Welcome to CMO Secrets. This series features genuine insights and advice from today’s exceptional marketing leaders. 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. No pretense, jargon or PR spin here. We asked our most burning marketing questions, and they answered. Get their unfiltered thoughts and opinions and find out how these gurus rockstars marketers got to where they are today.
(Note: This content was previously published on Mautic.com in November 2018 and has been updated for accuracy.)
Today we welcome Peter Guagenti, a former Acquian and current CMO at MemSQL. Peter oversees marketing and sales development. Prior to his marketing and product roles, Peter spent 15 years as a digital agency and consulting professional at companies including Accenture and Razorfish. Peter brings MemSQL a proven ability to build successful companies, and deep experience in business strategy, marketing, design, product development and operations.
Tell us about MemSQL – why you were excited to join them as CMO, and the role marketing plays there.
Having worked in a number of industries (and for both consumer and B2B brands) throughout my career, I decided that I really love building enterprise software and services businesses. There is nothing more challenging than this category as a marketer, and as an entrepreneur, there is something amazing about building a company where you become an integral part of the success of hundreds of other businesses. That has driven my career path for the past decade.
What made me join MemSQL specifically was a combination of the exceptional technical leadership at the company, and their role as an innovator in what I believe is the most important category in the modern era, which is data infrastructure and tools. With the rise of real-time decision making, predictive analytics, machine learning, and AI, the ability to collect and leverage data effectively is going to separate winners from losers over the next 20 years and I want to be at the center of that.
As for the role of marketing, I joined to help the founders help build a world-class go-to-market capability to support what is already seen as a leading product. The leadership at MemSQL sees marketing as having the potential to be the engine room for revenue growth, and my goal is to make that happen.
Have you experienced any big surprises or “ah-hah!” marketing moments in your time at MemSQL?
Being new to the world of databases, the most interesting challenge that I uncovered was the complexity and relatively slow pace of purchasing in the category. With data being the most critical asset for most companies, they are slow to change — even in the face of significant challenges — as many IT buyers are afraid of introducing new risks. As a marketer that has meant three things for us; helping our prospects understand not the just benefits of buying MemSQL but also the dangers of inaction, continuing to focus on building technical and business credibility and learning to be patient. It might take many months or more to get a prospect to engage or to find the right workload to move to MemSQL, and so we need to support them in that process over time. The good news is that our average deal size is exceptionally high and the product is incredibly sticky, so the patience is well worth it.
In 2010, you made a transition from the agency world to technology and then to dedicated B2B marketing roles. What prompted those career moves for you and what lessons have you learned recently that you wish you knew earlier in your career?
I spent the first 15 years of my career as a digital agency and consulting professional, working in both my own companies and at large enterprises like Razorfish and Accenture. I actually started my first agency 2 months before my 20th birthday! I thought I would never leave those businesses. The diversity of the challenges you get to see as a leader, the impact you get to have on so many amazing companies, and the nature of my work at that time — both building digital experiences and applications as well as taking them to market — were all something you could not find in any other role or company.
Unfortunately, around the time of the financial meltdown, the agency business began to degrade. The pressure on margins from large customers — who seemed more than willing to reduce the quality of work if it meant saving a dime — and the brain drain to start-ups as the economy rebounded meant that the work began to change dramatically. That, combined with wanting to be able to have more ownership of the companies and brands I was helping succeed, made me start looking outside of the business.
I’m incredibly grateful for my time as an agency leader — especially for the impact we had on breeding exceptional talent that you can now find in some of the most well-regarded companies in the world.
You spent almost 4 years at Acquia. Any advice or lessons you’d like to share with current or future Acquians?
My focus throughout my career was always on how to use technology and data to create extraordinary digital experiences that create value for companies and their customers. I’d like to believe that the tone we set while I was at Acquia was one where we wanted the company and product to help inspire young sales and marketing professionals to set a high bar for their own work. In addition, I feel that the culture we built at Acquia helped identify and groom strong leaders. We had very high standards for our people and we worked hard to coach and mentor them to become the best at what they did. Similar to my agency time, I’m proud to have helped build what is now a $1B+ valued company, but even more proud of all of the people we gave their first real job to who are now successful leaders in their own right.