Building a roadmap to success, Part I

Apiary Digital recently surveyed a select group of performance marketing leaders—from startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between—to learn their secrets to success during the first 90 days in a new position. To capture the pearls of wisdom shared through this survey, we’ve created a blog series, “The First 90 Days.” This is the second of the multi-part series.

When asked what they do to achieve success during the first 90 days of a new marketing leadership position, the second-most common survey response at 73.9% was strategizing, planning, and building out a roadmap. If approached and built correctly, a roadmap can quickly help you earn trust in your new position. 

Purpose of a roadmap

A good marketing roadmap: 

  • Sets expectations for performance milestones—that is, what to expect from marketing and when
  • Clearly spells out the order of operations for how the previously agreed-upon marketing KPIs will be achieved
  • Defines what resources are needed to be successful (i.e., to hit major KPIs and milestones), including budget, people, technology, process, content and assets, and contingent milestones from other areas of the business, such as product or engineering 

Checklist: Before getting started

Now that you’ve got a solid understanding of what a roadmap is designed to achieve, it’s time to check some boxes. Completion of the following prior to starting the roadmap-building phase is strongly recommended:

✔ You’ve already tackled a quick win or two

✔ You’re clear on the business goals

✔ Key stakeholders agree on the high-level KPIs marketing is expected to deliver over an agreed-upon timeframe

✔ You’ve spent at least 2 weeks carefully listening to stakeholders, the existing team, and other leaders

Everything checked off the list? Then you’re ready to start building your roadmap!

73.9% of marketing leaders surveyed cited strategizing, planning, and then building out a roadmap as key to success during the first 90 days in a new position 

Building a roadmap

It’s always best to start with a foundation before building walls and a roof. Just like a child doesn’t developmentally start out running, crawling needs to happen first—then walking, and finally running. The crawl-walk-run analogy works great for roadmap-building:

  1. The Crawl phase answers the question: What can we actually accomplish in the next 30 days that will move the performance needle and build trust with stakeholders?
  2. The Walk phase answers two questions: How do we scale early wins to other parts of our marketing efforts? What do we need to do to be ready to sustain and scale growth?
  3. The Run phase answers: How do we establish a cadence of scaling performance and continual improvement?

This post covers phase I: Crawl—what your roadmap should achieve within the first 30 days. 

Business concept illustration of a businessman using his friend as a stepping stone to jump higher

The next 30 days – learning to crawl

You may be asking yourself about now: What can I actually accomplish in the next 30 days that will move the needle toward my KPI? Great question! Here are some things to consider when making that assessment for your own scenario.

Identify your strengths

There’s nothing like being completely honest with yourself about what you and your marketing team are good at, and what expertise and skills are lacking. One survey respondent had this to say…

“What are we doing well? I hear Meg Whitman asks this question because it reveals a lot about what we’re NOT doing well on.”

Identify your top-performing marketing channel (or channel most-likely to perform, if you’re starting from scratch), conduct an audit, and implement the low-hanging fruit changes.

Ecommerce example. Knowing the most important KPI for a major clothing brand was ROAS, an incoming marketing manager immediately identified 10 SKUs with the highest ROAS and identified Google Shopping as the biggest revenue-generating channel. 

Conversely, reach was an issue. The marketing manager then conducted an audit and found these top-10 products were only reaching a small percentage of the people searching for them. By separating the 10 products into their own campaign, the brand was able to funnel budget toward ensuring full coverage, increasing ROAS.

B2B example. The most important KPI for an international SaaS company’s marketing team was MQLs (marketing qualified leads). The new marketing director determined email marketing drove the highest-quality leads. Based on this, the paid social team implemented an audience-based retargeting strategy in their top revenue-driving country to build off existing email lists, dramatically increasing MQLs.

⚠ Pro-tip: You may be tempted and feel pressured to get started on a whole bunch of things that aren’t actually realistic to accomplish right away. Taking this route will dilute your efforts and ensure you get nothing done! Create a designated place for capturing ideas and share with your stakeholders so they know their ideas were heard and are being considered for a later date. By doing this you’ll buy yourself good will, patience, and more reasonable expectations from key stakeholders. Deliver a small win sooner versus trying to tackle too much at once.

Don’t forget the people factor

Equally important as your strategic roadmap is how you partner with other leaders within your new organization to gain buy-in and implement the roadmap. Based on Apiary’s survey, it’s clear successful marketing managers make a point to tackle the human side of the equation. One survey respondent had this to say: 

“How are the teams structured within the organization, what are the other teams’ responsibilities, and how can we facilitate open and healthy collaboration?”

This may be difficult in orgs that have entrenched ideas or politics, so put on a smile and bring out some bribes (no really, they work!). Bring donuts, host coffee breaks, treat people to lunch—of course all of this must be done with the true intention of listening and being empathetic. Taking the time to listen, being empathetic, and developing connections makes executing on a roadmap easier for everyone.

⚠ Pro Tip: Bring the group together by tackling an easy, early win. Plan to organize the group toward a small project that will have an outsized result everyone can celebrate. Don’t take individual credit for the success—give credit to each member of your project team.

Stay tuned for the next post in this content series when you’ll get some insight on the “walk” phase of roadmap-building.