4x IPOs as CMO and countless Board Seats later, Carol Meyers digs into her secret sauce for sustainable growth

Powered by RedCircle

Episode Outline

[04:39] Carol’s background

[07:16] Why people have to make trade offs with what they have available and also what's available in their neighborhoods

[10:13] How to wrap up with analytics as broad topics that might be the most productive

[11:18] The hardest lesson learned in your career thus far

[12:04] When you're small, usually marketing just kind of does whatever it wants

[14:34] Discount marketing and getting disillusioned

[16:35] Who's building their career and perhaps about to enter a big growth stage with the company

[19:22] It’s little easier to go from, serving smaller companies up to larger, as long as you do it with your eyes wide open about what that means

[20:19] Taking a product that's built for really large companies and trying to retrofit it to smaller companies is not easy.

[21:30] How you can assemble a team that has the right qualities

Carol's Inspirations:

Woody Benson

Connect with Carol:



Carol Meyers: (00:52)
Thank you. I'm really excited about being here and I'm always a little nervous with podcasts, so I'm looking forward to it.

Elias Rubel: (00:59)
Well, you know, we'll try to make it as painful.

Carol Meyers: (01:02)
I like it. I like it.

Elias Rubel: (01:05)
You tricked me right into thinking. So, you know, there's a million things we could talk about today with all of your expertise. Um, and I'm sure you have tons of stories to tell, but because this show in particular is, is generally focused on the earlier side of things, call it the, the one to 10, the 10 to 20, uh, revenue sprint. I think it might make more sense to talk through some of the experience and patterns that you see through your work advising and sitting on boards. Does that, does that sound like a good game plan? That sounds great. Okay. So I'm curious, you know, you've been doing this for so long now, and there must be patterns that have come up for you that when you get brought in as a board member and advisor, they're kind of like the first areas that, you know, to dig into or to sniff around and see if they need adjusting. What are some of those?

Carol Meyers: (02:00)
Yeah, that's great. There's a number. I mean, typically I'm brought in as a board member or an advisor having to do with go to market. So most of my, the things I find out are around go to market and I see a couple of patterns, you know, one is that people are struggling with what model they should be using for go to market. So they maybe have been doing SMB and they want to go enterprise and they're trying to figure out how do we go do that? Cause it's really hard to change the DNA of a company where you've been operating in a certain way, or it's the other way around. I often find people who are saying, we've heard about PLG, you know, product led growth, and we want to do that. And, um, they're trying to figure out if what they do is going to be appropriate for that.

Carol Meyers: (02:46)
The other pattern I see a lot in those stages is working around leadership, right. And that has to do with how to leaders have to scale as the company grows. And one of the things I think people struggle with is when you're a small startup and you know, I've been at companies where it's zero revenue when I was at Unica. Um, I think the CEO told me there were, uh, approaching 50 employees, but there were 25 when I joined because he was brave that way. And I realized that because we could all sit around one table and have lunch together, which we did, which was fantastic, but you can do that. Right. And that's re it's really easy at a startup stage to keep everyone on the same page to hear the CEO's vision every day at lunch, um, to connect with the people you're working with. And as the company grows, that's gets harder and harder. And so I see a lot of companies struggle with alignment and also what, how the role of leader changes over time within the company.

Elias Rubel: (03:50)
And how do you begin to work with these teams? Obviously you're coming in at a really important point of inflection for them where these decisions, you know, make their make or break. Right. So how do you handle these sensitive topics and help them get aligned and get the right people in the right seats?

Carol Meyers: (04:12)
Yeah, I think it's something that I've, I've always gravitated towards. Um, I've been known, people have known to extras talking to a CEO. I used to work with yesterday and he said, you know, one of the things I remember when I brought you in is you were the calm voice of reason at the table. Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes it's a bad thing, but fortunately, you know, he was, he was, uh, for him at the time, it was, it was a good thing. And so I really try to apply frameworks and get people to think about it. So for example, working with a company currently, that's, um, got a little bit of a PLG motion going, but, but not really. And they want to figure out if they should do more or less of it. So we've been working on, well, let's look at what the economics are through that channel.

Carol Meyers: (04:59)
Let's think about it. Strategic value in terms of, does it create a competitive advantage for you? And then let's look what I would it take to be successful at PLG? In fact, just a little tip for people. If you're thinking about it. I think OpenView partners has some of the best material on this. And I actually have a little quiz you can take that will tell you how PLG ready you are. So we took that quiz and we came out at about 28%. So we're like, okay, we have work to do. Um, but that's the good news is like, you can see like, okay, well what are the things we're not doing to really be, um, led by the product? And, uh, we're, we're working through some of those and trying to figure out, you know, do we have the right economics and how does this play into the full strategy of the company. But, um, that, that is like one of those really important things. A lot of people want to go product led growth, great things you can learn from it. It may or may not be quite right for your business.

