Melton Littlepage
How Tenable Captured the Fortune 500 Using Solution-Based Marketing
Melton Littlepage highlights why he believes solution-based marketing and buyer empathy are paramount to demand gen success.
Tenable, Inc. is the Cyber Exposure company. Over 30,000 organizations around the globe rely on Tenable to understand and reduce cyber risk. As the creator of Nessus®, Tenable extended its expertise in vulnerabilities to deliver the world’s first platform to see and secure any digital asset on any computing platform. Tenable customers include more than 50 percent of the Fortune 500, more than 30 percent of the Global 2000 and large government agencies.

Melton Littlepage is Senior Vice President of Marketing at Tenable. He is a seasoned marketing leader with a proven track record of accelerating revenue and pipeline in high growth SaaS businesses, including Tenable, SAP Concur, New Relic, and Schoology. He has extensive hands-on experience developing marketing strategy, leading go-to-market operations, building brand awareness, establishing new categories, generating quality leads at scale, increasing customer lifetime value, and heading up all marketing functions.

Episode Summary

This episode features an interview between Ian Faison and Melton Littlepage, Senior VP of Marketing at Tenable. Melton has more than 15 years of marketing experience, including as VP of Global Marketing for SAP Concur, and CMO of Schoology. At Tenable, Melton is responsible for driving demand gen for cybersecurity solutions that are used by more than 30,000 organizations worldwide, including more than half of the Fortune 500.

On this episode, Melton breaks down his solution-based marketing approach, how to truly understand the problems your customers face, and how to make your brand synonymous with the solutions they need.

Key Takeaways

  • Marketing has two missions: tell your story to the market, and then when the market is searching for an answer to a problem, be there with the answer.
  • The job of a marketer is to help the buyer understand how to manage their problems. It’s to help them see that there is a solution that can take a lot of pain and effort out of their life, allow them to do a better job, and help their company be more successful.
  • Management of your website is crucial. It's where you express yourself as a brand, develop your category, create community, inform and educate the market on the products you offer, and it’s how you assemble those products into solutions that are important for solving real-world problems.
  • Having conversational marketing on your website is an essential tool. It’s an attractive alternative to gated content forms and it goes beyond being a lead-capture tool. It allows you to have meaningful conversations with your customers and guide them through their buying journey.


Being a VP of marketing is like being the VP of helping the customer solve a problem. We have a lot of internal processes and KPIs and metrics and all that's really important, but our job is really to understand our buyer and understand what they're up against.
[Our customer] is not looking to buy a product, they're looking to solve a problem. We need to jump in there and help them solve the problem. That's how they're going to end up buying the product. It doesn't come the other way around.
We've built a demand gen organization that is dedicated to reaching our target persona and changing their mind. That’s it in a nutshell.
We start with the buyer and the problems they have in their day to day world. We try to help them understand that there is a better way to do what we do. We hold their hand through the process of learning how it could apply in their organization and what the potential benefit is. And then, in an ideal world, we start a conversation with them. If we can do that, we've succeeded in our role as marketing. If we can't do that, then all the KPIs, processes, tech– it just doesn't matter.

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Episode Transcript

(6:16) Why Buyer Empathy is Fundamental to Being an SVP of Marketing

  • Being an SVP of Marketing is like being the SVP of helping customers solve problems
  • As marketers, we must help the buyer understand their problem and lead them to the solution

(9:22) Tenable’s Demand Gen Team Composition

  • Content marketing: This team is critical in their mission to change their target persona’s perception of the status quo. Tenable maps content along the buyer journey to carry them from stage to stage, and ultimately realize the problem they have is solvable.
  • Digital marketing: This team has a key role in the demand gen organization, as they are responsible for spreading Tenable’s message across the “digital watering holes” where their ideal customers reside (social advertising, display advertising, content syndication, SEM).
  • Inbound marketing: This team is comprised of both inbound marketing and marketing operations functions. This team oversees the web strategy, including SEO, inbound lead capture (chat, lead scoring, and lead routing), and inbound account-based marketing.
  • Field & channel marketing: This team operates on a regional basis and executes account-based marketing in the field and joint go-to-market programs with key channel partners.
  • Sales development team: This team is dedicated to engaging with MQLs and are the first responders to leads with high intent signals.

(17:39) Combining Account-Based Marketing and Field Marketing into a Power Duo

  • Tenable is pushing the envelope by combined account-based marketing with field channel marketing
  • Striving to redefine field and channel marketing away from a traditional event-centric role to an account-focused role.
  • Building awareness and engagement with target accounts is a long, complex process that requires close coordination with the sales field.
  • Proximity to the selling team enables the field marketing team to execute account-based marketing tactics much faster than a global account-based marketing team could learn the nuances of multiple regions and hundreds of sellers within those regions.

(21:03) Building Trust is Paramount in a High-Stakes Industry

  • It’s critical for Tenable to build relationships based on a high level of trust, and this is achieved when they focus their efforts on helping customers be better at their jobs.
  • No buyer is looking to buy a product. They’re looking to solve a problem. Tenable earns buyer trust by making it genuinely clear that Tenable is dedicated to helping prospects solve their problems.
  • Tenable augments traditional product marketing with solution-based marketing to help buyers assemble Tenable’s products into real-world solutions that fit into the buyer’s organization.

(30:01) The Website is a Place to Build Loyalty

  • Tenable’s website is a destination that creates enduring value and delivers harvestable content that enables people to become better professionals.
  • If visitors know they can come back and continue to get value, then your website will earn loyalty and repeat traffic; people will subscribe to your blog, they’ll will come back to your website, and they’ll recommend it to their coworkers.
  • Conversational marketing has been an essential tool to drive engagement with website visitors.
  • While conversational marketing allows Tenable to engage buyers who otherwise wouldn’t have wanted to fill out a form gate, they’ve found they’ve driven far more meaningful conversations with buyers.
  • Conversational marketing tools have also unlocked Tenable’s ability to give sellers insight into how specific accounts are engaging with their website to help the seller form a personalized outreach strategy.

(34:35) Melton’s Uncuttable Demand Gen Budget Items

  • The first uncuttable budget item is the digital buyer experience. This is a critical area of investment for SEO purposes to ensure Tenable is synonymous with the problems they solve for.
  • The second uncuttable item is their free trial offer. Free trials allow the buyer to quickly earn value. The point isn’t to get a buyer to create a login, but to demonstrate to the buyer that you will solve their problems.
  • The third uncuttable item is search engine marketing. People turn to search engines more than any other source, so it’s critical that Tenable is part of that equation.

(43:56) A Big Sales-Marketing Alignment Lesson

  • Like most demand gen teams, Tenable’s marketing team tries to align very closely with the sales organization by simplifying the work on their plate by teeing up sales plays and opportunities to engage with target accounts
  • Learned that this can become too overwhelming for the sales organization. Instead it creates churn in the system because marketing’s message becomes muddied and complicated.
  • To solve for this, the marketing team builds an umbrella message that connects all the dots together. They then coach the sales team on the broad message and let them have the freedom to bring their own shape to it.

(46:56) Quick Hits: Getting to Know Melton

  • Hidden talent: He’s a big data nerd
  • Favorite Spot in D.C.: It was the Newseum, which unfortunately just closed. Second favorite is the International Spy Museum.
  • Favorite podcast: Freakonomics
  • Advice for a Head of Demand Gen: First, align with sales and have a metric in common. Tenable uses pipeline. Second, manage the website above all else. It's where you develop your category, it's where you create community, and it's where you inform the market and educate the market. Lastly, invest in creating a RACI model for your organization to cultivate a healthy, collaborative team dynamic.