Julia Stead is unique as a B2B SaaS CMO because she defies the stats about the average tenure of B2B SaaS marketing leaders -- Julia spent over 7 years climbing the marketing ranks at Invoca before Erica placed her as CMO at Allocadia. (In case you were wondering, the average tenure of a CMO for a technology company is under 2.5 years - in SaaS companies, it's usually lower. In Silicon Valley, the average tenure of a marketing leader is 6 to 18 months!).

In Episode 2 of The Get, Erica and Julia talk about the anatomy of a CMO search: from the perspective of both the company and the winning candidate.

Here are some of the things we spoke about:

  1. Julia shares how she rose fast in her career , and why she believes it’s important to go the distance with your employer (with secrets from her self-improvement plan!)
  2. What should you  look for in prospective companies to see if they have the right culture of growth/ support?
  3. How is the CMO job different from the VP Marketing role
  4. Balancing brand and demand as a CMO
  5. Structuring a B2B SaaS marketing team as the CMO
  6. ital tips for marketers aspiring to be CMO’s in B2B SaaS companies
  7. Julia is a founding member of Women in Revenue – and tells us why it matters to women professionals in revenue marketing

Did we get your attention?

Julia Stead [00:00:01] How I would describe how I feel about being a CMO versus a VP of marketing, and it's kind of silly because it's just the title, but titles do help us, I think, aligned to the fullness of a position. Is that my job is not just marketing. It's growing the business. It's partnering with the CEO, with the other executives, to focus on defining what our category in our market is and expanding our market and growing our company's revenue.

Erica Seidel [00:00:35] Welcome to The Get. Today we will explore the anatomy of a CMO; we'll go on a journey of search for a new CMO at a B2B Martech company in a significant growth stage. You'll hear about it from the hiring side as well as the perspective of the CMO whos at the job. We're going to talk about what it's like to inhabit a CMO role for the first time. We'll talk about how a CMO role is distinct from a VP of marketing role. And we'll talk about what is unique about marketing to marketers. Joining us is Julia Stead, the chief marketing officer of Allocadia. I placed Julia in her new role recently. Julia, welcome to the show!

Julia Stead [00:01:13] My pleasure. I'm looking forward to our conversation. We've had many conversations already in the past to where we've gotten today, where I've gone today and was excited to kind of pick up my conversation with you.

Erica Seidel [00:01:29] So we're going to talk about hiring, we're going to talk about being in the job, and we're going to talk about advice for aspiring B2B  Saas CMO's, so, let's just get started by introduction. Julia Stead, can you just give us a little bit of background on you?

Julia Stead [00:01:50] I've been working in marketing for over 15 years now, just sort of by chance, I ended up in marketing technology very early on in my career and was an excellent fit for me interest wise. So as I moved cities and moved, companies have always had that thread of B2B Martech specifically in my career progression. I am the very new, fresh, freshly appointed CMO at Allocadia, and before that, I was the VP of marketing at  Invoca, which is another fast Martech platform that I worked there for seven years. And you were talking about my career progression and started off in a director-level role and more of a marketing generalist and specialized in a few areas and then worked my way up to the VP role that I had for a couple of years before recently moving on to Allocadia.

Erica Seidel [00:02:54] I'm curious about how you moved up so quickly. I do remember asking you this in the interview process, and yet, you know, you don't have to give me the same kind of, you know, the same interviewee tie we get a little more real now.

Julia Stead [00:03:08] Yeah, exactly. No, I think it's a combination of drive and focus and hard work and maybe some luck because when you're working for startups, I think there's always a little bit of a luck element. Fairly early on in my career, I always kind of thought would think through at least one or two years ahead of where I wanted to be and would speak with my managers and figure out, OK, what do I need to do to get to that next level? And to that next level, it was less a conversation to give me a bigger title or give me more money. It was more conversation of I want to grow my career. What do I need to do to improve to warrant those next steps? Title money, etc.. And then seeking out companies where I felt there was a very supportive mentor and led leadership team and where I would be using the word supported. But. But it's the one that rings most true for me, supported and encouraged, and given the space to learn on the job. As I as I went along. But with guardrails and with leaders that I would actually learn from. And I think that played a big role in how quickly I was able to learn and grow in my career.

