CMO Insights: Julie Knight Ludvigson, CMO, Topia

July 17, 2018

CMO Insights: Julie Knight Ludvigson, CMO, Topia

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Julie Knight Ludvigson, CMO of Topia.

In this video, Julie talks about:

  • The fractured ecosystem of comprehensive global mobility management
  • The challenges of rebranding a company after a recent merge
  • The importance of messaging/positioning (making sure everyone is telling the same story) as primary KPIs

Learn more about Julie from her LinkedIn profile and follow Topia on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our other CMO Insights Videos or our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hi, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz, President and CEO of The Pedowitz Group. Today we have with us Julie Knight, who is Chief Marketing Officer of Topia. Julie, welcome to the show.

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Hey, thanks for having me.

Jeff Pedowitz:

So you and I have been kind of going back and forth over a year, so I’m so glad we could finally get you on the program. So tell us first. I know this is a relatively new over it’s help you. So tell us a little bit more about, about the company and what you’re doing over there.

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Oh yeah. So we are in a space in HR, that’s focused on global mobility management and what simply that means is, you know, we work with companies to help move people either on a short, short term assignment, longterm expatriate management from point A to point B. And most importantly we help companies do that in an effective data-driven way, and then equally important. We create really good employee experiences or an employee experience so that it takes the stress out and the unknowing or mystery of re location for that individual and, and for their families.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Wow. That’s really fascinating. So what are some of the different services that you provide?

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Yeah, so if you think about global mobility management, it is it’s very much of a a fractured ecosystem in the sense that there’s a lot of people doing a lot of different things when people think most notably about global mobility, they think about relocation or the relocation management firms. And we do that and we have a product as well as associated services that, that take care of what is true traditional relocation. The other thing that we do is we have a whole management system note notably called Topia manage. And what it does is a couple of things.

It helps custom companies manage or, or perform scenario planning or cost estimates. So what is this all going to cost? If you take an, a, a senior level person and you want to move them to Asia, isn’t more cost effective to do that in Tokyo, Singapore, or, or Sydney. If companies have options, they’ll often explore those different types of scenarios, as well as the types of relocation or assignments that they might be doing. We also ma can help companies manage their whole program with the managed product. And then finally we’ll do a tax and payroll as well as integration into immigration services such as Fragomen

Jeff Pedowitz:

Pretty comprehensive. So with all those I guess, global

Speaker 3:

Competing globally, what are some of your biggest challenges as CMA?

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Oh, well you know, as you mentioned it at the, at the top of our time together I am with a company called Topia, but it hasn’t been Topia for very long. We went through a rebrand in the beginning of April, and it really is the is the coming together of three different companies there’s move guides which is the company that’s most notably known for being tech enabled relocation with a, with an RMC service. The second is Polaris global mobility. This is a company that we acquired in February of this year, out of Bellevue Washington. And they have the solution that that I just referred to, which is everything from cost estimate to manage to payroll and, and tax. And then we acquired a company back in March of 2017 called teleport, and it’s really known for the employee experience side, and they have a, a tool that, that rolls up under that called city guides, which really gives in depth information on the different cities that an assignee may be going to that experience in and of itself can often times be fairly frustrating and challenging.

If you’re moving to a city to which you have no information what neighborhood should I live in if I have children, what school maybe what places of worship where’s the, you know, where’s the social scene or social center of the city, all of the things that are really important where’s the bank, where’s the schools. And we we supply that information so that people don’t have to search across the internet to try to piece together what that what that experience is going to be like.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So so you’re building a brand, you’re integrating three companies together. So, and, and you’re also new, what’s your team look like? What’s it gonna look like? How are you building out the roles and skills? What is what’s, what are your, some of your ideas for your structure?

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Yeah, so right now the structure is fairly traditional. So when I walked in, we had a, we had somebody that was looking after product marketing, another person for demand gen, and then a third person that really was kind of covering all bases everything from working on the website, to dealing with customer references, to managing the blog and events. And you know, we took a hard look at, at what we needed to accomplish and where, and we are a global company many SAS companies start as maybe U S or in one geography and by virtue of what we do, you know, that wasn’t an option for us. And so we’re in a number of different markets, including a Mia of course, North America, as well as Asia Pacific. And so we took a look at our needs and of course, product marketing remains you know, front and center to, to what we need to do, especially when you’re going through both a rebrand and a product rationalization.

So this individual looks after product marketing, as well as our communications. And specifically the area focuses on analyst relations relationships. We’re trying to create a new category. So we’re not just a tech enabled relocation management firm. We’re really trying to do a broad set of things so that HR departments can have a comprehensive view and one single source of truth to manage their global Mo their Mo mobile population. And you know, and so, so with that, that role becomes that role becomes important and working with the analysts becomes even more important and helping to what to tell that story. The individual that was doing a lot of different things is now focused on content and customer marketing. I think, you know, references for for many young companies is really the lifeblood because those references are important in terms of really helping to build your brand and give a voice to it, not just a vendor voice, but a voice from the customer as well as just traditional referencing. And so he’s looking after that.

Jeff Pedowitz:

I love that you have someone focused on that. I would argue that I think in any company focusing on references and case studies is important night, I’m actually quite surprised how very little it’s done.

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Yeah, I mean, I, I, I’ve never known why, but I know that you know, when you talk to your sales team, they can never have enough references or enough of the right references. So at least a portion of an individual’s time really should be focused on it. And then we have somebody who is looking, it looks after demand generation. So traditional demand gen as well as field marketing, most notably for for North America and a little bit on Asia pack. And then we’ve just brought somebody on in our Mia market who is who’s focused, she’s a more junior member of the team, but focused on demand, generation communication and events. So that’s what it looks like right now. We’ll add roles over time. But you know, this is what we have as a startup. 

