November 25, 2021

A Play-By-Play for the First 90 Days 

Want to win in the CMO role? It’s all about that first 90 days. Three months’ worth of work that can pave the way for success. And at the executive level, CMOs don’t go in blindly—these master marketeers are dedicated to finding the quick wins to prove their savvy while ramping up for long-term success. 

In this episode, Dave Bornmann of Association AnalyticsJulie Kaplan of CareMetx, and Johnny Smith Jr. of Encompass Health describe their own approaches to the first 90 days at their current positions. Tune in to hear about the value of using those first few months to listen, to forge allyships, and to optimize the marketing department in a way that will boost both professional and organizational success.  

BONUS: Dave generously provided us with a draft of the 90 Day Plan he made while interviewing for his current role. A valuable resource for any CMO. Reach out if you want a copy!  

What You’ll Learn in This Episode 

  • How 3 CMOs approached their first 90 days 
  • How to build a strong marketing department  
  • Which allyships are the most important to establish in the first 90 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 268 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 

Time-Stamped Highlights 

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live! 
  • [1:25] Dave Bornmann’s 90 Day Plan 
  • [9:10] Julie Kaplan’s Long-Term and Fast-Start Plans 
  • [15:19] Johnny Smith’s Grand Listening Tour 
  • [23:54] Early Wins in the First 90 Days  
  • [29:18] On CMO Huddles  
  • [31:50] Building a Marketing Department  
  • [38:00] Forming Internal Allyships in the First 90 Days 
  • [44:11] Work/Life Balance: Setting an Example in the First 90 Days 
  • [50:50] Wisdom for CMOs in Their First 90 Days 

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Dave Bornmann, Julie Kaplan, and Johnny Smith, Jr.  

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live! 

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Drew here, recording a cold open from warm Florida—get it?—for another exciting episode of Renegade Marketers Unite! This one is from our live show featuring 3 CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community of B2B CMOs that share, care, and dare each other to greatness.  

On this insightful episode are Dave Bornmann of Association Analytics, Julie Kaplan of CareMetx, and Johnny Smith Jr. of Encompass Health. It was a pleasure to talk about the CMO’s first 90 days, a time when CMOs can make a splash with a quick win while working to scale up their marketing team’s efforts and build winning long-term strategies. I know you’re going to enjoy the show—give it a listen—and if you don’t, send me an email: 

[1:25] Dave Bornmann’s 90 Day Plan 

“I had my 90 Day Plan right out of the gate.” —@Davebornmann @AssocAnalytics Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m your host, Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. Now, perhaps you remember the day before your first day of high school. Maybe it was the 8th grade, way back when. If you’re anything like me, you had your supplies organized by class and momentarily, neatly placed into your backpack. You might even lay [out your clothes].  

The first day wardrobe had been carefully chosen to meet whatever image you hoped to project. That was the extent of the preparation. Mainly, the unconscious goal was to just get accepted by some portion of your classmates and perhaps avoid getting ridiculed by the cool kids. It’s a pins and needles moment fraught with peril, one that none of us would want to repeat again.  

Yet, it isn’t all that different from the first 90 days for a new CMO, a scenario that happens many times in the careers of most marketers today. You are likely to be judged by your peers almost as quickly as happened in high school. It sounds silly, but it’s true.  

Now here’s the big difference. Unlike a clueless freshman, savvy CMOs have a plan for the first 90 days, and those plans pave the way for the successful performance of the job. To understand those plans, we have three senior marketers—two of whom started the roles in 2021 and one who started in late 2019. The first 90 days is still fresh in all of their minds.  

With that, let’s bring on Dave Bormann, CMO of Association Analytics. Hi, Dave. How are you doing? 

Dave Bornmann: I’m good. Drew, how are you?  

Drew Neisser: I am good. Now, dare I ask you about the first day before the first day of school? Did you actually lay out your clothes? 

Dave Bornmann: You know, Drew, I think I might even go one step beyond that. Definitely in middle school, it could have been preparing for high school, I used to write down on a legal pad what I wore every day so that I wouldn’t repeat my outfits within two weeks of one another.  

Drew Neisser: See, that’s a level of compulsiveness I never had, but obviously you were a better dresser anyway. But let’s go back to January 2020, just before you started at Association Analytics. What did you do to prepare yourself for this new role? 

Dave Bornmann: Well, the first thing I did was develop a 90 Day Plan. I actually created that 90 Day Plan while I was interviewing, and I did it both to prepare for the interview, but honestly, I wanted to visualize for myself what things I would be doing in that new role and make sure that I was comfortable with it and it fit with where I wanted to be in this next step of my career.  

I was also a little lucky because I had spent the previous eight years in the same industry selling solutions into the association market. I had a good understanding of the market, of the personas, of the key issues they were facing. 

Developing that plan in advance was easier for me than it would have certainly been if I were walking into a new industry or company I didn’t quite understand the product set as well. It would have been a little more difficult. That said, I had my 90 Day Plan right out of the gate. 

