CMO Insights: Mandira Mehra, CMO, MRI Software

June 7, 2018

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Mandira Mehra, CMO at MRI Software.

In this video, Mandira talks about:

  • Managing rapid growth in their niche market
  • Repositioning their brand and identity
  • Embracing change to leverage greater growth

Learn more about Mandira from her LinkedIn profile and follow MRI Software  on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, Welcome to the Revenue Marketing Television channel. Today as our guest, we have Mandira Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer of MRI Software. Welcome to the show.

Mandira Mehra:

Thanks, Jeff. It’s great to be here.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Thank you. So MRI has been around for a while, but from what I understand, it’s been going through a very exciting transformation over the last couple of years. Tell us about it.

Mandira Mehra:

Yeah, so our CEO likes to call it our Renaissance, but essentially the company was founded in 1971. And we’ve been through sort of a series of changes in the structure and the ownership of the organization. And most recently our current CEO came into place. I want to say about four years ago and brought really a new sort of strategy and vision to the organization and a very client centric approach. So really starting with the client and trying to build a vision for the marketplace that we believe is unique around giving clients the power in sort of the freedom of choice to choose the solutions that make the most sense for their business.

And we do that by bringing in open platform approach kind of an ecosystem approach to the marketplace. And that’s not new in technology, but in the real estate sector and in real estate tech, that that is a new and refreshing approach and rapid growth that you’re a company is experiencing. So in part it’s really, you know, Pat, our CEO hit the vision that he’s brought has really kind of changed how we’ve, how we’ve approached the marketplace. And, and we believe kind of enabled us to bring a message that really resonates with the market and drive growth from an ownership standpoint within the last couple of years, we’ve had two private equity firms come in that now co-own the company and they have been very focused on driving growth in the business. So they see a tremendous opportunity in this real estate tech space and have really been investing heavily in helping us scale our growth.

So, you know, over the past year, we grew our organic bookings some 38%. And you know, that organic sort of new client count over 80% as well as completing seven acquisitions in one year. So we, we all tell each other internally, I mean, this is a once in a lifetime experience being part of this team. I’ve been in technology for a really long time. Tech moves fast up at seven acquisitions in one year is, is certainly like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, whether your, some of your strategic priorities. So, you know, when I came on board about a year and a half ago, the first priority was around repositioning the brand. So, you know, as I mentioned, the CEO had, had brought a new vision and strategy to the business but the brand still kind of reflected the old identity of who the company was. 

So we did your classic brand strategy project. We brought in a branding agency. They did an analysis of sort of client needs and perceptions and looked at the competition. The market spoke to our executives and ultimately together we built a new brand platform for MRI. It also resulted in the creation of a new logo and a whole new visual identity that, that you know, we felt would better reflect that commitment to to freedom and choice and openness for, for our clients. So, you know, coming into that, that was really the beginning of 2017 that we launched that new branding. And then as we’ve grown and brought on these new acquisitions, it’s actually been great to have that core MRI identity really solidified in the marketplace. So we can kind of layer on you know, sort of new companies joining that, that family

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s fascinating. So II’m curious, you know, about your approach to building out your organization. So you probably had an initial idea and then with each acquisition, how are you adjusting accounting for that since that’s happening so rapidly, what’s your approach to building out your team?

Mandira Mehra:

So when I first came on board, you know, I sort of think about things in terms of the, the brand and the communications piece demand generation and then product marketing and positioning. And so, you know, it takes a little time to kind of build up each of those teams and really had just kind of gotten to the point of, of having those distinct functions created in the organization. And then two of the larger acquisitions we did in the fall of last year were actually a UK based companies. And so suddenly, you know, brought on board some really talented marketers based in the UK and you know, exactly as you said, that, that certainly both put a challenge on me, but also gave me the opportunity to kind of revisit how we were structured. And so you know, I think we’ve got kind of a current approach that, that may evolve over time, but for now, you know, I’ve got sort of centralized community brand and communications, centralized product marketing, and then a demand team focused on the North American market and the demand team focused on the EMEA market. 

