Legendary valley CMO, Meagen Eisenberg shares her reflections on leading growth at TripActions and MongoDB.

Powered by RedCircle

Episode Outline

[04:39] Meagen’s background

[07:16] How leaders gravitate more towards fear to motivate and others gravitate towards love

[10:13] A good frame is the carrot and stick. Meagen is more of a carrot because that's how she responds. If she’s praised or rewarded, she wants more of that. So she works even harder.

[11:18] How COVID changes things. We have to go online. We have to log in. We have to have security. We're remote. We have to collaborate on all these different tools.

[12:04] Having success means assessing people, their process and their technology. Bring in a lot of technology because it gives the data needed and the visibility into what's working and what's not working and what we can do to be more efficient as a marketing organization.

[14:34] How to be effective and efficient and target the audience that you're going after. The future is full of technology.

[16:35] Tips in cutting costs and moving into a recession, we've got to be very careful on what technology becomes critical and not.

[17:04] Realize how many independent pieces of tech do you have in your stack right now,

[19:22] On gifting, you send someone a plant, they set it on their desk naturally. So one, it's hard to throw it away, but also it sits on their desk and they look at it and your brand sits there and others in the company see it, and then people will take pictures and they'll share it.

[20:19] You always have to improve the funnel. You always have to improve your messaging. You always have to, you know, get PR and respond.

Meagen's inspirations

Ben Horowitz

Connect with Meagen


Trip Actions

Elias Rubel (00:31):

So today I am really thrilled to have the person I think is at the very, very top of marketing in Silicon Valley, she has led 12 successful exits, or at least been a part of them in some capacity since 2011. She's an operator. She's an advisor, she's a leader to IPS, uh, none other than Megan Eisenberg. Megan, welcome to the show.

Meagen Eisenberg (00:56):

Thank you for having me. 

Elias Rubel

So I normally ask this question at the end, but because I'm so unbelievably enamored with your career and what you've done thus far, how, who are the folks who've inspired you along the way and mentored you to the point that you are today?

Meagen Eisenberg (01:15):

Yeah, it's a great question. I would say. I, you know, when I think about, I always look at the, I think you learned from leaders no matter what, whether they're a good leader or bad leader, you, you take, hopefully you take away the good stuff and what motivated you and you realize what not to do.

Meagen Eisenberg (01:30):

Um, and I, I think if I look back at those that I learned a lot from early in my career, I worked for a woman at applied materials. I was an intern, uh, and, uh, she was an amazing leader at that time, uh, in a Lotus notes kind of role. Um, and so I learned a lot from her when I graduated from business school, uh, there was a gentleman named Dandrew Curry was the COO of Trigo technologies. And, um, he taught me a lot about product marketing. He taught me a lot about the partnership between marketing and sales and how important that was. And interestingly enough, the same company, one of the co founders, Byron Deeter of Trigo. Um, I really, throughout my career, every, every company along the way, I always checked in with him and got his insight and feedback, uh, and learning.

Meagen Eisenberg (02:24):

Uh, so he's always been a great mentor as well, just assessing different opportunities. And so there's been some that have helped me assess, helped me be a better marketer. And there's been some that have helped me assess where to go next in my career.

Elias Rubel (02:38):

You mentioned that, you know, some of these learnings come from folks who aren't good examples, but instead are the inverse of that. Obviously without naming names, could you tell some stories, maybe what those learnings were, how they manifested and when it clicked for you that you want it to be the opposite of that?

Meagen Eisenberg (02:58):

Yeah. I, you know, it's interesting, you hear about leadership style, that it's a balance between, um, love and fear. And I think, uh, some leaders gravitate more towards fear to motivate and others gravitate towards love. And I think you can't be too much of one or the other.

