#HowIBuy – Meagen Eisenberg, CMO, MongoDB

By Steve Woods in #HowIBuy

Originally published on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-i-buy-meagen-eisenberg-cmo-mongodb-steve-woods/

Chances are, if you are in Marketing, you know of Meagen Eisenberg. As CMO of MongoDB (and an advisor for us at Nudge) she is a prolific speaker on the art and science of modern marketing. She has built industry-leading revenue operations at both MongoDB and DocuSign, so has a lot of experience in evaluating and purchasing solutions that are on the cutting edge of the industry.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Meagen to chat about how she buys for the latest installment in our #HowIBuy series that looks at sales from the buyer’s side of the table.

Here is what Meagen had to say:

To set the stage, can you tell me a bit about MongoDB, the stage that you’re at as a business, and your role within the organization?

Meagen: MongoDB is the next-generation database and development platform that helps businesses transform their industries by harnessing the power of data. Our core technology is open source and we sell a variety of products alongside that. I’d say we’re a late stage startup, not tiny anymore, but not a huge enterprise just yet.

As the CMO, my role in the buying process varies quite a bit. Sometimes I’m the champion, sometimes I suggest that my team evaluates a product, sometimes they will find a great product and bring it to me. I will sometimes also find products that I think sales can get a lot of value out of, and I’ll take that to Carlos, my counterpart in sales, and suggest that the team evaluates it, or perhaps even that we split the budget for it.

What do you generally spend money on in any given year?

Meagen: A good portion of budget focuses on headcount and software; we currently have more than 23 pieces of technology in our marketing stack. We spend a small amount on data, but it’s not a big part of the overall spend. One thing I think we probably spend less on than others is services. I’d rather have my team learn the ins and outs of a platform and even do the implementation of a product themselves in order to know its inner workings really well.

It might take a bit longer, but it’s a tremendous advantage for us to have those skills in-house down the road, and it’s a skill that person can take with them to their next role. When I hire, the desire to learn and the initiative to pick something up and figure it out is something I look out for.

When we do hire for services, we are usually hiring for “arms and legs”. We know what we want, but need a little extra bandwidth to get it done. It would be rare for us to hire for services where we didn’t deeply understand the underlying product.

How do you discover what is “out there” in terms of new solutions and ideas that might be worth exploring?

Meagen: The single biggest source for me is my network. I have a great network of peer CMOs and heads of marketing, and within this network, we talk a lot about what’s out there and what works. I speak at quite a few conferences, and I’m always on the look-out for interesting approaches to solving problems or removing bottlenecks. Similarly, I advise a fair few companies and many startups are in a wonderful position to try out new and highly innovative solutions. I learn a lot from what they are using and what problems it is able to resolve. A fourth source of new ideas for me is the VC community. I have a fair few VCs in my network and they will often ping me with companies they are evaluating to get my perspective. I suspect I learn as much from these interactions as they do.

Out of the solutions that are out there and potentially interesting, how do you decide what to look into now? How do you set your priorities?

Meagen: At the top level, our company has a set of initiatives that general resolve to revenue targets and reach to developers. I work very closely with Carlos, our CRO, and we evaluate where the bottlenecks are in the overall process and what we want to prioritize. Bottlenecks often have multiple ways of being dealt with, so between Carlos and I, budget and headcount will sometimes move back and forth as we hone in on the best way to grow the business.

As an example, we recently had a growing backlog of qualified leads (MQLs). We looked at a number of ways of dealing with the challenge, including everything from just tightening criteria, bringing in predictive scoring as a solution to better prioritize, hiring an outsourced telemarketing team to qualify, using technology like Conversica to automate some of the outreach, or accelerated hiring of sales. Obviously, depending on the path we choose, the headcount and budget might fit better with me or with Carlos, but the most important driver is resolving the bottleneck and harnessing the opportunity.

Given a particular bottleneck that you’re looking to resolve, how do you evaluate the possible solutions?

Meagen: My network is a huge part of how I evaluate solutions. We were recently looking at a territory planning product, and we first discussed as a team with Sales Operations, then Lars Nilsson over at Cloudera to get his opinion. I pinged Suku Krishnaraj at Sumo Logic, and he was evaluating similar tools, so wanted to hear what my conclusion was. The point I’m getting at is that the back-channel view of solutions is the main source that I turn to in any evaluation.

Within our team, the trial is key. It’s not that we wouldn’t buy something that we had not already tried in our own environment, but the back-channel conversations would have to hit a very high bar and convince me that it was unequivocally the better solution. In creating evaluation criteria, we will dig into lots of blogs or references, but the references are mainly to show us use cases and give us ideas of what problems the solutions can solve. We’ll look closely at price and are comfortable taking a risk on an earlier stage solution if we feel that they will work hard to match their solution to our needs. We don’t really believe in the “next quarter” type of roadmaps as we’ve been in software long enough to know how that works.

What do the best salespeople do that helps you at any part of your buying process? What do you wish more salespeople did?

Meagen: I generally try to limit time with reps from vendors. I’m really over the gifs, funny lines, forwards of past emails, and all that. I can smell the tactics almost instantly, and delete them just as quickly. Good salespeople are able to “quarterback” and get me the resources I need. Sometimes that’s another CMO with a specific use case that I want to talk to, and sometimes it’s deeply technical resources for my team to work with. However, we usually have a very good idea of what we want and how it fits in. The discussion on my business, my top 3 initiatives, etc, is just a waste of my time.

Outside of that, it usually takes a warm intro. If something comes in from my trusted network, I’ll definitely take a look at it.

You’ve touched on a lot of important topics for sales. Overall, in your view, what’s most different about selling today than in years past?

Meagen: Obviously we all learn a lot online. With that, and with access to a network of peers, the business world is becoming so much more transparent. It’s almost Yelp-like right now, there’s no hiding. Customer experience matters, and your ability to deliver to other CMOs like me, matters. Find a bottleneck that you solve or growth opportunity, solve it well enough for other CMOs that they’ll endorse you, and make it really easy for my team to prove that you can also provide growth ideas or solve that bottleneck for us.

 

Thanks so much to Meagen for sharing some great insights into how she buys!

Steve Woods
CTO and Co-Founder