to be here. 

Drew: Tell us where you are and about BackBox. 

Isabelle: Great. So I’m based in Chicago, and I recently joined BackBox. BackBox is a network and security device automation platform and really what we focus on is automating a lot of the work that a network engineer would do every day in managing a network and other devices on a network and keeping it secure. So we can save them a lot of time, and enable them to do more, even more with their time. And by automating and essentially removing the human element or reducing the human element, we’re reducing the human error, and we’re enhancing the security of the network, and ultimately, that’s what’s important, right? If your network is down, your business is down, you can lose millions of dollars a day, depending on what business you’re in, because things are not working. So that’s in a nutshell what BackBox does, we are a global company, we’re based out of Dallas, but we’re global, we’re servicing many markets.

Drew: And it’s funny because Bernd mentioned that this was a new category for him and I know you were CMO at Media Fly and you are targeting IT security people over there. Is this a new category for you?

Isabelle: It’s very, very new. It’s incredible, in many ways, I came from essentially marketing to CROs and CMOs from sales, tech, and MarTech. This is a highly technical buyer. It’s a very technical industry and product. And by the way, so is the channel ecosystem, it’s a lot more complex. There’s a level of complexity that makes it hard, but it’s also a part of what makes it exciting, right? It’s a new world for me, there’s new things to learn. 

Drew: And you know this from your years in the agency business, we all worked on different products and services in different categories and we could bring the same smart analytical skills to it. But it’s so funny that CMOs get put in a box pretty quickly in their career. So this is your second go-round. How has your approach of all changed? And I know we’re only in day 60, It’s amazing because your day 60, Bernd is day 100, and Jamie’s just over 200. But how is your approach? You’re right in this first 90.

Isabelle: Yes and my approach has to be a little different too because in my last position at Media Fly, I was in sales, and then I became head of marketing, I built a marketing function from scratch, but I was already in the organization, right? So I knew the company, I knew the issues and such, now this is a head of marketing from the get-go. And so I’ve relied on very much building the 90-day plan before I started, there are two great books I recommend many of us know the first 90 days I’m sure but there’s also another one I think it’s called ‘The New Leaders 100 Day Action Plan’, and I’ve looked at both. So my 90-day plan was done before I started, I showed it to the CEO three days in and it has been invaluable in both centrally managing up and what I call sideways, and actually Bernd’s mentioned this, I’m controlling the narrative to be completely blunt. I’m telling everyone what I’m doing, they’re not telling me what to do in my first 90 days, and there’s transparency, so they know but at the same time, it’s keeping me on track for myself going through the phases, am I falling behind and whatnot, and it’s helping me to manage my time and not get distracted. The 90-day plan is called more of a learning plan, gathering all the insights that I need as quickly as possible, understanding the business like Jamie said, that’s a lot of the first 30 days, the next three days after that, deep dive in marketing, customers, channel, product, etc. Deepening my knowledge and starting to make some decisions based on the foundational knowledge I built in the first 30 days and the last 30 days of the 90-day plan are essentially operationalize what I learn, and making changes to institutionalize the scaling things more or less. And so it’s really interesting. I’ll give you a very specific example because I think it’s potent. I had analysts talking to analysts in my 60 days, and someone invited me to an analyst call in my 30 days, and I went back, I said, I will not join this meeting, this is not even my first day of my 30-day plan, you can start inviting me in the next 30 days.

Drew: Interesting, that must have taken people back a bit

Isabelle: I don’t think so because they had seen it, it was just that I was reminding them at a very tactical level, it helps you to not get distracted and in fact, even my CEO, when he saw the 90-day plan, which he loved, and he said to me, “No one has put this in front of me this quickly.” So preparation, everything everyone else said, you’re starting the work before day zero. But he said to me, make sure you stick to the plan and not get ahead of yourself, because you will get distracted, people will pull you in multiple directions. And yes, of course, there is some of that inevitably, you have to manage some of that but coming back to that is important. I do have curveballs thrown at me, I had to go into a second half of the year planning meeting, 10 days in and present my second half of the year marketing priorities. 

Drew: How do you do that, you’re 10 days in and these are my marketing priorities.