Erica Seidel [00:04:33] How can you tell if somebody is going to be a supportive mentor or if the company has the right type of mentorship flash support culture for somebody who wants to move up? Like if you're in the interview process, what questions you ask?

Julia Stead [00:04:51] It's partly a personality thing when you're interviewing with someone, whether they are open to you, asking a lot of questions. It's always kind of interesting, I think in the interview process as a candidate, you're selling yourself, but the company should also be selling themselves to you a little bit. And so as a candidate, you should come prepared with a lot of questions at and the way the openness that the company has in answering those questions, I think can be telling if they want to spend the time and to help you better understand the business and cover all of your questions. And I think that shows a cultural openness to having it be more of a two-way dialog rather than a hey, what are what we can get out of you? The candidate. So that's one way, I think, asking around where possible to just understand the reputation of a company, I mean, you can read reviews on sites like Glassdoor and whatnot, but they can often be biased or just give you a snapshot of one period in the company's history — so reaching out to existing employees to get their take. And to just peers in the community to get a better understanding of what the company culture is like. I'd say, though, there are two areas that you can bet you can do a bit of research. And then I would also say, as you are interviewing and looking at different companies, look at who your boss will be and what their career trajectory has been and see if it kind of follows that kind of trajectory that you're looking for because that way that you kind of have a default mentor right there if they've gone through the steps that you want to go through. What better way to learn hands-on from someone who's your boss? And I think you can upfront in the interview process as well, make it clear that you sought out this company in this position because you see this person as a leader and a role model and look forward to learning from them. And that kind of sets the expectation of the kind of relationship that you're looking for. And if they seem open and engage with you on that topic, I think it's probably going to be a good bet. If I look at my background in the world of tech, it's been a bit unusual how long I've stayed at companies. So my first one, my first real job, I mean, I did some funny, not super serious jobs fresh out of undergrad college. But my first real job, I was there for almost five years and then did have one short stint at a startup in the Bay Area. But I left in very positive terms, and it was because my boyfriend, my current husband, and I were geographically apart. And we needed to I made it. I made a job decision. I moved to be closer to him, and it was the right decision. But anyway, so five, five years, one year and then seven years at Boca. Prior to coming to allocate. Yeah. And it's pretty unusual. I see a lot of people in marketing and specifically in the world of Martech doing one and a half, two-year stint, and feeling like that's the way to grow their career. It's almost like you're chasing that next title and progression. I think I recognize that your best learning comes when you become deeply ingrained with a company and a product and become a subject matter expert. And you can't do that if you're hopping around frequently. It takes them a long time just to understand the culture of the company and build those really important relationships with your peers and with your higher-ups, and then also refine your skills in your specific area of marketing expertise, whether it's product marketing or brand marketing or demand gen or so on.

Erica Seidel [00:08:26] It's funny because on the executive search side, when I present a candidate who has even one short stint, the first question the CEO or the investor or whomever it is asked is why was this short? Did they get fired? Who initiated them leaving? It is an instant red flag. And so you can imagine when people have several of these short stints, it can be a real issue. And sometimes there are really good reasons for it. I like to think of it as, you know, what they think of somebody's resume. I often say this, and I might have said this to you when I interviewed you was, but I can see what you've done in these jobs. But I want to see the white spaces and the white spaces between jobs. What was making you leave and what was the push factors and what were the what was the pull factors? And I think I like your point about the best learning comes when you are ingrained within a company and then, you know, you also become associated more with the success of that company. So, you know, at Invoker, one thing I liked about your background is you had gone through this particular climb in revenue from. I don't know. It was small when you started to fly all the way up to 50 million. And that was very compelling. You know, for this particular search. What do you think about that? Do you think that? It's wise to see somebody's revenue climb in one company as a proxy or as a signal for what they can do in their next company.

Julia Stead [00:10:07] I do. I definitely do. I think it comes with some caveats. But. What you know for sure is this person has seen a lot — been there, done that, and successfully gone through the growing pains that will probably lie ahead for your company.

Erica Seidel [00:10:26] Cool. All right. So what's the process of you landing in your new job? I'll drill into one area, and I just want your take on this. So we asked you and the other finalist candidates, but to do a presentation on, I think the three things Allocadia should do to drive growth. Very broad presentation guidance. I want to hear about what was it like for you to put that together, and what are your thoughts on the role of the sort of presentation or Chalk Talk? In the evaluation process?

