You haven't taken—what I would call—the normal path to becoming a CMO in the tech field. Can you explain that path you took and how it helped you get to where you are today?
I started out in computer science / MIS at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo and worked as an IT engineer for a couple of years at Cisco Systems. I quickly saw that most management at Cisco had MBA's, so I went back to school to get mine at Yale School of Management.
During my time there, I switched from a finance focus to marketing. It's good to figure out what you are good at sooner rather than later. I was quick to see that I was not going to be the leading finance expert in my class, but marketing for tech was an area I could accelerate in.
After getting my MBA, I joined IBM. They had a marketing leadership development program where I learned a lot about product marketing. Product marketing is really about understanding your customer, their persona, and why they buy your product. Then presenting your product in a digestible way. You have to understand the pain you’re solving and then arm your sales team to talk with the customer.
I think that was a really good foundation on the marketing side to then move into the programs and demand gen side of things. That's where I became comfortable with different marketing tools, starting with Eloqua and Salesforce.
As I've made my path to CMO, I’ve learned that companies need someone who knows more than product and brand marketing. They also need an expert in demand gen, building pipeline, and partnering with the sales team.
You brought up going back to get your MBA. I read an article a few days ago (the article is a couple years old now) that features Elon Musk explaining that he’s not the biggest fan of the MBA. You having gone through for yours, what do you think about that?
Well, I don't necessarily know the background of the article, but for me, it's been a key part of my success. It's helped me take a step back and look at companies I've worked for as a whole.
As you grow in your career, success is more about collaborating, solving problems, and understanding what the business needs. Understanding what the rest of the business needs to be successful and knowing your role is important. Yale School of Management gave me an amazing foundation to be successful in almost any business venture.
"If you have a seamless experience that reduces friction, people will naturally gravitate towards you."
Now shifting to the topic of the day... the 'modern' customer experience. What about the customer experience has changed over the last decade?
There's certainly a few things that have changed. What's modern about it is that there's so much information that's accessible through a number of channels. The whole space is full of so much noise.
There's more data you can pull and draw insights from and it's so much easier to have people love and yelp about your product. Consumers today are used to getting everything in real-time with a personalized and customized experience. So for marketers, when people expect that customized real-time experience, you have to deliver it or they will find an alternative that will.
All this disruption that's occurring in different industries is by the companies that have found ways to take friction out of the process. I think that is what makes it modern. If you can make a seamless experience that reduces friction then people will naturally gravitate towards you.
I've heard you talk about the importance of having the CMO and CIO (or equivalent roles) very well aligned in order to deliver a great customer experience. Why are those two roles so crucial?
It's very important to bring the marketing, creative, understanding of the customer side together with the data and technology side. Most experiences—on a large scale—are occurring online or on mobile phones.
Companies that have figured out how to harness the technology out there and marry it with your customer experience strategy, can deliver a truly modern experience, and it comes from those two groups (CMO and CIO) partnering.
Now looking at your career path, you've gone from HP to a smaller company, DocuSign, and now to MongoDB. How has your experience at those bigger companies helped you understand different best practices to implement and scale at MongoDB?
I joined HP through an acquisition - ArcSight, where we were focused on enterprise security software.
One of the things I’ve learned over my career is that it's much easier for a smaller company to acquire, test, and implement different technologies. At ArcSight, we acquired maybe a dozen different technologies that we were able to implement very quickly, learn from and drive pipeline.
Working at larger companies has taught me more about people, process and how to implement change at scale. And that you cannot be successful if you do not know how to navigate an organization and collaborate across divisions.
The blend of experiences at these different sized companies has allowed me to have a better understanding of what we are building at MongoDB - a long-term sustainable business.
"Understand why people are buying your product and then market to others facing the same challenge(s)."
Have you taken some of that success you've had in the past, and are currently having with MongoDB, and passing along that knowledge to the different startups that you're working with as an advisor? What kind of advice do you give them?
Certainly having helped scale companies from very small to mid-size, I've learned a thing or two about the different gates you have to pass through.
I also learn a lot from these startups. They try their best to grow their companies with minimal budgets, new technology, and they do so by taking risks. So it’s really valuable for me as an advisor to see what new tools they are using and what risks are paying off.
The key to offering a great customer experience is understanding who it is you’re targeting and what their persona is. Do some basic primary research to discover why they bought your product and what problem you solved. Find the pattern and figure out if it’s repeatable.
My advice is to make sure you truly understand why people are buying your product and then market to others who face the same challenge(s).
Part of that marketing is having a solid go-to-market message that's aligned with both sales and marketing (as well as the rest of the organization). What steps should companies take to craft that message and make sure it's well-aligned throughout the organization?