Isabelle: This is a curveball, it’s not in the 90-day plan, a 90-day plan clearly says building knowledge culminating into a marketing plan at the end of the 90 days, now because I started by discovery, right? Before I actually started the job, in my interviews, and then I had already had one-on-ones before starting. And then I accelerated one-on-ones from day one, my first week was just one-on-one conversations from 9 am to 6 pm, this is no exaggeration. And so by the time I got to that first half planning meeting two days in, I had a strong hypothesis based on my understanding of BackBox, by then, but also my own experience of working in companies at this stage of what marketing needed to prioritize, the priorities, and then some sense of the strategy and some sense of tactics and maybe outcomes but of course, the tactics and the outcomes were not baked anyway, right? They were more like a hypothesis. So I was able to have an intelligent proposal in front of the entire ELT, and it was extremely well received and that’s because the learning process and really the work starts before they went on the job.

Drew: Interesting, I’m going to be stuck on that for a while because you spent the first week that’s five of those 10 days assessing the team, you’re also trying to get a sense of beyond the team sort of the infrastructure, right? I mean, what’s the marketing stack like and so forth. So your process and our those things, and then you got to look at programs that are currently in place, wherever the spend is, and you got to assess all of those and you spent the best guesses you have after 10 days.

Isabelle: I think you have to prepare to stop that because my hypothesis is based on what I know today and the caveat here is I may have to tweak some of these or change some of these three days from now, 60 days from now, obviously, we have to be reasonable. We’re not magicians like Jamie said and presumably when you’re working with a CEO that’s reasonable and an executive team, right? A lot of my one-on-ones, all of them, first few days we’re getting through the executive team and understanding the business, not just marketing.

Drew: Okay, so we’ve had some very consistent themes. By the way, I’m a huge fan of ‘The First 90 Days’ if you haven’t read that book, I think it’s one of the best business books ever written not just first 90 days, it’s just so smart and the way it assesses how you can make a difference in an organization from any job. So thank you for reminding me of that. You have a plan going in that was first number one, you have something a framework for how you’re going to attack the challenge, you’re spending a lot of time listening, you’re trying not to make any assumptions, you’re looking for some quick wins, you start to form hypothesis, and you keep everybody informed. Alright, that’s a great sort of where we are, we got a lot more to cover. I’m gonna take a second and talk about CMO Huddles.

CMO Huddles was launched in 2020. CMO Huddles is a vibrant community of over 175 highly effective B2B CMOs, who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO described Huddles as a cross between an executive workshop and a therapy session. And given how hard things are out there, who doesn’t need a little reassurance that they’re not alone, everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you the CMO to make faster, better, and more informed decisions. Since no CMO can outwork this crazy job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. And with that, Jamie, Bernd, Isabelle, come on back. Two questions for you. Are you on the therapy side or the executive workshop side, and I’m wondering if you can share a very specific example of how Huddles has helped you in one way or another over the last couple of years? Go ahead Isabelle.

Isabelle: What I like the most about the Huddles is the small format of the Huddles, where we get to discuss a specific topic, but then what a small format does for me is it allows me to build one-on-one relationships with people more easily. And so the biggest outcome for me has been the follow-ups and the relationships I’ve been building with individual CMOs and then I go to them and I say, talk to me about how you look at your pipeline, and let’s compare notes and those types of things. And so there’s a group forum, but because it is what it is, and it’s small, it allows me to then develop my own relations from there, that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken out of. 

Drew: I love it, especially because we are primarily virtual. And we were born in an era where it was primarily virtual, but these relationships are being built despite that. Bernd, Jamie, anything to add?

Bernd: I would second that, I think it’s a phenomenal, safe place where you can ask questions that you might not want to ask other folks either in your organization or elsewhere. So it’s a good way of confirming, asking what technology are you using, what experience do you have here. And I think, Drew, what you and the team do so well, it’s like you have certain people, that have certain specialties. So even asking you, hey, I need to talk to somebody about ABX or I need to take a look at an ADX platform or I have questions around this or that vendor and like you’re able to tie these bits and pieces together really quickly so that we can have very meaningful conversations with people who are experts in those areas and I think that’s so helpful when we’re all struggling with answers sometimes.

Drew: I appreciate that so much. Jamie?

Jamie: I would say one of the biggest benefits has been just-in-time access to people that can provide recommendations and answers. A real-life situation came up, I’ll give two, one is similar to what Bernd was saying around ABX, I came to the community because I needed to fast-track access to a really strong consultant that could come in and help us prepare to shift towards an ABM strategy. So I came to this community and asked for recommendations and kind of bypass on just very cold research on that and then more specifically to my industry, just yesterday, I reached out to a fellow Huddler and asked if she had used a particular technology that we’re evaluating and her terms for that. So for me, I’ve loved these forums but it’s been that just-in-time access to intelligence and recommendations that the community provides and everyone’s so quick to respond which I love.

