How does a girl interested in fashion become a women creating the marketing visions for big names in technology? A dash of serendipity and a helping of mother-knows-best. Deirdre Mahon always knew she wanted to do something creative so, when her mom advised her to choose business, marketing seemed an ideal, compromise-based solution. Finding her way to the technology sector was the serendipitous part. “I stumbled into technology,” admits Deirdre.
A somewhat unintentional post-grad choice led Deirdre to an industry full of smart, innovative people – and lots of opportunities to use her creative mind on blank slates. Deirdre describes herself as “a serial startup marketer.” Building teams from the ground up and creating multi-functional marketing strategies for a host of San Francisco’s technology firms, she knows how to tell the story of companies built around providing software as a service.
As chief marketing officer of Cloud Cruiser, Deirdre is a believer in customer success being the key to expanding market share and increasing revenue. It’s about telling the story of the customer benefit and amplifying it. “In a startup, you need to have your customers do the talking for you.”
What was your career path leading to your current position as CMO?
I joined Cloud Cruiser after a four-year stint at RainStor as vice president of marketing and alliances, where I built the marketing team from the ground up and executed on a hybrid sales strategy moving from pure OEM/resell to a direct and indirect model. Previously, I worked at GoldenGate Software as senior director of marketing, then as senior director of product management at Oracle post the GoldenGate acquisition in 2009.
I’m a serial startup marketer concentrating on ISV’s in the big data, data integration and cloud market segments. I’m focused on taking innovative technology to market by working closely with sales teams and maintaining a strong external focus on customers and partners. I always take an “outside-in” approach, with a laser focus on how customers benefit and then making the story become relevant and meaningful to a broader market for increased revenue and ultimately value.
Did you always know you wanted to work in marketing and technology?
I knew I always wanted to do something creative. In the early days, I actually wanted to work in fashion and perhaps become a designer. My mother advised me to pursue business. After finishing my primary degree, I decided that I still wanted to pursue a career that gave me the opportunity to be creative but also practical. Once I got into business, marketing was the most natural step after a short stint in software sales. I then pursued my post-graduate degree with a concentration in marketing. I stumbled into technology even pre-Windows and pre-Internet. I got my first tech job working at a recruitment agency where I actually chose which interviews to go on, or in other words – the most interesting job opportunities. A career working in technology has provided me the opportunity to work daily with smart, creative people, and at the same time, build something new or from a blank slate.
What does a day in your life entail? How do you prioritize all of the responsibilities as a CMO?
The key is to work your plan and execute from there. Of course you have to get buy-in from many stakeholders, but once everyone is clear, it’s heads-down and you watch the bar move. On a daily basis, I could spend time managing external vendors, watching the budget, writing a blog or developing a presentation for an industry analyst. I’m very hands-on as we have a small team, but I actually enjoy getting stuck-in. I multi-task all day long, while never taking my eyes off the metrics.
Customer success is a really important function in any SaaS company. I’m much more involved in customer success now than ever before. Marketing is really a combination of driving demand and creating more revenue. The secondary goal is how to create brand equity and convey who we are and what we stand for. In a startup, you need to have your customers and partners do the talking for you. It’s all about extending your reach and voice in the market. Amplify as much as you can!
We also must reach high levels of customer success and make sure they have a positive experience. In a SaaS business, customer success starts with a trial, so it begins on day one. Sales cycles are shorter and there is no face time. It is key to convey your value in a tangible way to get customers on-board and demonstrate in a high tactile way why they need to buy now. This comes in the form of videos, online tutorials and rich use-cases. I work closely with my team and make sure we’re all aligned in terms of our goals and metrics we need to track every month and quarter. It’s more efficient with a motivated “rock-star” team.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
At Golden Gate Software (from 2002-2009), our company grew from 40 to 400 and was acquired by Oracle for 5X revenue. Oracle gained substantially from this acquisition. The product was all about real-time data movement and one you could not even demo. However, the value was in having data at your finger-tips and how that drove richer reports and system availability.
On the marketing team, we hung our hat on the term “real time” and it was all about “real time” data. A key reason why Oracle acquired the company was because of that single term and promise. After the acquisition, I convinced the executive leadership at Oracle to not rename the product, but to keep the GoldenGate Software brand because of the strong value and equity in that name and its association with “real time.” They kept the name, which was very unusual for a company of our size and market penetration.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about marketing?
Marketing has changed a lot in the last 5-10 years, largely because of automation such as Marketo. This really signaled the first time there was a rigorous process with scientific measurement to demonstrate the return of investment. Most people don’t know that marketing is incredibly multi-faceted and is a true combination of art and science. It’s also highly integrated, and you can’t do one set of functions without another. The combination is key.
How do you see the marketing industry evolving over the next 5 years?
Marketing is receiving a lot more respect because of its ability to drive revenue. Cloud and SaaS have further pushed this. Marketing is more integrated with the sales function, and a large part of that is measurement. The marketing team is really the right group to take charge of nurturing the customer for ongoing success and loyalty. Nurturing is the process of engaging and consistently checking in on how the product is working and making sure the customer is well taken care of.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part is working with customers. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road. Without customers, nothing else matters. When I work with my team, especially those more junior than myself, I like to give additional opportunities and responsibility so they can grow and become better marketers. I love to see my team rise through the ranks and do well in their career.
For someone who is 3-5 years into their marketing career and looking to grow, what advice would you offer?
Try to strike a balance between getting a broad understanding of all facets of marketing, but focus in on being an expert in a couple of areas. For today’s young marketer, I would focus on all things digital and social selling, which includes SEO/SEM. Also, learn how to create key metrics (or KPIs) and how to communicate those clearly as you execute to all relevant stakeholders. Communication is always key.
I’d love to grab coffee with:
My favorite purse is:
My Kate Spade, which holds everything, including my laptop
My go-to outfit is:
Black pants, a silk blouse and comfortable heels (when working)
My favorite dinner spot is:
Zuni Café in SF or Don Giovanni in Napa
I can’t live without:
My dogs and walks on the beach (hopefully together)
My favorite way to unwind is:
I feel my best when:
After a long day, I settle in with a glass of wine and my feet up, spending time with my family
Most people don’t know that marketing is incredibly multi-faceted and is a true combination of art and science.