First 60 Days in the C-suite: How to Set Yourself Up for Success

Martech Podcast: Part 2

The elusive C-suite is a powerful and exciting place to be. It’s a difficult level to reach and perhaps even more difficult to remain at – especially in the role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). According to research by SpencerStuart, CMOs have the highest turnover rate in the C-suite, remaining in the role for only 3.3 years on average.

Counteracting this stigma and laying the foundation for a successful and long-lasting tenure as CMO starts with the first 60 days. The first months in a leadership position are critical to setting the tone for your future with the organization. Having a well-designed plan for those first few months can help to establish clear priorities, align your team, and make meaningful progress toward strategic goals. 

This is a subject that Totango’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Karen Budell is well-versed in since she stepped into this role with the company. Karen has a unique story as she joined Totango right after the company updated its positioning narrative and completed a brand refresh. Among her first initiatives, she combined two separate marketing teams into one cohesive unit. On a recent episode of the MarTech Podcast, Karen talked about her first 60 days at Totango and the steps she took to ensure a smooth transition and set herself and her newly united team up for success. Here are three of Karen’s top tips for CMOs to have a successful first two months. Check out the full episode to hear her unique story and advice for crushing the first few months as a CMO.



1.  Practice the “team one” principle 

The “Team One” principle is essential for everyone in leadership roles to remember. It is a reminder that the most important team is not your team; it is the executive team. For example, a CMO doesn’t just solve marketing problems — but business problems, too. CMOs can’t focus solely on the marketing team; rather, they must focus on how they can work with and support their cross-functional peers to increase growth, profitability, and other business goals.

“It’s so easy for us leaders to focus on our team. We’re invested in their growth, their development, and their impact on the business — but that’s Team Two. I think sometimes we focus too much on our team at the expense of our peers, role as a business leader, and driving that next stage of growth,” Karen said. “I was intentional about making time for one-on-ones or informal chats with my peers. But, I also need the ability to send a quick text message or call someone without time-on-schedule, and that flexibility comes gradually with investing in that relationship and getting to know your peers as people and the role that they play in your business. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for CMOs in the first 60 days to make sure that they’re carving out intentional time [to cultivate new relationships] with peers.”


2. Invest time in building intentional relationships with your peers 

As we’ve all learned over the past couple of years, it is much more difficult to form relationships and build trust with your peers in a remote or hybrid environment. However, that doesn’t mean those relationships are any less important. Take time to find out what makes your peers tick. Learning what they enjoy outside of work, their talents or hobbies, etc., is an important part of building trust and establishing critical cross-functional relationships necessary for mutual success.

“I loved getting a sense of history from talking to my peers when we first met. It’s a really great way to learn where I might step on some inadvertent hot topics, so I ask each colleague about their experience at the company, previous companies, what they’re most proud of, and what challenges they’re still trying to overcome. Those are great ways to build some trust,” Karen said. 

“And then,” she said, “be vulnerable. Share some of your own past struggles — or one thing that you’re unsure of. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think those are great ways to build some trust at the beginning of a relationship. And then share some quick wins, too, highlighting your own or your team’s past contributions that benefitted the organization or overall business.”


3. Establish a flexible plan and set expectations 

Before you even walk in the door on your first day as a CMO or C-suite leader, have a flexible plan for tackling your first 30, 60, and 90 days in the role. Consider your approach to learning all of the ins and outs of the product or service, getting to know your peers and customers, and developing specific goals and strategies for your team. Then, be intentional and clear with your peers and team about your expectations and strategy for the first few months.

“My first 30-day goal was to learn and get to know the team and my peers on Team One. I clearly articulated my goal to spend as much time as possible with customers and the market — especially in having analyst conversations. I set the expectation [with analysts] that they would hear back from me in 60 days and/or 90 days with an update on my assessment of not only our team and our brand but how the market was perceiving Totango with some insights and recommendations,” Karen said. 

“Set expectations and don’t be afraid to decline meetings in the beginning. I think it’s so important to learn and connect the dots,” she said. “We’re so eager to get exposure to so many people at the start of our new role. I caution you to be mindful of your calendar. Time is precious, and those first 30 and 60 days are going to fly by.”


Set yourself up for success

The first 60 days as a CMO are an exciting and important time. By remembering the Team One principle, building those critical peer relationships, having a plan, and setting expectations, you can pave the way for a smooth transition, effective teamwork, and progress toward your strategic goals.

Want to make the transition even smoother? Learn how Totango can help you get a comprehensive picture of your customers’ health and foster strong cross-functional relationships for business growth and success.


Topics: , , , , ,
Share Post:

    Get the latest in customer success best practices

    Ready to get started?

    Learn how Totango can help you achieve your customer success goals.