The other thing I did, you actually had recommended a book to me called The First 90 Days. I read that book in advance. I would recommend it. It’s like a lot of business books. A lot of them, I don’t think have a ton of new insights, but it’s good to bring things into the forefront of your mind. I would recommend that book. There are a couple good tidbits in it.  

I was looking through it to see what I highlighted in advance of this call. One of the things was, “Hey, understand three of the most important things that your boss cares about and make sure that in every conversation you’re having with him or her, you’re bringing up those topics.”  

Another thing that was interesting in there, they had this little table that asked 15 different questions. At the end of it, you scored yourself and it gave you both where you tend to prefer to spend your time, but also it identified where your blind spots were. My blind spot as this table told me is exactly one of my blind spots. You kind of lose sense of what your blind spots are.  

Drew Neisser: That’s so smart. Yeah.  

Dave Bornmann: Yeah, having it brought to the fore was really good. And the last thing I did from a preparation perspective, I consumed every bit of content that Association Analytics had produced prior to my arriving.  

I read every e-book. I watched four or five of their most recent webinars. I read all their case studies. I mean, I wanted to understand going in, how they talked about themselves, what their customers found the value to them, and really be able to just hit the ground running on day one. 

Drew Neisser: You talk about the advantage that you had knowing the industry, because that’s often a big part of that first 90 days and the first 30 days and having to do a listening tour.  

I’m wondering—and the fact that you did your 90 Day Plan as part of your interview process—I wonder if you had to sort of tweak it a little bit once you got in there and said, “Oh, it’s not exactly the same!” I mean, as you started to go through that plan, did anything change? 

Dave Bornmann: You know what? Honestly, not so much really. Again, definitely a unique perspective having been in that industry for eight years, right? I know that’s unique. But when I looked back both at the 90 day mark, I looked back at my plan to see, okay, how did I do against this?  

And then even just yesterday, in preparation for this call, I looked back at it again. It was a good, solid plan. I did everything that I had intended to do. And I think it got me on a positive trajectory for my role. 

Drew Neisser: I get all of that, and thank you for referencing the book. I certainly enjoyed it. I actually found it a really good leadership book going way beyond the 90 days. I just thought the way they approached and thought about business and thought about what it means to be a leader was really interesting.  

I’m a bigger fan of that book than I expected to be. But I guess what I’m wondering is, understanding your boss’s three goals—did you share any part of your plan with your boss in advance? 

Dave Bornmann: In advance of my first day? 

Drew Neisser: Or let’s put it this way. First day on. Yeah. 

Dave Bornmann: I totally did. Literally in our first day, I took him through the plan. Maybe it was the second day, but it was definitely time measured in days. Obviously I wanted to make sure—even though I was confident coming from the industry—I did want to make sure I was on base and not missing something that was important or not understanding something about the company or products that I thought I understood. We went through it right out of the gate. 

[9:10] Julie Kaplan’s Long-Term and Fast-Start Plans 

“The long term plan: How to build a marketing department that generates value for the company. And then the fast start plan: What knowledge do I need to acquire to have a really well informed plan?” —Julie Kaplan @CareMetx Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring in Julie Kaplan, VP of Marketing at CareMetx LLC. Hi, Julie.  

Julie Kaplan: Hello.  

Drew Neisser: How you doing? 

Julie Kaplan: I am well. How are you? 

Drew Neisser: Okay, let’s talk about it—did you lay out your clothes before the first night of school? 

Julie Kaplan: Probably. I honestly don’t remember. It was a long time ago. 

Drew Neisser: You’re bluffing. Okay, fine, fine. Talk about—fast forward to your first day CareMetx—were you as prepared as Dave? Did you already have your 90 Day Plan? 

Julie Kaplan: I did. And I read the same book recommended by you. And like you and like Dave, it seems like I am a planner. I was brought to CareMetx to build a marketing department, so for me there were really two plans to think about. The long term plan: How to build a marketing department that generates value for the company. And then the fast start plan: What knowledge do I need to acquire to have a really well informed plan?  

So I broke that up into three bodies of knowledge. There’s the broad understanding of marketing and what you need to do to build a new department, an industry understanding and context which Dave had the benefit of already having covered, and the company specific understanding, which is really hard before you walk in the door.  

So for number one, the broad understanding, box checked. 20 years of experience or so is enough to get you started. Number two, then there’s the industry context. I had some of that because I’ve been in the same ecosystem where CareMetx lives, but I did have some knowledge gaps, so I took note of what those were.  

And luckily, there were some really good analyses that were shared with me in advance of day one, so I could incorporate that into my learning. I read as much as I could possibly think to and get my hands on.  

And then number three, there’s the company-specific understanding, the people-specific understanding you need to have to be successful in a company although there was a lot of insight I was able to glean through the interview process and from continuing conversations with my boss before I started.  

By identifying the knowledge that I had and identifying the gaps in knowledge, I started day one with the 90 Day Plan, but a lot of that was, how do I focus my attention on getting the learning I needed to, to have a really great long term plan, whatever long term means for marketing. 

Drew Neisser: So a lot of planning went into that. And I love the idea of the long term and the fast start plan. How did you figure out which one you were going to spend your time on? 

