Part 1: Top 24 CMOs Share Their Uncuttable Demand Gen Budget Items

Part 1 in a two-part mini-series discussing the top uncuttable demand gen budget items revealed by the marketing leaders we've hosted on Demand Gen Visionaries. Tune in!

Top CMOs

Guest Bio

Part one of this special two-part mini-series features 11 CMOs and marketing leaders from some of the world's fastest-growing companies, including:

Guest Bio

Part one of this special two-part mini-series features 11 CMOs and marketing leaders from some of the world's fastest-growing companies, including:

Episode Summary

Every week, we sit down with marketing leaders from some of the world’s fastest-growing companies on the Demand Gen Visionaries podcast to uncover the demand gen strategies that have been fundamental to their skyrocketing success. 

In each episode, we ask our guests which areas of investment are most important to their demand gen initiatives. Tune into this two-part mini series to hear the budget items our CMO guests couldn’t live without!

Ready to jump to part 2? Tune in now!

Key Takeaways

While every CMO had their own unique "uncuttable" budget items, there were three that were consistently mentioned as top priorities:

1. Content: Building highly-relevant content to break through the noise.

2. Events: Producing events is still a big budget item, they just look different

3. Website: Advancing website strategies to deliver personalized, real-time engagement


“Personalization is going to be the key to conversion moving forward.” -- Sara Varni, CMO, Twilio
“We can't just rely on organic word-of-mouth. We need to really try and improve our technical SEO and prove the breadth and depth of the content on our site.” -- Ryan Bonnici, former CMO, G2
“Some of the best marketing is not creating things from scratch, but seeing the bright spots–what is working organically, what’s happening naturally–and creating programs to amplify or facilitate that. Our most creative ideas come from what we’re seeing in the community, versus us thinking them up in the lab.” -- Dave King, CMO, Asana

Episode Highlights

(1:21) Three Top Areas of Uncuttable Investments

  • Our show host, Ian Faison, sheds light on the three areas of investment that were most mentioned by our show guests: content, events, and website personalization.

(8:32) Scott Holden, CMO, Thoughtspot

Listen to Scott’s full episode

  • LinkedIn: Scott has found that this is the most efficient channel for account-based targeting. It's the best advertising platform they’ve found for targeting by company size and by title. While the ROI of LinkedIn advertising isn’t as good as it was a few years ago, the hyper-targeting is still so valuable. It’s important to note that Scott doesn’t use LinkedIn for awareness as you would display ads. Instead, Thoughtspot uses LinkedIn ads to promote rich thought leadership content to attract the right leads at target accounts.
  • Events: In enterprise B2B marketing, events rule. Before COVID, 40% of Thoughtspot’s pipeline came from events. During COVID times, they’ve found it’s actually easier to attract busy execs to virtual events because there’s more flexibility. Intimate, small virtual events that involve an element of networking have been very successful in engaging senior-level execs.
  • Webinars: Especially in recent times, Thoughspot has pivoted to host multiple webinars. These have filled the void in the rest of their in-person field events.

(11:45) Sara Varni, CMO, Twilio

Listen to Sara’s full episode

  • Field marketing: While marketers have really had to reimagine what this looks like in a COVID world, Sara believes everyone will come out of it as much stronger marketers. Marketers have been forced to think of new ways to engage buyers, especially those in the higher segments where executive dinners, networking events, and CxO councils are really critical. But Sara still believes there’s no better way to create pipeline than field marketing.
  • Content: Sara specifically mentioned organic content, which she’s seen pay off in terms of search performance after long-term investments in content writing and creation. She believes it’s important to ensure you have coverage for a broad surface area of use cases to drive the right awareness for the long haul.
  • SEM: While investing in organic content is a valuable long-term play, paid channels, like Google SEM, are low-hanging fruit and good for driving a predictable volume of traffic.

(16:00) Corinne Sklar, CMO, IBM iX

Listen to Corinne’s full episode

  • Executive alignment & sales enablement: In B2B, your sales channel is always your sales people. It takes a lot of human resources to invest in internal executive alignment and sales enablement. A significant element of this is creating a culture where the organization embraces marketing’s role across the entire funnel and views them as a partner for long-term strategic planning.
  • Events: Events are an irreplaceable way from sellers to build intimacy with their customers. Attending events—either in person or virtual—shows a level of engagement that’s much more meaningful than downloading content or clicking on an ad, which is a great intent signal for sellers.
  • Content: The content you produce has to start out. It can’t be borrowed from somewhere else and repurposed for your brand. It must be provocative and super detailed in regard to a problem your buyers are trying to solve. 

(21:40) Ryan Bonnici, former CMO, G2

Listen to Ryan’s full episode

  • Content: By investing in content, you’re driving meaningful traffic to your website and delivering them with value. Content is an asset that you build over time. As you create a content engine you improve your search ranking, capture meaningful traffic, and have the ability to nurture that traffic over time.
  • Growth marketing: Ryan defines growth marketing as the practice of surfacing behavioral triggers within the product and website and using these to deliver intelligent responses. For example, if someone matches G2 Crowd’s ideal customer profile (ICP) and visits their pricing page, this triggers a prompt right on the website asking the visitor if they’d like to schedule a demo with the sales team. 
  • Marketing analytics and operations: This is such an undervalued team. It’s tempting for many marketing leaders to over-index on launching new growth campaigns, but then realize down the road the tech stack isn’t equipped to deliver the right level of insights on what’s happening within the marketing pipeline. These insights not only help illustrate the impact marketing investments are making, but also make you a good partner to the sales team.

