Jim Williams, CMO at Uptempo discusses the controversy around marketing attribution, economy-related budget cuts, the need for good data quality, multi-channel targeting, and the importance of a fundamental understanding of business and finance as marketers.
Jim also shares his thoughts on the future of marketing, including the need for snackable, bite-size content in a world of short attention spans, and the underestimated power of building a community, especially through tools like Slack.
Despite the hype surrounding ABM, Jim pointed out that many marketers still don't fully understand what it is or how to execute it effectively. This presents a significant opportunity for those who can master the strategy and leverage it to differentiate their brand and engage high-value accounts.
However, as Jim noted, data quality is critical to the success of ABM. Without accurate and complete information on target accounts and buyer roles, ABM efforts are likely to fall short. That's why investing in data management and enrichment is essential for any company that wants to leverage ABM as part of their marketing mix.
As Jim emphasized, marketing executives must be fluent in the language of finance and business if they want to have the authority to control significant budgets and drive growth for their company. This means understanding financial terms, metrics, and benchmarks, as well as being able to articulate the financial return on marketing investments.
For aspiring marketing leaders, this underscores the importance of building financial acumen early in their careers. Whether through formal education, on-the-job training, or self-study, marketers must develop a solid understanding of financial concepts and metrics if they want to advance to an executive-level position.
B2B marketing has traditionally been seen as less exciting than its B2C counterpart. However, as short attention spans are getting shorter and shorter with endless distractions around us, marketers must find ways to make their content more engaging and snackable.
This means creating content that is visually appealing, easy to consume, and targeted to specific buyer personas and stages of the buying journey. Whether through social media, video, or interactive tools, marketers must leverage a range of formats and channels to capture and hold the attention of their target audience.
Jim's insights highlight the challenges and opportunities facing marketers today. By mastering ABM, building financial acumen, and creating engaging content, marketers can differentiate their brand and drive growth in an increasingly competitive landscape. As we continue to explore these themes, I'm excited to see what new ideas and innovations emerge to shape the future of marketing.
Arthur: Welcome back. Another session here at the Demostack Studios. I have Jim Williams here- here at B2BMX where we're both enjoying the conference. We snuck away to shoot this podcast. Jim, tell the audience a little bit about yourself and what, uh, what company you work for?
Jim Williams: Thanks for having me, first of all. This is great. Uh, my name is Jim Williams. I'm the CMO of a company called Up Tempo and we, uh, do planning and financial management software-
Jim Williams: ... for large, large enterprises, you know. Think of like, you know, Mercedes and Disneys, and companies like that.
Jim Williams: We also do it for B2B tech. At the end of the day, our software basically puts a system in a place that's occupied today by spreadsheets and PowerPoints, and a whole bunch of, you know, bullshit software that was never meant to be used by marketers to run marketing-
Jim Williams: ... like a business. We replace all that with a system that allows you to plan better, spend smarter, execute with confidence.
Arthur: What a perfect like, segue into what we're gonna be talking about here today, right?
Jim Williams: Mm-hmm.
Arthur: 'Cause very top mind for marketers, I know it's, uh, a little bit of a doom and gloom right now.
Jim Williams: Yeah.
Arthur: Uh, marketing budgets are getting slashed everywhere and I feel like everything that marketing is doing is being scrutinized probably two or three times as much, right? So, if you're maybe speaking to some of these marketers and they're saying, "Jim, how do we tie back our- our impact to revenue," any words of advice that you can share with them?
Jim Williams: I am in so many conversations with CMOs. [inaudible 00:01:45] CMO community and we do meetups on a weekly basis, et cetera. And, you bring up the topic of attribution, there is no more controversial topic than attribution.
Arthur: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim Williams: And in some, you know, you listen to these arguments and- and you're kinda left with the feeling like, I could track every touchpoint in the world that does define how someone buys.
Jim Williams: It just doesn't.
Jim Williams: Like, it doesn't even add up. You know, oh great, you came in on a search thing, our SEO must be working. Look at this great attribution.