Julie Kaplan: I honestly spent a lot of time trying to engage with people in the company and learn the history of the company so I didn’t make those kinds of mistakes, like of undoing things that people had worked hard to build up. 

I really spent a lot of time trying to figure out, you know, focus on the key points I needed to understand about the company, how the company operated, the company culture, the people who had the most influence and would be the most helpful. That’s where I spent a lot of my time and energy. 

Drew Neisser: So looking back on those first three months, what did you do that really sort of helped you get past those? What were one or two things that really helped? 

Julie Kaplan: I’m sorry, get past…? 

Drew Neisser: After you got past those first three months?  

Julie Kaplan: Oh, after I got past the first three months. That’s a good question. I mean, I felt like I was learning all the time and making adjustments to the plan all the time. I really just refocused all of my attention on the plan, making plan adjustments, and that’s really where I spent most of my time. 

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay. As you’re thinking about this, one of the things that I really like is, yeah, the long term plan and the fast start plan. And I think that that’s so important in these first 90 days, because there is an expectation. “Okay, Julie, you’re on the job. You’ve been here three months. What’s happening?” How much pressure was there on you and how did you handle and deflect the first three months’ pressures. “Okay marketing, show us that you can do something.”  

Julie Kaplan: Right. There is a lot of pressure, and there’s a lot of misconceptions about how long it takes to produce something in marketing. I felt almost every day that I was making really, really good progress on the behind-the-scenes kind of marketing building that you need to do—identifying the right technology, putting playbooks in place.  

But none of those are things that other people see, so I had to find something that was visible to the company, that felt valuable to my colleagues that I could do relatively quickly. And as it turned out, our company had never sent an email to clients. A corporate email about products and services. I got that up and running and that felt like a good win to a lot of people because we got something out the door that we needed. 

Drew Neisser: There you go. Sometimes it’s as simple as an email to customers.  

[15:19] Johnny Smith’s Grand Listening Tour 

“How does the dollar flow through the organization and who are the target customers that we're trying to reach every day? That was extremely valuable for me to best understand.” —@johnnysmithjr @encompasshealth Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s welcome Johnny Smith, Jr., VP of Marketing Services at Encompass Health, and star of Episode 233 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hey, Johnny, how are you? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Hi, Drew. How are you doing? 

Drew Neisser: I am great. Thank you. I won’t embarrass you by asking about whether or not you laid out your clothes for school. But I will ask you, you are the only one of the three who started in their role before the pandemic in December 2019. How helpful was it to you thinking back on it that your first three months were in the office 100% of the time? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: It was outstanding, Drew. Completely outstanding. It was our old normal, and it really helped a lot. I mean, it allowed me to truly appreciate the value of a face-to-face interaction. When you’re new to an organization, and new to the entire city and state, and new to the South East, there’s a lot to learn about just the culture, the community, but also the culture of the organization as well.  

You have to first take your time to listen to all your respective team members. We’re a 40,000 person organization; I have a large team. It takes a lot of time to get to know people and really understand who they are, what makes them click, what they are doing well, what’s not working, things of that nature.  

The second piece that we really looked at, from my standpoint was to understand all the key players here. There are a lot of individuals leading many, many different departments. I want to understand what their roles are, how they have interfaced with marketing in the past, how they’ve interfaced with what they see as valuable for marketing from our standpoint. I thought it was important that I understand and listen to my team, and secondly, understand and appreciate the alliances that were created within the respect of key leaders, my peers across the organization.  

I think the third thing that I really looked at here is to understand the direction of the company and the strategic objectives of the company as well. How does the dollar flow through the organization and who are the target customers that we’re trying to reach every day? That was extremely valuable for me to best understand.  

What I’m saying to you is, the first three steps of everything that I did was about listening and asking questions. It wasn’t about articulating a vision, it wasn’t about articulating the marketing plan, it wasn’t about redesigning your team. It was first to listen to these different groups, your own people, your key peers across the company, and understanding the strategic direction where the company is going.  

And I think the fourth and fifth—and I want to touch on these because I think it’s relevant for the discussion—is that that’s when I then set our vision. I set the culture that I was going to create. A company, a marketing department, marketing enterprise built on value. That’s when I set my guiding principles for our department that we would all follow by.  

Then the fifth step was then, how do we create and redesign the team to align with that vision, that vision of truly building the brand, the vision of enhancing the digital experience, and the vision of being a customer focused organization built on research.  

Once we were able to identify what that vision is, we aligned our team to that vision and we had to make some difficult changes to actually get there. And then from here on out, it’s been mostly focused on building. It’s time to keep building the team, building and growing the team, so we can get to that North Star that we’re trying to achieve.  

And as we build, it’s important that we continue to assess: Do we have the right expertise within our operation either through staff resources or outside agency support that comes and helps us accomplish our overall strategic objectives? 

Drew Neisser: You’ve laid out a lot and I want to go back to your first three steps. There was one in there that you mentioned that I think was so important. You mentioned, understand how the dollars flow. And I think it was more, it was both in understanding of where the money comes from for marketing, but I think you were really saying understanding how the business makes money.  