Julia Stead [00:11:06] I love it. I absolutely love it. So I really enjoyed the process myself that I went through, and I think that if you're hiring an executive, whether they're in marketing or any field, they need to be able to clearly articulate and present their ideas and strategies. You know, it'll come up in the future and board meetings and other initiatives, both internal and public-facing. So I think it's a critical part of the interview process and should absolutely be there for executives. It's also a great way to learn about the business that you are interviewing at. Right. You need to do a little bit of your research. You need to collect your thoughts. And so even if it weren't your requirements, I almost feel like I would do that anyway, because it's such a great way to, as I said, organize your thoughts, organize your ideas, and be more succinct and clear in communicating that to your audience. I also have asked all candidates at a director level and above for roles that I hire to do a presentation as well. I just think it's such an important skill set in the field of marketing to be able to visually and clearly communicate ideas. And when you're at that director level and above, getting stakeholder buy-in across functionally is really important. Being able to sort of quote-unquote, sell your ideas internally and externally and be a good storyteller is important no matter what aspect of marketing you're in. And so I make it a requirement for a variety of positions.

Erica Seidel [00:12:40] Awesome. Can you share the guidance or the prompts that you've given to some director-level candidates?

Julia Stead [00:12:47] Depending on the role, I usually make it three parts, something that's a little bit more tactical, something that's a little bit more big picture thinking, and then usually something that addresses an actual project or pain point that I have at that point in time.

Erica Seidel [00:13:04] Let's talk about your job now. This is your first CMO gig. Your title previously was VP of Marketing at Invoca. So a big question for me is how do you see a CMO job being distinct from a VP of marketing job, if at all?

Julia Stead [00:13:21] Yeah. It's such a great question that I definitely had to give some thought to. How I would describe how I feel about being a CMO versus a VP of marketing, and it's kind of silly because it's just a title, but titles do help us. I think aligned to the fullness of a position is that my job is really not just marketing. It's growing the business. It's partnering with the CEO, with the other executives to really focus on defining what our what our category in our market is and growing our market and growing our companies revenue. And when I was VP of marketing, I was very focused on driving revenue for the business and pipeline. But I don't think I saw myself quite at that time, and I probably wasn't operating quite that next layer of. No, I'm not. I wasn't operating at the same strategic level of really thinking more broadly of growing the business and my mandate as CMO being defining the market and growing the market. And yes, building the go-to-market engine that supports it and making sure we've got our demand gen strategy and great product marketing and great corporate marketing. But those feel — a layer below where I need to be focusing my time now as CMO.

Erica Seidel [00:14:53] What are your key priorities now as a new CMO of Allocadia?

Julia Stead [00:14:57] I really made a point of not rushing to snap judgments and getting building relationships with my peers on the executive team and with my marketing team and cross-functional and really understanding where the business is that to date and where I can help have the biggest impact and drive the most success for the business. And so that being said, there are a couple of areas that I'm that I am focused on, and we'll continue to be more focused on in the coming months and quarters. One is around category creation and defining our market and really nailing what I think our future category should be and how we address all the potential that our products can deliver to a broader market. And so that's not something that you come up within a week or so. I don't have the exact answers yet. But that's a big piece of what I'm focused on. And then the other I'd say is making sure we've got the right operational foundation and visibility into our go-to-market machine at every step of the funnel. I guess if you will need so that I can constantly make decisions, investment decisions in an agile manner and. Make sure that our go-to-market machine is our engine, if you will, is primed for more growth so that I can then confidently invest more at the top, and more revenue will come out at the bottom.

Erica Seidel [00:16:33] One thing that often happens in smaller companies is you have a marketer with a broad set of experiences that comes in, and that person is thinking about the brand, and they're thinking about demand. But then they can be in a company where it is just such, such an insatiable appetite for demand. I don't think that's exactly the case at allocating. I think it is just the role that we structured was one of balancing brand and demand. But what is your take on that? What's your advice to a CMO that that comes into a company where the company is dying for demand and asking that CMO be focused, you know, 100 percent on leads, leap leads when that CMO sees the broader picture and the need for a brand or product marketing, corporate marketing, you know, other kinds of contributions.

