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Marketing Strategy
min read
April 5, 2024

Sink or Swim? Your First 90 Days as Head of Content

Parthi Loganathan
CEO of Letterdrop, former Product Manager on Google Search

You're starting at ground zero at a new company. It can be scary. You'll need to prove yourself all over again, even if you've previously held the Head of Content title. The marketing landscape is ever-changing and often unforgiving, so old tactics from your previous company aren't guaranteed to work.

Creating a 30-60-90-Day plan can set you up for success. It lets you focus on measurable goals that showcase early wins and immediately prove your value.

Winging it at a new job and relying solely on old practices can sink you — your content is misguided, you fail to hit targets, and you get fired.

Actionable Goals for Days 1-15

Starting a new role is like being dropped in the ocean. You need to orient yourself first and figure out which direction land is before you set sail, or you'll become hopelessly lost in dangerous waters.

Your top priority in the early days is learning as much as possible about your new company's business. Get to know your team, the business model, the product, and the customer.

From diving into data in Google Analytics to making friends with your sales team, there's a lot you can do to set up a strong foundation for success. Here are some actions to prioritize in your first few weeks.

Make Friends With the Right People

Start by building relationships with people you can learn from and who will support you when you run into roadblocks in the future:

1. Your most important stakeholder is your manager, who is most likely the Head of Marketing. Learn their priorities and what's expected from you. Your number one job is to take work off their plate and make sure the KPI you own is hitting its target.

2. Consult with Product Marketers. They understand how to speak to your ICP and how content should position the product. They'll help you understand how to write for customers to solve pain points.

3. Chat with a Product Manager. They can help answer technical questions and tell you where the product is headed.

4. Build a great relationship with your Content Writers, whether freelance or in-house, to understand their work style and what they need from you.

5. If your SEO Team is separate from the Content team, become friends with them. They'll work closely with you and your writers to optimize content and provide briefs for SEO-focused pieces.

6. Your Sales Team can give you insight into what sales enablement content will help sell the product, from guides to case studies. You're also accountable to them for bringing in new leads for the business via your content. Heck, we wrote this article because our sales team wanted a helpful guide to share with new content leaders.

7. The Customer Success Team can tell you about the company's best customers and what makes them successful. They can also reveal their most common problems and questions while onboarding.

And if you inherit any reports, you obviously want to build a good relationship with them. You probably should suggest they create a 90-Day plan to follow alongside you.

Understand the Product You're Selling

Approaching a product as an outsider can give you a unique perspective of what it does and how it solves customer problems. You'll lose this superpower once you get into the weeds, so take advantage of it. What questions are you asking yourself? These are probably questions your visitors are also asking themselves.

A weak understanding of your product equals content that fails, so becoming an expert is important. Here are some things you can do:

  • Go through all of the pages on the company website.
  • Watch demo videos to see the product in action.
  • Use the product yourself if you can.
  • Reach out to your Product Manager if you have any questions.

If you create any product-led content, you'll need to have a very deep understanding of it.

Learn the Ins and Outs of the Business

Knowing your industry means understanding the world of your product. Here are some ways you can immerse yourself in it:

1. Make an effort to learn industry jargon and insider language. You want to feel like a colleague when speaking to your ICP so that they trust you.

You can do this by subscribing to newsletters and following people in your space on social media. If you're working at an insurance company, for instance, read Coverager. If you work at an SEO agency, WTF is SEO? is a great read. Ask your team and your customers what they read.

Coverager Home Page
Coverager Home Page

WTF is SEO? Home Page
WTF is SEO? Home Page

2. Search for related online courses you can enroll in or watch YouTube videos. For example, SaaStr has the best content, from podcasts to videos, for everything SaaS GTM. We highly recommend it for any company in sales or marketing tech.

3. Reach out to your sales team with any questions. They can give you insights from sales calls, or you can listen to calls yourself.

4. Research your competition to understand what other products your customer is considering. You'll understand how to differentiate yourself in your content and put yourself in the shoes of someone shopping around for a solution.

Tools like Letterdrop and Semrush make it easy for you to understand what's working for your competitors from an SEO perspective.

Letterdrop's Competitor SEO Analysis

Get to Know Your Ideal Customer

If you don't understand who you're writing for, your content isn't going to resonate with them.

Two great ways to get to know your ICP are:

1. Through customer-facing team members, like your Customer Support and Sales teams.

Look at recent support tickets to see common questions and issues, or sit in on sales calls. You can even watch recordings of them using software like Gong.

Tools like Letterdrop proactively extract marketing insights from Gong if you don't want to listen to every single call.

2. Through talking to customers yourself. Try to talk to at least five customers. Here's an interview guide for what a content manager like you can ask clients.

In her first few weeks as a Head of Content at Keeper Tax, Lucia Tang went the extra mile, interacting with her ICP and using the product from their perspective.

