Starting a new content marketing job is like being the new kid at school.
In both scenarios, you are equally excited and nervous.
It is often what you do in those first few weeks that will dictate if you’ll fit in and how successful you’ll be.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.
In this post, we’re sharing a roadmap for how you can set yourself up for success in your new content marketing job.
Creating a 30-60-90 Plan is a test project that many content marketers will fill out in the final phase of the interview process.
However, even if you didn’t fill one out when you interviewed, it is still a great exercise to create one in your first couple of weeks in a new job.
This can add structure to your first 3 months in a new job, help you prioritize what to focus on, and set you up for success in your role.
You can map out your biggest goal and concrete action steps for what you want to achieve in the first, second, and third months.
Regardless of whether you are a junior content marketing coordinator or a senior marketing executive, a great goal for your first month is to observe and learn. Be a sponge, and ask all of the questions so that you understand how things are done in your new company.
For example, here are some things you might want to achieve within the first month.
By your second month on the job, you should be able to execute 80% or more of your day to day work. This is likely mixed in with a lot of planning.
For example, if you are in your second month as a content marketing manager, your goals might look something like his:
By your third month, you should be in implementation mode. While there is always more to learn, you should be up-to-speed on your new company and have more clarity around who your ideal customers are.
Going back to our content marketing manager example, your month three goals might look like this:
With more than 2,000 members in our Superpath community, we reached out to more than a dozen content marketing pros and asked them to share one thing that they do when they start in a new role.
Many companies will already have editorial guidelines in place. However, if you are the first content marketing hire in your company or you work at a smaller startup, you might be creating one from scratch.
Anna Lugger says, “Create a voice, tone, & style guide if there isn't one already! I did this at my last two gigs after joining.”
To add to Anna’s point, even if your company already has style guidelines, making any updates to standardize your brand’s style, tone, and voice in your first 90 days can be a great hands-on exercise.
Along the same lines, another great way to get up-to-speed quickly is to read through all of your new company’s existing blog posts and case studies.
Ashly Stewart says, “I like to read through some of their most recent, favorite, and best-performing pieces of content. And, then, if I have time, do the same for their least-favorite or least-performing content pieces.
This gives me a good idea of their brand and allows me to take notes and ask questions. And this type of work doesn’t generally rely on you to have a lot of knowledge or onboarding things.”
It is easy to hide behind your laptop and be in “research mode.” The reality is you’ll learn so much more by picking up the phone or turning your webcam to talk to current customers and prospects.
“I started a role last December in a space (edtech for me) I didn’t know much about,” says Fio Dossetto. “One of the first things I did was ask for anything—think: recorded customer calls and/or interviews, support chat logs, customer feedback, survey results, reviews, etc.—that would help me understand:
The sooner you understand your audience, the better. Everything else can wait.”
Let’s face it - many of us content marketers are introverts - myself included. If the thought of randomly reaching out to customers sounds intimidating, start small.
Masooma Memon recommends, “A good starting point for this is getting in touch with the service team and asking them to hook you with some of your loyal customers. Once you’ve them on call, ask them about the content formats they prefer, the challenges they face, which industry blogs they read and why, and stuff like that.
The insights you gather here will give you a rough idea of exactly how much content you need to create, what pain points you’d need to address, and your audience’s preferred content format. You can also get your hands on unique ways to get people to read your stuff.”
In the pre-COVID-19 era, one of the best ways to get to know your team quickly is to go on a team - or even a full company - retreat within the first 90 days.
Mathew Patterson says, “My very first week at Help Scout, I flew from Australia to Texas for the company retreat week.
It was a very intense start, but in hindsight getting face to face with people outside my immediate team really helped build some profile and a degree of comfort in crossing team boundaries that are particularly useful in a fully remote team of introverts.
When you are writing content that is core to the company's voice and brand, you need that trust and understanding. Perhaps not the most practical advice in present times, but you could still spend a good amount of time seeking to understand how the other teams fit together and how they understand the role you are in.”
While an in-person retreat isn’t advised during a global pandemic, there are still plenty of opportunities to get to know your teammates virtually.
Talk to every single person that makes sense,” says Josh Palmer. “From leadership to other department roles. Get on every single sales call or meeting they'll let you participate in.
When I've spoken to talent acquisition folks recently, my answer to the "how would you get started in the role?" is this: I have no problem asking lots of dumb questions until I feel like I'm a subject-matter expert in the company.
The side benefit to talking to everyone is you do identify some great content opportunities that would likely go missed without that "newbie" conversation.”
Danielle Love adds, “The number one thing I did in my first three months was introductory chats with business leaders. I asked them about their goals and challenges, what had worked with content in the past, and what they wanted to do differently. Learning about the business is the first step to successful content marketing, so these talks helped me shape my recommendations.”