(28:05) Mike Marcellin, CMO, Juniper Networks

Listen to Mike’s full episode

  • Marketing tech stack: Mike views this as a competitive advantage. Many of their competitors are larger and can outspend them. If they can’t outspend them, then they can outsmart them with an intelligent martech stack. This includes the data architecture behind the technology stack. Being able to bring the data together and derive insights that inform intelligent marketing campaigns is critical.
  • Content: Content comes in many different shapes and sizes. You must ensure you have the right content at all stages of the marketing funnel, and it has to be valuable enough to cut through the clutter.  is uncuttable because we have to have the expertise at every stage of the funnel
  • Virtual events: Virtual events—specifically those that would have traditionally been done in person—have been extremely important in today’s environment. In fact, Mike is seeing even higher attendance and engagement rates for virtual events than their previous in-person events. This is an area he will continue to invest in, even post-COVID. 

(31:15) Tracy Eiler, former CMO, InsideView

Listen to Tracy’s full episode

  • Website: The website is the front door to the company and is absolutely critical. Particularly now during COVID, it’s the only way you can guarantee interactivity with your audience. For InsideView, their website strategy includes a heavy conversational marketing component. It has allowed them to ungate a lot of their content and still have human-to-human interactions in real time with visitors on their website.
  • SEO: You can cut your digital ad spend, but you always need to ensure you’re appearing in relevant searches. In its most simplistic form, you need to ensure your content is searchable and you prioritize your content production and back-end tagging to optimize for high-performing keywords. But these days, we can also get rich insights about what’s bringing visitors to a website and start to weave together topic interest with intent to elevate your strategy.
  • Account-based tactics: Account-based tactics are the orchestration of email, phone, social, and ad experiences across a list of targeted accounts. These must be done seamlessly across marketing, sales and customer success. InsideView not only utilizes account-based strategies for net-new logo acquisition, but also for existing customer account expansion via upsell and cross-sell motions.

(31:45) Latane Conant, CMO, 6sense

Listen to Latane’s full episode

  • “Value Card”: This is a sales enablement tool 6sense invented that maps keywords (such as “predictive analytics”) to various personas. If a buyer with a certain role expresses interest in a keyword, sales reps can use the value card for that keyword to quickly understand the relevant pain points and value props to tailor communications with that prospect.
  • 6QA: Instead of MQLs, 6sense tracks “6QAs”. The 6QA model is composed of four scoring areas: 1) is the account a good fit?, 2) is the right decision maker engaged?, 3) are they showing the right signs of engagement? , and 4) where is the account in the buying journey? This criteria come together to generate a score that dictates whether the account is qualified.
  • Personalized experiences: This involves taking a close look at how marketing channels are connected to ensure wherever visitors engage with 6sense, the experience is personalized to the account and the buyer persona.

(37:08) Tom Butta, CMO, Kyriba (formerly CMO of SignalFX)

Listen to Tom’s full episode

  • Search: It’s important to invest in search to ensure you show up and you understand the triggers that are driving your demand. Paid search has been an especially valuable play for SignalFX when buyers search competitors. Tom advises that marketers pay attention to trade-off decisions, such as which browsers to invest in.
  • Customer marketing: The validation you get from customers is immeasurable. What you say doesn’t matter as much as what others say about you.
  • Content: Content is critical to amplifying your message in the market. Tom recommends keeping content production in house. SignalFX experimented with outside writers, but ultimately found the content they produced in house far more impactful. 

(39:03) Julie Liegl, CMO, Slack

Listen to Julie’s full episode

  • Brand: Brand is an area that a lot of B2B companies don’t invest in, but it’s especially critical for a company like Slack in their mission to create a new category. Investing in brand marketing is binary; you either invest in it or you don’t. There are diminishing returns the more you reduce your spend in brand marketing, and there’s a threshold you have to invest in order to make it worth it. Slack invests in brand marketing in a targeted way by focusing on the regional areas they want to have the most expansion in.
  • Content: In order to fuel great demand generation you need good content. Content helps buyers realize value and builds love for your product. Content also helps customers get value from your solutions and deepen their usage, ultimately driving them to evangelize your products.
  • “Innovation pocket”: Julie describes this as the budget she dedicates to uncovering new ways to reach audiences using creative tactics. This includes things like ABM tools, content syndication in new channels, etc. 

(41:12) Dave King, CMO, Asana

Listen to Dave’s full episode

  • Free product: While it’s easy for Asana to quantify the revenue their free product drives, there’s also an unquantifiable—yet significant—word-of-mouth impact it delivers. Even if a free user never pays Asana, the research shows that this audience is still a huge influence on brand awareness and reputation. 
  • Paid marketing: Investments in paid search and review websites are super important to Slack.
  • Brand: Brand marketing is something Dave really believes in. This includes PR, analyst relations, brand advertising, and community programs. Whenever he joins a company, he talks with the founders and the board about the importance of brand marketing investments. While he can derive ROI for the majority of his marketing investments, brand marketing is the one area he believes is a smart long-term investment, but can only really have proxy performance metrics. can be e acknowledges that PR, analyst relations, advertising, community programs.

Episodes Transcript

While every CMO had their own unique "uncuttable" budget items, there were three that were consistently mentioned as top priorities:

1. Content: Building highly-relevant content to break through the noise.

2. Events: Producing events is still a big budget item, they just look different

3. Website: Advancing website strategies to deliver personalized, real-time engagement

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