The Next CMO Podcast: From Digital Executive to CMO with Mariana Cogan, CMO of People.ai
In this episode, we speak to Mariana Cogan, the CMO of People.ai about her transition from big company digital executive to CMO.
The People.ai enterprise revenue intelligence platform helps teams speed up complex enterprise sales cycles by engaging the right people in the right accounts.
We do it by helping teams clearly see who to engage within each account and exactly what to do to deliver the highest-yielding deals and blow out their numbers every single quarter.
Mariana Cogan is the CMO at People.ai. Most recently SVP of Digital Experience and Engagement at PTC, Cogan pioneered the application of People.ai’s technology to build the revenue engine of the future, leading PTC to win Forrester’s Program of the Year for her “RO&I Engine.” Prior to PTC, Mexico-born Cogan held various roles of increasing responsibility in the software industry, and she is an advocate for diversity, inclusion, and uplifting minorities in the tech space. She believes deeply that diverse companies are more innovative and outperform less diverse ones. Cogan earned a master of business administration (MBA) from Babson College and a bachelor’s degree from Jochi University in Tokyo, Japan.
In this episode, we speak to Mariana Cogan, the CMO of People.ai about her transition from big company digital executive to CMO.
Learn more about Mariana Cogan
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Kelsey: [00:00:00] Mariana, thank you so much for joining the next CMO podcast today. We’re super excited to have you on the show. Would love to learn a little bit more about you and what you email@example.com.
Mariana: Perfect. Thanks a lot Kelsey. Thanks Peter. Very excited to be here. Talking to to everybody. So, people like. People a is the leader in enterprise revenue intelligence. So we pretty much help companies to improve their revenue teams so that they can really optimize engagement, so that they can work much better with the right people in the right accounts so that they can really, increase deal size, increase volume of deals, decrease the time to close in a deal.
Because at the end of the. People buy from people. So if you can optimize that engagement, you get to places. So that’s a little bit of what people AI does.
Peter: Great. And I know Mariana, we’ve known each other for quite a while now. I’m trying to remember when we met first. I think we met at a conference in Boston back probably many years ago when you were [00:01:00] at ptc. I think you were the SVP of digital at the time there, but you’re currently the Chief Marketing Officer, and this is your first CMO gig.
Right. And so tell us about that. Tell us about the transition from working at a big company as a senior executive in charge of a function of marketing and transitioning to a medium sized company, let’s call it as the top marketing exec. What was that?
Mariana: That’s a great great question Peter. And indeed, I think we’ve known each sort of for, quite a good number of years. The Boston crowd, I believe that you live about maybe 10 minutes away from my house. So it’s been a. That really good, knowing you. So yes, quite a transition, but the way that I describe it is that at the end of the day, it’s less of a job description.
And much more the impact that you can have. How can you move the needle? So you move the needle in very different different ways. PTC was, as much large organization. I was there for, eight years, I believe it was much more that, [00:02:00] global scale. Digital transformation.
So it was a wonderful time. It’s there that, I got phenomenal, you sponsors a career was really good. I met people again like yourself, Peter was cool. So Eric Snow, Charlie , a lot of the the very well known people in the marketing space in the Boston area.
So it was a really good good journey and. Moving the needle, really the transformation of making PTCs, you know, marketing team to be much more data driven, very revenue driven, and that was extremely exciting. One of the things that I did at ptc, which was building the pipeline printing machine, the digital transformation of PTCs, revenue teams, and it actually included buy.
On the same day, I bought from six Sense Intent from people, ai, sales engagement, and from Drift conversational intelligence. So it was by putting those three technologies together, I’m always, I’ve always [00:03:00] had a little of a background in the technology space. That, went to help with the leading the transformation of of ptc, one Forester program of the year.
By the combination of the technologies we deliver, like 20 million in the first, pilot. So in a sense, a transition to working with people, I was, it was very smooth. It was a little bit more about, now that I’ve been a customer, That I’ve been doing the, the digital transformation leveraging marketing technologies in such a large enterprise.
Now let’s take it to how do you help our companies going through the, that are going through the same process? Because all of us, we are under so much pressure to deliver revenue, to deliver growth. So it was a very natural change, at people. working closer with, of course, a position in the messaging, the branding, because it’s so close to my heart.
Different to maybe, the times that I have worked in much more of engineering, industrial, technologies. So that is extremely exciting, seeing them, [00:04:00] growing. It’s been, it’s really been a good experience. The transition has been a.