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Bingo. Exactly. 

Drew Neisser: Boy, I gotta tell you. That just feels so right. The next part of this in those first three, which we’ll call the Grand Listening Tour, how long do you give yourself for that? And then I want to come back to, again, another thing that you said. Just for the listening portion and understanding your key players… 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: I gave myself around 60 days just for that. Just 60 days of, to use your terminology “listening tour,” internal team, your alliances across your other department heads across the company, and then, of course, understanding of the strategic objectives and how the money flows through the organization. 

Drew Neisser: The other thing that you mentioned that’s so important and that comes up in the book is building allies. Figuring out who are your allies, and who, frankly, probably aren’t. That’s so important, because there might be people who could be roadblocks, but marketing is a team sport, not just within marketing, but within the whole organization. If you don’t have allies, you’re not going to be very effective.  

Alright, I know, I’m stating the obvious to you, but I also want to just sort of put a punctuation point on the 60 days because I have certainly experienced the other end where I have seen CMOs come in in the first month and throw work away and throw things away before they even have a real understanding of the business.  

I’m always flabbergasted at that, at the potential. And the pressure is on to show quick returns, I get that. But what you talked about is setting a vision and having a plan. I just, again, go back to this notion of, you can’t do that without spending the time building it.  

If we talk about the vision and setting that, then it’s obviously on to the team. Was there anything within all of that that was particularly challenging for you or created a surprising situation? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Well, I would say this. When you’re casting your vision out, sometimes it’s difficult for your team to truly understand what you’re actually articulating. I took a very strategic and intentional approach on bringing people along through that vision, through our guiding principles.  

And I spoke a lot about this in our Episode 233. You had me break them down one by one, so I don’t want to go through all of them. But you can definitely watch Episode 233, because it really focused on those.  

It really gave people an understanding of the role that they play in the behaviors they’re going to have to implement if they want to see this department for the future. This was a department that I had to build from the ground up. It was three different functions separated by three different leaders, and they brought those functions together.  

Well, those three functions still didn’t make a marketing department. I had to actually create a marketing department. And it started with a marketing department based on research and understanding the business, understanding how we connect to the overall business.  

It wasn’t a department focused on it before, it was more of a tactical solution-based function where the squeaky wheel gets the oil, right? Whoever barked the loudest, we gave them their food. We had to change that mentality because that’s not necessarily—that’s value in serving a customer but is that value in actually moving the needle on helping the company grow? 

And that’s what marketing has to continue to do, is making certain that we’re moving beyond just supporting our peers across the board. It’s keeping our eye focused on that key stakeholder group and helping them actually consume our services or our programs or our product that we’re promoting. 

Drew Neisser: Yes, we are here to do a little bit more. We are here to be, as marketers, to get the word out that we have a brand and we have services and all those other good things.  

[23:54] Early Wins in the First 90 Days 

“My quick win wasn't an actual project, it was the vision.” —@johnnysmithjr @encompasshealth Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring Dave and Julie back. I want to go back to this idea of early win. Julie’s already mentioned her email early win, but I’m wondering, Dave, did you think about early wins? You were all ready with your plan. 

Dave Bornmann: I certainly did. My plan, by the way, had 30 days of the listening tour as well. I wasn’t presumptuous enough to think I knew what to do. Listening was for 30 days, I just had a jumpstart because I had spent time in the industry.  

My early win I was not planning on. But what happened is our biggest competitor was acquired by the largest technology provider in our space. The reason they did that was to cross sell services. When that acquisition happened within just a few weeks of my arrival; that always creates tumult within an organization.  

We knew there was going to be a period of time where they were trying to figure out how to ingest that new company. But we also knew, as soon as they got through that process, they were going to probably start bundling services in and trying to get all the existing accounts to cross sell our competitor, so we really felt like we needed to move really quickly to get some campaign out, to get ahold of these customers or prospects prior to them getting swooped up with this new competitor.  

We developed a three part email campaign and put together content assets that we thought were relevant. We knew the pain points of the people who had this technology that was part of the acquiring company. We had all the pieces we needed, and we just ran with it. That was probably near the 30 day mark. My plan didn’t have me doing anything until the 60 to 90 day window.  

So it was my listening tour, then it was developing my content plan, developing my marketing plan, developing my messaging—all that stuff had to get pushed to the side and we had to just jump in and do this campaign. It actually—we’re a startup. There are 35 of us now. 

I was a marketing department of two. Our marketing prior was just content driven and webinars and in-person events. Prior to that, the company had never run a lead gen campaign. We jumped in, targeted these customers, ran a campaign, had the sales team start getting some responses to it.  

And on the weekly sales call, you’d start having some conversations where they mentioned, “Oh, yeah. So-and-so reached out to me from that campaign.” That’s always good when you’ve got the sales team talking about it.  

Actually, I was literally just looking prior to the call—one of the people in that campaign became a customer of ours last month, which is about 90 day sales cycle, which is really good. We’re an enterprise software platform, so closing a deal in 90 days is good news. That was a good win for us. Again, not planned at all, but just had to be responsive to what was happening in the market.  