"I spent a couple of weeks just talking to customers, doing the work of a support agent, and using the app in the persona of our ICP to find bugs and points of friction for the Product team." - Lucia Tang

Join online communities where these customers hang out, like Reddit, Slack, and LinkedIn groups.

Follow influencers in your space on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to understand how they create content and what you can learn from them.

Find Relevant Groups on LinkedIn | LinkedIn
Find Relevant Groups on LinkedIn | LinkedIn

Actionable Goals for Days 16-30

Now that you know the company better, it's time to sit down with your manager and iron out metrics and goals.

Identify and Analyze the Metric You're Responsible For

Some questions for your manager:

  • What KPI do I need to move? (Hint: it should probably be content-influence revenue)
  • Where is it today?
  • Where does it need to be, and within what timeframe?
  • What resources do I have to achieve this goal?

Have an honest discussion about the feasibility of hitting target numbers within that timeframe. You don't want to overpromise and underdeliver.

Many exec teams are uninformed on the role of Content Marketing, and might think of Content as a service organization — fulfilling content requests from the Sales and Product teams. Have a conversation early on about the metric you own (and it shouldn't be content pieces outputted per month) will help you position content as a revenue driver. You can't do that without metrics.

We have a guide on tying content marketing to revenue if you need help figuring out your content KPIs and how to measure them.

How to Tie Content Marketing to Revenue | Letterdrop
How to Tie Content Marketing to Revenue Guide | Letterdrop

Understand Your Goal to a Tee

43% of content marketers we talked to don't have clear a KPI. Not having a clear metric that's valuable to the business is a bad place to be. Get really specific on your KPI.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What are the component inputs that move your KPI?
  • What is the natural rate of change (is it going up or down right now, and how fast?)
  • Is our primary goal sales enablement, thought leadership, or SEO?
  • What channels is the company investing in, and how do they move the KPI?

Audit Existing Content

Ask yourself these questions when performing an audit:

  • What has been done so far?
  • Who did it?
  • Is it achieving its goals?

You'll learn what works and what doesn't work. It's a jumping-off point so that you know what got the company this far. You can focus on improving and building out your strategy from here.

Create A List of Priorities

List all your priorities and rank them. You can use a P0, P1, and P2 ranking system where you prioritize important and urgent P0 tasks first.

A Simple Priority Ranking System
A Simple Priority Ranking System

‎Here are some sample priorities Heads of Content have at new jobs:

  • Re-evaluate channels and content types. Optimize according to what your ICP consumes.
  • Determine whether you are creation or distribution constrained.
  • Understand whether the sales team uses the content and, if so, how.
  • Find content that can be repurposed or refreshed.
  • Figure out the flow of your content operation.
  • Lay out your content strategy.
  • Evaluate vendors and agencies — are they providing value and solving important problems?
  • Set up metrics tracking if it's not already done. (usually GA4, Search Console, and custom dashboards)
  • Redo your website. (We recommend Webflow)

It's easy to become overwhelmed by your to-do list. Prioritizing puts you back in control to get things done.

Actionable Goals for Days 31-60

You're at the midpoint. Your boss and your colleagues are waiting to see results. It's time to prove yourself by switching gears to execution and getting that first win.

Get Your First (Tangible) Win

Try to scope out a single thing you can do that is uniquely value-additive to the company.

Pick something important and urgent from your priorities list that can drive immediate and measurable value, such as refreshing a content piece with high engagement and low distribution. Or rewrite and repost a LinkedIn post that performed really well last quarter. Hopefully, one of these actions leads to a conversion.

Showing that you can deliver on a measurable goal reassures your manager that they made the right hire and increases your self-confidence. It puts you in a positive mood to rack up more wins.

Research Your Software Stack

By month 2, you should be able to identify where software tools could streamline your workflow or give you more data to do your job better. Don't waste time on things that can be automated — your focus should be strategy and creativity.

While we don't recommend making any purchases until you're at least 90 days in, it's good to understand what's out there to give you a leg up at your job.

By cutting friction on technical SEO or marketing ops, you'll have more time to focus on content strategy, understanding your ICP, and managing expectations from your team.

Some tools we recommend for new content leads are Semrush, Wynter, Letterdrop, Webflow, and SparkToro for their software stack.

A shameless plug in there, we know. Letterdrop takes care of content SEO, distribution, publishing, content operations, and analytics, integrating and consolidating dozens of tools.

Here are some tools we recommend for the different components of your workflow:

1. Website

For your website, we recommend Webflow. It's a powerful site builder where you can create stunning websites without knowing how to code.

Webflow Home Page | Webflow
Webflow Home Page | Webflow

2. Email Campaigns

‎For email campaigns, we recommend MailChimp. There are also newer products like Loops if you're feeling adventurous.

