Welcome back to year two of our popular blog series, CMO Secrets. On the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, we feature an exceptional Marketing leader from around the industry. Some names will be easily recognized, and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of Startups, Technology, and Marketing. The questions are ours, but the answers are theirs – every word, shared without edit, from their fingers to your eyes.
Today we welcome Carol Meyers, CMO at Rapid7. Carol is a a growth “junkie” with four IPOs in her history. Today, she is the CMO of Rapid7 (Nasdaq: RPD), which reported 2018 ARR growth of over 50%. Previously, she served as CMO at LogMeIn, Inc. and Unica Corporation (acquired by IBM), and VP of sales for Shiva Corporation (acquired by Intel), and has held roles in sales, marketing, and finance at Lotus (acquired by IBM) and GE. In addition to Carol’s role as a marketing executive, she also serves on the board of directors for Emarsys and MineralTree.
Tell us about Rapid7 and the role marketing plays there.
Rapid7 is advancing security with visibility, analytics, and automation delivered through our Insight cloud, our expertise and our research. Our products allow security teams to collaborate more effectively with IT and development to reduce vulnerabilities, monitor for malicious behavior, investigate and shut down attacks, and automate routine tasks. The goal of our global marketing team is to convey how Rapid7 can improve security outcomes, help our entire organization to understand and deliver on our brand promise, and add-value to the security community through our communications and content. And, of course, the marketing team is committed to driving growth.
What’s been one of the biggest ah-hah marketing moments during your time at Rapid7?
There are more of these moments than I can recount! Two that come to mind are:
- What works in one company and market doesn’t always work in another
- As much as people want to self-serve, we have to keep the humanity of what we do visible and in-mind.
How do you prioritize which Rapid7 products and services get more marketing love?
There is a lot that goes into that – we factor in the usual things such as market opportunity and competition, but we also look at our brand strength in each market and whether we are in an emerging market or growth stage. We “over invest” in areas where we are less known, see a significant market opportunity, know we have strong product – market fit, and have a go-to-market model ready to scale. This allows us to grow significantly faster than the market in markets that are new for us. We ensure, however, that we are investing enough in our more established products to also maintain growth above market. Essentially, we know we have outstanding products and services so our goal in every market is to gain share and grow faster than market rates. In emerging markets segments, where the market is still small, we act entrepreneurally with fast learning cycles – hypothesize, test, and adapt.
Do you think there are any attitudes or beliefs in marketing that need to change? Outdated approaches or improperly applied/misunderstood insights?
Marketers (including me!) are very prone to fads. We latch on to new three letter acronyms as if they are the next holy grail of marketing. “It’s all about PLG!” “No-no, it’s all about ABM!” What I have found is that each of these approaches has merit and can be effective applied in the right business. I think what works varies based on the buyers, the product, a company’s competitive strategy and the market. For me, the key has been to get to the essence of whatever the tactic or approach is and figure out if and how it applies in my business. For example, PLG requires a product to be very easy for customers to access, try and adopt. ABM is about knowing your ideal customer profile and doing the work to make your marketing tailored to each person. It’s important to ensure that your go-to-market strategy is aligned with your product and buyer. Not all approaches work well in all businesses. There is no silver bullet!
After 8 years at Rapid7, what are the things that keep it fun and interesting and rewarding and – frankly – worthwhile for you?
The mission and the team drive me to “get my feet on the floor and out the door” everyday. I work with an incredible group of people – my peers on the leadership team, my global marketing team, and everyone we collaborate with to fulfill our mission. I love growth – personal growth, revenue growth and growth in impact – and Rapid7 has made growth in all three areas possible every year.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your marketing career?
The biggest risk I took in my marketing career was to go into marketing at all. I had very little experience in hands-on marketing when I took my first role as the VP of Marketing at a start-up. I had worked in finance, in channel sales and in enterprise sales but had only about 24 months of marketing experience with a short stint in product marketing and one in direct marketing.
The most audacious program I’ve led is our party at Black Hat – Black Hat is one the largest conferences and exhibitions in the world for the cyber security community. When we expanded our party to 4,000+ people (that’s a lot of friends!), the big parties were not the norm, as yet. They are pretty common place now but ours still thrives. For us, it’s an opportunity to give back to the community and let them have fun and blow off steam from what is a very stressful job.
Can you think of a time when you proposed a program you felt really strongly about and it didn’t get approved or didn’t execute the way you intended?
Yes, our annual customer conference. The feedback from attendees was fantastic but the total numbers of attendees plateaued, and the amount of effort it took from across the organization – including our consultants, product teams, and sales and marketing teams was significant. Ultimately, we decided that in order to justify the size of the investment, we needed to grow attendance. Competition for events in the cyber security industry is intense. RSA, Black Hat, Gartner, InfoSec, and SecTor are very large and there are thousands of other cyber security events. I get at least 15 solicitations for different cyber security events every day. We decided to take our customer conference to the people instead of asking the people to come to us. Now, we hold smaller events in cities across the US, Europe and Asia instead of trying to have one big annual event.
What’s the best career advice you ever received and who did it come from?
Believe it or not, this is an incredibly tough question for me to answer. So many amazing people have helped and advised me throughout my career, it’s impossible for me to choose one. So I am going to share my own advice with everyone here – Keep learning and every day strive to be better than you were the day before.
What advice of your own would you like to pass on to up-and-coming marketers?
Love what you do. Care about the products and services you market. Get to deeply know your customers, the alternatives they have available, and how your business works. Be curious and seek to understand the roles of the people around you both within marketing and in other parts of your organization. Focus on having positive impact, know how what you do helps your team and company achieve their goals, and be able to articulate that contribution. Ask for and take on challenging new projects, seek a lateral move in order to learn a new skill, and never stop learning. You might see a pattern here!
Time to Rant or Rave: What’s a marketing/business/technology topic that’s getting you fired up right now?
The notion of the manufactured brand. It fires me up when someone says to their marketing team, “I want a brand like Tesla.” Or ‘Why can’t we be like Apple?” as if it is the marketing team alone that makes Tesla what Tesla is or Apple what Apple is. It’s as if they believe all we need is a snappier image and “puff, we’ll be an iconic brand.” It just doesn’t work that way. Iconic brands are built on top of audacious visions and cultures, with leaders who align the entire organization to that vision, and then execute phenomenally well to ensure they deliver on the brand promise. Of course, you need great marketing to tell the compelling brand story, but iconic brands are not built on top of just words and images. Many start-up founders don’t get that.
What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?
I have to admit, I never heard this term before, so I did a little research. From what I could glean, “open marketing” means being honest about what your company’s products and services do, being true to your brand promise, operating with transparency and not bashing your competitors. If that’s what open marketing means, count me in! At Rapid7 we strive for transparency, accuracy and accountability every day – I wish I could say we are perfect, but we aren’t. We make mistakes. Key for us, though, is that when we do, we work hard to “own up” to the mistake and make it right. We also fundamentally believe that our brand is completely hollow if we don’t deliver on the brand promises we make. Our customer experience initiatives, employee training and focus are all fully aligned with our brand. I fundamentally believe that the only brand that matters is the one perceived and experienced by the customers and employees. Good marketing aligns the words with the experience. I also believe that the company culture is the foundation of a strong brand – you have to have a strong culture to have a strong brand.