And then we’ll see how that, you know, as the business evolves and grows, we’ll see how we need to adapt and, and stretch and flex the organization in line with that.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you’re pretty much sitting on top of a rocket ship. So what type of skills do you look for in the open market when you’re looking to hire, what kind of person do you want on your team?

Mandira Mehra:

So definitely somebody who embraces change and I guess a fast paced, right? So, so, you know, we all want to have and priorities, and we want to be able to manage our time effectively to achieve those goals and priorities, but, but in this kind of environment, you also need somebody who’s, who’s not turned off or intimidated by coming in on a Monday morning and finding that you know, we just acquired a company and, you know, suddenly we’ve entered a new market space and, you know, we’re going to shift priorities a little bit, or maybe add some priorities on, on top of the existing slate. So certainly kind of flexibility someone who thrives in that kind of environment and, and really kind of enjoys that, that it sees opportunity in that, that change in that fast pace.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I see a lot of that and just being highly adaptive, good communicate, open to change, right. Fast learner, certainly, especially with, at the pace that you guys are going with. So if I shift gears a little bit and talk about your customer base, and as you balance out your marketing programs, what’s your approach towards not only net new acquisition, but serving your existing customers?

Mandira Mehra:

So, you know, MRI has historically been extremely focused on our existing client base. And as I mentioned, CEO really has pushed a very client first orientation throughout the organization. And so from a marketing standpoint, I mean, I’ll say when I joined the majority of the marketing activities were actually very focused on existing clients. And when you think about, you know, a growth strategy that has acquisition as one of the key pillars there a big piece of you know, of that sort of marketing to clients is around bringing some of these new acquired solutions to, to, to clients.

So, you know, the strategies around that, you know, there’s a lot of email marketing. I mean, frankly, just your basic product webinar has been very successful for us in, in, you know, making clients aware of these you know, these new solutions that we’re bringing on board. We also have a user conferences as most software companies, do we have a large user conference that we we hold every October. And, and now as we expand globally, we’re actually expanding that user conference. And we’re taking it around the world to our clients. So that’s always been a North America based event. We’re going to be holding an event in the UK as well as one in Sydney, Australia for Asia clients as well. So you know,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Cool. That’s awesome. So we hear a lot of marketing executives talking about business accountability or running their departments, more like a business. What does that mean to you?

Mandira Mehra:

You know, so for me, I mean, I think kind of as most sort of modern marketers feel these days, there’s so much that we can measure and, you know, hold ourselves accountable to really getting the most effective return on our marketing dollars. And, you know, frankly what we’re growing a ton, but it’s not like the marketing budget is growing directly in line with all these new acquisitions. So we have to continue to be efficient in, in how we use that spend. So, you know, running it like a business that means setting some very clear and specific targets for the team being transparent about those targets across the team. You know, this, this, as we start to build out as a global team you know, looking at those goals holistically across the team, reviewing those on a monthly basis to see where we are. We’re trying to roll out some more collaboration tools to foster more engagement and collaboration across the team globally, to get people to partner together and enable them.

I should say, I think there’s a desire to partner, but to really facilitate and enable that. But, but ultimately running it like a business to me means having very clear goals tracking where we are on those goals making, you know, real time modifications as, and when necessary to, to achieve the goals that we want.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So speaking of those goals, are there specific KPIs that your CEO holds you accountable for? And then in turn, what are you holding your team accountable for?

Mandira Mehra:

So the senior leadership team at MRI were really all held accountable to the same targets around you know, bookings or sales, growth, revenue and profitability. So in that sense, I have exactly the same targets as our head of sales and we’re completely aligned there. When I think about how I can translate those to the team we’re setting goals around both empty Wells. So, you know, new leads, the qualified leads that we’re bringing in for net new business, as well as you know, sort of crop cross sell and upsell within our existing client white space. And then ultimately you know, goals around meeting our budget objectives and staying within target for you know, to achieve those goals within the budget that we have allotted to ourselves.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So you’ve been doing this awhile and you’ve built up a lot of leadership skills and a number of different skills. So what advice would you give to someone that wants to become a chief learning officer someday, or a VP of marketing? What would you tell them to focus on?