MailChimp Home Page | Mailchimp
MailChimp Home Page | Mailchimp

3. Social Distribution

There are lots of distribution tools like HootSuite and SproutSocial. You might want to consolidate your stack and use Letterdrop which automatically distributes long-form content like blog posts to LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack communities, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, Hashnode, and Dev.to.

It can also automate social amplification from your team so that you don't have to beg your team to like and comment on posts. It also supports ghostwriting and approvals.

Schedule Social Posts on Letterdrop
Schedule Social Posts on Letterdrop

4. Content Calendar and Project Management

You've got to wrangle freelancers, agencies, and internal stakeholders to work together to create great content. You can get started with general-purpose project management tools like Notion, Airtable, and spreadsheets, but make sure to stay on top of them because they often get stale.

There's also Letterdrop that brings together the CMS, content calendar, project management, approvals, and idea tracking into a single interface that's always synced.

The Project Management Board in Letterdrop

Letterdrop's Content Calendar

5. SEO

Semrush and ahrefs are great tools for deep keyword research. But there's a lot of content SEO that they just don't cover.

Semrush is a Great SEO Data Tool | Semrush
Semrush is a Great SEO Data Tool | Semrush

Letterdrop can automate content SEO for you through structural optimization (a modern Yoast), topical optimization (similar to Clearscope, but it uses GPT-4 and can insert topics in naturally with AI), automatic internal link building, and page monitoring to see which pages need to be refreshed.

Letterdrop's SEO Optimization Tool

Letterdrop has Built-In Keyword Research

6. Sales Calls and Customer Insights

Most sales teams will buy transcription products like Gong or Fathom to capture meeting notes from their sales calls.

Listen to sales conversations to understand when customers bring up objections, product questions, features of interest, and competitors. These are all inspirations for customer-centric content.

Letterdrop automatically extracts this data for you from Gong if you don't have time to listen to hundreds of hours of calls.

Gong Home Page | Gong
Gong Home Page | Gong

Fathom Home Page | Fathom
Fathom Home Page | Fathom

5. Reporting and Analytics

We recommend Google Analytics (GA4). It's a free way to track anything from page views to conversions. Also, set up Google Search Console to track search queries, crawling errors and indexing.

Google Search Console

‎If you have engineering resources, you can build dashboards in Mixpanel or Amplitude to bring data together from your data warehouse.

Actionable Goals for Days 61-90

You've reached the final stretch. By the end of the 90 days, you should have moved your target metric in some tangible manner.

You and your manager should know whether you fit the role at the end of 3 months.

It doesn't make sense for you or the company if you can't deliver on what you were hired for.

Your priority here is to make a case to your manager, team, and yourself that you should still be here and can start working on long-term projects. Hopefully, following this guide will help you be as successful as possible, so you're in good shape now.

Present Your Progress to Your Stakeholders

Do a full audit of all the work you've done so far. Use the analytics solutions you set up last month to compile a report.

Present the data to your manager and other stakeholders in the company to show evidence of your progress and to ask for the resources you'll need going forward.

Here are some factors to consider for your audit:

  • Where was your KPI when you started?
  • Where is your KPI now?
  • What actions did you take to move it?

If You Were Given a Team, Evaluate Their Performance

By this stage, you have an idea of company procedures and what adding value should look like.

If you inherited a team and gave them a similar 90-Day plan, it's time to evaluate whether goals were met. This will help you decide whether you need to change your team composition.

How to Avoid Failure in Your New Role

Executing well and hitting your goals at a new company while everyone's watching can be daunting. It's not all doom and gloom, though — people are willing to help someone making an effort.

TLDR? You won't get anything out if you don't put anything in.

Here's what can sink you in your first three months.

1. Failing to understand the business. If you don't understand the company, product, and customer, your content will be misguided and you don't add value.

2. Failing to build relationships. No one will want to help or work with you if you don't try. Without help, your chances of success drop.

3. Failing to own your KPI. You need a number you can move that number is ideally tied to revenue. It's impossible to know if you're adding value to the company without a metric.

4. Failing to adapt. Just because something worked at your last company doesn't mean it will work now. Every company is different — you'll sink if you don't adapt.

5. Failing to deliver on promises. Don't say you'll do things and then proceed not to do them. You'll kill your credibility.

Set Sail for Success From Day One

We understand that any new role is a challenge, especially in marketing, which is often misunderstood by execs (drop more money on ads, anyone?) and where results are often delayed.

When I asked Lucia what she would go back and tell herself a month into her role that would help her be more successful, this is what she had to say:

“Your level of knowledge is just scratching the surface right now — and that's okay.” [...] Now, I'm glad I took the time to wrap my head around things before I charged in. Lucia Tang

We hope this actionable 90-Day plan puts you in the driver's seat and sets you up for success, showing your manager and others how you add value from the start.

We talk to hundreds of Heads of Content. If you'd like to brainstorm some problems you're working through at your new company and want to explore tooling to make your life easier, talk to us.

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