Meagen Eisenberg (03:15):

I think there are times that you need to, um, motivate, um, teach, learn, love, and bring people through and their career. And there's other times where there it's where you do use a balance of fear to motivate, but hopefully on a, a lesser amount, I, uh, tend to be, I would say I'm to a fault more on the love side than the fear side of leadership. So I can learn a lot from those that leverage the other side. I would also frame it as the carrot and stick. I'm more of a carrot because that's how I respond. If I'm praised or rewarded, I want more of that. So I work even harder where some think that if you use a stick, people will work harder. And so I've seen different leadership styles and said, you know, I didn't like the way that felt that didn't motivate me that waste of time. That's not what I'm going to do. And there's other times like, Oh yeah, that was a really good use of fear for short term sprint. Um, and so I, I, you know, I've just observed different styles and alliances when I just think about how did it impact me, but it's also the person and the style that they need to be most effective in their role.

Elias Rubel (04:26):

So jumping around a little bit, um, when you and I last got together for coffee, it was at the Phil's in Palo Alto. I think it was 2015, which is crazy time flies. And I remember being so blown away by the depth of the tech stack that you were just aggressively making leverage of back then. And now thinking through how much more, some of the things that you were on to then have matured so much or quite a bit, at least in that time, how, how do you see, I mean, the next couple of years unfolding as far as MarTech is concerned,

Meagen Eisenberg (05:07):

You know, it's interesting. I think we need a technology more than ever, especially, you know, everyone's online. That's why you're seeing a lot of the tech companies are responding actually positively in the markets because of this. All of a sudden this, you know, we have to go online, we have to log in, we have to have security, we're remote. We have to collaborate all these different tools. But in marketing specifically, if you think about it, 40% of your budget used to go to events and field. And now those are gone at least for six months, if not a year, and that's shifted to online. And when you want to spend money online and you need to optimize your using the different marketing technologies out there, maybe you're optimizing your website, you're optimizing your email marketing, your social media, your paid search. Uh, you're sending mails.

Meagen Eisenberg (05:57):

All of those have, uh, a MarTech company behind them. Uh, here, certainly every time I joined a company, I ended up assessing their people, their process and their technology. And I tend to bring in a lot of technology because it gives me the data I need and the visibility into what's working and what's not working and what we can do to be more efficient as a marketing organization, but also as a go to market engine and a funnel to drive a revenue. And so I, I, I believe companies in order to compete need technology, and that's a competitive advantage and moving forward more and more is online right now. Uh, and you need it. Uh, you need to, you know, be effective and efficient and target the audience that you're going after. So I certainly think the future is full of technology now, as we are cutting costs and moving into a recession, we've gotta be very careful on what technology becomes critical and not. And so I do think you're going to be ranking your stack and have to let go. Some of those that you haven't been able to prove the return on investment with, uh, and that your CFO is going to demand that you, if they haven't done that already, which a lot of them do demand that you prove the ROI on that spend, uh, otherwise you're going to have to cut it. And I think you'll see some renewals not happening because they won't marketers. Aren't able to prove the ROI, always.

Elias Rubel (07:20):

How many independent pieces of tech do you have in your stack right now, if you were to guess

Meagen Eisenberg (07:28):

And working alone, add in sales, you're probably getting closer to 50 and some of the 30 and MarTech crossover into sales tech organizations use it.

Elias Rubel (07:37):

Sure. Okay. So now let's play a game. If you were forced to narrow that down to the five, most essential outside of the obvious like core marketing automation,

Meagen Eisenberg (07:49):

I don't have to account that we have Marketo and Eloqua.

Elias Rubel (07:53):

Oh, wow. Maybe have some explaining to do, but

Meagen Eisenberg (07:58):

Yeah, it's true. We have, we have Maketo for our sales engine pipeline prospects. If you think about it, our business is travel management and we communicate a lot to our, not only our travel managers, the admins of our systems, but also the travelers, making sure they're having a great experience checking in with them. They've got their itinerary, they've got their flight, they can register, you know, the things that you need on a business trip. And so we use Eloqua for our, really our travelers and their loyalty and customer experience. And we're using Marquetto for our go to market side. So we've got both platforms and I don't want those to ever really cross over. I wouldn't want sales calling a traveler, right. That's I don't want sales. I don't want a traveler to end up in Salesforce. So if I isolate them in their own marketing database and I don't connect them to, um, really what we're doing for pipeline, that's a good way to separate them.

