Commercial data and insights business Dun & Bradstreet has reinvented its marketing in the past year. Global head of marketing Josh Mueller tells WARC what that means for the future in one of a series of interviews with CMOs from around the world for the Toolkit 2019 report.

From a marketing point of view, what’s the big thing that stood out for you during the year?

We’ve really changed the way we talk about ourselves to the market. We went really deep on the insights and analytics, we went really deep into our NPS scores, into our transactional surveys and the customer feedback that we get. We went really deep with our sales teams and our support teams and the feedback they’re getting on our products and our interactions with customers, and we used all of that as input. We synthesized all of that and did a data-inspired refresh of our customer story. And that has been incredibly well received, both internally within Dun & Bradstreet, and, more importantly with our customers.

Toolkit 2019

This interview is part of WARC’s Toolkit 2019 series

Find the full report here

We’ve shared the company story with analysts, with customers of all sizes, with prospects that didn’t know the brand – and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and has gotten us in front of the C-suite much more than we had been in the past.

Tell me how you went about it as a B2B brand.

As a B2C company, you’re often marketing to your customer and your buyer who are the same person. In B2B, it’s a much more complex sell: you may have thousands of users of your product in one account, but all the users of the product may not be the person who’s actually buying the product or has an expectation on ROI of the product. So whenever you think about these stories, and you get the insights and analytics from this account, you have to think about all the different touchpoints that an account has with your brand. 

So who is it that’s interacting with your sales team? Who is it that’s interacting with your legal team? Who are the end-users of your product (which is critically important)? When there are service issues, how are those accountable? And then you have to survey each of those different touchpoints, and you survey them in different ways. Sometimes it’s your sales team reaching out, sometimes it’s an in-product survey mechanism. As we went through this feedback loop and all of these mechanisms, we really took that into account. We outlined a customer journey, not from an individual’s perspective, but a customer journey from an entire account, looking at the account holistically.

How do you expect your specific category to develop in the coming year? How are you going to approach that?

We’re fortunate that we have a large tailwind behind us, as the volume and the velocity and the variety of data continues to grow at exponential rates. And because of that companies are struggling, asking “Okay. How do I deal with all of this data? How can I use it to make better decisions for my company and ultimately improve my company’s performance?”

That helps us because that’s going to continue to evolve, that is going to continue to accelerate, and all of the technology layered on top of that is going to continue to accelerate. So I think that's going to help our category develop.

We can bring insights from all of that noise. We have commercial industry-best B2B data that helps companies connect all of their different silos. Most people are trying to solve it [the silos issue] with technology, and when you only have technology and you don’t have a common data language, there’s nothing that technology can do.

What's the biggest challenge that you’re facing in the coming year?

I think one of the challenges we face as a brand is that because we’ve been around for 177 years and we have a lot of heritage, there is a lack of understanding of the capabilities that we bring to market today. People often think of us the way we were 50 years ago or more – as primarily a credit report provider, credit ratings, that sort of thing. And so one of the marketing challenges is how do we use that new company story that we created? How do we use those new capabilities that we’ve created? And then really shift the perception of Dun & Bradstreet to the modern player that we are in the sales and marketing space, in the supply and compliance space, in addition to the trade credit and finance solutions space in which we’ve played for a really long time.

How are you planning on going about shifting peoples’ perceptions of the brand and what’s your big thing going to be next year?

The way I like to think about it is we plan to be our own best case study and really drink our own champagne. The plan is to take that new company story that we created in 2018 and then activate that using our own capabilities and data and insights against the segments and accounts and customers that are most important to us.

It’s going to be a fascinating exercise of using data and insights to rearticulate who we are. We’re not doing it by ourselves, but we’re kind of the fuel behind that to then take that to market in a very targeted way with as little waste as possible. One of the things I see marketers struggle with is the whole, ‘I know half of my budget is working, I don’t know which half’. Part of our problem is to reduce that waste. And so this will be a fascinating exercise of being our own best case study to shift that perception.

Is there any particular area of martech you’re interested in?

From a marketing perspective we rely heavily on marketing technology and we’re starting to explore some of the boutique players that are using AI, such as Conversica, which is basically an AI bot that helps us automatically reply to leads that our sales people don’t get hold of immediately.

That’s the type of stuff that we’re exploring: where can we take our existing marketing technology stack, layer on some of these new AI machine-learning type of capabilities, and then layer our data throughout all of it to be able to try to create new opportunities for customers and ultimately us.

What’s the effect of that on your hiring process?

We definitely are hiring more people who understand data innately. I have an insights and analytics team who do a lot of analysis, they understand segmentation and targeting, and we’re using that as a centre of excellence that informs the rest of our teams.

The other thing that we’ll probably continue to hire more of is just specialists on the martech side. Pairing those data specialists with marketing technology specialists provides us the ability to scale what some of the traditional marketing roles do with messaging and content and creative and the way that people typically think about marketing. We’ll continue to have those roles, but the investment in both the data and the technology helps us to take that and to scale it at a level we haven’t been able to previously.

Is everything done in-house or do you work with external agencies at all?

We do both. Things that are always-on, that we’re always doing on a month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year basis, we like to in-source those activities, because we like to build those competencies internally and continue to improve them. On things where we have big launches, or a big campaign, or we’re writing a story, we absolutely partner with agencies. And so historically we’ve had our media agency and then we’ve had our creative agency.

Moving into next year, one of the things that we’re thinking is from a media agency perspective is, what is the right partner for us in this data-inspired automated world.

Do you anticipate your current media mix changing in the coming year?

Historically we have been focused more on the bottom of the funnel with media, meaning we focus more on demand generation, I think what we’ll do in 2019 and beyond is focus more on the full funnel. So we’ll continue the bottom-of-funnel work but we’ll also do more top-of-funnel brand awareness, brand reputation work. And finding the right partners that can help us throughout that funnel is critical.

What are the knowledge gaps in terms of measuring the impact of your marketing investments?

With complex B2B sales, there is a role that the sales team plays, the marketing team plays, and the product team plays. And I think of it as like the three legs of the go-to-market stool. When you have small accounts it’s very easy to measure marketing ROI and what the results were. I think what the biggest knowledge gap is for those complex sales is getting the right mix of how much marketing you put against an account, how much against new product development, and how much against sales.

It’s easy to measure the overall ROI of the three together. It’s hard to know how to optimize that mix internally of those resources on the complex sales