Drew Neisser: Yeah, exactly. And that’s really what—the landscape changes and you have to be able to change. You can’t say, “Hey, by the way, just hang out there. We’ll be with you in a second.” No, sometimes you just have to jump in.  

Johnny, I’m curious, in your case, because we talked about it’s a methodical process. Where did you see or was a quick when a part of what you’re thinking? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Yes, it definitely was. But my quick win wasn’t an actual project, it was the vision. The organization was actually looking for a strategic direction and a vision for the marketing department. That was the win.  

They wanted to know where we’re headed and, more importantly, the value that we deliver. That’s what the organization initially wanted. We want a leader in this place has done it before, that’s going to take us to where we know we need to go. And some of this, the leadership was asking, you know, “We’re putting this in your hands. We’re letting you set your vision. We’re going to give you full support. You’ve got to be able to demonstrate to us the value of marketing and we’ll back it as long as it makes true strategic business sense.”  

And that was the initial win. From there, once you know you get the backing, you can tackle many campaigns, many strategies, many tactics, things of that nature. But I think it’s always important from a marketing standpoint—at least from an organization my size and scope—outline what you want to accomplish first and build allies around you who are going to support that. They needed that. 

Drew Neisser: Right, because you were really presenting marketing as a very different function in the organization. You had to do that and say, “We’re changing, this is the change, and you’re either you’re either with us or this isn’t what’s gonna happen.” Part of that, obviously, is you need a boss who’s totally behind you too with that.  

[29:18] On CMO Huddles 

“I feel like I can have a place to go when I need some advice, counsel, new ideas, and they come out of those huddles every month.” —@davebornmann @AssocAnalytics on @CMOHuddles Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re going to switch gears for a second because this is the moment where if you don’t mind, I’d like to plug CMO Huddles for a second. CMO Huddles was launched in 2020. It’s an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.  

One CMO described huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. 

If you’re a B2B CMO that needs a way to save time and make better more informed decisions, visit or send me an email to see if you qualify for a guest pass. So Dave, Johnny, Julie, anybody want to—how does that match with your experience with CMO Huddles? 

Julie Kaplan: It’s consistent with my experience. I feel very fortunate to be a member of CMO Huddles. I’ve been exposed to new technology and strategies and I can apply them much faster and smarter because I get to learn from my fellow huddlers. Many times I feel, just by listening, I’ve tripled my experience. 

Drew Neisser: That is awesome. I love to hear that. Dave, any thoughts? 

Dave Bornmann: I completely echo everything Julie said. For me, there’s also a sense of you’re not alone. A lot of the things you struggle with—as you’re sitting in that top seat, everyone’s turning you for answers, and you just don’t have all the answers, right? You never do. But sometimes your peers do. I feel like I can have a place to go when I need some advice, counsel, new ideas, and they come out of those huddles every month. It’s really, really valuable. 

Drew Neisser: Thank you. And Johnny, anything to add on that?  

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Yeah, I would definitely echo Dave and Julie. I think it’s best to surround yourself around people that are smarter than you. And believe me, there’s a lot of people on that CMO Huddle that’s a lot smarter than Johnny Smith. 

Drew Neisser: I don’t know about that, but I will tell you that what I love seeing—we actually had a huddle today and what I love seeing is some of these Fortune 500 CMOs talking to each other and taking notes. You know that they’re also saying the same thing, which is “We don’t know everything. We can’t possibly know everything.”  

[31:50] Building a Marketing Department  

“We had no team in place when I started.” —Julie Kaplan @CareMetx Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’ve talked about—and Johnny, you mentioned this—one of the critical steps is often building your team. You mentioned that you didn’t have necessarily the right team in the place. Let’s talk a little bit about what you did to sort of reorganize, and then how did you make it all work? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Yeah, well, first, you have to obviously assess the talent that you have around the team. And luckily, we had a lot of good tenured employees here at Encompass Health that were doing a lot of great work. They just needed to have a new direction, which they needed to focus.  

The first thing we did is that I planted around us, like I want to be a department based on customer market intelligence, so that’s the first discipline that I want to build. I created a Customer Market Intelligence Team and that team is supposed to look at all of our hospital markets across the country, understand who our customers are, what makes them tick, and how can we change their behavior with our strategic marketing. You need to do research for any marketing plan, so you’ve got to have your research team in place. 

The second thing I looked at was our brand marketing team. I went out and recruited a former colleague that I worked with at a previous health system as well to run that department. The brand marketing team consists of our graphic designers, our videographers, what we call our regional marketing managers, which are equivalent to like a product manager, as well as one of the most important one—our project management team.  

The project management team is the glue that holds it all together from all the media bind to all of the various departments working together to the interactions throughout the field. Because we have 140 hospitals across 40 states.  

Another key discipline that we created is digital marketing. When I first started we had just one person providing website updates. This is for a multi-billion dollar institution, which is a Fortune 500 company. So when you think about that you got one person on the website, you have to build that team.  

I went out and recruited a digital marketing director and she comes from the managed care space and did a lot with the CDC, etc., and really gave her the freedom and flexibility to build her vision, build her team. Now we’re about 11 or 12 people for that team right now.  