Jim Williams: They heard about your name from somewhere else, you know-
Jim Williams: ... it was the right time, so many, so many things could happen. So, it's- it's a difficult game for marketers and, uh, proliferation or channels, and data points. And, touch points is- is making it more and more difficult.
Arthur: What would you say then maybe would be some of those leading indicators? Because, of course, like, yeah, we can't necessarily say, "Hey, we did this event," or, "We did this trade show and it resulted in this." But, what are maybe some of those leading indicators, metrics, KPIs that you're tracking that at least lets you know, hey, marketing is doing it's job or we're getting our audience engaged and we're taking them on that journey?
Jim Williams: Yeah, yeah. It's a, it's a series of trending graphs, right, trending metrics. That's what you look at. You stack those things up and you kinda, you kinda draw your conclusions across it, but everything from what's happening in social and what type of response rate are you getting, your ads, you performance marketing.
Jim Williams: Are you reaching them? Is the cost per lead going down, cost per-
Jim Williams: ... acquisition?
Jim Williams: You know, everything to your website traffic, total traffic, organic traffic, traffic to the pages that matter, traffic that comes from SEO. You know, it's like you got all these series of charts. I assemble them with my team-
Jim Williams: ... every 30 days and we have most of them that are instrumental. But every 30 days, you put them together and you kinda draw your, are we heading in the right direction or not heading in the right direction? Everything comes down to the pipeline.
Jim Williams: Pipeline saves lives. That's been like, my mantra.
Jim Williams: And, uh, yeah, those are all leading indicators, the thing that matters the most is your pipeline growing at a consistent rate and a rate that's gonna give you coverage for, you know, the next three quarters of sales targets.
Arthur: Around that question of pipeline, how... I don't know if you have a set number of how much you think marketing should be responsible for a company's pipeline.
Jim Williams: Never enough. [laughs]
Jim Williams: Never, never enough. It- It, I'm sorry, I hate to cop out on you, but it totally depends.
Jim Williams: It depends on what industry you're in-
Jim Williams: ... what- what are you selling, what is the average price point, what is your total addressable market, who's your ideal buyer?
Jim Williams: You know, like, all of these things determine, um, what marketing is gonna be responsible for. I have worked, um, my entire career, I've been in enterprise software, right? So, software-
Jim Williams: ... that's big ticket price tag, north of $50 or $100K. Um, and I've always set a benchmark target for myself as marketing as, you know, in the 40% range-
Jim Williams: ... or 45% range. But if you're a startup going to market, it's gonna be much, much higher than that. Much higher.
Arthur: Okay. So, it depends. I'm curious if this is, um, what you're seeing as well. I know in 2023 it seems that the- the pie of net new is continuing to get smaller and smaller, right? Uh, budget cuts, hiring freezes, not as many buyers out there, so people are now starting to turn towards their customers. Maybe those customers that actually served us and we kinda forgot about, now it's all about cross-sale, up- upsell, expansion. One, is that what you're seeing too within your marketing team? And two, I don't know if you can dive into some of those customer marketing initiatives that, um, that have worked out for you?
Jim Williams: Yeah, a hundred percent. It's like, uh, you know, as soon as the economy starts to turn and you see those [inaudible 00:05:09] numbers pointing in the wrong direction, immediately this goes to, um, you know, a dollar of revenue is a dollar of revenue. If you can get it from a customer, great, if that makes it easier 'cause you got a contract in place, or better yet, a relationship, or better yet, an advocate. [laughs]
Jim Williams: That- That's great. Of course, we're seeing that turn towards, uh- uh, you know, holding onto the dollars you got and- and possibly expanding them. That's a big focus for us too. The way to get there, I'm always a believer that, um, you- you- you've already sold the product, right, uh, and you don't, I don't think it's the job of marketing as much to sell the product again to someone that's already bought it-
Jim Williams: ... even with new capabilities. Instead, I'd like to try and sell all the things that will keep someone loyal to your brand if you're a customer.