Drew: I so appreciate that comment, because the one thing that you all know, and first of all, you’ve all been wonderful Huddlers, it’s that you can’t make time, you just can’t. If there’s any way that another CMO can save you time, it’s a beautiful gift. Well anyway, if you’re a B2B CMO that can share, care, and dare with the best of them. Do us a favor, check out Okay, we have one question for all of you. So you know that we also have a transition team at CMO Huddles, and we’re supporting that team is actually substantial right now and there’s been a debate which I’ve tried to guide when you’re interviewing for an opportunity, and someone says, “I’d love to see your 30-60-90 day plan, I’d love to get some thoughts from you in advance.” How do you feel when that happens? Because Bernd, you mentioned that you already had slides before you took the job. How do you feel about, during the interview process, providing some guidance like you did to other CMOs, who are looking for opportunities right now, knowing that kind of thing?

Bernd: I’ll speak up just what my thought process was, I think it’s an opportunity for you to stand out, to differentiate, to demonstrate your thought process. You always get the question, okay, are you a thinker are you a doer, what’s your style, and like having an opportunity where you can demonstrate your thoughtfulness, your strategic approach, but also your ability just to roll up your sleeves, and do. I do think that gives you an opportunity just to shine and to stand out. So whatever it is, that’s a 30-60-90, and maybe putting a little bit more work into it beyond like, well, I’m going to listen to 30 days and then do the 60 days into those 90 days, if you can make a little bit more real and make it more contextual, I think that goes a long way and I’m sure it’ll impress the people who are looking at hiring you. Isabelle, Jamie?

Drew: Isabelle, Jamie, did you both end up doing many plans before you took the job? Did they ask for them?

Jamie: I actually did work on a mini-plan but I wouldn’t say it was a mini-plan as much as it was listing out my assumptions about the business, and also my observations, and then what I thought it would take for this person, this role to be successful. But again, it came down to having some information already about the stage of the company, the backing of the company, the marketplace, and that way, I was able to lay out some assumptions, my observations about their brand health, about their performance marketing, about the marketplace in general, and then what the level of investment realistically would need to be in the marketing function in order to be able to contribute in a meaningful way. I did not put together necessarily a 30-60-90 day plan because to me, that’s more of my checklist of the things that I need to do. I did get buy-in that I needed to have that time to really do my due diligence at the same time identify where I thought some quick wins. I think sometimes as much as I love a great framework, and I adopt and use several of them. I also try not to be too rigid because you need that fluidity, you don’t know what you don’t know. and so I always have that little legal language at the bottom of anything I do, I reserve the right to my assumptions.

Drew: Yeah, Isabelle on that topic because you again mentioned that you had a running start. What the CMO is in transition, some of them, and again, I’ve tried to disabuse them of this notion, as has Jacob Warwick and others who advise CMOs in transition is that it’s an opportunity for you to start to think about the business, see if you like the business, but it’s also a way of differentiating. And this is, in theory, a really well-paying job. If you’re afraid of having your IP stolen, you’re bringing the wrong mindset to it. That’s my very firm opinion. But Isabelle, tell me I’m wrong.

Isabelle: Drew you’re not wrong. I agree with that and with everyone else too. I’d say the sooner you put ideas on the table, the more they’ll appreciate you. That said, I think we have to be really careful because we don’t know what we don’t know and we’ve talked about that too. I don’t know how you can put a plan in place without having started the job, when you haven’t had the time to do the discovery. I think it also depends on the interview process and how long it takes, and whether they’re asking you for projects and things like that, mine was very fast. We moved in three weeks. So within that context, we had conversations about my hypothesis on the brand observations, things I was seeing about the business, the competition, and we had very clear discussions around expectations for marketing, resources needed to be successful, and so on. But then going in, I had those conversations, again, to make sure that what I heard during the interview process still stood on day one.

Drew: We did have a question from Chris Caroline, who asks, “Something I struggled with was the continuing a high level of communication” Because Bernd, you mentioned you had an email going out to your boss, for example, every week, and you establish this rhythm of communications to stakeholders in the first 90 days because you need them? How do you keep that up? And how do you sort of wean them off that I’m here every single day to giving you information every day?” Any thoughts there?