Drew Neisser: I want to stop you for a second because I already know Julie and Dave are going, “Oh my god, I would love to have that kind of a team.” Because they’re in the startup land. But for the listeners, what I want to emphasize—and this has been so… in some of the interviews I’ve done of late, particularly with companies that do have an established budget, there’s a tendency sometimes to hire junior, because you want to sort of come in under budget and so forth.  

But the more junior you hire, the more it falls on you. To the extent that you can, hire as senior as you possibly can and rationalize on your budget. But I’m interested now with Julie and Dave, you started out with departments of like one or two. How did you go about thinking about expanding your team knowing that you’re not going to be able to get 5, 6, 7 senior direct reports, but what have you been able to do so far? 

Julie Kaplan: I’ll admit, I was most worried about this. We had no team in place when I started. Many of my fellow huddlers, as you mentioned, discussed the difficulty in finding great talent specifically for the positions that I had identified that were critical to getting a startup marketing department up and running, which is marketing operations and a content developer. I’m thrilled to say that both of those positions have been filled and they give me reason daily to be optimistic about what our small but mighty team will be able to accomplish for CareMetx. 

Drew Neisser: So you’ve been able to hire. How about you, Dave? 

Dave Bornmann: Well, first of all, my team of two—me and the other person—resigned after my two weeks on the job. That was a little bit of a challenge. I have to say, I filled that role—everything happens for a reason—with a superstar, so I couldn’t be happier.  

We’re a team of two, we’re hiring our third right now. It’s one of the hardest jobs of course, because it’s marketing ops. But where we are, I don’t really need a full time marketing ops person. To make my hire more difficult, I really want part marketing ops experience and part digital marketing experience.  

Six months from now, they are probably going to be two roles, but right now, I have one role. I’m actively trying to find it. We have a really good candidate. Still looking. But anything with marketing ops is just hard. We talk about that in the huddles all the time.  

I laid out in my plan, but also revisit this frequently with my boss, who’s the President and Chief Revenue Officer—three to five people in the first 12 months. So here I am with my marketing ops/digital marketer, hopefully. Product marketing is next, and content.  

I’ve been able to outsource content; I found a really good resource who knows the association space, was in the association space herself, and she’s now a consultant. I’ve been outsourcing that, but I desperately want my own person sitting in a chair. Not in the budget yet. I’m hoping that’s in the January timeframe.  

And then that product marketing role, you know, it’s just really, really important. That’s the next one. I’m also hoping I can do that maybe first quarter of next year. But you’re right in that, when Johnny was talking, I was salivating.  

Drew Neisser: Yeah, no, I could feel that.  

[38:00] Forming Internal Allyships in the First 90 Days 

“You've got to understand what's happening within the sales channel, not just with the Sales VP.” —@Davebornmann @AssocAnalytics Share on X

Drew Neisser: Johnny, we talked a little bit about allies and so forth. I’m curious—when you sort of started to build across, where did you look and what allies did you seek in particular? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know Julie and Dave will agree with me on this—you first go to IT right. You gotta meet with your IT department. That’s the very first thing. I knew that digital marketing will be a focus, so I wanted to meet with our IT department.  

The second thing, because we’re a publicly traded company, you have to sit across the table from legal. That was a priority for me, to sit down with our Chief Legal Officer, and learn about what I can and can’t do frankly.  

Another department that I really looked at, of course, is our finance. I knew I was going to be asking for a budget for this upcoming budget cycle because I joined the organization at the end of the actual budget cycle. End of the year. So we’re on a calendar year budget. I joined at the end of the year, so the budget was already created for me when I walked through the door.  

I was meeting with our finance team and planning for actually 2021 because 2020 was already allocated. That was interesting, and then also, because a big focus of our team, of our organization is on growth and it’s about setting up joint venture partnerships or growing to new markets across the country, I sat down with our development team, which is focused on a lot of mergers and acquisitions to best understand what their strategies are, what research they’re looking at, and where we’re headed for the future. I wanted to look at the strategy. I needed to meet with our IT team, legal, and finance. 

Drew Neisser: Interesting, interesting. And Dave, Julie, where did you go first from an allyship standpoint? I know, again, we’re dealing with small group groups, but what was your first ally outside of your boss? 

Julie Kaplan: I focused on the people team. That’s where marketing communications happened before I started. There wasn’t a marketing department but that’s where marketing communications happened. And also, knowing that there was a marketing department of one that would need to be tripled, it was an important relationship to establish.  

We want to make sure that we have a very strong corporate culture, so it was important to me and continues to be important to me that the messages that occur internally are pulled through every communication that we have.  

The product team, I wanted to make sure that we established a good strong relationship with the product team because we needed to have a lot of knowledge transfer from them to us. With a relatively early stage company, there wasn’t a lot of documentation, so we did need to have conversations about process and how to move information about products to us.  

And then of course, the customer success team and the sales team. To me, those are long term relationships that we need to maintain. 

Drew Neisser: Interesting, and a different order. And of course, it’s going to depend on your organization. Dave, what was your order? 