Jim Williams: Yes, they have the product, but gosh, you know, you want, you expect so much more from a vendor, especially a martech vendor, than just software.
Jim Williams: Right? Expertise and [inaudible 00:06:03], and a sense of community, developing a network, perhaps building your own personal brand. [inaudible 00:06:11]. So, uh, I focus a lot on that and a lot of it comes down to community building, with a goal, with a goal towards eventual advocacy because, you know, the voice of a happy customer is worth more than anything I could put in the market.
Arthur: This- This is really interesting to hear. I've never looked at it as like, the expectations of what the customer has, especially from a marketing company, right-
Jim Williams: Yeah.
Arthur: ... and- and you're selling to marketers.
Jim Williams: Right.
Arthur: And, you listed so many cool things there. Um, a sense of expertise, right, are they getting better at their job? A sense of community, are- are we surrounding them with their peers and they're getting to ask questions? Um, building personal brands, which seems to be more and more important. Is there ways that you can share maybe at, what you've done at Up Tempo or in previous jobs that you kinda facilitated that and- and helped your customers gain those benefits?
Jim Williams: Everything's a work in progress, I'll say. So-
Jim Williams: ... and I've been at Up Tempo now for 14 months, so we're still getting started in many ways on this journey. But, um-
Jim Williams: ... I believe firmly that the future of marketing is community. It's one in the same.
Jim Williams: We all wanna be part of a community and I think that people learn more from their peers, and from each other than they will from any classroom, any book, any case study-
Jim Williams: ... just by talking to a peer that's trying to do the same thing. And so, uh, building community has been big. I also think that there's a variety of communal platforms or-
Jim Williams: ... places that represent community. So clearly, LinkedIn, social media, et cetera, dedicated community platforms. I personally think Slack is the ultimate community tool. I love it. I think it's easy, it's intuitive. Um, it offers you all the capabilities you need to engage with people one on one, small groups, as a whole-
Jim Williams: ... polling, sharing content. You know, people go on off and creating their own narrow focus groups or whatever. So, um, building a Slack community for not just our customer, but all the, uh, people that we target. We- We target people that are in, um, marketing operations and strategic goals in marketing operations.
Jim Williams: My goal is to build a community, uh, in Slack, on a digital platform and then engage with them. Like, for example, we at this event this morning held a CMO breakfast-
Arthur: I saw that.
Jim Williams: ... working with a partner.
Jim Williams: We had, you know, 25 CMOs in the room talking exactly about the topics you're asking about.
Jim Williams: What's happening in the market, what do we do with budget cuts, et cetera. So, that's community. And, that-
Jim Williams: ... that, they will remember the conversation, sure. But they'll remember, "Oh yeah, there- there was that company, Up Tempo, that got thing together. That's where I met Jeff," you know. People are gonna remember that. That's- That's powerful marketing.
Arthur: Yeah. I, yeah, I think community can mean so many different things and, you know, and Slack communities... I mean, even getting together a group of 25 CMOs and getting them to talk, and interact, and network with each other, and take that offline, and- and continue that, that's another great sense of community. You hit on something that I was gonna ask you and so we can, we can dive in. Has there been anything in terms of budget cuts that you've reduced? And then, my follow up would be like, what would you say you're doubling down on? And maybe we've already talked about that. But yeah, I don't know if you wanna speak from your perspective or even the 25 CMOs that you met with this morning.
Jim Williams: It was a big topic. Um, I've been effected like everyone else. We had the squeeze. Well, we, I have a CFO, just like every one of these companies-
Jim Williams: ... have a CFO-
Arthur: Yeah, yeah.
Jim Williams: ... and CFOs, literally, they just look at the prevailing win and they say, "Okay, this is what we're gonna do. Reduce travel budgets. Oh, well, let's raise prices," da, da, da, and then go to marketing because who else has that big pile of money, discretionary funds that they can squeeze. So, of course, I've- I've had that conversation.
Jim Williams: Um, everybody else in the room had had it too. I ran an informal survey. 70% of the people who respond to it has had to reduce their budget between 10 and 20% this year.