Bernd: Yeah, I think from my end, what I try to establish is a regular cadence with the key stakeholders. I have a weekly one-on-one with the head of sales for each of the regions, I look at what is the right cadence to actually present something that I think is of importance to the executive leadership team where I want to communicate a strategy or feedback or input. So find those regular vehicles or like the quarterly business review and inserting yourself or like thinking about how often do you want to travel if you’re remote into other offices or with other folks, so you can be part of those conversations. So even if they’re not your conversations, they get a glimpse into your world and you get a glimpse into their world. So I try to find those vehicles on a regular basis that allow me to have those conversations. So you’re listening and you’re communicating at the same time..

Drew: Chris, I want to give you this one other thought. So in my book, I talk about an interview I had with Jeff Perkins, who was the CMO of Parc Mobile, and he talked about for his first year, he wrote a very personal email to everybody. It was sort of a weekly newsletter, sort of news from the front, it had a very personal and some humor in it and it really helped to set the tone that this was a company that is counting on employees to help innovate, and it did that. It’s an opportunity to really become an internal voice of the company if that’s something that you’re comfortable with. We’ll go to Isabelle.

Isabelle: I have weekly one-on-ones with everyone on the ELD, and not just the CEO. There’s a high level of collaboration, transparency, and we have a weekly ELT as well as a group. I don’t foresee changing that, not looking to reduce the communication and it’s working, and we’ll keep it.

Drew: Alright, we have another question that I think is really pertinent. So here you are, as I said, very at the top of the show, you’re drinking from the firehose, you’re assessing your challenges. Meanwhile, you’re crazy busy, but you probably do have a need for new vendors. How should new vendors approach you in this weird moment, but you might actually need some help? Jamie, any thoughts? By the way, it’s a challenge that I know a prospective Huddler is taking on that first 90 days. Mainly, it’s like, here’s your first 90-day quick wins checklist and I will talk to you till you come up for air but thoughts on what other vendors should do?

Jamie: By the way, this is something that as marketers we should practice, when we know somebody’s left one job and gone to another and they’re a potential buyer, give them some space, initially. You know, the first 30-60 days exactly what the CMOs are doing. They are heads down, learning about the company and putting their strategy in place. So reach out, say hello, congratulate them on their move, let them know that you’re there, and then come back to them for 60 days after joining and they’re probably coming up from air, probably have points on the board in terms of what direction they want to take the marketing organization and how vendors can help support but also it’s really important to say we’re here to help you we know what it feels like to be that first 90 days into a job and these are the things that you’re doing. We’re here to support your bigger initiatives, and then let it organically grow from there.

Drew: Quick Wins came up a couple times, all of you mentioned it. And I want to make sure that folks are clear about what those really look like and if you have an example, either from this job or previous experience, it would be helpful because I had a conversation with a CMO who noticed that they didn’t have a telephone number on the website and they were an industry where people still use the phone, it was like the construction industry. So that was a big quick win, by the way, traffic calls increased, like 30, or 40%. of business value, that was an example. I’m just curious in this thing, as we’re looking at, we try to frame what a quick win might look like. Any thoughts Bernd in on quick wins?

Bernd: Sure. So I’m thinking through, is there something in those feedback you’re getting that is easy to pull off that you think will have high impact? An example for us was we had an area where our messaging wasn’t as strong, where the team was like, we’re getting asked all the time, I don’t have a good answer, so we just pulled together a tiger team and said like, you know, what is tactical, it’s not a full messaging platform. It’s not a whole house of messaging and brands. That’s just like, here’s a tactical element around one product that we wanted to get messaging out that we worked on for a couple of weeks, and then we got out to the sales organization and they just really appreciate it that 

Drew: Urgent need, new product, get the messaging, it won’t have been researched, it may not have been but it’s as good as you can do in that moment and it felt that that the need. Isabelle, quick win?

Isabelle: There’s tactical ones and more strategic ones, I’m gonna go lower contrary. And I think the biggest quick win is, collaboration, listening to people, it’s that making a great first impression once you’re in, and then more tactically, yes, we’ve done some things to make some quick tweaks to the website that we knew would make a difference with what people were passionate about but more strategically, also, we’re working on a product launch right now. And I collaborated very closely with product very quickly. And I’m a huge part of that, from the get-go right from what 10 days in. And so I think there’s tactical and more strategic ways to have early wins..

