Jennifer Johnson, CMO of Tanium: “The Data Driven CMO”:Interview with Jennifer Johnson

Glenn: Hi, everyone. I’m Glenn Gow, Founder & Advisor of Crimson Marketing. Welcome to Moneyball for Marketing where we talk about the incredible changes happening in marketing organizations around big data and marketing technology. We feature marketing technology insights from the top marketers in the world. The reference to Moneyball is from the story of how the Oakland A’s baseball team were able to win and win and win because they figured out how to use data and technology to their advantage. If you’d like to learn about how to use big data and marketing
technology and marketing to help you win visit us at or email us at And now on to our podcast.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Jennifer Johnson. Jennifer is CMO at Tanium. She is responsible for global marketing strategy and execution, and leads the communications, demand gen, and product marketing functions. So how does Tanium describe themselves? Tanium was founded to deliver a new and innovative approach to endpoint management and security that delivers instant visibility and responsiveness that does not slow down as the enterprise environment scales. So Jennifer it’s great to have you here.

Jennifer: Thank you Glenn, it’s great to be here.

Glenn: I know you’ve done a lot of work with a lot of different companies Jennifer, and we were talking about how do you start thinking about data in a company like Tanium. And you said well it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish as a company. Tell us your perspective on how we should be thinking about data given where Tanium is.

Jennifer: Great question. Very timely. I think that every CMO out there right now is I would say struggling, and struggling is okay, but is struggling to figure out how to make their organization more data driven. Gartner put out this stat a couple years ago that said that the CMO is going to have more budget than the CIO than by now.

Glenn: I’ve seen it at a couple companies.

Jennifer: Okay at some probably. I think it depends if you’re looking in the B2C world, I think consumer focused CMOs live, breathe, sleep, eat data. In the B2B world, we’re now just starting to really understand and actually rearchtiect how we go to market, and how we build our teams around data. And so I guess my first thing I would put out there to any B2B marketer listening to this is: If you feel like you are behind the curve, you’re not. It’s okay. There’s a lot of people that are talking a lot about it and so I think it’s good that we’re talking about it. But I spoke to a few of my CMO friends over the last few days, and I wanted to get a sense for how they were looking at data. And I think that the common theme was that everybody’s thinking about it. People are starting to adopt tools. I think the marketing operations role is starting to emerge as something that’s mainstream now in marketing teams. There’s too much technology out there that it’s still really daunting and confusing. So if you feel like you’re behind the curve you’re really not, it’s okay.

Glenn: Words of wisdom okay good.

Jennifer: So I think from Tanium’s perspective, I mean just to give you a little bit of background on my journey here. I’ve been a CMO, marketing CMO in enterprise software for vary large companies, very small startups. And then prior to Tanium I went to work at a venture capital firm. So that was a unique perspective, I was there for about a year, and I got to see things from the other side of the table. And working with really early stage startups, and working with marketing technology startups that some of you that are listening might be using, like Mixpanel or Optimizely those will probably ring a bell to you. And then I came over to Tanium one the venture capitalist firm’s portfolio company, and if anyone has been in a B2B startup, it’s very common that they’re technical founders so if you get in early, you’re probably the first marketer in and you’re probably working with a lot of engineers. People who don’t either understand or they probably don’t appreciate because they don’t understand what marketing actually does. So that was my journey here. I was the first marketer in the company, the company was already growing, so I think the unique thing about my situation is, the good thing is that I was able to come in, and we’re still building, I mean we’re still on our growth journey I’ve only been here for a year. But the great thing about what I was able to do is come into a completely blank sheet of paper. So there was nothing here, no marketing team, no leads, no technology, no demand gen, there were no events, there was no PR, there was nothing. Right so that’s a good thing because you can do it exactly the way you want it.

Glenn: And that’s what I really want to hear about. So if we think about this marketing infrastructure you have built, tell us what you have built and why you made the choices you did.