Elias Rubel (08:56):

That makes sense. All right. So those aside, what would your five picks be?

Meagen Eisenberg (09:02):

So such a good question. So, um, there's a whole slew that really, I think, make the funnel more efficient, like full circle CRM and lean data. You could put that in sales tech. Um, but I always recommend that we have them. So I think that's critical. Um, I've also, I think critical is we have a bunch of tools on our website, um, that are optimizing conversions, like optimized early. Uh, and we have, if I had to pick from an ABM standpoint, I think a Terminus we've got Terminus working well, we've got react full. And then I, I think a critical part, especially now that events are gone, our, our ability to do direct mail, we've got send DOSO for that. Um,

Elias Rubel (09:52):

It's my ran out of fingers. Um, what's the, what's the craziest or most creative, uh, send DOSO said that you've ever done.

Meagen Eisenberg (10:00):

You know, we just, um, we've done a few, uh, one that I really liked. I didn't actually, it's interesting. I didn't like it at first. I thought it was such an odd thing to send, um, and it, but then it actually ended up being a brilliant thing to send. So we succulents, which I guess now are more popular than they were before. I never really was into having succulents on my desk. So I, I didn't like, you know, I like flowers and roses and blooming things. Um, so I just was like, okay, this is weird. But if you think about it, if you send someone a succulent, a living plant, one second, linter easy to ship. They don't, you know, move around. They can kind of go without water for awhile. But if the planter has your logo on it, so you have TripActions on it. First of all, it's hard to throw away a living thing. So you send someone a plant, they set it on their desk naturally. So one, it's hard to throw it away, but also it sits on their desk and they look at it and your brand sits there and others in the company see it, and then people will take pictures and they'll share it. And so I was really surprised how well succulents went over.

Elias Rubel (11:03):

Amazing. I love that you reverse engineer it and it makes perfect sense. But at first flush it's like,

Meagen Eisenberg (11:09):

Let me do something else. I don't want to get a second one. I do. I want to get in the mail a second one. Now of course, I think there are a lot more trendy, but this is about a year ago and maybe they were trending back then and then behind. But, um, yeah, that's surprised me how well that worked to get a response on it.

Elias Rubel (11:27):

How do you like to measure the influence of something like physical mailers on a campaign to get to whatever your next goal is? Whether it's a response or greasing the funnel?

Meagen Eisenberg (11:38):

Yeah, I mean, I think there there's a few different use cases. Uh, I think direct mail is awesome for opening a door. So you pick your top 100 or 200 accounts that aren't responding to because there's the art of reciprocity. If someone, you, something you kind of feel, most people feel inclined to respond. And even if it's a negative response, it's a response. Um, so one, I think they're great for opening the door and getting someone to respond to, to your mid funnel. You want to close the deal? I think a Gainsight did this brilliantly. I was, uh, at Mongo DB and we're, we're close to closing, you know, signing up for Gainsight as a customer. And they sent our office, our Palo Alto office, 14 buckets of ice cream, right. Big gallon. And everyone came down, it was like eating ice cream. And they're like, who got the ice cream who brought the ice cream?

Meagen Eisenberg (12:30):

And someone said, Oh, Gainsight sent it over. And I was like, Oh, some would be like, Oh wow. Gainsight or others would be like, what's Gainsight, who's Gainsight. And we also have we're talking about it. And we ended up closing the deal and becoming a customer. And so it's that sort of thing. It was like, that was great to close a deal because it brought people together. They talked about it. It, and it's not that right to send ice cream is probably not that expensive, but it bonded you to the customer. I think a third example, which we did recently for a direct mail. Um, I called it project sunshine. Um, cause I have this belief that people right now need, you know, they need to socially distant, but they need to be out in sunshine. They need to raise their melatonin. They need vitamin D I think it's good for mental health, all these things.