Drew: Right. What makes sense about the new product, one is that it’s a new product, and it’s just rolling out and they’re new. So it’s a great thing to sort of be on the ground floor with. Jamie, anything else on the quick win department?

Jamie: So similar to Isabelle and this is more on the strategic side, the company was getting ready to launch a new product but there was still some work to be done on packaging and pricing, which also required some competitive intelligence. And I already had a go-to-market framework that I’ve used prior, so I knew exactly the data points that we needed to have. So I started to collect and gather and I became an active participant in the conversations around how to strategically activate this product but also the information that we needed to know in order to package, trade, and price it. I wasn’t too worried about the promotion side of it but that was just drawing upon my prior experience, which we all have, to be able to quickly contribute at a strategic level. On a more tactical level, I think one of the areas that any of us can really lean into is with our sales partners and the impact that we can have to move a deal forward. As I mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time in healthcare, so here at DexCare it’s been a little bit easier because I already have a network, I worked and partnered with some of the same accounts that this company is focused on that I did in a prior life. So I was able to quickly come in and share some knowledge around these different health systems. I could make introductions into the C-suite. Those were little things that I could quickly do that helped to build trust and credibility but also to show that I can help come in and partner with our commercial team on really moving deals forward.

Drew: Love it. Okay, well, we do on this show, always ask the question, what would Ben Franklin say and one of the things that you have heard in this is Isabelle talked about one-on-ones, first day, Bernd spoke about getting that weekly email out, building all those relationships, major listening tour, Isabelle did the same thing. So I think what Ben would say is, “Energy and persistence, conquer all things.” With that bit of wisdom. I’m now going to ask you three for your final words of wisdom for other CMOs when it comes to the first 90 days and if there’s any metrics that you think about on those things, feel free to add that, and let’s do it in reverse order. So Isabelle, final words of wisdom.

Isabelle: One is, take care of yourself, it’s very intense, so check in with yourself. I have it on my 90-day plan at the end of each month, “How am I doing? Am I burning out or am I taking care of myself?” And the second one is I forgot to mention this is very important if you can somehow get yourself invited to join the board meeting before you start, which is what happened to me from the day I was hired to the day I started, I had about a month and a half, they invited me to join, that was probably the single most invaluable thing because that was the business download right there.

Drew: Yes, exactly because suddenly, if you’re in the board meeting, you hear everything that’s important to the board and that’s pure gold. Okay, Bernd?

Bernd: Yeah, I think for me, a recommendation I would have is you only have so much time yourself in those 90 days. So figuring out where can you use external resources. For example, can you pull certain groups from the outside, external vendors who can do an audit of part of your organization that can accelerate your understanding, your assessment of your team, and of the processes and the function that’s going on that way, you can focus on certain things, you can offload some of the workload to someone else, and you’re much faster in combining those two efforts. Your second question on the metrics, I would say, one, understanding what matters to the business and understanding if you have the ability to measure those metrics today and if not, what can you do to put those in place. If they’re already there, just making sure that you trust the data that you’re seeing today.

Drew: Yes, which is an important caveat there. Can you trust the data? Okay, let’s see, Jamie, final words of wisdom?

Jamie: Building the trust with your key stakeholders so that you’re also building allies along the way, I think the more that you can communicate about what you’re going to be doing in those 90 days to help manage expectations, that’s going to be very important, because you’re also indirectly soliciting their input in support of giving you a little bit of time to understand the business but why that matters to day 91, day 92. But just being very clear as to what you’re planning to do and why that matters, but also to ask, “Hey, what could I do in the first 90 days to impact the business and have them as an active participant”, because then you are building the relationship. The other piece and this gets to what Isabel was saying, and taking care of yourself, I would also recommend that you build a very strong relationship with your Chief People Officer, because she’s going to be the one that wants to make sure that you’re taken care of as well, in addition to your CEO and others, but that’s going to be a really good sounding board in terms of the softer side of how you’re doing and you want to make sure that you do take care of that. Love it.

Drew: Alright, some wonderful advice for CMOs, starting first with those expectations. Get them set right and keep your priorities focused on the prize there. Listen, and take care of yourself along the way. Well, alright. To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio, we stream to my LinkedIn profile that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits
Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!