We’re back with the latest edition of Q&A with Marketing Leaders, our interview series built to provide SaaS marketing leaders with the best insights and actionable tips on how to improve their marketing planning by learning from the best marketers in the industry.
We got to speak with Meagen Eisenberg, Chief Marketing Officer at TripActions.
TripActions is the leading business travel platform that empowers companies and travelers to show up and create growth. Their mission is to power the in-person connections that move people, ideas and businesses forward.
Meagen has more than 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry. She has been recognized as one of the Top 50 most retweeted by mid-sized marketers according to AdWeek and one of the Top 25 B2B Marketing Influencers according to InsideView. In 2014, she won the Marketers that Matter award. Additionally, she won the SuperNova Award in Matrix Commerce from Constellation Research in 2012 and the Marketing Visionary Markie award within the marketing automation field in 2011.
Prior to TripActions, she was the Chief Marketing Officer at MongoDB.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to be a marketer and pursue marketing as a profession?
The ‘ah-ha’ moment was when I was attending business school at Yale School of Management. I took a variety of classes, but soon realized that I really loved the marketing classes –– they were a mix of creativity and science. Marketing is economics and statistics, with elements of pricing and understanding the fundamentals of your business, your competitors and your product. I thought that with my background in tech, I could come out and help tech companies better market themselves because I understood the product, I understood the buyer and also had a sense of creativity.
Who was the biggest marketing influence on your career?
That’s a good question! I’m influenced by my interactions with companies building technology for marketers, so most of the marketing influence on me has come from the martech community. The events hosted by the Eloqua community and Sirius Decisions are great learning experiences. They produce a lot of amazing content and their products are helping us innovate.
It is crucial that you have the tools in place to measure your goals, like marketing attribution, so you know where you ended up. If you fell a bit short, technology can help you learn the reasons why and help you understand what you need to do next time to achieve your goals.
How has your role, and the general B2B marketing landscape, changed the last few years?
Marketing has really been transformed by data. We have so much more data to work with now. It used to be that you couldn’t figure out what part of your budget was working and what wasn’t, but now we’ve got so many different ways to track attribution. As a result, we can get a lot closer to discovering the true ROI on our spend.
Additionally, there are so many more channels today! B2B Marketing has gotten a lot noisier over the past few years with all the different channels and ways that people digest information. There are over 5,000 different martech solutions, for instance. We just have so much more to use and to take advantage of. It makes the modern marketer’s job a lot harder, but also a lot more fun at the same time.
What do you think is the most important skill that today’s marketing leaders need to have in order to succeed?
You have to be a strong leader, but you really need to be able to hire well.
Marketing teams are very diverse. You have technologists, creatives, writers, product marketers, field marketers, corporate marketers, demand gen and a variety of others. You’re hiring for so many different backgrounds and talents that you’ve got to be able to assess the skills you need, and then be able to hire, retain and grow your people.
How do you establish the goals for your marketing organization?
It starts at the top. First, I like to take a look at the company’s goals. I like to jump in, align with the executive team and other leaders in the company, build and determine goals together –– then determine the big levers to achieve those goals. Second, I want to get an understanding if where we are as a company –– where the industry is at and headed, where the markets are at, and what all of the industry players are doing. This is all vision-setting.
I also emphasize the importance of aligning with sales goals –– I like to call it the ‘power couple playbook’. It is being lockstep in strategies and objectives and having our teams collaborating closely on all execution. And, of course, sharing wins together.
You need to make sure that you are always trying to innovate and not just continue to do what you’ve been doing. Create room for your team to test. Trial and error really matter in marketing. That’s how you’re going to make some breakthroughs. Make sure you are creating a culture where people can innovate.
Once you have your goals, how do you build your marketing strategy?
For strategy, again I look at how we position ourselves against the industry, how we position ourselves against the competition, what’s our differentiation going to be from a product standpoint and making all of those come to life through strategic messaging. Then once we get the messaging, how to tell those stories to the market?
This sounds simple, but it’s really easy to get lost in all the different things you have to do as a marketing organization because there are thousands and you only have the budget for maybe 200. So how do I pick the right 200? Prioritization is key. Then we can build goals off our priorities.
Strategy and goal-setting mean little if we can’t execute properly. So priorities are important to get the team focused on the biggest levers that are going to move the needle –– to optimize for the budget that we have. Nobody has enough budget for all the things they have to do.
How do you determine what channels to utilize in your marketing plan?
You need to analyze where your buyers are and where the influencers to those buyers are –– and determine channels from there. So, if my buyers aren’t on social media, I’m not going to go heavy on social. If they are on social, what’s the most effective way to get their attention and help them convert?
You need to really understand your personas and where they are digesting information. Do they go to blogs? Do they follow certain people? Are there certain events that they attend? Are they more likely to respond to a direct mail? Are there certain geographies that we need to prioritize? All of that information really determines what channels I’m going to use for the marketing plan.
How do you determine whether or not your marketing plan was successful or not?
I know I’ve talked a lot about alignment across leadership and your team, but I can’t stress it enough. You really need to set your criteria for success up front, with the executive team and within your own marketing team, well before you execute. Collaboration, alignment and strong execution will set the tone for determining the success of a marketing plan.
Also, get the right technology in place. It is crucial that you have the tools in place to measure your goals, like marketing attribution, so you know where you ended up. If you fell a bit short, technology can help you learn the reasons why and help you understand what you need to do next time to achieve your goals. You need to always be measuring your results and improving them.
As a leader, it’s crucial to create an environment of debriefing and feedback for continual learning. Every quarter, we like to go through a process of highlights and the lowlights –– what went well, and what didn’t go so well. How do we make highlights repeatable, and why did those lowlights happen? Do we need to stop those lowlights altogether or find a different route and improve them? For performance cultures, the only way you’re going to get better is if you know what’s working and not working, and to be honest. You need to be okay with some failure, mistakes, but you need to be fast to course correct and try something different.
Prioritize and determine your budget. Get the right technologies in place to learn what’s working and what’s not — your highlights and lowlights.
What’s the biggest challenge that you encounter when building out your marketing plan?
First, creating a budget and prioritizing that budget.
There are so many things that you can take on. What do you prioritize? What’s going to really move the needle for the team? Those will be what really matter.
Second, you need to make sure that you are always trying to innovate and not just continue to do what you’ve been doing. Create room for your team to test. Trial and error really matter in marketing. That’s how you’re going to make some breakthroughs. Make sure you are creating a culture where people can innovate.
What advice do you have for up aspiring marketing leaders on how to successfully build marketing plans and strategies?
Well, to summarize, make sure you’re aligned with company goals! Involving your leaders in the process and going through multiple iterations and rounds of feedback are important when building your marketing plan and strategy.
Second, having cross-functional alignment with other departments is very important. In B2B, your internal customer and partner is sales so make sure that you have close alignment with them and a strong feedback loop.
Third, prioritize and determine your budget. Get the right technologies in place to learn what’s working and what’s not — your highlights and lowlights. And finally, hire well to execute well. Create a culture of innovation, and keep innovating and building.