Meet the Marketer who Changed My Life

Anaplan CMO Maria Pergolino gave me my big break in B2B marketing – it’s a huge pleasure to welcome her to The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast

January 29, 2018

Anaplan CMO Maria Pergolino gave me my big break in B2B marketing – it’s a huge pleasure to welcome her to The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast

Let me introduce you to the marketing leader who changed my life. Maria Pergolino didn't just give me my big break in B2B content marketing, when she hired me into a role at Marketo back in 2011. She also showed me just how exciting, innovative and value-adding such a role could be. That’s because Maria is a living lesson in how to develop as a marketing leader, build and motivate a team, and keep developing in a way that ensures you are always on top of the latest technology and trends and whether they can deliver value for your business.

My old boss is one of the wisest voices you’ll ever hear on subjects like Account Based Marketing (ABM), AI, demand generation or growth marketing. There’s a simple reason for this: while most marketers are busy throwing these buzzwords around to sound impressive and cutting-edge, she gets on with figuring out what they really mean in the context of marketing objectives and strategy. During her time at Marketo and the revenue management software business Apttus, she’s delivered some of the most creative B2B campaigns and executions that I’ve ever seen. Yet she’s also very sharp at identifying when marketers push things too far. And as a female CMO, a role she’s stepping into at the connected planning software business Anaplan, she’s got valuable insight to share on increasing diversity in marketing – and making the transition to the C-suite.

These are the reasons why it’s been a long-term ambition of mine to land Maria as a guest on The Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast. This season, I finally got my way. Click on the link below to hear our interview in full – and you’ll quickly realise why it was worth the wait. Then scroll down for nine pieces of wisdom from Maria that I think are particularly worth paying attention to as we head into 2018:

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Don’t settle for following best practice – invent best practice instead
Maria isn’t happy to simply follow the conventional playbook. Her view is that if you are going to spend a large slice of your time in the office, you have to make that time rewarding. The best way to do that is to think independently and be ambitious. It will keep you fresh and focused. Just as importantly, it can help to differentiate you and your business.

Make sure you’re aligned with Finance
Sales and marketing alignment is important – but just as important, according to Maria, is for marketing to be aligned with finance. It’s likely that your activity represents your businesses third largest item of expenditure after people and facilities. Marketing and finance need to understand the basis for this investment in the same terms.

You can’t do ABM if you can’t decide on the accounts that matter
More and more B2B marketers will be focusing on launching Account Based Marketing (ABM) programmes this year. Far too many will rush ahead without properly aligning with sales on which accounts really matter. This can be fairly straightforward (Maria suggests asking each sales rep for a list of 10 accounts they are trying to sell to), but it’s a vital first step if ABM is to deliver for your business. As an added bonus, it will very quickly bring greater alignment to your sales and marketing teams.

Pay attention to the campaigns that go too far
In the podcast, Maria and I discuss plenty of highly creative B2B campaigns that succeeded in cutting through the noise at events like Dreamforce (one of the most important conferences out there on sales and marketing alignment). However, Maria showed she remembers campaigns that pushed the boat out too far just as well. She pays close attention when competitors overstep the mark and get into trouble – and it’s not because she secretly wants to gloat. As she puts it: “The ideas that go wrong are ideas I might well have said ‘yes’ to if they were pitched to me. That’s why I pay such close attention to what doesn’t work as well as what does.”

Diversity and a great culture will never just happen
Diversity begets diversity – it doesn’t just come about spontaneously. That’s what makes it such as significant challenge for any organisation. As a senior marketer, whether you’re male or female, you have to actively go out of your way to seek sources of diversity in your team. You’ll never get there just by hiring the right candidates when they’re presented to you.

You don’t have to invest directly in AI to benefit from AI
Maria sees AI as the key trend that marketers need to understand and get on top of. That’s why she’s set aside time to take a course on it this year. However, she’s keen to point out that most businesses won’t need to invest directly in AI to gain advantages from it. Keep an eye out for potential suppliers and partners who are leveraging AI effectively to enhance what they can do for you.

Remember: technology doesn’t stop mattering just because something else came up
Google Trends is one of Maria’s favourite SEO tools – and one of the key insights that she gains from it is that interest in a technology or strategy doesn’t disappear just because an alternative technology or strategy comes along. While you’re racing to investigate AI or adopt an ABM strategy, don’t ignore the benefits that you can continue to gain from effective demand generation, lead scoring or content marketing. These may be less buzzy as concepts than they were a few years ago – but they are no less valuable to marketers or their businesses.

Special thanks to our friends at Image Think for this incredible graphic. Check out their website here.

If you’re just discovering us, you can catch up on all the previous episodes of the Sophisticated Marketer’s Podcast here.  

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