Elias Rubel: (05:54)
So I love how fired up you are when you talk about this stuff, what is it that keeps you excited about industry and what you do?

Carol Meyers: (06:03)
Yeah, again, I think, um, it's funny, I'm working with a man, one of the mass challenge companies right now, too, and they have a very cool product. It's a software product that gives every, you can give it to your teams and they get a persona. Like, are they a problem solver? Are they an activator? You know, a bunch of different things. So you can assemble a team that has the right qualities on it. And I think that I am a problem solver and I'm a, so I get really jazzed about solving problems, like thinking what does this problem and how can I solve it? Um, unfortunately it spills over into my personal life as well. And I spend every phone call with my mother, um, whenever she asked me and I think trying to solve her problem. So, um, you know, I've gotten to where I even have her now she bought a grocery cart because she was saying she was having trouble getting to the laundry room with all her laundry. So I'm like, Oh, I've got a solution. And I sent her a link. That's me.

Elias Rubel: (07:04)
That's amazing that that must be a conversation starter as well. When someone visits your mother and see the grocery cart hanging out in the house,

Carol Meyers: (07:13)
All kinds of great stuff she has like, why do you have that? Oh my daughter, you know,

Elias Rubel: (07:20)
Amazing. What so on that, on like solving problems, I'm curious, you know, it's easy to talk about, especially with your career, um, all of the things that have gone so well, but what are some of the things that maybe have been some of the biggest problems you've had to solve or work through throughout your career? Maybe there are some stories you could share in your own personal growth journey.

Carol Meyers: (07:42)
Oh yeah. Let's see. Where should we, where should we start with that? Um, you know, a lot of people always like, what's the biggest mistake you ever made? I'm like, Oh, you know, so many and nothing. Abby has been deadly. So I don't think anything ever sticks out as a huge mistake, but you know, a lot of the, um, the things that I've worked on that I thought are interesting and didn't always play out the way I thought they might is when we were, when I was at Unica. And we were the leader in marketing automation at the time. And we, we sold to a very different market than like a merketto or a we're a HubSpot, which people are probably more familiar with. Our customers were all the largest telcos. You know, we used to boast that we were used by 19 of the top 20 banks.

Carol Meyers: (08:26)
You're always like, how can we get that last bank? Um, and we wanted to go down market and we were just like, we're just going to do this, you know? And from a marketing standpoint, I'm like, I can message this, you know, I can, but we were always a little ahead of the product and our messaging, you know, cause taking a product that's built for really large companies and trying to retrofit it to smaller companies is not easy. And so I think one of the things that I took away from that was that it is important as a, you do want to be leading the market a little bit. You don't want to, it's not that you're not being truthful about your products. You want to be pushing it a little bit, but you gotta be a little careful about how far you push it, because if you're too far ahead of where your product really is, um, it leads to wasted money, but it also just, you know, leads to some disillusionment on a team when they feel like they're not being successful. And, you know, lastly, there are always a few customers who end up feeling burned. Like you told me this product was ready, um, for a company my size and it's not quite ready for a company my size so that, you know, those were some lessons I learned about trying to balance this idea of being forward-leaning, um, and not getting too far over your skis as they say.

Elias Rubel: (09:39)
Yeah. It's, it's funny to hear you share that story because I feel like in the earlier stages, companies are always trying to move up market and they're, they're getting over their skis with, you know, we're enterprise or any week. And then it's like, you get to a certain size and as an enterprise product, and then you can move into the long tail going SMBs. It's funny to hear that script flips the opposite direction. Yeah.

Carol Meyers: (10:01)
I mean, I actually think it's harder to go from being a big, you know, selling to really large companies to going smaller. But you know, there are a lot of parallels going the other way too, but I think it's a little easier to go from, um, serving smaller companies up to larger, as long as you do it with your eyes wide open about what that means.

Elias Rubel: (10:22)
So as, as a CMO, what further CMOs who are listening to this podcast? What advice do you like to give out when you are mentoring another COO who's who's building their career and perhaps about to enter a big growth stage with the company? What sort of advice do you like to give?