Jim Williams: Right? So, it's like everyone's had to do the same thing. Um, for us, it's a lot of obvious choices too. Like, I know you were gonna ask about field marketing. I personally believe that after the last couple years we've had, getting together face to face, looking someone in the eye, having a, having a beer with them, learning about their kids, whatever it might be, is really, really valuable, espe-, especially if you're trying to sell to someone that's in a pretty senior position. So, I- I'm hesitant to cut field marketing 'cause I- I do think it makes a difference. It definitely accelerates pipeline.
Jim Williams: It's not always the best at creating pipeline, but it accelerates pipeline. So- So, I haven't made, uh, that many changes there. But, I certainly have had, I- I've made some changes for sure.
Arthur: It sounds like it's almost like a little bit of here, a little bit of that. It's not like, one program or one type of campaign that you're like, "Hey, we're not doing field marketing." It's just a little bit reduction in this area, am I hearing that right?
Jim Williams: No, I don't, I don't... No, I don't think you- you can. I know that like, we've delayed some head counts that I've turned to outsourcing and working with consultants, and contractors.
Arthur: Interesting. Okay.
Jim Williams: You have a bit more control over the spend there. It's also like, a great try before you buy type of approach, you know-
Jim Williams: ... with talent and there's a lot of good talent, unfortunately, available right now in the marketplace. So...
Arthur: So, going back to- to the field marketing, I loved how you thought about it. And I don't think, I'm really glad you said that of like, the importance of the face to face, especially the past couple years we've been a little bit locked up. I think, um, going back to what you said, accelerating pipeline, I think that's-
Jim Williams: Mm-hmm.
Arthur: ... really interesting, right, 'cause typically marketers are looking at like, dollars in, dollars out, or maybe that's how the CFO or their sales team is looking at it. It sounds like you don't necessarily look at that or are you a little bit more intentional of, "Hey, we're gonna attend this event because maybe we're already in the pipeline with some of these companies?"
Jim Williams: Oh, we definitely go through and look at that, for sure. And we want to figure out whether or not people that we're already engaged with are gonna be at these events. That's a big part of what we do.
Jim Williams: Also, I'll be honest with you, like, every one of the sponsors at these shows is spending a big chunk of money. And, I know for a fact that they're probably not tracking it that well 'cause they don't have any-
Jim Williams: ... marketing financial system in place. A lot of times it's the sponsor of the show-
Jim Williams: ... uh, that represents some interesting conversations to have.
Arthur: It's funny you mentioned that. We- We kinda look at it the same way, right?
Jim Williams: Yeah.
Arthur: 'Cause I know traditionally, um, marketers KPIs for some of these trade shows is batch scans.
Jim Williams: Mm-hmm.
Arthur: And, from Chili Piper's perspective, it kinda leans into it. But, you spent thousands of dollars to meet your buyers face to face, only to capture their email address and follow up with them digitally?
Jim Williams: Yeah.
Arthur: Why don't you pressure test that a little bit and if you're having a good conversation, book that demo right then and there-
Jim Williams: Right.
Arthur: ... right, and- and get them into your pipeline. So, that's also been a pretty good source for us in terms of, "Hey, we know you're investing in these trade shows. What better way to actually track pipeline than to pressure test some of these conversations?" I always say if they're like, "Ah, no, just follow up with me on email," are they really a good buyer?
Jim Williams: Right.
Arthur: Probably not, right?
Jim Williams: Yeah.
Arthur: But if you've had that good conversation, then you take it to [inaudible 00:12:39]. So, I love the way you're looking at that. Is there anything that you're really doubling down on in terms of your- your marketing budget or where you're focused?
Jim Williams: Data quality is incredibly important. Like-
Jim Williams: ... incredibly important. Like, if you look at the agenda for this- this event that we're at, it's like, ABM, ABM, ABM, ABM.
Jim Williams: You go and talk to 20 people about ABM, and, uh, maybe 19 of them will kind of shrug their shoulders, and be like, "Eh, I don't really know what we're doing." So it's like, it's weird. It's a little bit of the emperor, you are asking about trends, a little bit of the emperor with no clothes there in some cases.
