Part 2: Top 24 CMOs Share Their Uncuttable Demand Gen Budget Items

Part 2 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 two of the special two-part mini-series features 12 CMOs and marketing leaders from some of the world's fastest-growing companies, including:

Guest Bio

Part two of the special two-part mini-series features 12 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!

Still need to listen to part one in the mini-series? 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


“I view our website as the most strategic weapon in marketing...I view it as a vehicle for conversation, not just one-way information dissemination. It can be a vehicle to start a conversation and move it forward in the journey. It’s an important asset for us in that way, and it’s a top lead-generation tool as well.” -- Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO, Coupa
"LinkedIn is my cheapest demand gen channel. We can get thousands of downloads in a day and that doesn't cost me a dime. It’s completely organic. That's why I love this channel. I know that the people are there because they want to be, I'm not chasing them. I could not live without that channel.” -- Udi Ledergor, CMO, Gong
“I won't cut PR. I cannot ascribe a dollar return to my PR program, but what I've seen in the past is the anecdotal qualitative that just proves that it works...I've seen it enough times-–you're going to get better candidates, better employees, faster velocity, and your inbound interest and brand awareness just start to tick up.” -- Lauren Vaccarello, CMO, Talend
“All of your investments drive demand. [It’s important not to] view brand as one thing and demand as another. They all interplay with one another to drive growth. That's been part of the mindset shift that I've been driving really my last five years, including now at Google.” -- Sarah Kennedy, VP of Global Growth & Demand, Google Cloud

Episode Highlights

(1:38) Melton Littlepage, SVP Marketing, Tenable

Listen to Melton’s full episode

  • Digital buyer experience: This is a critical area of investment for Tenable. It includes investing in search engine optimization to ensure Tenable is synonymous with the problems they solve for. They also invest heavily in conversion rate optimization, which involves looking closely at the customer journey across the website and ironing out potential areas of friction that would prevent buyers from converting.
  • Free trial offer: Free trials allow the buyer to quickly earn value. In the SaaS world this is especially valuable. The point isn’t to get a buyer to create a login, but to demonstrate to the buyer that Tenable will solve their problems. Tenable invests in nurturing and coaching new customers along the way to ensure free trial users successfully adopt the product.
  • Search engine marketing: This is the last budget Melton would cut. SEM is both offensive and defensive. It allows Tenable to position their brand in the context they want to be seen in. People turn to search engines more than any other source, so it’s critical that Tenable is part of that ecosystem. 
  • Content: Specifically, having super-relevant content on third-party sites, such as LinkedIn. You can draw engagement that’s trusted because you’re pulling people into an authentic conversation that they feel like they can control as they go through the experience.

(5:02) Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO, Coupa

Listen to Chandar’s full episode

  • Digital marketing: Chandar says this is especially critical to drive awareness and move deals forward with a set of target accounts. They provide educational content through digital channels to effectively move deals down the funnel.
  • “Circles”: These are small, one-to-few style events that gather a small group of peers together in an intimate virtual setting to generate valuable networking conversations. Chandar argues that event marketers often get too caught up in vanity metrics, such as registrations or on-demand downloads, but lose track of how events impact revenue acceleration. He’s seen far greater success moving deals forward with smaller-scale, targeted events than larger one-to-many events. 
  • Content syndication: Content syndication has been valuable for Coupa in the middle of the funnel, when you have to earn the right to engage and educate your audience.  

(7:51) Udi Ledergor, CMO, Gong

Listen to Udi’s full episode

  • LinkedIn page: Udi caveats this by acknowledging that LinkedIn is only a viable channel if it’s where your audience is. Not every company’s target market will have an active audience on LinkedIn. At Gong, their LinkedIn strategy is two pronged: the Gong brand is authoritative on LinkedIn, plus Gong employees are thought leaders on their own social profile. They use both levers to publish highly-engaging content that generates organic followers. This is Gong’s cheapest demand gen channel; they get thousands of content downloads from a single post.
  • Email list: Gong has built a large opt-in email list of people interested in receiving their content. They enrich these emails with additional information, such as company industry and size, to send tailored content to various reader personas to ensure they continue to engage them in a relevant way.
  • Virtual events and webinars: Virtual events are full-day, multi-session events, while webinars are 30-60 minutes. Gong generates value for both formats. In each scenario, attendees not only leave with a lot of takeaways, but their full attendance is a high buying intent signal. If you tap into those folks in the right way at the right time, you’ll be able to move opportunities forward.

(18:30) Heidi Melin, CMO, Workfront

Listen to Heidi’s full episode

  • Content: Content is king for Workfront. The content they develop drives all of their channels and is the most important asset they invest in. 
  • Digital programs: Digital marketing programs have become especially important in the last several months, where digital programs have had to make up for demand they would have created through in-person events. Changes in the B2B buying landscape that have been driven by COVID will remain far beyond the pandemic. Companies must invest in the digital buying experience by understanding how buyers engage with your brand across digital channels during the selling process.

(21:28) Jamie Grenney, CMO, OwnBackup

Listen to Jamie’s full episode

  • AppExchange marketing program: Since OwnBackup has such a strong focus on the Salesforce ecosystem, this is a major demand gen channel for them. They automatically know everyone they engage via this channel likely is a strong fit for OwnBackup’s product.
  • Conversational marketing: Prospect engagement is moving away from forms and is now about getting prospects to the right person to have the right conversation with them at the right time. The idea that a buyer would fill out a form and sales would spend the next two weeks trying to get in touch is so off. 
  • Video: Video delivers a clear, concise message in a format that’s really easy to share. YouTube is the second biggest search engine. Not only do you want to be present there, but it’s also an easily-consumable and easily-shareable content mechanism. 