Jennifer: Yeah, and I think it may sound very basic but we really had to start with the basics right? I mean Salesforce was in here as our CRM system, and this is a common theme I’ve heard throughout the week is that really looking to build a closed‐loop marketing technology ecosystem from really tracking initial engagement all the way through the customer life‐cycle and beyond. As you go and you upsell and cross‐sell existing accounts, but everything integrates with Salesforce which is kind of the hub of all of that. So we did have Salesforce already in. So obviously the first thing I said was well okay we need to go out and get some leads and actually start doing some inbound and outbound marketing. So we went and we got a marketing automation system. We deploy Marketo here, I think there’s probably a lot of you out there that are using Marketo. I’ve also heard really good things about Hubspot. So if any of you are looking for marketing automation platforms, I’ve heard a lot of great things about Hubspot as well. They’re particularly great for inbound purposes. Interestingly enough, I’ve actually heard some people moving off Marketo and going to Pardot which I think a lot of people went off of Pardot and moved to Marketo. And I’ve talked to a couple of people in my circle and said they actually moved back to Pardot, these are earlier stage companies, just form ease of use and the integration now that they are a part of Salesforce is much more slick than maybe it was a few years ago. O just a little FYI. But we chose Marketo here, actually because I’ve used it in the past, also partially because I think it’s a really great tool for marketing automation, and the person that I was bringing into my organization to run demand gen, I had worked with in a previous company, and they new Marketo. So I think a lot of that is the learning curve, we didn’t’ have time to go and adopt a new platform and figure out how it’s going to work, and the learning curve of the people, that’s a big thing. And I think that the skills that you have on the team align to the technologies that you’re adopting, you have to optimize for one or the other. So put in Marketo,
obviously we’re using Google Analytics or tracking web traffic and looking at that, the kind of the very top of the engagement funnel. And then since then, after that point, that’s kind of like the basics that we had when we started, then I hired a marketing operations manager. That was probably my third or fourth hire.

Glenn: Interesting that’s pretty early for that role.

Jennifer: So here is my theory on this, it’s not even a theory, I think that if a CMO especially in a B2B role doesn’t think that they’re aligned to revenue, then then they’re sorely mistaken. I think every CMO at this point needs to think of themselves as a revenue driver. In part one of my colleagues at another startup that I know, she actually changed her title to VP of revenue marketing. She runs corporate marketing and demand generation. Yeah, and I think it’s aligning yourself but at the end of the day if you’re not driving revenue, then why are we ding what we’re doing. Obviously there’s awareness and all that, but from a pure demand generation standpoint, it’s kind of obvious. You’re not driving revenue, it’s kind of pointless. So I needed somebody, and because I work in a very engineering driven culture, product driven culture that is very much
measurement based, I knew that was going to be a really important part of not only establishing marketing, but showing our success. It’s kind of like a step ladder. You show a little bit of success, you get a little bit more, you show more success, you get a little bit more, and that’s actually what’s been very successfully been happening here. So I knew that I needed to get a marketing ops person right away. And I looked at that role as my revenue chief of staff. I was talking to him yesterday and I actually gave him that term unofficially, you’re my revenue chief of staff now. And they love that, it makes them feel important because they are right? This person is not only the online engagement, their team manages Marketo and all the campaigns, built the nurture tracks. But even more importantly than that, they’re really my reporting and analytics engine. And so I have one person, some companies that are bigger have teams of 10+ doing analytics, but we’re earlier stage, we’ve been at this three years, so it’s pretty appropriate for where we’re at. So I brought him in and he’s been tasked with looking at the technology ecosystem and what other technologies we need. So we just recently purchased Domo, so I think the first six months to a year here was just getting the basics going.

Glenn: That’s a pretty sophisticated tool for a startup wouldn’t you say?

Jennifer: Yeah it is, but I think we move at light speed, so a year for us here is like 3‐4 years at other companies that I’ve worked at. So we’re pretty advanced. The first year was kind of just getting the basics down, building our database, getting our campaigns moving, getting the basic marketing metrics. One of the big aha’s I had was at least in our business we have a very rifle shot approach to marketing. We’re looking at and we’re and we’re very top down. So we’re working with global 2000 fortune 500 CXO level, it’s a very finite group of people. And so to me I think leads are sometimes a bad proxy. So that would be another pro wisdom I would give to everyone, so if you’re just looking at things from a lead generation perspective, how many leads are we getting and what’s the cost of lead, if you’re in a volume business that might be applicable. But if you’re a B2B enterprise top down sale, I don’t know if leads are a good proxy.