Mandira Mehra:

So I personally, I think for me the best thing has been, you know, getting a little bit exposure of exposure to all aspects of marketing, but knowing that I don’t have to be an expert in all of those areas and that you know, the, the most successful marketing leaders I’ve seen ha have a good awareness of the areas where you know, maybe they don’t have a strong skills or as much interest, and being able to bring in the talent to, to partner and team with them and support them in those areas. So you don’t have to be an expert at every aspect of marketing. You need understand what all of those are, know where your strengths are and where you need to compliment them with, with your team members.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So what’s one thing that you would tell them to stop doing. And one thing you would tell them to start,

Mandira Mehra:

Yes, Stop trying to do everything and control everything. And to the extent that you’re not already just start reading and learning as much as you can.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great advice. I wanna circle back to brand because you, you started off talking a lot about brand and some things to big focus, how much control do you think we as marketers have over our brand in today’s marketplace versus the customer, and what can we do about that?

Mandira Mehra:

I think that’s a kind of continual push and pull, right? So going back to kind of, you know, early days of, you know, positioning, right, classic positioning in marketing consumer marketing and business marketing, it’s about positioning your product, positioning your brand in the eye of the consumer, right. And so, you know, we can do whatever we, as much as it’s in our power to kind of put the images and the messaging and those sort of, sort of the stories behind that, that try to create a certain impression in the mind of the client. But ultimately if our clients aren’t happy, if they have bad experiences with us, if every touch point with our brand, doesn’t reflect that desired positioning, they’re going to talk about that. And in a digital world like today, and with social media, they have more and more outlets to, to change the story about your brand and, and really take that control away from you.

So, so I think the, you know, the client, the consumer has a lot more power in shaping the narrative of brands today than ever before. But you know, it’s all the more reason that we need to make sure that, that, that the brand is not just a marketing thing, but really that it’s, it’s owned and embraced by really, you know, everyone within the company and that it’s reflected the positioning is, and, and the brand promise is reflected in every touch point with the client or prospect.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Oh, that’s great. So you mentioned that the, all the channels, right. Some of the channels, anyway, there’s so many that we have to deal with today. What’s what role does technology play and reaching your customers and how are you approaching your own digital transformation at MRI? Is there a strategic approach to technology that you’re taking?

Mandira Mehra:

Yeah, so, I mean, it’s, it’s interesting because you know, we’re in an industry, right? We’re serving commercial real estate companies. And that’s a very kind of in some ways, traditional deal-making industry a lot happens face to face pressing the flesh industry events and trade shows. Some of the traditional channels are still very important for us even our own events. But you know, the, the, the trend that’s happening, I guess, in our, in our industry amongst our clients, is this sort of increasing drive to automate and adopt technology you know, to give them better insights in the business, as well as into their business, as well as greater efficiencies. Right. and that’s the same thing that we’re doing on the marketing side. So we’re really kind of in the same shoes as our clients there. So, so yes, I mean, technology for us, it’s about, it’s about being more efficient in the ways that we target our clients and prospects.

It’s about finding sort of new avenues to, to identify them and kind of be where they are. And then ultimately it’s about better greater efficiencies as well, and getting a better return on that investment. So, so that’s how we’re, you know, we’re thinking about technology in terms of helping us sort of in every step of the way of that, that acquisition funnel. So everything from, you know, different kinds of ad targeting technologies marketing automation, certainly on the analytics side, some attribution tools that we’re using you know, starting to experiment a little bit with chat now on our website. So, you know, just there there’s, there’s no shortage of new technology and B2B marketing, as we all know.

And I think the challenge is to not get you know, get caught up in implementing technology just for the sake of it, or because it’s the latest and greatest, but to really look at your client base your market segment and, and test solutions that, that you believe may make sense. And, and, you know, we’re, we’re happy to fail fast where we literally just put, put some chat up on the website, we’re going to see how it goes. And if there’s an interest, then it’ll, it’s something that, you know, we may adopt more formally. And, and if it’s not, then you know, a week from now, you won’t see it on our site.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I love it. I love that fail fast. That’s great. It’s all about time that we have for today. Thank you so much for being on the program. Your insights were invaluable, so I’m sure that our audience will love it. Thank you.

Mandira Mehra:

Great. Thank you for having me.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet.

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