(23:14) Adam Blitzer, EVP and GM of Digital, Salesforce

Listen to Adam’s full episode

  • Customer Data Platform (CDP): With the proliferation of martech solutions, data is the foundation of central control. Marketers need a single source of truth for customer data, and that’s increasingly recognized as a CDP. The CDP will be the battleground in marketing for the next five years. Companies that successfully unify data across the diverse channels that drive customer engagement will be able to differentiate themselves with a seamless and orchestrated customer experience.
  • Personalized website experiences: Every time someone visits your website, they should have a unique experience. The content they see should be tailored and prioritized based on what the business knows about the visitor. For example, the case studies that appear at the top of the Customers page are personalized to that visitor’s industry or company size.

(26:50) Michael King, Sr. Director of Cloud Marketing, VMware

Listen to Michael’s full episode

  • Communities: You must learn quickly which “watering holes” your buyers gather at and participate in those forums. With increasingly-rigorous consumer protection laws, traditional “broadcast” marketing — cold calls, cold emails — are far less effective. Communities are a productive way of projecting your message and reaching your audience through genuine interactions.
  • Open-source software: If you’re selling to or working with developers, it’s important to spend time in your open-source communities. Being a good community citizen means that you have people that are focused on contributing and participating in an open source community
  • Blog: Your blog serves as a consistent, repetitive point of contact with customers. A lot of content marketing is a single exchange, but blogs keep people engaged repeatedly. With social promotion of your blog posts, you can drive a subscriber base you can continuously engage. For VMware, a visitor that navigates to their website via their blog is 3x more likely to convert, proving this is also a high-intent audience.

(30:00) Lauren Vaccerello, CMO, Talend

Listen to Lauren’s full episode

  • Website and digital spend: Don’t skimp on your website. It is the face of your company to every single customer, prospect, potential employee, press, and investor. Your website pays even more dividends than you can track. In each of her last four jobs, Lauren has uncovered that the website backend infrastructure isn’t built to scale. It’s grueling, but she believes that the ability to adapt will make or break every demand gen initiative. If you’re on old technology, you’re dead in the water. Invest in tech infrastructure to make everything else you do faster and easier.
  • Executive engagement programs: As a B2B company that sells to large enterprises, they need to invest in long-term relationship growth. Executive engagement programs are great deal accelerators. But not only do they help you hit your pipeline numbers, but they help establish you as a strategic partner in the customer’s eyes.
  • PR: When you really lean into PR and have a stellar program, all the boats rise. You get better hiring candidates and higher employee engagement, which helps build better products and has a halo effect on demand gen programs. 

(35:13) Jen Dimas, CMO, Gigster

Listen to Jen’s full episode

  • Sales and marketing alignment: This is a non-negotiable; it must always be present and invested in. This is a “budget” item in a unique sense in that it requires time investment. Constant connection, accountability, and transparency with the sales org is critical.
  • Transactional selling system: For Jen, this is usually Salesforce and a marketing automation platform. You can’t conduct a good business without these. 
  • Website: This is your “always on” front door. It needs to reflect your corporate positioning, but also engage visitors to create demand. 

(37:26) Kyle Christensen, VP Marketing, Zuora

Listen to Kyle’s full episode

  • Content: Zuora heavily uses educational content to capture buyer interest in a way that delivers high value to the prospect. They’ve hired great storytellers and data scientists to shape Zuora’s narrative and package that up into compelling content. This is core to their brand and the tip of their demand gen spear.
  • Direct mail: Given their account-based focus, direct mail is a productive tactic for Zuora to use things like their Subscribed book to open doors with executives at target accounts. Kyle advises that you can’t just send any content offer, such as a bottle of wine; it has to be relevant and attention grabbing.
  • “Signals”: Kyle describes “signals” as the channels and tactics Zuora uses for surfacing insights about what their target customers are doing. For example, G2 Crowd gives insight into intent signals when buyers are researching your category. If you’re targeting a large market but also want your sales reps to be personalized with their outreach, you need to help narrow their focus on the targets that are already showing signals that make them high-intent buyers.

(40:42) Suku Krishnaraj Chettiar, CMO, Sumo Logic

Listen to Suku’s full episode

  • Digital: Sumo Logic uses digital channels—particularly digital advertising, digital events, and their website—in a variety of forms to reach their target audience. Digital not only drives net-new acquisition, but also brand loyalty. Digital is the top way they engage with their SMB audience because it’s easily scalable to the large market size. They also use small-scale digital events to engage with executives at target enterprise accounts. 
  • Enterprise account-based marketing: Sumo Logic has a very sticky product, so they see great success with land-and-expand efforts. Account expansion and cross-sell motions are very important to them, so account-based marketing motions are particularly effective. 
  • Content: Buyers are all at different stages of the buying process, and they demand just-in-time educational content tailored to their stage. Suku spends a lot of time thinking about the customer journey framework and how they help move buyers to the next step, and content is the linchpin in that process.

(42:28) Sarah Kennedy, VP of Global Growth & Demand, Google Cloud

Listen to Sarah’s full episode

  • Free trial & web engagement: This is a productive channel for all market segments, from SMB to enterprise. They use this to educate, progress, and sometimes even convert deals. The developer persona is especially important to buying decisions because they’re often the ones using the free product. They heavily focus on driving developer engagement through the free trial and web channels.
  • Social: Social is always an important channel, but they’re constantly changing how it’s leveraged. Strategically investing in social channels is a big opportunity because it continuously evolves.
  • Content syndication: This is a high-performing channel for Google Cloud in their effort to drive new-logo acquisition. It’s important to align with the right partners to drive quality because that varies widely partner to partner. 

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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