Glenn: Jennifer, I agree with you so much. Even if you are a consumer oriented company, trying to measure cost per lead is a fool’s errand. You have to measure it as far down into the funnel that you can. Otherwise you don’t really know the value of the leads you’ve collected, you just know how much you’re spending to get them. So it sounds like you may be focusing on account based marketing, is that something you’re adopting?

Jennifer: Absolutely, we’re looking at a couple of account based marketing tools including Engagio, I know know the person who founded Marketo, we’re actively looking at that now. But for us the other thing, I thin a tool like Domo where account based marketing platforms really come into play is we’re not just looking to get one person though the door and that person is the decision maker. When you look at a large bank, and especially because you span across multiple teams, we’re going to engage with the CIO, we’re going to engage with the security officer and probably with a couple people down form their team. We’re going to engage with the IT operations team and really the CO level. So we’re looking at how do we actually understand the entire journey? Who’s engaging with us at what point in the cycle, and what are they doing? And then when they become a customer, then we have a platform that’s very broad. So we can support multiple use cases, so we’ll go in and we’ll sell into one team, and then it’s very common that we’ll then go in and upsell and cross‐sell into different organizations. So trying to understand and piece that all together, Salesforce and Marketo are amazing for certain things, but when you’re trying to get that level of sophistication at either the top of the funnel or just understanding or seeing the visualization of the entire picture that makes sense and doesn’t take days to piece together, you really do need something like Domo in place. So anyone who hasn’t checked out Domo, I encourage you to do so. It’s unbelievable. The other thing that we’re doing with them, is that we’re mapping out where our whitespace is.

Glenn: Tell us a little bit about how you do that.

Jennifer: So we look at things based on a number of endpoints. So an endpoint could be a laptop server etc. And so we’re looking at who are the companies that we haven’t engaged with yet based on the number of endpoints that they have? And we use revenue and number of employees as a proxy to get endpoints, if you’re doing this, it’s never going to be a perfect science, you’ve got to make some inferences. We come up with a list with all of the companies that we hadn’t engaged with yet, and looked at it based on number of endpoints descending, and then we actually geographically mapped them out based on where their headquarters were, and where their key facilities were, and we actually put it into a geographic heat map in Domo. So think of it from a planning perspective. Our field marketing teams can now sit with the sales team and say, okay
you want us to do events in Dallas, Miami, and, Chicago, while you have much more whitespace concentrated in Boston and Seattle. And so it’s completely changed the conversation that we’ve had with sales. I think anyone who’s been running a marketing team understands that sales teams will come in, and they’ll have their kinds of events they’d like to do, they were a sports player in college, they want to paly all these basketball games. And there’s nothing in sales because I love sales and I have a great relationship with them, but it’s very much the sales team telling the marketer this is what I want to do and this is how I want to do it. The marketer has never had the data to say I think your strategy is flawed, but now I think we do. And that has changed not only the conversation, but their credibility of marketing and there’s a seat at the table now from not only a planning perspective but also the back end where you have the beat where you can check off where you start engaging with those white space accounts. So I can actually say well in the beginning on Q1, this was our whitespace picture, now going into to Q2, here are all the places where we’ve actually got some level of engagement. So it’s pretty powerful.

Glenn: There’s something you mentioned that I want to highlight. A couple of things actually, one is that it has been said recently that in large enterprises, the typical number of people involved in the sale, or in the purchase is 17. And if you think about that as a marketer, you can’t think of a lead in the traditional way anymore coming in from a large account. Because you have to look at probably John Miller’s philosophy, you have to look at the engagements that’s happening at that account, so you can maximize engagement, because you’re not really sure who all the people are, and who are actually influencing that decision.