A company's ability to build a strong pipeline hinges on that partnership between marketing and sales. Both sides need to buy-in and work together to understand who their buyer is.
When I joined MongoDB, I saw that we have a ton of developers who love running, building, and developing on our product. But when it comes to our enterprise products, the largest value is when a customer is ready to go to production with a mission-critical app. Our customers want the security, support, and monitoring tools to go along with that. So the contacts we're talking to includes IT operations, DB admins, and business analysts. It's a very different persona than a developer, so we need to deliver a targeted experience for all roles.
Making sure we had the right message to deliver to the different contacts involved in the deal was a big focus. We needed to build out the process and train the field. Marketing creates engagement with the target audience and following that, supporting and training the field to bring prospects through the sale quickly.
A lot of that hinges strongly on sales enablement. So for us, while it sits within the marketing organization, sales enablement is a strong partnership between marketing and sales and a key to success.
That's really interesting. Has sales enablement always lived under marketing at MongoDB or is that a change since you joined?
I would say that it was not as well developed until our current CRO, Carlos Delatorre, joined. When Carlos came on, it was one of his first priorities to get a formal sales enablement program. He really formalized and transformed sales enablement at MongoDB, and decided it should live under marketing.
One of your first priorities when you joined the team was implementing Eloqua. You did so in—what must be some sort of record—nine days. How did you find that process?
Well, nine days probably isn't ideal, but amazing team accomplishment.
Having been on Eloqua at six companies, and implemented it at four, I've become quite experienced with the process.
We needed a world-class marketing automation platform to work within. Implementing Eloqua allowed us to build out a number of workflows, a nurturing system, lead scoring, and it gave us better metrics that we use to work with the sales team.
It was definitely a process but certainly important to getting us in the right direction to be able to support and build pipeline for sales.
Wow, so if anyone is looking to implement Eloqua, you're the one to talk to.
Well, I am definitely an advocate.
Can you explain a little bit into how you're using Eloqua today?
Something we've worked hard on is our nurture program. We've built out 23 different nurture programs this past year based on a number of factors:
- Persona’s (developer, IT ops, DB admin)
- Opportunity stage
- Paying customer vs. trial
I needed a system—like Eloqua—that can do the air-traffic control on all of that.
Right now, we're focused on taking these programs we’ve built internationally. So it’s a lot of translating and localizing the content so that it’s usable in multiple countries and languages.
Wow, 23 in the past year, that's impressive.
Yeah, the team has been working hard, I'm very proud of what we've accomplished.
You've done a spectacular job at implementing the right tools in place for sales and marketing to be able to deliver a first class experience. Are there any gaps you see today that you're looking to improve?
We've added 14 different marketing technologies and probably 6-7 sales tools in the past year.
We're always looking to improve. We assess our funnel and bottlenecks all the time and there is always something to be worked on.
The two areas that a lot of people are looking at are predictive analytics and account-based marketing.
When you're running a number of different programs, with different sales teams (like we have), in different markets, having a predictive model will certainly help.
Account-based marketing is definitely something that a lot of companies are starting to invest in which is probably why so many new ABM tools are coming into the market.
A ton right? You've got Engagio out there, Terminus with Flip Your Funnel, YesPath, Demandbase... yeah there's a lot of investment in that area.
What kind of resources can you recommend for anyone reading?
Well, since we're on the topic of account based marketing, SiriusDecisions does a good job. Jon Miller with Engagio also produces a lot of great content on it. The YesPath team just released a guide and I know DemandBase has some good content out there as well.
For other resources, I find I often look at Eloqua's content. Matt Heinz has some awesome content along with Jill Rowley's with social selling. I tend to follow a lot of the marketing automation platforms, they provide this great platform that all sorts of other tools plug into.
I'll mention SiriusDecisions again… they've got amazing content on a number of topics.
You guys have got a conference coming up, tell me about that?
Yes, I'd love to get a plug for that!
Our annual event is MongoDB World. It's in New York at Hilton Midtown June 28-29. We're having some great talks and keynotes to celebrate GIANT ideas.. It's a very big developer conference. We have a lot of technical content from the engineers that build the database. So they're giving talks and best practices. We have an analysts day to kick it off. Some great sponsors - Google Cloud Platform, IBM, EMC, Microsoft, RedHat, HCL, Nasdaq, Wipro... the list goes on.
We're going to be launching a new product, so it's going to be a lot of fun.
Use promo code 'funnelcake40' to get 40% off tickets for MongoDB World!
We've made it to our trademark final question—many say that it's the toughest—what is your favorite 90's dance song?
Well, I listened to a lot of country in the 90's, which is pretty scary.
That's a pretty good list. As a country fan myself, I like to hear that you are as well!
Thanks so much for the time today Meagen, this was awesome.
Marketing Coordinator at FunnelCake