And so we’re making the most of it. And even though I’m the CMO am very much a player manager so I’m helping build campaigns I’m writing blogs I’m working the stand I’m talking to analysts. So you know, just because you’ve taken out the trash. So just because you have a, a senior title just means actually very little other than, you know, the buck stops with you from a marketing perspective, but, you know, still very much involved in the day to day and helping, helping the team to execute, build the strategy and, and you know, shoulder some of the workload myself.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Yes, there’s definitely, I don’t know. I’m sure your team appreciates it too. Just

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Have a good team. Yeah.

Jeff Pedowitz:

From a process perspective, as you scale this thing up, whether some of the sales and marketing business processes, you’re spending more time on.

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

So we we’re spending time on the operational side. So taking a look at the tech stack, making sure that we have a good understanding of what the target is. So, you know, we, we have a shared target along with our sales and VDR colleagues around pipeline. And then of course, building that reverse funnel to understand what we’re on the hook to deliver from a, from a leads, MQL perspective. The other thing is that we do have a targeted account strategy. And so with that, making sure that we’re operationalizing properly to to ensure that our marketing is very geared towards that, but that, you know, we have data enrichment and, and a really good understanding of of who we’re meant to be targeting. And, and that, that data is clean and available. We also are so from that standpoint, you know, the operation side, the reporting is, is, is definitely an area that I’ve spent a lot of time on.

The other piece is, as I mentioned, we have somebody who’s dedicated in part to the customer reference program. So it was building the comfort customer reference program from scratch, scratch. It’s not just making sure that we have the right customers and the right use cases for peer to peer references or customer case studies. It’s also really broadening what customer reference means in the sense that many of our customers are really leading the way in terms of what mobility is and what it should become. And so a lot of thought leadership is is something that is of interest to them and of course, interest to us. So broadening what, what that means and engaging with customers in different ways so that they can get their stories out. They may use Topia as the platform and the channel by which to do that, but that’s that’s an area of focus. So those are just some of the things that we’re focused on here at Topia.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Glad that, and so what is your boss holding you accountable for and whether you holding your team accountable for

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

Well a number of things. I mean, first and foremost, you know, as a growing company, it’s really scaling the demand gen and so pipeline. So that’s, you know, something that we spend a lot of time on, but the other thing that she’s really focused on is the messaging and the positioning of the company. You know, as, as I mentioned, we acquired a new company in February of this year. We are we are, as I mentioned, also really creating a new category around global mobility management and also talking at a higher level about the future of work and agile organization and the role that mobility can and should play as part of, of helping organizations move to an agile model and think about career pathing for their employees and delivering opportunities in order to build, you know, a strong leadership bench for the organization.

And so messaging positioning is one of the two primary key KPIs for me. And that’s including developing that. And, and that really got rolled out with the rebrand which was at the beginning of April, but also working with my sales enablement partner to ensure that our sales teams are trained trained not only on an elevator pitch, but really understand the category and then the messaging both at a customer level for HR, as well as a mobility leader and then at a product level. So there’s a lot there, but making sure everybody’s on the same page and selling, telling the same story is a, is an important thing. We often maybe underestimate how difficult that is and how you’ve got to continue to reinforce it. But that’s that’s a, that’s a focus for me this year.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You got a lot to work on. The days are busy, I’m sure they are. So you know, you’ve been a CML for awhile and, and you’ve seen different changes. So what has been, I guess, the biggest change that you’ve seen happen, and then what do you see coming? That’s going to have a big impact on our profession?

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

So I think that the the biggest change that I’ve seen is just that the remit of the CMIO I think there was a day maybe where people thought of the CMO is, is somebody that just was the steward of the brand and thought about, you know brand and awareness. And then as you know, any, any CEO will tell you, you know, demand gen demand, gen demand, gen, and that’s really that’s really become, you know, something that, that you know, you talk to any recruiter you know, what you’re doing demand gen experience and, you know, demand gen is important and, and it, and it definitely is. I think the other thing, though, when you think about the role as CMO is you are responsible more than ever, not only in, in helping to position and message your com your company to a lot of different audiences, but ensuring that that message is understood.

And and people are you employees, whatever their role is are, are sharing that and sharing it not only in face to face conversations, but through social channels. And so the CMO is I think, taken on an enhanced role if you will in ensuring that, that we have the right message for the right people through a myriad of communication channel channels. And and that that’s a lot of work but, but it’s good work and it’s important work because if you don’t have a large advertising budget, when most of us don’t specially in startups leveraging things like social and and in face to face takes on an even greater importance, I think in terms of where it’s going though, and just you know, you, you, you ask, you know, what, what my thought on that is, is really helping to shape the customer experience. 

And so partnerships with the other, with others in the leadership team, whether it’s a product and engineering or the CS organization has has taken on an even even greater importance. And so, you know, all of the touch points from the very first touch all the way through to you know, renewal, you know, we play a hand in, in all of this. And so it’s not just doing net new, you know, acquisition. It’s really making sure that there’s a consistent experience all the way through the life cycle. And so partnerships and relationships with your with your peers on the executive team very important notes, silos not allowed

Jeff Pedowitz:

Very well said. So thank you, Julie. I mean, it’s a pleasure to attend the program. I know I’ve been trying to talk to you for a while and it was absolutely well worth the wait, so I really appreciate it.

Julie Knight-Ludvigson:

You’re very welcome. Thank you.

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