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Interview with Tom Butta, Chief Marketing Officer at SignalFx

Rhythm Singhal By Rhythm Singhal in Interviews-L on

Tom Butta is Chief Marketing Officer at SignalFx. As a marketing leader and brand strategist, Butta has helped some of the world’s most successful enterprise SaaS companies in rapidly-changing categories achieve the coveted positions of thought leader and trusted guide to the Fortune 2000. Butta is a Board Director at, and Advisor to Kustomer, Teampay, Airship, and Gigster.

Your Journey as a Marketing Professional.

Marketing and advertising are in my DNA. My Dad owned a production company that produced animated commercials for advertising agencies. He did the commercials for the Frito Bandito and Hawaiian Punch Punchy. He also created Multiplication Rock and a Sesame Street episode on the Number 9. My Mom worked at BBDO in the creative department until I came along. Despite taking care of four children, she managed to write plays and produce events for our local community. It’s safe to say I was surrounded by creativity from an early age.

My own career also started in advertising, focused on media. I did some early work in what would be called “digital” today and ultimately founded a strategic marketing services firm. After years serving CMO clients, I got the opportunity to be one when Red Hat software asked me to become its first CMO before its global expansion and public offerings. Since then, I’ve basically been in that CMO hot seat, either in permanent roles or in dedicated work through a consultancy I started called 21Weeks.

What are the primary marketing channels you have worked on? What will be your advice to young marketers on each of these channels?

I’ve worked in literally every channel you can think of, but I’ll focus on those where you can make a difference these days.

  • My favorite channel is the sales force. If you can arm them with a compelling story and great sales materials, half the battle is already won.
  • Another channel I like is event marketing. That’s where creative ideas can still carry the day if you can execute effectively.
  • Finally, I love advertising of all kinds, but especially when I’m working in captive environments like airports or train stations. My advice? Go big or go home.

Advice on event marketing:

Event marketing isn’t just about creating a booth design and assembling a team to work the booth. It should be treated like an integrated campaign by addressing the following questions:

  • What are our goals? Are they leads? Are they numbers of demos? Are they a number of ancillary meetings? Etc. Be specific, then work backward from there.
  • How else can we leverage this investment? Are there other things happening that we can point to? A product announcement? A customer story? A partnership?
  • What are we doing before, during and after the event? Have we optimized the event investment with other things such as social events, social media, speaking opportunities, etc.?
  • Have you trained the booth staff so they know what’s expected of them?

What are some of the important marketing software that you have used and found to be really useful for your company?

The software that matters most to me is customer engagement software. It used to be called CRM, but whatever you call it, make sure you’re paying attention to it. Understanding customers to drive more effective communications is THE essential ingredient in any marketing program.

Would you like to share a few words about any marketing software that you absolutely love and always recommend it to others?

Love marketing software? Not so much. But the ones we can’t do without are Marketo for the basics and Sprinklr for the ability to listen, reach, and engage customers across all social media in real-time.

Marketo: I see Marketo as the master file for customer and prospect data. It syncs with Salesforce and all other lead management software. It’s used as the foundation for campaign management.

Sprinklr is more of a customer engagement platform that allows one to listen, reach, and engage with audiences across all social media. It includes rich, real-time-ish customer profiles that combine structured and unstructured data. It has classic campaign capabilities in terms of content management and the ability to do paid, owned, and earned media in one platform.

Your 2 line advice to people entering in the marketing domain.

Two things, and one for good luck.

  • First, try not to generalize about your customers. They are individual human beings and deserve to be treated as such.
  • Second, listen. Too many people, be they newbies or experienced execs, miss critical nuggets shared in conversations.
  • Third, do what you say you’re going to do. Every. Single. Time.