Meagen Eisenberg (13:12):

So we decided to send our customers those that we, you know, had an address for that responded and gave us their address because it's, you can't send it to businesses right now. Um, but if they sent us their address, we sent them a picnic basket with a postcard and it was just, you know, it was like, Hey, we just want to check in with you. We hope you just get a little bit of break to go outside, feel the sun. It feels like the right time to just like celebrate life a little bit. Um, and we've seen really good response from our customers. Like, thank you. It made me be like, we're going to go in the backyard and have a picnic. We're going to walk over to the park and have a picnic. We're doing it. And you know, inside the house, cause we can't leave the, or the apartment we can't leave, but it's just like this.

Meagen Eisenberg (13:54):

Like thank you. And it's not that, you know, it's not that expensive. You actually get picnic baskets with your brand colors without having to design them and adding in a postcard from the CSM is a really easy thing to do. And it it's just like that surprise and delight moment that bonds your brand. Because if you think about it for travel, nobody's traveling right now. They're not interacting with our brand. You know, when you travel with TripActions, you're on the app, you see it, we respond, we take care of you. You talk with our travel agents, we're global, but if you're not traveling at all, how do I get them? Our travelers and our travel managers to interact with the brand. Uh, and I need things to remind them that we're here for them and we care about them and who we are as a company. Uh, so just, you know, there's several ways I think you can use throughout the funnel, um, with direct mail.

Elias Rubel (14:42):

Have you found any creative ways to get around the challenge of every most people working from home right now and not having physical addresses for the individual personas that you're going after?

Meagen Eisenberg (14:54):

Uh, yes, for sure. So, I mean, Sentosa actually pivoted their, their ability to deliver by giving you like outreach with the email and the person enters their information into the system. So it's still kept private. So there's a way, I mean, it still means the person has to open the email and engage with it. So that's one way to do it. Um, you know, if you have a real, you know, if they're willing to respond, there's also ways where you don't pick what you send them. It's like here, I want to send you a care package. You get to pick it out and you have like a threshold and they can pick something out of a group of items, um, that they get. Um, and there's, you know, there's just different ways Amazon, I think cards work well, but I, I think there's something to sending them something physical versus just an electronic item.

Meagen Eisenberg (15:47):

What we did before, when we could meet with folks, there's a woman who makes these amazing cookies by Nadiem she's in the Bay area. She can pretty much draw just about anything on these cookies and send like our brand and their brand and like different celebration type cookies. So similar to the ice cream idea, um, from, from a closing standpoint, just these moments and touches that show that you're willing. You're just going to take that extra step to personalize for them and take care of them. Our mission is customer first and the experience is a really big part of who we are. And so we want to create that experience and let them know that's the type of company they're going to work with moving forward.

Elias Rubel (16:30):

What do you think the biggest challenge that marketers face today is,

Meagen Eisenberg (16:35):

Oh goodness. Uh, cut budgets. So you know that a lot of, you know, we, we shrank in size in the last couple months, um, in business travel of course, and budgets are cut. So I think that's, you know, some of it, and then it's just huge disruption to the workforce as everyone, uh, H had to get used one, get there, you know, work from home. If they have kids, like I have kids homeschooling, uh, trying to figure out the world, uh, I think safety, your safety is, is a little off. So you're trying to market and a world that is going through massive disruption and then all the political things going on. Um, you know, it's like economic crisis health crisis, political crisis. I mean, these are tough conditions and it's really easy to come off tone deaf. And most people are like, can I talk to in a couple months?

Meagen Eisenberg (17:24):

So for marketers, you've got to one have the right, you got to pivot and have the right messaging for the current times two, you better have value you can deliver, right? The products gotta deliver something they need now. And then you've got to create a sense of urgency. Why not wait a month or two from now? You know, at first we were hearing things like, Oh my goodness, right now, I can't even think about this. Can I talk to you in a month? You know, we're not even traveling. It'd be like, and we like, well actually there's no better time to switch in and switch out a travel for warm. Like it's a perfect time to do change management. And in fact, all the benefits you're going to get, and when they take off, you can set new policies, you can protect your travelers. You can save money like right now, you know, cat saving cash is a big deal in cost control. Well, we've got a great solution for you to do that and to set the right policies. And we're, you know, we have an innovative team and all the messaging and product that we're delivering for now, but we had, you know, we had to make that quick change and pivot. So I think marketers have to drive a sense of urgency, not be tone deaf and do it with less money.