Kelsey: Speaking of a lot of pressure, obviously this is your first CMO stent. This is your first time being a c. And there’s that over weighing stat of, the shortest tenure of the C-suite is the cmo. It’s the one year, nine months. So even though I’m sure it’s really exciting and nerve wracking at the same time, what do you think as a new CMO you can bring to the table and help others bring to the table to really combat this challenge that CMOs are facing?
Mariana: It’s a very valid point. I believe that I published something In Force Magazine or a couple of months ago on, on this topic because you’re absolutely right. The CMO is the Is the is a C-suite that we stay, we tend to stay a little bit of the shortest period of time at the table that maybe some of the other, C-suite members.
What I always recommend people and what has been my mantra is that you have to start with the revenue, the world change.
70, [00:05:00] 80% of the buyer’s. Happen in the digital space, happen in the website, happens through delivering the right content to the right person at the right time. So of course, we have to be owning that revenue conversation.
And it’s tough. So I, what I’ve been doing is that the closer that you can stay to delivering pipeline, to delivering growth, to delivering revenue as a. start buying you the time to be doing the other things that are as important. But again, the challenge with the CMO is that we own what 20 different disciplines communications, pr, product marketing, positioning content say 20 different things.
You cannot be doing a little bit of all of. , you cannot start with the one that maybe you like the most. There’s a little of a tendency sometime for CMOs to start with, rebranding. Yes, it’s a nice way to maybe, [00:06:00] mark your territory, but it’s gonna be, it’s gonna make it harder for you to stay longer.
So that’s one. And then the second component. And I’m sure you all of you have heard plenty from Latin, from all these, different wonderful women that are in the re redefining of the role from chief marketing officer to a chief market officer. So the more that you can not just talk about, we’re gonna be having three webinars and we’re gonna be, putting this new piece of content, but really what’s happening in the market cuz. The market team. If 70, 80% of the buyer’s journey happen digitally, it is us that can bring to the table the what is happening with our vendors, our buyers. What is that value driven conversation that we need to have? What problem are we really solving? So the more that we can start helping the whole organization, because now we start influencing product.
Now we’re starting to influence [00:07:00] sales. Now we’re starting to influence customer success because we know the market. And knowing the market means truly thinking about your customer first. If you can bring those two things to the table, I think that you can deliver. Deliver results. Is it a stressful Yes?
Yes, but if it was easy, everybody would be able to.
Peter: That, that is probably true, Maria. And the you talk about the breadth of the role and obviously it, it is a it’s a. A complex role, obviously you have to be able to understand a lot of different disciplines and tell me how that was for you coming in. So, Mariana, for people that don’t know her, is very well known in the digital marketing field because she was a, a senior executive at a very large company, PTC was about.
Somewhere between one and 2 billion of revenue. So doing this a very large scale, so very well known in that domain. And I know your [00:08:00] background is broader than that, but what was it like coming to the CMO role? Because you have to balance this idea of, all right, I’m known as a deep digital person. I certainly can speak to the revenue intelligence kind of world of what people.ai does.
But. Do you spend more of your time on the non-digital stuff? Have you, I know you’ve also built a fantastic team. Do you augment your own experience with senior leaders in areas where you may not have had as much experience? So tell me about how you’ve approached the job as you’re now trying to sort of broaden out your remit to handle all of these.
Mariana: It is a combination of a couple of different things. On one hand, it’s exactly what you mentioned, that it’s building a team of experts. At the end of the day, I’m only, as good as all the people that come to work with me every. [00:09:00] we drive in the same direction. We have the same purpose. We get excited about what we’re doing and me empowering, but also me letting everybody run with the areas that they’re experts. So, on one hand it’s been, it is been that I have, some really good people, working with, with me. So that’s been, one component, in the very short term I was using, you’re talking about, we’re starting to move into the gig economy. So there’s many of these areas of expertise that now you don’t have to know yourself as to be micromanaging them.
You might not even have somebody in house that is an expert. , but you need to know enough to hire the best person out there that can come in and in days already start delivering. So that’s a second component that is very, very important to, to build this. The third area that I always like highlighting is that you have to have a plan and that allows you to make that combination of [00:10:00] when do I start with an era that is my e. ones that I, I saw how, things were at ptc. Where do I need my own expertise? Where do I need a consultant expertise? Where do I need a team expertise? And there is also a past live with me where I did branding, advertisement, a bunch of different things that I, that I’ve done in the past.
