Interview with Maria Pergolino, Chief Marketing Officer, Anaplan

Maria Pergolino

“We condense information from campaign performance, behavioral data, surveys and other research to build a comprehensive view of the customer landscape.”

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Tell us about your role and how you got here?

I’m CMO at Anaplan, and we’re pioneering the category of Connected Planning. Our platform connects people, data, and plans to enable real-time decision-making in today’s rapidly changing business environment which gives our customers a competitive advantage.

I joined Anaplan following two remarkable experiences – being part of leadership teams at two different start-ups that grew to billion dollar + valuations. The only way to do this is for the entire team to be exceptional, it’s not the idea alone. It takes world-class talent, company-wide alignment, dedication and discipline. In my opinion, what fails for many start-ups isn’t the idea, but it’s the marketing of that idea. This, plus my earlier work in enterprise organizations, has led to a role that I am more excited about than any other.

What galvanized you to join Anaplan?

This role is a unique opportunity because Anaplan can help every department in any organization be more efficient and make smarter decisions faster, including marketing. In marketing, the success of the function, and ultimately revenue, hinges on creating the best marketing strategy and then tying that strategy to world-class execution. What I’ve found is that the part that is most critical, and often missing, is a nimble plan that allows for execution that is aligned strategy.

This means I am not only able to market a great product, but share best practices with my peers.

Also, critical to Anaplan is our  “Customer First” approach. It all starts with the C-suite. Every one of our C-level executives is laser-focused on creating opportunities and thinking about customers proactively.

As a top woman CMO in the technology industry, how do you stay on top of your marketing game?

While I like to have fun at my job—and I do my best to also make work fun for my teams—I take my craft very seriously. I treat it the way a surgeon does. Surgeons have to study; they always want to get better and adapt as techniques change. I focus not only on the work I’m doing but also on trends and how the field is developing.

No one becomes great at something by accident. You have to put work into it. Instead of jumping from job to job, I tell people to choose something and figure out how to be spectacular at it. Then go share that with other people because if they appreciate that thought leadership, they’ll tell other people about you.

How would you rate yourself as a ‘Fearless Marketer’?

I’m a very confident and driven person. I’m often the first to step to the front of the room in a meeting or to offer an opinion. But I try very hard to not come across as dominant or aggressive. It’s critical, in the marketing field, to have the entire company understand the marketing investment, and to work alongside other disciplines not only to affirm and reinforce those other departments but also to communicate the impact marketing is making. Very often we don’t market our own marketing enough. No matter how much we’re doing, we could do more in that regard. Anaplan’s product has helped me take this even further, not only showing the results of our marketing efforts but allowing me to show the company the potential of our efforts via a plan that is part of a company-wide plan. It’s very rewarding to have the entire company aligned with the vision of marketing.

How is Anaplan different from other cloud platforms? What marketing strategies keep you ahead of the league?

Anaplan’s planning platform is unique in its ability to connect all areas of an organization. Our focus on connecting data, people, and plans, across every department, is a big differentiator and the reason we’re a recognized leader in our industry and pioneering the Connected Planning category.

Yet our marketing efforts—our ability to deliver on a “Customer First” approach—are built around what we call the “moments that matter”. We concentrate on what our customers need from us at a specific moment—experiences and deliverables that, over time, create positive feelings about our brand.

As a marketing organization, a big part of our job is to identify customer needs and to make recommendations to other departments. We condense information from campaign performance, behavioral data, surveys and other research to build a comprehensive view of the customer landscape. That way, we’re facilitators of a “Customer First” strategy instead of sole owners of it.

What are your thoughts on the “State of Omnichannel Marketing” in 2018? How much of this state is influenced by the maturity of automation and personalization tools?

It’s become a fact of life that in order to effectively manage the entire customer lifecycle, companies must engage with their customers over every channel, whether in person, socially, through email, over e-commerce, etc. As it applies to Account-Based Marketing (ABM), it’s necessary to ensure that these engagements are personalized down to a persona. However, the challenge is to be able to do this in a cost- and time-effective manner. Such a balancing act requires a solution that can track, then deliver a coordinated, cross-channel engagement. And, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear me say, it all starts with a great plan!

How is the business intelligence industry different from when you first started? How do current analytics tools enable business analysts to work with ‘best data’?

Accurate marketing data will always be a strong arbiter of what we do—qualitative data from surveys and customer interviews, along with usage and behavior data, helps us to see if we’re meeting customer expectations. But there is such a broad array of information out there from so many sources. From a marketing standpoint, we need to manage all that data to make informed decisions, which is why we use our own Anaplan Connected Planning platform. It allows us to work collaboratively to gain insights about our customers and demonstrate how our campaigns are growing the business.

I’ve also long been an advocate for predictive marketing, especially as part of our ABM strategy including target account identification, scoring and prioritization.  We use Anaplan in conjunction with Marketo, Engagio, and Everstring to make this happen.

Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Anaplan is in the enterprise planning business and so we use our platform internally every day for many key business functions, including marketing. Inspiration isn’t really an issue—in a fast-paced industry like ours, there simply isn’t time for applications that can’t keep up. We pair Anaplan with other best-in-class marketing solutions to build out a complete technology stack that leverages automation through the entire sales funnel and customer lifecycle.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

We can tend to overcomplicate marketing – too many tools can lead to wasted spending and it can also cause frustration in the team, because they’re trying to do too much. It’s better to do a few things well. Essentially, if your tools aren’t helping with content, contacts, channels or customers, then you probably don’t need them. It’s true you always want to look at the new and shiny, but if I’m choosing across a landscape of 5,000 vendors, I’m looking for the ones that automate the process and help with my goals. Mainly, every CMO should have a good idea of their CRM capabilities, their automation system and where their website is, and you can base a lot of the other decisions off this. But if you’re inheriting a Martech stack, these are the hardest products to change. If I had to name a few, however, I’d include Anaplan (Marketing Planning), Marketo (Marketing Automation), Everstring (Predictive Lead Generation), RO Innovation (Reference), Gainsight (Customer Success), Influitiv (Customer and Employee Gamification) Engagio (ABM), and LinkedIn.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

The delete button – I often don’t answer my phone unless I have a scheduled appointment and don’t consider my inbox a to-do list. Also, hire less for experience and more for team dynamic – I never hire someone I wouldn’t want to eat dinner with.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Jon Miller, Founder/CEO of Engagio: Things are never as good or as bad as they seem. My Dad: The person with the most memories wins.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Kirk Crenshaw of Traackr, Carrie Palin of Box, Jason Miller of LinkedIn, and Sara Varni of Twilio

Thank you, Maria! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Maria Pergolino is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Anaplan. Maria is known for building world-class teams that drive growth, product differentiation, and category development. Prior to Anaplan, Maria was Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Sales Development at Apttus, where she directed go-to-market strategy, sales development, customer advocacy, demand generation, strategic events and communications initiatives. She also has held leadership positions at Marketo, Shunra Software (acquired by Hewlett-Packard), and Chubb Ltd. Maria holds both a B.S. and an MBA in Marketing from Rutgers University.

Anaplan is driving a new age of connected planning. Large and fast-growing organizations use Anaplan’s cloud platform in every business function to make better-informed plans and decisions and drive faster, more effective planning processes.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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