Julia Stead [00:17:34] I'd say probably run if I were the female candidate, but I think if you're a CMO, you should be able to do all aspects of marketing. You should be focused on revenue and the top, top-level business objectives and growing the business. Now, the company may have or, as the CEO may have identified, that our biggest obstacle right now to hitting revenue into growing the business is a pipeline and hopefully not lead. I mean, I don't think he's ever the real problem there, but we'll say pipeline. So that maybe the area that it makes sense for you as CMO to focus on in your first quarter or to get that cleaned up, get the right people in place, build, build that engine. And I think that totally makes sense. But I don't think you should be hired to do that. I think you should be hired again to drive revenue, to grow the business. And then it's up to you to assess which areas of the end to end marketing machine need the most attention first. And you may decide you may feel like. Actually, it's not dimensioned in a pretty good place. I actually think if we were to spend more time overhauling our positioning and working on our product packaging and value proposition, that's actually going to have a bigger, bigger impact on growing revenue and improve demand. And that might be the case, and that should be I think you as a CMO should be up to you to decide what are the right levers to pull. You could be the top-level business Goals.

Erica Seidel [00:19:10] You have been marketing to marketers for a while now, and you are continuing that at Allocadia, what is unique about marketing to marketers.

Julia Stead [00:19:24] its fun. I love it. Or else I guess I wouldn't have been doing it for so long. I think marketers, especially today's marketers, are very tech-savvy and recognize that a solid technology foundation and data foundation, are really core pillars of marketing success. And so to say the word marketing way too much in this conversation, that marketing to marketers means you have a more, I think, engaged, interested, kind of rapt audience who really gets what you are selling more so than if you are marketing to different user groups or different personas. I guess you could say so in that aspect. I think it's it's really fun. I think I can sometimes fall prey and have to check myself on assuming that because I'm a CMO or head of marketing and we are selling to those personas that what I think is best is what they would think is best. And so making sure always to do a lot of validation with customers and more broadly, just marketers in our industry to get that more accurate and broad perspective rather than just always assuming, well, you know, we're basically marketing to me and I know what's best. So I'm just gonna do that and selling and engaging with B2B CMO. It really is like they're like my best friends. It's awesome. It's really fun. And so much of our discussions become more strategic brainstorming, ideation, conversations, rather than just me trying to explain a value proposition and benefits and stuff like that. CMO and other marketing leaders seem to just really get what we do and thrive on having more of a consultative strategic conversation with us to understand how they can be. Not just using our tool, but implementing strategies around data, around investment planning, around budgeting to really help them pick their business goals and still be able to talk. Peer to peer with them like that is is really fun and exciting for me. I'm learning a lot, too.

Erica Seidel [00:21:44] Can we have a peek into your team structure? You know you've built teams before, and now you have a team you came into Allocadia with a pretty much a fully formed marketing team. Can you tell us about that structure?

Julia Stead [00:22:00] Yeah, I'd say there are four smaller teams, three critical areas, and in some of the other areas, you can build out a little bit further down the road. But the three critical ones, actually there's four, demand generation, product marketing, and brand marketing. And for me, the brand kind of covers the umbrella of communications, content, PR, and your brand experience. So I think those are the three core areas where their specific functions and you need someone really strong leading each of them and they're all equally important. I think product marketing gets undervalued a fair amount at companies, but to me, it is super strategic, and really the linchpin to your to the success of your whole go to market strategy. And then I said, well, they're actually four. And something that's been increasingly apparent, apparent to me over the past couple years, is how important operations are with the rise of all the techs that we're using and the increased use of data. Having a really solid operational data foundation is so critical. And interestingly, at a head in focus, I think I know a resource this area for a while, and I hadn't lived under dimension and that that worked OK. And I had super, super sharp operational people that also bridged into demand gen. And we're doing amazing things there. But in hindsight, I would have called it out more distinctly not to spread people so thin. And so it's an area I think I mentioned that's one of my areas of focus right now at Allocadia is really establishing that best in the class operational foundation that powers the growth and essentially the strategy of the go-to-market team.