Dave Bornmann: Number one was sales for sure. That’s always for me where I start. Being in marketing for as long as I have as an old person, I understand the importance of brand. I just launched a new brand purpose. I’m all in on brand.  

At the end of the day, though, in B2B, it’s sales. You’ve got to understand what’s happening within the sales channel, not just with the Sales VP. He’s absolutely the ally that I needed to develop first and foremost and I’m still nurturing that relationship.  

Product is probably a close second, but sales, the sales executive—but for me, again, a start up, it’s a small organization. We have a sales team of, I think, seven reps right now reporting into the VP of Sales.  

I’m developing those relationships as well. I just need to know what’s happening, where the rubber hits the road, and there’s no better way to help me as a marketer than to understand what’s happening there. That’s where I’ve been focusing my building of allies. 

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it makes so much sense. What was interesting, it came up in the huddle the other day about, you know, as a CMO, you want to be able to report your numbers and you want to go say to the board or your CEO in some special presentation…  

You want to say, “Hey, we’re doing great. We’re filling the pipeline.” And what was so interesting is, if you say that too enthusiastically, then the board will say to the sales guy, “So why aren’t you closing? Is there a problem with sales?”  

This alignment was sales is so critical, on every level. From a numbers standpoint, how you’re going to measure it, what is a lead all of these things. And getting that early on is just so, so critical.  

Well, there’s another expert that is always with us on this show. His name is Benjamin Franklin and of course, this is the moment where we ask, “What would Ben Franklin say?”  

Tried to go deep on this one so stay with me: “Let us beware of every word and action that may betray a confidence in its success lest we render ourselves ridiculous in case of disappointment.”  

I think what he’s kind of saying is, under-promise, over-deliver. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. And so in those first three months, we’ve all talked already about listening and being careful about what you say, but there is a point where marketing does have to make some commitments, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be month one. I think that’s what Franklin is confident about.  

[44:11] Work/Life Balance: Setting an Example in the First 90 Days 

“The team is looking for you for direction and they're going to follow the lead that you set forth.” —@johnnysmithjr @encompasshealth Share on X

Drew Neisser: I want to ask sort of a personal question. I know that when I start something new, I put a ton of time into it. I really don’t stop until my body just gives up and says you got to stop. I’m wondering for, particularly Dave and Julie… You’re new on the job, you’re not commuting. Are you putting in crazy hours that you might have not put in because you don’t have to commute? 

Dave Bornmann: Yes. I mean, for me, there a couple things that are unique in my situation. One is I hadn’t been working for the previous six months. I was ready. I just wanted to dig in. There’s so much to do.  

There’s just so much to do and that’s part of the reason I was hired. I knew what it looks like. I knew where we’re headed. I knew what we need to do. And we just need to do it. I worked more hours in my first 90 days than I have in 20 years, to be honest.  

But this is the thing. I loved it. I still love it. I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be in my career right now. It didn’t feel like work to me. I mean, I was just doing it. Is it long term sustainable? Absolutely not. I’m not working right now as many hours as I was those first 90 days, but those first 90 were out of control. 

Drew Neisser: Got it? How about you, Julie?  

Julie Kaplan: Ditto.  

Drew Neisser: I asked because here’s part of the challenge. When your employees see and realize that you’re answering emails at four in the morning and they’re getting emails from you at six or seven or eight or nine o’clock at night, unless you’re clever and do send later kind of things… They’re going to see that and they’re going to think, “Oh my god, this person is a workaholic. I got to do that too.”  

And I want to mention something that I heard in a huddle that just blew me away. Recruiters are now saying, don’t use the term “fast-paced environment” in your ads. That’s a signal to Gen Z and Millennials—it’s a sweatshop. I thought that was so fascinating. Don’t put “fast-paced environment” yet you are doing that.  

So I’m just wondering—crazy hours, unhealthy signal to your team. There may be a question in there. It could be just me ranting. But how are you doing? Johnny? Maybe you can address this now because you’re in the health world. But mental health is an issue.  

It’s hard enough when you’re working remotely. What are you doing particularly early on to make sure there’s a little bit of balance between your energy and eagerness and what you are asking of the team? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Yeah, I think the key is that, you’re right. The team is looking for you for direction and they’re going to follow the lead that you set forth. I fell into the trap as well because we relocated to Birmingham and for three months, I was flying back and forth on Fridays back to my family, my wife and my two sons.  

So I’m sitting in this temporary housing, and I’m bored out of my mind. What do I do? I pull out my laptop and I start working. What I noticed is that there were members of my team that saw my little green dot on through Outlook. And then they would come to work and say, “I noticed you were on late last night.”  

What I started to do was this—I need to be mindful of that because I don’t want to set that expectation that this is what you have to do. And that’s not the leader I want to be. So if I needed to do things at home throughout that first three months while my family was still at our other location, I would download things and have various reading materials that I would do on my own time. That way if I wanted to do this personally on my time, that’s what Johnny wanted to do. There was no expectation set for anyone else on my team. 