Jennifer: That’s right, and again that’s the holy grail. And it’s not easy. The otherpearl of wisdom I’ll give to all my fellow comrades out there is, and believe me we are stretched so thin usually, we have a million things on our plate when you’re trying to put your PR hat on, and then your demand gen hat on, and then your product marketing hat on, and you’re kind of bouncing continuously back through, and maybe some of them are CMOs and product management. When you’re trying to bounce back and forth between all those different functions, it’s really easy to just say okay let’s just take the path of least resistance. But I think we as marketers owe it to our function, and the credibility of our function, and having a seat at the table, that we are part of that discussion at the highest level, and the company, and really strategy, and it’s all based on having that data. And if you can be the one that brings that level of data to the table, your credibility skyrockets. And I know we all know that in theory, but it’s just doing it in action. So what I do is, every week I have a goal for myself, it’s to say okay I’m going to do something a little bit different, or I’m going to drill into the data, just a little bit more or in a new way that I didn’t think of. It just opens up, like once you see data, you think of new things. It
opens up your mind all these different ways you could be looking at the world and your business.

Glenn: Well it’s interesting that you say that because the CMO of Domo was a guest on this show and she told a story about how she was proposing a particular marketing activity, I forget the specifics of it, and she had an argument from her CEO about that marketing activity, said I don’t like that approach. And she said well let me show you the data. And once they sat down and looked at the data there really wasn’t an argument about whether they should engage in the activity because she had proof that it worked.

Jennifer: That is so spot on. Our process here is that we have an amazing working relationship across our executive team which I love about this company. And we’re very transparent, but it is all about having data because I actually ha the same exact thing happens to me a couple of weeks ago where we were looking at field marketing plans, and we had this conversation about well is that really the kind of event that we want our brand type. It was a good discussion because we said well is this about what we‐ and then it kind of turned to well are we making decisions based on what we think is the right answer, or what we would want to do, or are we really looking at this from the perspective of what our prospects and our customers want. And it’s all about having the data. I’m still building that data because a lot of the things we’re doing here, because we’ve really only been at it a year. A lot of the things we are doing; we’re doing for the first time here. So hopefully in about six more months when I have a little bit more data to back up some of these things, I’ll even be in a better position. Part of it is just, you have to do things, and you have to experiment, and some things will work, and some things won’t, but the key to your point is having your data in the back end to know whether it works or not, and then making a decision based on that. The other thing that I will say is it also will, and I don’t want to say this in a negative way at all, but data diffuses any potential conflict between the CMO and CFO on a budget. A very typical pattern that happens is the CFO will start to tighten screws a little bit, start looking at the budget, and discretionary spend, and where do they go the first place they go, largest discretionary budgets in the company if not the largest. Of course that’s a very natural‐ you see when it’s coming, they start asking for data, and then they start looking at things in a financial perspective, and which we all know as marketers only tells half the story. I literally just had this conversation yesterday about tracking cost per lead. It’s funny how mentioned that it’s fool’s gold because it is. And I had to unwind the conversation because this is the wrong way to be making marketing budget decisions based on cost per lead. If you have data you stay one step ahead, and if you’re educating and you are telling them what the right answer is based on the data, you avoid a whole lot of headache and conflict in the backend.

Glenn: And by the way we’re going to wrap. But now you can have a conversation with your CFO that actually talks about the financial implications about some of what you are doing, which is the language that person needs to hear. So once again you can work more closely with your peers.

Jennifer: That’s right so I think this is obviously very timely topic. Every CMO is looking at it, and in some cases struggling with it because it’s not easy. The other thing I would say is that there is so much technology out there, marketing technology out there, and I think that one of the people that I talked to yesterday said something that it all comes down to, you have to
refresh yourself. Every 3‐4 months, go out and look at the landscape because it’s changing so much. And there’s new technology coming out all the time but talk to your peers. It’s all about talking to your peers, because there is so much technology, and a lot of it sounds the same, and how do you decipher what’s real from what’s hype. What are the best tools for where you are at in your journey? So stay refreshed on what’s going on, talk to your peers in the industry, we’re all here to help each other, and no one has perfect answers. So that’s what I’ll leave you with. Glenn thank you so much this has been fantastic.

Glenn: Thank you so much as well I’ll talk soon okay.

Jennifer: Fantastic thank you.

Glenn: All right bye bye.

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