Julia Stead [00:23:48] I would ask you before we wrap up about women in revenue, and I have to confess to you that I do. The reason I found you as I had heard about women in revenue and I thought who that would be a good kind of organization just out for this search that I'm doing because I want somebody with strengthened demand gen. And I saw that you were part of it. And one thing led to another. Obviously, you got this job. Talk to me about women in revenue. What what is it? And, you know, just you know, you're a founding member. What does that actually mean? And what are you guys up to?

Julia Stead [00:24:28] Yeah, it's an organization that I love that I'm passionate about that. Yes, I'm a founding member. We've been around. We just celebrated our first year anniversary and have over a thousand members now, which we're we're really proud of. It's the brainchild of Jerry Johnson, who a little over a year ago identified this opportunity, this gap for a community, for women in revenue facing positions. So not just marketing, marketing, sales, operations to some degree there. There are other types of roles that kind of fall into that revenue facing. I mean, finance that revenue facing umbrella, but a community for women at all levels of their career to network, to mentor each other, to help educate each other and to help grow each other's careers.

Erica Seidel [00:25:21] My final question for you is, what is your advice to aspiring CMOs of B2B SaaS companies?

Julia Stead [00:25:29] I would say it goes back to what I think has made me successful, which is I have a plan. You don't necessarily need to have a fully baked plan when you're like 21 in like. Yes, within ten years. This is exactly what I'm going to achieve. But I think it's always important to at least look a few years ahead at what you want to achieve and then find people who have achieved that and look at how they got there and kind of map what the route you think you want to take with the route that looks like it's been successful for other people and have some kind of rough plan. I'd say that's one important piece. Another is, I would say don't shy away from the hard work and the uncomfortable work that comes with learning. I think sometimes that can feel uncomfortable if you're on a roll and there are certain areas where you just don't feel really strong in or the companies may be going through a little bit of a rough patch, and you have to dig in and kind of see it through. There's not shy away from that. But I understand that those are really the most valuable learning opportunities that you're going to have. And they will absolutely pay off big dividends in the long run. But to focus on the long run and not the short run, I guess you could say that's the second point. And then the third is. Do seek out mentors, and that can mean a lot of different things. Two of my biggest mentors have been my bosses, and I didn't realize it until I don't know, a couple of years of working with them. I'm like, Oh yeah. I'm really learning a ton from this person. And even when I move on, they're going to be a mentor in my mind. So don't feel like you need to go out and e-mail. I'm going to be like, Hey, will you be my mentor? But look for people who do you want to emulate and to have a career path that you respect and just engage with them and listen and learn from them. And then, from there, I find relationships will naturally grow. And before you know it, you'll realize, oh, hey, this person is now a mentor.

Erica Seidel [00:27:28] Yeah, you can learn from anybody, really. And whether or not it's a long term relationship, so to speak, or something, you know, where you just meet somebody even once or twice or three times. I think the other point that you're making is that growth and comfort do not co-exist. And so taking that long view, you know, really, really helps to kind of get over the little bumps that you can have in the short run. Awesome. Well, this is fabulous. It's great to speak with you, Julia. It's great to be able to talk with you when we're not doing, you know, a really kind of high stakes interview or negotiation or anything. So thank you so much for joining and sharing all of this great insight. It's been great chatting with you.

Julia Stead [00:28:19] Thank you. It's been a real pleasure, and hopefully, all my real answers are pretty aligned with mine. The answers you heard from me during our interview process. I think just being yourself and being open and honest also gets you pretty far in life. So it's been a pleasure and thanks again for inviting me to be on the show.

[00:28:38] Thanks for joining us today for the Get. Join us next time with another guest till them. Follow us on SoundCloud, Itunes, or Spotify or check us out on LinkedIn and Twitter. So you don't miss a thing.

The Podcast Team

Erica Seidel

Recruiter And Founder at The Connective Good As host of The Get, Erica talks to CEOs, VCs and Marketing Leaders about finding and keeping great marketing talent for B2B SaaS companies.

Team MarTech Advisor

Chief Editor Chitra Iyer, and the team at MarTech Advisor edit, produce and distribute The Get.


Episode Highlights

Guest Profile

Julia Stead

Julia Stead is a B2B SaaS marketing leader and passionate about delivering engaging customer experiences. Prior to joining Allocadia, Stead served as the vice president of marketing at Invoca and led sales and marketing at IPfolio. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Women in Revenue.