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I tell you one of the things I do, it’s such an easy trick is I do send later on all my weekend and evening emails. My team knows I’m doing this, so they know that they’re gonna get emails at about 8:15 every morning. But it is at least respecting their time. It’s funny, I don’t know if they’re seeing the the green light on Outlook, and I try not to be on Slack on the weekends on for that reason.  

Dave Bornmann: Drew, I was just gonna say, I was talking to my employee about this today. I was just checking on this because we were having this part of the discussion. And one of the things she said to me is, “It’s important to walk the walk and talk the talk.”  

So while I was working really hard those first 90 days and I still work a lot now, I give her and me—get the job done. No matter when you’re going to do it. Work/life balance is important. This summer, I had to take my son to work to his first summer job. That was 20 minutes in the middle of the day out and back and 20 minutes at the end the day.  

So we’d be on a call and it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I got to go. I’m sorry, I got to take Sid out.” That’s a signal to them that it’s okay that you have this balance, that other things are important. And as long as you’re doing that, they see that and understand that as well. I think that’s important to make sure you’re showing that the expectation isn’t around the clock. 

Drew Neisser: As I’m thinking about it and I’m thinking of CMOs that I’ve seen in their first 90 days. And there are some of them, it’s like a whirling dervish. The energy and the pressure that they’re putting on their employees is as intense as the pressure they’re putting on themselves.  

That might have been good two years ago, or three years ago, when you could just sort of—I don’t know, right now, given the fact that there’s so many, certainly under 30 folks who were making the YOLO choice and saying, “I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to work in that environment. You’re driving me crazy. You got too much stress going on.”  

I think this is really a hard moment for the new CMO. You have a ticking clock. But at the same time, you got to bring your team along. It’s really, just add that to the list of challenges. Thank you, pandemic, for that.  

[50:50] Wisdom for CMOs in Their First 90 Days 

“When you get to those victories and wins, make sure you celebrate those that help you get there. Those are usually the people that you work next to.” —@johnnysmithjr @encompasshealth Share on X

Drew Neisser: So, quickly, Julie, Dave, if you had a do-over. Anything you would do differently in the first 90 days? 

Julie Kaplan: I would just meet more people. I mean, I met as many as I could. I would make the listening tour as long and as thoughtful as possible. And perhaps I’d take better notes than I did. 

Drew Neisser: Take better notes. Dave? 

Dave Bornmann: I’d say the same thing. And the listening tour, which was the first 30 days, I mean, you’re just talking everybody, you’re on calls, you’re on demos. And then your next 30 days, you’re starting to do your plan stuff.  

I need to get back and do more listening, even in the 60 to 90 day, but even today, I need to be talking to more customers and on more sales calls than I am, like I did for my first 30 days, but then it got crazy. This is a good forcing function for me to make sure that’s gonna happen. 

Drew Neisser: And Johnny, I know, it’s a long time since your first 90 days because you’ve been there a year, more than a year and a half. But if you got to do over? Anything you’d do differently? 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: I would say this. Figure out where to park and where the restrooms are located in the building. 

Drew Neisser: That’s hilarious. Now, since this will be both a podcast and the show, I’m wondering if each of you could offer one final bit of wisdom for CMOs in their first 90 days. Johnny, let’s start with you. 

Johnny Smith, Jr.: Final thought I would say is be patient. I think that’s key. That was for me. To be patient and know that this is a journey. And there’s going to be many victories and wins along that journey. And when you get to those victories and wins, make sure you celebrate those that help you get there. Those are usually the people that you work next to. 

Drew Neisser: So even if your boss isn’t patient, you better be. I love that. All right, Julie, one final word. 

Julie Kaplan: I don’t think I can say it better than Johnny. But here’s what I’ll say. Talk to and learn from as many of your new colleagues as you possibly can and external colleagues as well. 

Drew Neisser: And Dave. 

Dave Bornmann: I’m big on the sales channel as a source of information. And what I’d say that I did initially is not just talk to the Sales VP and not just interview or talk to the sales reps. But something that pandemic made much easier is participating in sales calls, even as a silent observer.  

Be on as many calls as you can. Not just with the best reps. A lot of times they’ll want you with the best reps to hear what they’re saying, but be on the call with the average reps and even the underperforming reps, because that’s where you can really hear, again, where the rubber hits the road.  

How’s the messaging working? How’s that demo going? How’s that sales presentation working? And when you ask the questions, you can’t always get it articulated in a way that’s useful. But when you’re on those calls, and you do, let’s say, 20 of them, you start hearing things that are trends that can really help inform you as you go back and start putting together your plan or adjusting your plan or adjusting your messaging.  

Talk to the sales team all the way up and down the ladder.  

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I love that point, Dave. I would push it even one further. After you’ve listened to those 20, do one of them yourself. Just put yourself out there and make yourself try to sell with the proposition that you have. Okay, thank you, Dave, Julie, Johnny, you’re all great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us.  

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey. Our intern is Sam White, our botanical expert is Nicole Hernandez. For show notes and past episodes, please visit, home of quite possibly the savviest marketing boutique in New York City. I’m your host, Drew Neisser, and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.