Carol Meyers: (10:44)
One of the things I find myself talking to other CMOs a lot about is the alignment issue, right? And that is, you know, as you are going through growth stages to really capitalize on them, you got to have sales, marketing, customer success in product, in great alignment, right? Cause you were just talking about that. You want a product that's, that's ready for the market. You're going after you, as marketing needs to be getting the pulse on what's happening with that customer and helping product, understand it and sales understand it. You gotta be investing the right way. And if you get out of sync, then you're kinda setting yourself up for failure. Cause marketing is touching with all, you know, like marketing really integrates closely with all those teams. And if you're out of alignment, it's really easy for 'em the other executives you work with to, to discount marketing and get kind of disillusioned with it.

Carol Meyers: (11:43)
So what I find myself, talking to people a lot about as part of your job is that alignment, making sure those teams know what you're prioritizing on, that you, they understand how you're contributing to their success and what you're doing to help them be successful and why you're making the choices you are. Because when you're small, usually marketing just kind of does whatever it wants, right? There's no one to answer to. They're just, you know, they can tell one person down the hall and everybody's like, great. Um, but as you get bigger, there's many more people who are stakeholders in what marketing does and are effected by it. And so you've got to carve time out of your day just to do alignment. And I think a lot of people don't find that to be as much fun as I'm coming up with a new campaign or looking at the numbers, you know? Um, and so that can be a hard thing. It's like, Oh really I have to talk to all these people. And you're like, yes, you do. You have to get their buy in.

Elias Rubel: (12:36)
What's your kind of on a tactical level, what's been your process for structuring the way that you get that buy in and keep those other stakeholders in the loop and knowing that their priorities are also your

Carol Meyers: (12:49)
Yeah. So full disclosure, I've tried so many things and it's partly because even if something works for a little while I find after a while, it doesn't work that well. Um, I try to start with, uh, what are the annual and quarterly, okay, ours, you know, what are yours? What are mine, how to mine support yours, you know, in some cases how to yours, you know, dovetail in and support mine. So at least we can start with understanding what key results and objectives we're all focusing on. Um, and then, um, you know what, I'm doing something big, like a rebrand. I do a lot of making sure people are involved in the process, not just getting the end result, but being part of creating what it is, but on a quarterly basis, always trying to make sure that I have, um, touch points with the major leaders and not just my peer, but you know, the, the VPs of sales who report into the CRO, et cetera. Um, and going through here's the marketing plan for the quarter. Here's what we're going to be. Here's the themes we're going to focus on. Um, here's the results we're aiming for. Here's what you can expect from us and, and leaving enough time that they can also poke holes, ask for some changes, you know, things like that. Um, because I find that it's really important for people to be aware of what you're working on.

Elias Rubel: (14:08)
Definitely what's, what's been the hardest lesson learned in your career thus far, the one that really maybe took you by surprise or, or like took the longest to sink in and become something that was valuable for you.

Carol Meyers: (14:23)
Oh yeah. So, you know, I would say I'm especially early in your career, right? You're, you're incredibly successful. Everybody praises, you, you keep getting promoted. Um, and then you, you know, you're like, you know, I really want to get to the next level and I want to be the best person I can be. And you do a three 60 degree feedback review. I've never done one, but they're devastating. And I've, I've talked to many people about they're devastating. Um, and the problem with them is they're wonderful. You should absolutely do them, but the problem is good stuff in there. People say good stuff about you. But the only thing you look at is the negative. You're like, Oh my gosh, I never knew people saw me this way. I thought being, you know, decisive was a strength, you know, and some people like, you know, sometimes just does whatever she wants, you know? So you realize that, um, the truth is how other people perceive you is the reality because you only really exist. You know, obviously you have to be happy with yourself, but you do, you do realize how impactful it is, um, and how important it is to, um, to understand how other people see you. So you can be more effective at working with them and you can get more done. So, um, three 60 degree reviews have been the most important things I've ever done, incredibly painful. Um, very worth it, very worth it.

Elias Rubel: (15:50)
That's a great one. Um, so now I kind of have some questions that are on the more personal side around, you know, I think too many people are this perfect example of what, you know, success and accomplishment and hard work looks like. And now you are, you know, you're at, you're at the top, right? At least to many people here at the top. I'm curious when you self-reflect, um, at the end of the year or however frequently you kind of look back and look forward, what are some of your next personal goal? Like what's on deck for you now. What's, what's the next mountain you want to climb?

Carol Meyers: (16:27)
Yeah, it's great. Um, I really love doing, um, the board work and the advisory work and it is a mix of paid and unpaid stuff, to be honest. So, um, I would, I would just love to see some of the companies that I'm helping through that work become, you know, large, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars market cap companies, and every single person in that company make a ton of money. So I would, I would love to do that. Um, I do, you know, I am also mindful. I need to think about how I give back more. I do a lot of, I'm doing mass challenge for example, which is, um, a volunteer effort and I do coaching with some individual people as well. But I think the other thing I'm trying to figure out is where I want to plug in from a more nonprofit standpoint and where could I potentially bring what I do and what I love to do, um, into something that would help from a social good standpoint. So I'm still trying to figure that piece out. And I think that's an important Hill. I need to climb.