Elias Rubel (18:30):

It's a, it's a hell of a time. Um, I'm curious, you know, when you are interacting with other marketers who are more junior in their careers, even folks who are at, you know, at fast growing companies, are there, are there certain things that you see them doing as maybe a pattern that, you know, sometimes it's hard to call, call people out or it's not the right place or time, but if there's, are there any patterns that you've identified? And you're like, man, I wish marketers just would get this right? Like a lot of them aren't and it would, it would be such a level up for them if they could make that shift or realization. Is there anything on your show?

Meagen Eisenberg (19:16):

I love it when I love the people that I can give just about any project to, and they go figure it out. They have the energy, even if there's roadblocks, they they're able to work cross functionally. They can work with sales or product or whoever they need to figure it out. And they come back with a solution versus the ones that always just aren't in your, you know, we don't really have offices, but at your desk or at your zoom and are, are just telling you all the reasons they can't get it done, they don't have budget. So, and so doesn't, won't do this. They're waiting on content over here. They don't have a design, like the ones that are always coming to with the unfinished or all the reasons why they can't. I want to turn those victims into the ones that figure it out.

Meagen Eisenberg (20:00):

They build relationships with their, their counterparts, their peers, their team cross functional. Whether they need to work with someone in product marketing or design or comms, like they find a way to build the relationships. They need to sell the value of the project and get it done in a timely amount of time. And so I try to hire those people and I try to turn the ones that are not those people into those people. And by giving them either the skills or the confidence or the, um, models I've used successfully in the past. Um, but yeah, I can often I can almost always see the ones that are gonna do well. Like it's pretty easy to see the ones like, wow, they figured out how to do that. And now I can give them more or something new, or I just, just have this confidence I can throw out to them. And I don't even have to explain it that way. They just go figure it. They figure it out. Yes. Yeah.

Elias Rubel (20:50):

So, you know, as far as my eyes can see you're at, you're at the very top of the industry and marketing and I'm sure to you, there, there are even greater Heights that you want to accomplish. Um, what, what are those and you know, what are your personal goals for yourself this year?

Meagen Eisenberg (21:10):

Yeah. You know, I think being a CMO is really hard. Uh, and you're, you're, it's, I think the amount of the different things you have to do, um, make it also exciting. There's always an area you need to improve. You always have to improve the funnel. You always have to improve your messaging. You always have to, you know, get PR and respond. You always have to capture customer stories. Uh, and you, you you're dependent on people, right? You've gotta enable your sales team. That's always a ever-changing thing. Um, the product is always growing and evolving. Your competitors are making moves, your budget's going up and down. Um, you know, it is a balance of art and science. You've got to be really creative. It's a noisy environment out there. And so I love marketing for that reason. It's I never feel like I am the best at anything.

Meagen Eisenberg (22:03):

I never feel like I really know what I'm doing. I just, I, um, I think I know how I know how to hire well, and I can see things I need to go fix and I have the energy to go do it. Um, but it's, it's, I could never say that it's easy. Um, and that's why I love it. And I plan to be a CMO for a long time. I don't have sights on, you know, I don't have sights on being a CEO or a COO or anything like that. I think mastering a CMO is almost impossible. Uh, and I, I do love when I, you know, I switched from long the DB, which is a very developer focused technical product to business travel, which is not infrastructures. Um, I would say tons of fun. Uh, I use the product, you know, it's just a totally different environment, but you also sell to a different audience. And I think it's fun figuring out what it's going to take to scale the company, um, makes it exciting, uh, for sure. And, you know, you're always hiring and growing and figuring out what's around the corner. You know, this is a curve ball nobody's traveling.

Elias Rubel (23:05):


Meagen Eisenberg (23:08):

Great example of, you know, figuring out what we need to do. And I think we've made some really good moves in the last three months. I think we're positioned very well to actually come out of it and take more market share. I think, uh, if we have, you know, we just took 125 million last week, we announced it. Um, and we had, you know, 200 and something in the bank. So, you know, we've got over 300 million to survive. Uh, what, you know, a fairly long amount of time as Ben Horowitz says, as long as this doesn't go on for 10 years, we're fine.