But it really building that, that team where is internally is. With the skill sets, with the passion and more than anything else, also prioritization. Cause at the end of the day, even if people knew every single discipline, there’s never gonna be enough resources to be able to execute on everything, on Chase.
After everything, I , I’m actually an economist by training, so I’m very big into the private transitional resources. There’s one, the typical basic law, there’s always gonna be unlimited ones for very limited resources, so I think by the combination of those four components is that I’ve been, I’ve been able to transition and [00:11:00] and have a lot of fun with the team.
Peter: So it’s amazing. I’ve known you for all these years. I never knew you were an economist, so that is fascinating, Mariana. And and it actually brings me to another question, which is about, so economists are great at thinking very strategically with sort of large data sets, with long periods of time. And that, of course is a is a skill that’s really critical for CMOs.
You’re. W in a unique world where you’re very focused on this idea of revenue optimization and revenue intelligence, which very is very much the here and now. And you’ve talked about the fact that it’s important for CMOs to have that focus, to have a revenue accountability and focus, but you also need a balance because the CMO job is really strategic.
You need to think about long periods of time. So how do you square that with. Having this accountability for the near term revenue while balancing this strategic need to make sure that [00:12:00] you are driving the company, the brand, the vision in the right direction.
Mariana: It is a complicated balance. Absolutely. And that’s what I mentioned, in the previous question, the fact that you had to have a plan, you had to have a vision. You have to know where you wanna be so that then you can start dissecting that granularity to what is it that you need to do today? Because if you think too much just about you wanna be doing today, then you’re missing the long term. If you think too much about the long term, you can be you in a philosophical world for, the next two years.
I think that it is one of the things that, that I bring to the table on how I move the needle, that I have that background as an economist, so I’m a little bit more of that, that longer term, what’s gonna happen, what’s my plan?
I tend to have my annual plan at a high level. Everything is changing. We went through, we’ve been going through war, the economy could not have played in a worse way. I mean, look [00:13:00] at what happened yesterday with Wall Street. So it is an giant plan, but the plan has to be there with the vision, kind of like the why, and then a very tactical execution.
I mean, at some point when I used to report into Peter Vasco, so he used to call me Chop because. My world is like, chop. Can we do it by tomorrow morning? Everybody that works with me like, well, don’t ask Mariana by when, because she’s gonna tell you like, can you have it by the end of the day?
Why not? And if we cannot be done by the end of the day, by tomorrow morning, or what do you need from her to deliver it by two? So I can manage those two those two components. And I, I believe that, I’ve been able to build teams. can work very comfortably in that combination of that long term division, the why, but very tactical, very executional, very also with a lot of accountability.
I believe that’s one of the things that [00:14:00] manages to put those two things together. When I still remember the first revenue kickoff that we did at at People ai, where I had the slides on the deliverables from, from marketing after having spoken about, my journey with people, AI customers, way that I see the market and conversations with the analyst and so on.
I will have deliverable and date. People are like, are you crazy? You just join and you wanna put dates. Everybody’s gonna be holding you accountable to the dates. I’m like, well, that’s what I want. I want myself, and I want the team to be accountable to have things done by a certain date.
Because then you can have ver great conversations that are longer term because you have gotten that reputation that you will deliver what needs to be done for the deliverables, the results that need to be accomplished quarter by.
Peter: Yeah it’s a great philosophy to have Maria and you’re right, it’s a balance between that long term strategic, but connecting it to the plan sounds really [00:15:00] fantastic. And by the way, you’ve, you, you reference all these smart people that Maria worked with over the years. Peter Ucco. The Scoo, I always say is name wrong, but he’s.
The CMO over Dragos now, I think. And Kelsey, we definitely have to reach out to Peter. Hopefully he’s listening. Hi Peter. And get him on the show. Charlie Ick is another one. We had Charlie on the show back a while ago. So, so a really great team out of ptc. Over the years somehow there is something in the water there.
And speaking of something in the water, I don’t know what it is these days, but some of the smartest CMOs I have. Interacted with in, in the last several months even are are really smart women from the salt of the United States. So from from Latin women in, I’m seeing a big push in that is.
Is that something, is it just me recognizing that in a small network or have you seen a shift in that area where more Latin women are finding the top seat in US based companies?[00:16:00]
Mariana: It’s a very interesting question and going back just very quickly to to peer school. So, because I think it puts the two conversations together I started working. Reporting as vice president, and I still remember having gone to Peter and say, Peter, , I’m gonna need you to go to work for me.