Elias Rubel: (17:32)
What are some of the things that are on deck that you're passionate about?

Carol Meyers: (17:36)
Well, you know, I love technology, so I'd like to figure out, is there something I can do there? So I don't, but I don't code. So like girls with girls who code I'm like, Oh, I can't, I don't know how to code, you know, what would I do there? Um, I also a bit passionate about, I talk about it a lot and done anything. So there you go. But, um, food deserts, you know, the fact that there are a lot of people here, even in the U S who don't have access to good nutritional food. And it really bugs me that, um, junk food is cheaper, right? It's so much more inexpensive than the stuff that's good for you. And that really bothers me because people have to make trade offs with what, what they have available and also what's available in their neighborhoods. And so that's, that's something I've been thinking a lot about.

Elias Rubel: (18:26)
I'm going to be really curious to hear if you find an organization that that crosses technology and foods, DeVry,

Carol Meyers: (18:33)
There's some companies that are doing it that are interesting. They're not nonprofits, but there are some companies that are doing it that are interesting.

Elias Rubel: (18:41)
What, um, what do you do to like outside of working and, and, you know, giving back through, through your time and mentorship, what are some of the things that kind of recharge your energy? Um, outside of work,

Carol Meyers: (18:53)
I am an, I'm an avid workout person. Um, you know, I think people think I'm a little crazy. I usually do that at 5:00 AM in the morning. It's like the first thing I get up, I go work out like a down stretch. I don't warm up. I just go and work out and that's been something that's been incredibly important for me forever. Um, but I live, I live in the city and I love to walk the city. Um, and I've recently taken up boating as well.

Elias Rubel: (19:21)
We say boating, do you mean like you're, you're in Boston? So I'm guessing, is this rowing

Carol Meyers: (19:25)
No boating? I can, you know, motorboating the Harbor in the Harbor bridge turns out to be I've, I've been on lakes and whatnot before, but, um, it turns out the Harbor's a little trickier. There's a lot of, um, uh, things you have to watch out for like lobster traps.

Elias Rubel: (19:43)
Oh, wow. It's, uh, it's, it's funny, like the commercial traffic and all the different variables that you don't think of until you're actually out there doing it. Uh, I sail on San Francisco Bay and it's just like, there's so many things you need to learn before you can feel comfortable out there.

Carol Meyers: (20:01)
Oh yeah. That's amazing. Cause it's beautiful there and it's so windy. Right. And then the, I think the currents are kind of tricky too, aren't they?

Elias Rubel: (20:10)
Oh totally. You have like three major current three or four converging, um, right before the bridge and the active shipping lane and it's yeah. It's a whole, a whole mess of, of fun things to learn about.

Carol Meyers: (20:22)
Uh, well that is great. That is great. Yeah. But you know, and I hadn't done any of that stuff before, before I moved into the city, I was a gardener and I, I, I had tons of gardens everywhere, um, which took up a lot of my time and I loved it, but I moved on from it now

Elias Rubel: (20:40)
Next phase. So the last question I'd love to ask you. I know from prior conversations, we've had, you are a big proponent of, you know, surrounding yourself with, um, folks who can be mentors or just, just good people in your life and career. I'm curious when you think through the people, you know, who've been around you, who are some of those folks who've, who've made an impact on your career?

Carol Meyers: (21:07)
Oh, it's so many. And some, you know, I haven't talked with him so long. I always think, Oh my gosh, I, I owe them another call. But, um, I, you know, I worked with a gentleman named Woody Benson. Who's pretty well known locally. Um, and he had so much impact because there are many different points where I got exposed to opportunities like at, at Shiva, at, um, at Unica, even at luxury and really because he made an introduction for me. Um, so, you know, it's been, I can look at many touch points there in my, my life. Um, and uh, you know, a woman named Maria Serena, same, same sort of thing. And then so many people, you know, just, it's amazing. Um, now that I'm doing board work to how many wonderful people have reached out with opportunities, like a bunch of the people over at OpenView partners have been just phenomenal to work with. So I can't even think about all the wonderful people in my life. It's been amazing. It's just been amazing. I feel that's one thing I always look back and feel incredibly so lucky and so grateful for,

Elias Rubel: (22:18)
Well, Carol, it's been an absolute pleasure to chat with you on the show, and I really appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation with me.

Carol Meyers: (22:26)
Uh, it's been a pleasure seeing it. Wasn't scary at all.