“I think the first few months are so important for your long-term success,” says Michaela Mendes.
“Be curious - consume all the content that was created before you joined, interview the sales team, and talk to a customer.
Identify easy wins - what can you repurpose? What is outdated that you can redirect? What can you repackage or bundle to create something new?
Figure out what metrics matter to the business - it's going to be different everywhere you go depending on the product/business model. Then, what is the current state of that number?
I think only when you do these three things can you start figuring out the direction you should take content and what gaps you need to fill.”
Sara Howshar agrees, “I just started at a new company, so this is very top of mind for me.
Be a sponge. Work with your onboarding manager and team to help you prioritize where to start digging first, but spend your first week just consuming.
Stay curious. I think this is key to building a strong foundation and providing value quickly. You're new, and it's okay not to know what you don't know. Take your time, ask questions, and allow your interests and curiosity to lead the way into your new company / market / role.
Meet everyone. Seriously meet everyone you can. At least one person from every department or team, and work with your manager to identify who would be the most helpful in getting you up to speed. You'll learn about your product, company, market, and audience from endless angles in a short amount of time. In each meeting, pay attention to the gaps you can help fill.
Audience, audience, audience. Like a few people have mentioned, start here. Subscribe to publications that are relevant to them, join Slack groups :wink:, follow related-influencers on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
After building this foundation, THEN start to map out the gaps and opportunities you've learned. These learnings will help light your path forward. Work backward from there to create related goals and a plan to meet them.”
One great tactic to soak up all of the knowledge you can in your first 30 days is to shadow someone in every department in your company.
You can learn something from every department, from sales and support to finance and legal. However, if it is not possible to chat with everyone, you should prioritize sales, support, and customer success.
Yasemin Salman says, “If you have the possibility, then work half a day or even a day in other teams.
The advantage here is: you get to know the people faster, see different processes, and maybe see potential to optimize processes.
You can also get in touch with customers (very important). This helped me a lot to better understand how the company works and how they want you to work.”
This might sound contradictory to the last point. However, once you have your bearings, don't be afraid to dive in and get to work.
For example, Mollie Woolnough-Rai says, “I was tasked with creating an ebook all about the eCommerce ecosystem to launch in the first month of me joining (taught me a lot about the space as well as how to use our tools like HubSpot).”
The best part of this approach is if you make an honest mistake (and you likely will!), people on your team will be more willing to overlook it, assuming you own up to it since you are the newbie.
This applies to learning about your new company as well as filling any gaps in your own knowledge.
“I did my research that'd help me set up for the coming months at DelightChat,” says Debdut Mukherjee. “My research included knowing the industry through and through, understanding what the competitors are building, talking to real customers, doing third-party research (on subreddits, Facebook groups, Slack communities, and review sites), and finally understanding the founders' thought process to build this business.
And then I condensed all this into a document which would then serve as the Bible of Context in the upcoming months.”
Dom Kent agrees, “The most helpful thing I did was commit time to research. I didn't have an SEO background or really know what it was. But, here I was tasked with growing a business through content marketing.
Three months in, our traffic had literally 10x-ed. If I didn't commit to research (and didn't have a boss who let me do what I thought right), we'd still be talking in 100s of readers rather than millions.”
It might be tempting to sit back, observe, and just follow the processes that your company is already doing.
However, you have the advantage as a newbie to see things through fresh eyes. You can use it to propose new ideas.
Eliza Wright says, “Get comfortable with being the squeaky wheel. When I stepped into my current role, the CEO actually told me, "I'm relying on you to discover problems and sound the alarm." You're not being difficult for calling out what you need—you're acting as a problem solver and leader. And it's easier to establish that image early on. I think this is especially true for content marketing since it's a new discipline that lots of leaders don't "get."
For instance, is there a missing feedback loop from customers that, if closed, would give you important insights for content marketing? Are the limitations of your CMS costing you conversions? Bring it up now, not months down the line. Of course, having a clear explanation and solutions in mind never hurts!”
One example of how to be a squeaky wheel in a startup is to create content values for your company.
“Create content values and market them internally with our people,” says Brett McGrath. “This has been instrumental for our company in pre-launch mode. We are a content curation and discovery platform for B2B marketers, and we need to be kickass content creators.
Everyone gets it, and everyone wants to contribute to our content strategy.
The content values have translated into company values, and everyone turns to them when making decisions about their work. It's been pretty special to see take shape...even in a remote setting.”
In sum, starting a new content marketing job is an opportunity for a fresh start. The things you do in those first three months can be the catalyst for you to do big things throughout your tenure at the company. The key is to be curious, learn from everyone you can, and then execute on your game plan.