He like, what? What’s, what do you need? I’m like, well, I think it’s time for my promotion. It’s time for me. I’ve been delivering this and, this whole thing. And he was a phenomenal sponsor, somebody who really took the time, his own, Political, capital to really, help me through my transition to the next stage in my career.
So I think it’s people like, again, like, like Peter, like Charlie, Barry Cohen that is now retired that are starting to help for more of uh, people with a background like mine to start making it to the top. It’s still the beginning cuz as a female Latin technology, it’s only the 1%. Then you start putting the title and is, much less than, much more, less than that. But I think you’re gonna start seeing [00:17:00] more faces, there’s more people that are sponsoring. The world is becoming a little bit more comfortable with diversity and inclusion.
I always tell people I have an accent. I speak fast. So, but I have wonderful ideas. That there’s more time that more people that now can take the time to say, okay, let me here. She might have something interesting to, to say. So I think that’s kind of what you start, seeing national instrument also got a, phenomenal, Latin cmo.
There’s a few places where we’re starting to see this, so I hope it’s not only what you’re seeing, but it’s what the industry is start.
Peter: Yeah, absolutely. And we had a great conversation back a few maybe a month or two ago with Ave Lago, who’s the CMO of National Instruments as an
Mariana: friend. I like Ann a
Peter: Founded to the top seat. I don’t know if a Gill miner is the cmo of Iterable who was in the last episode we just published in, I think she grew up in Brazil.
So, we seem to be finding the 1% which which is good and I think it is an important it is an important trend. I think you’re starting to see just. [00:18:00] Just different perspectives and different voices coming into, to the CMO suite which I think is a really important transition for most companies.
And I think more and more companies are becoming global. And some of this may be because, it’s not about people who happen to live 10 miles from the headquarters. Although ironically, as you said you live 10 minutes from me. And so it’s not like, it’s not like you’re that far away, but I think that’s sort of opening up opportunities for people too.
I think people are realizing in a global economy that talent is global in whether they grew up in a different place or currently live in a different place. I think there are opportunities to tap into talent in a much broader.
Mariana: And I think you’re touching on something really important because when it comes to that, that C-suite, It is our responsibility to help companies to have a much more diverse workforce. And the more that there is somebody, in the top set, it allows for, the younger generation.
[00:19:00] So to get inspired, it allows for potential employees to feel like, this is a place that I might just feel at home. And that’s really what allows. To start getting top talent. Many times when, you know, in interviews they like asking me, what’s your secret weapon? And one of them is that I can hire, very diverse talent, whether its female, Latin, there’s, so many different diversities, but.
Being comfortable with the fact that everybody’s a little bit different. That if you set up the table in a way that the quiet person can talk the creative person can be expressive maybe in a, at a table that normally a bit more engineering just you start really getting the best out of everybody.
One of the things that I did at PTCs, you know, know, hiring a lot of, moms with younger. And it was just by allowing some level of flexibility that I will have people that were so dedicated, so capable. The market automation team at PTCs is, it’s excellent. Maybe one of the best in the industry.
And it has [00:20:00] a lot of that diversity component because at the end of the day we know that more diverse companies are more innovative and more innovative. Companies are more diverse cuz you have different people at the. and that’s the beauty of being able to work now even more with being remote. You can have phenomenal creative.
I mean, I I have a lot of my creative crowding in agencies in Mexico, you have phenomenal people. You’re starting to get a lot of excellent content coming from the Philippines. so you can make them all, but you are a little bit more used to it. And I think that’s a lot of what, a lot of people like Anna and myself we bring to the table in helping to move the needle.
Peter: Ab Absolutely. And you’re certainly seen in in this world a lot more of. The ability to sort of unbundle the locations of companies and think much more broadly and bring in more talent. And even, our little company, we were we used to be we had this policy of, hey, we wanted to hire people [00:21:00] who’d be willing to drive into downtown Boston for Because we felt like that personal connection was really important.
And now we’ve seen as we’ve grown a fair amount, we’ve seen that. And we don’t have an office anymore because we’re now fully virtual. We’ve seen, people like Kelsey move to Florida and we’ve hired people from all around the country. And our head of sales is in Atlanta, and we’ve got our.
People in customer success from Wisconsin and we’ve got people from all over the place. And I think that it really opens up the talent marketplace in a different way.
Mariana: I mean it, and it helps also people to have that balance. Between, personal and work. I mean, a lot of us, we grew up a little bit more throughout the years of, it’s work. But now you can be, I have a couple of people that are, have been based in Mexico for a few months.