Jim Williams: But, what I do know is data quality is super, super important, right? We target 7,000 businesses in the world that can buy our stuff.
Jim Williams: And, within those businesses, there's certain [inaudible 00:13:26], but we know what those buyer roles look like, we know the people we need to target. And making sure we have, uh, that database represented for us, for our marketing, for our sales initiatives, for the BDR team, is- is really, really important. Getting that data structure in place such that not only can we target the right people, but we can trigger actions to the right accounts-
Jim Williams: ... based on the right things. So, we can, we can attack them from a multi-channel way, right? So, we can stalk them, follow them around the internet-
Jim Williams: ... and make sure we're in their streams, and- and feeds, et cetera, you know. That's- That's an important part of our strategy. And, I think that a dollar invested there is as good a dollar as any.
Arthur: Yeah, you're right. Maybe it is, uh, something we don't choose to focus on too much, but it has utmost importance, especially if you have only 7,000 businesses that you sell to, right?
Jim Williams: Yeah. Yeah, that's right.
Arthur: How can marketers at any stage of their career, uh, level themselves up to- to being a CMO, if that's what they- they're aiming for?
Jim Williams: That's a really good question. You know, I- I had a meeting with my team and walked through the fundamentals of how private equity-owned businesses operate.
Jim Williams: What's measured, why is it measured, what's the outcome, how do we get that, how do they determine value? You know, every good company is bought, right? It's bought by another investor or it's bought by the public, maybe, if that's what you call it.
Arthur: Sure. Yeah.
Jim Williams: But, they- they get bought, that's just the way it is. And, it's surprising how many people don't have a fundamental understanding of actually the mechanics of business, like understanding-
Jim Williams: ... the financial terms, et cetera. And, you know, if you wanna become an executive and you want to have the authority to control 10%, 15% of this year's ARR target, and spend it freely to drive growth, you have to be able to speak to, some level of confidence, the language of finance, the language of business, for sure.
Arthur: Yeah. Any resources that like, you recommend to your team or how- how would go about doing this, or is it just like, finance 101?
Jim Williams: Oh, thank God. Like, everything's available on the inter web right now, like-
Arthur: That's true. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jim Williams: ... uh, every major VC firm has someone they- they've become content specialists that public benchmarks on-
Jim Williams: ... you know, what's the rule of 40 and is it really the rule of 50, and how that's trending right now, and how's that becoming... What's the CAT to LTV ratio- ratio?
Jim Williams: And what's the good parts about that? You can learn that stuff. It's not always the most exciting stuff in the world if you're a marketer. But spend the time to at least get grounded in that. The people that determine your fate are handing you money and they wanna understand, like I said, the financial return on that.
Jim Williams: You have to be able to articulate that and it cannot be, "Look at how many MQLs I have," or even pipeline, or et cetera, like, they just wanna know what is the return-
Jim Williams: ... what's the return we're getting?
Arthur: I'm curious who do you go for to, for marketing inspiration? Or, is there maybe some outside sources that inspire you to think creatively around how you approach marketing?
Jim Williams: It's hard. B2Bs, it's tough, bro. It's not like the, it's not always the most exciting stuff in the world. Um, and I think it needs to be more exciting. I- I- I just, I had this conversation with my team and we were laughing about it on the way over here. You know, like, we live in a world with TikTok and we're still putting out, you know, 30-page E-books.
Jim Williams: What are we doing? Like, what are we doing? You know, we gotta, we need to change and change quickly. It's a short attention span theater here and-
Jim Williams: ... uh, we just need, uh, more snackable, bite-sized content. So, I'm always looking for inspiration.
Arthur: Jim, this has been a- a fantastic conversation. We so appreciate you coming on here and, uh, glad that we got a chance to do this.
Jim Williams: Yeah, I'm glad to be here. Thank you very much for the invite. It was fun.
Arthur: Yeah, of course.