Meagen Eisenberg (23:43):

Right. And we're not, the larger are going to hurt because they've got huge debt infrastructure. As you grow really large, you take on and you acquire more companies, you acquire more debt, it's hard for you to control costs. You've got, you've got people, you've got infrastructure, you've got legacy technology. So we have the advantage. We're five years old. We're on modern technology. We have 900 people, not, you know, a huge amount there and cash to sustain the downturn for a couple of years. Um, but it doesn't mean I don't have to pivot messaging arm, the sales team and take market share, right. We're aggressively going after. And, um, we are still doing quite well signing new contracts over 265 customers in the last three months we've signed on during a travel, basically a travel freeze. Right. Um, so there, and it's a massive market. It's a one point $5 trillion market pre COVID.

Meagen Eisenberg (24:36):

I've seen things where it says it's a $600 billion market for the next two years because travel will come down, but we had less than 1% of the market. So how do I get the rest of it? Right. Even if I get 2%, 4%, 8% of it, that's a massive market. So I've got to make sure I lead the team through the downturn, uh, and, and climb back up while taking, uh, the market share. I think we can take, so that's a, you know, a different challenge. I don't, I don't want to say it's fun. Cause nothing about the last three months have been fun, but, um, you know, intellectually stimulating for sure. And how you navigate it with less people and less budget.

Elias Rubel (25:12):

Well, I love your outlook. It's nice. That makes all the difference. Right. There are so many other ways that this could be handled or seen and instead you're like, this is a sweet challenge. Let's do that.

Elias Rubel (25:22):

Yes. Yeah. It's really inspiring. The last question I have for you is

Elias Rubel (25:29):

What do you do to unwind like outside of work, you have a really intense career, lots of challenges, three kids. What, what helps you stay balanced?

Meagen Eisenberg (25:40):

Yeah. I mean, I have to say, it's my family, right? It's my kids. Um, you know, you come home and you're, you're, you know, make sure they've eaten, which usually they have when we were homeschooling. Uh, and when they're in school and now they're not in school, so it's, it's, you know, what do you have going on? Have you read, you know, brush teeth, you know, the basic hygiene, brush your hair kind of thing, but just also hang out with them. You know, I, and that, I lied down usually with all of them, but I start with the youngest and then if I don't fall asleep for the rest of the night in her bed, um, and then my oldest and it's, it's, it's almost like my five year old. She doesn't want to go to bed. So she becomes so chatty that we're lying there.

Meagen Eisenberg (26:26):

And she just asked me all these questions and shares all of the stuff going on and just seeing things from her perspective, uh, things that worry her. Like, she's very worried that if she gets to go back to school in the fall, that they can't play tag anymore, she loved playing tag. She loved chasing boys, chasing girls. He's like, mom, I'm not going to get to play tag and do the bars. And that was like, Oh, I did not even think that is something you're thinking about right now. Um, but that might be true. You might not get to do those things in the fall, but she just, you know, her observation on things, uh, and talking with her and telling me about stuff. I, I, that is how I kind of unwind very comforting, I think, as a mom to be lying down with your children and like listening to them.

Meagen Eisenberg (27:07):

And then if I fall asleep, my middle will come in and wake me up and say, it's her turn. So then I go like that. She usually tells me about all the things that her sister did to her that day, a good sibling rivalry going on. So I get to hear the wrongs and rights of her day. And then, you know, I'll either fall asleep or she'll fall asleep and I'll sneak out and then go to the oldest. Who's 10 and she'll chat to me about what's going on. And my evening is, is about a two hour cycle of help me unwind and put things into perspective. That sounds really nice. I often come out and find my husband and go about it or, you know, go, Oh, we should probably address that. Thank you again for coming on the show. This has been an absolute pleasure looking forward to seeing all the growth that you drive and the wonderful thank you for having me.

MUSIC (28:13):