They love Mexico City. Wonderful city by the way. And they can be working there. And it’s the same to me. Boston is an expensive city. See dozens private of, the younger crowd would like to be living somewhere else. So it allows also for that balance [00:22:00] to have the purpose to be happy.
We’re now getting into, being much more conscious about mental health, and it is one of the things that allow you to potentially be working in a place if you like, maybe more the, I don’t know, the mountains, if you’re more of a city person or you wanna be close to your family, it allows for a lot of that balance.
Kelsey: The beaches and the palm trees won me. But I do wanna switch gears here right, real quick because I think it’s really important that, you bring the humanization to the workforce, but also in marketing too. And people buy from people. Marketers market to people, not companies, not robots. How is us as marketers specifically in the B2B space?
Cause I think adapting a B2C approach is actually really beneficial. But how can we continue to push this in our approach to marketing?
Mariana: It is a great topic because you’re talking about the humanization of the brand and once upon a time, That was the role of the B2 C space in the B2B world. We used to sell into buildings. For some reason we thought that an account was a [00:23:00] building. But that it’s really time to be changing that because at the end of the day, I really think that is B two H.
It’s really business to humans, and you could even say that it’s human to human people to people. Because you work in a large organization, it doesn’t really mean that you’re born and bred inside a building and you’re next to a fax. you are the same person that throughout the day you did shopping in Amazon, you were watching things on Netflix, you have a family that you care.
You got goals, you got purpose. So the more that we can humanize, and that’s something that I started doing at PTC with the digital transformation of the website, really moving away from the, from a product driven conversation to really, a human driven conversation. From something as basic of the images on the website, making sure that it was more reflective of the diversity of the world.
Really getting into content that is not that low content that is truly, designed for maybe the end user as a manual. [00:24:00] But we all are just humans. I mean, we’re trying to do the best that we. We are at work and there’s a problem that we want to solve, and we wanna find the right content at the right time because that makes your life easier.
That makes you go home to be happier. It, it helps you to go and talk to your boss and say, Hey, this is a problem that we’ve been having. I found this content that, it really shows a solution. It makes a digital experience much more, personable. It makes a brand that you can trust.
Again, not because we sell in the enterprise level, doesn’t mean that we need to be trusted. because whoever buys from us is also taking the risk of trusting us, and they had to be able to trust the brand. When I bought from, from people back in 2019, one of the things that I like is that I’m a big fan of our ceo, Oliver Ruiz, chemistry, you know him.
I could trust that he was gonna be driving the innovations. So if I bought from him, it wasn’t not just gonna be then, but it was gonna. [00:25:00] The innovation for the years to come. And I think all that has to play and come together. I’ve been talking about this with, with Anna from National Instruments, a bunch of different times on that.
The humanization of, especially brands like National Instrument, ptc, much more hardcore technologies. Once upon a time they’ve gone through these transformation ways about putting the customer, putting the individual at the center of everything that we do and. that’s the way that I see it.
Peter: Well, I think that’s a great way of thinking, Mariana. And believe it or not, we’re actually at the end of our time and that went really fast. So. I we could go on for a long time here, but we do have limited time. I wanted to hand it back to Kelsey to ask us our last question.
Kelsey: Right. I think this is a great question for you, given your new position as a cmo, but what advice would you give to those that are, currently CMOs or aspiring to be one someday?
Mariana: If I [00:26:00] had to choose, let’s say three things, be accountable on whatever you do. Make sure that from the very beginning you are saying, what are you gonna be doing and do it. Number two, really in the communication front, make sure that people know what you are doing, especially those working in large organizations.
Make sure that your mentors are there, your sponsors are there. Make sure that people know what you’re doing. That’s extremely important. And then thirdly, really move the. We were talking at length about that balance between the long term and the short term. You have to move the needle. It’s not just about doing activities, not just about the, the activity component, but really what was the impact?
If you had a webinar, why did you do the webinar? How is it gonna [00:27:00] reflect? Again, cuz it’s all about delivering growth. So if you’re accountable and you communicate, And you’re moving the needle, you’re gonna make it to the top.
Kelsey: Love that. We’ll thank you so much for your time today, Maria. Make sure to follow the next CMO and Plannuh on Twitter and LinkedIn, and if you have any ideas for topics or guests, you can email us at the next CMO at Plannuh dot com. Have a great day everyone. Thanks
Mariana: you very much. It was a great time. Thanks Peter. Thanks Kelsey. Thank you everybody.