A 90-day sprint, often referred to as a quarterly planning cycle, is the recommended approach for marketing leadership.
The marketing cycle is like a timepiece that works to keep everything in order and keep the heartbeat of the business ticking away at rapid growth. Ultimately the goal is a financial one – increased revenue – so it makes sense to keep the cycle in tune with the financial reporting of the company.
Marketing is focused on growing brand awareness, gathering loyal customers and building lasting revenue channels with high efficiency. These are not goals that can be hit in a week or a month, but they don’t have to take forever either.
The right balance is the 90-day sprint.
Just like a clock has hours and days and weeks, so does a marketing calendar. Each division of time has its significance and flow.
90 days, or three months, is just the right amount of time.
Is Your Company Starting Something New, Or Fixing Something?
The plan for 90 days of fractional CMO work will be quite different depending on whether your B2B company is opening a new channel or market, or if it is optimizing an existing one.
90-Day Monthly Breakdown: New Channel
When you are trying something new, the 90-day sprint focuses on giving the best possible launch and initial test that can be planned. It can be expected that mistakes will be made and learning will come quickly.
- Month 1: Research, setup and launch
- Month 2: Measure, test and optimize; reset if necessary
- Month 3: Measure, test, optimize and plan for growth
90-Day Monthly Breakdown: Existing Channel
When working on a channel that already exists, the work begins with a deep dive into every aspect of messaging, offers, budget, targeting, systems, landers, experience and more. A complete check of existing analytics should be done.
Then, the fractional CMO is equipped to recommend a timeline of optimizations that will have time to pay off in the analytics and impact growth in the next 2-3 months.
- Month 1: Measure, research, initial discovery and optimizations; reset if necessary
- Month 2: Measure, test and optimize
- Month 3: Measure, test, optimize and plan for growth
What is a 90-Day Sprint for a Fractional CMO?
Every quarter, the fractional CMO reports to leadership and investors on progress with the essential OKRs and KPIs that the company has set for its growth work.
It should be easy to see at a glance whether those expectations were met, even though there are a lot of moving parts behind them. Once every stakeholder is on the same page at a high level, they are best equipped to dig into details, celebrate wins and analyze misses.
If you need help working out the best OKRs for your business, start here.
Once you have those 90-day OKRs and longer range vision in hand, you can divide up the time into months and weekly sprints and assign oversight and tasks to key team members.
The fractional CMO is responsible for ensuring team members understand their role in hitting the OKRs and has a system for tracking their to-dos and progress against them. That way, weekly check-ins will show where the results are drifting off plan and corrections can be made.
At the end of the 90-day cycle, here are some of the marketing metrics that are best to measure marketing success for a fractional CMO.
Why is the 90-Day Sprint So Effective for Fractional CMOs?
To succeed in achieving rapid growth along with your fractional CMO, the marketing team needs to focus on reaching well-defined outcomes rather than running tactics. Any tactic can and should be discarded if rigorous testing and/or plain market economics shows it to be ineffective.
There are many reasons why a 90-day timeframe is most effective for planning and measuring marketing in B2B industries:
It’s the Best Strategic Planning Horizon:
- The 90-day timeframe allows for strategic planning without getting bogged down in long-term uncertainties.
- It strikes a balance between short-term agility and long-term planning.
It’s Long Enough to Work, But Short Enough To Flex:
- B2B markets are dynamic, with evolving customer needs, competitive landscapes, and industry trends.
- A 90-day sprint allows the fractional CMO to adapt strategies and tactics based on recent data and feedback, ensuring relevance and effectiveness.
It’s The Right Learning Cycle:
- Shorter cycles mean quicker feedback loops.
- Marketing teams can implement campaigns, measure results, and apply lessons learned to the next sprint.
- An iterative process promotes continuous improvement and optimization.
It Aligns with Sales Cycles:
- Many B2B companies operate on quarterly sales targets and financial reporting cycles.
- Aligning marketing sprints with these cycles helps ensure that marketing efforts contribute directly to sales goals and overall business objectives.
It Keeps Everyone Focused:
- A 90-day sprint encourages focus on a set of priorities.
- Teams can dedicate their efforts to a specific set of goals, avoiding the dispersion of resources across too many initiatives.
Goals Are Achievable and Not Too Far Away:
- Setting goals for a 90-day period allows for more realistic and achievable targets.
- It’s easier to estimate and measure progress over this timeframe, contributing to a sense of accomplishment and motivation within the marketing team.
Budgets Stay Flexible and Powerful:
- Quarterly planning aligns well with budgeting cycles.
- Marketing teams allocate resources effectively and make adjustments based on budget performance and availability.
90-Day Planning Lowers Risk:
- Shorter planning cycles enable quicker identification and mitigation of risks.
- If a particular strategy or campaign is not delivering the expected results, there is a relatively short timeframe to course-correct before significant resources are invested.
It Keeps Everybody Aligned to the Fractional CMO:
- At the end of each quarter, marketing teams conduct a thorough review of their strategies, assess performance against objectives, and make adjustments for the next quarter.
- Honest, strategic reflection ensures ongoing alignment with the company’s overall business goals.
It Keeps the Whole Team Pumped:
- A 90-day sprint provides a clear timeframe for achievement, fostering motivation and engagement within the marketing team.
- Regular successes and goal attainment contribute to a positive work environment.
Consider Adding Research Alongside Your 90-Day Sprint
Many companies choose to conduct a focused marketing research and optimization study shortly before embarking on a new 90-day sprint with a new CMO hire or fractional CMO.
Items to include in the study include analytic insights to content opportunities to competitor traffic secrets to lowest hanging fruit for growth. From GTM strategy to PMF scale, you will have the right answers and go for growth confidently in new or existing channels with a data-driven plan showing the way.
Your marketing team also might do a quick analytics upgrade and integration check to make sure all data is reporting correctly to AI and machine learning, as well as dashboards.
Adjust Your Sprint and OKRs to Fit Your Company Situation
While a 90-day sprint has its advantages, it’s essential to note that the ideal planning cycle may vary based on the nature of the business, industry, and specific circumstances.
Some organizations may opt for shorter or longer planning cycles based on their unique needs and market conditions.
The key is to strike a balance that allows for adaptability, accountability, and effective goal attainment.