CMO Rishi Dave shares how his team leveraged marketing technology to completely overhaul its go-to-market strategy.
Last March, Dun & Bradstreet underwent what the company defined as a “brand modernization” initiative. The project included a complete overhaul of its go-to-market strategy and creative expression — top to bottom.
When asked what role MarTech played in its latest initiative, CMO Rishi Dave says marketing technology was at the core of the project.
“It’s really how we executed our strategy,” says Dave. “With the modernization of the brand, we really focused on our purpose and values and obviously, our entire go-to-market strategy, which was oriented towards personas.”
Dave says what the brand needed to do — from a marketing technology and strategic perspective — was to scale its pipeline and leads against those personas.
“We completely redid our digital experience around this modernized brand. We leveraged our marketing technology staff to create a very personalized journey, and we leveraged data analytics around those personas,” says Dave.
His team integrated a number of marketing technology solutions within the brand modernization, using tools like web visitor IDs to personalize the Dun & Bradstreet website based on site visitors, and then tied that experience to data.
“Ultimately, the goal is to create this great experience for our customers as they go through the journey with us,” says Dave.
In our latest CMO interview, Dun & Bradstreet’s Rishi Dave was generous enough to lift the curtain on how his brand is using marketing technology, as well as share his thoughts on how the industry is evolving and changing the role of CMO.
CMO @ Dun & Bradstreet
1. Marketing strategy drives technology, not the other way around.
2. Marketing technology needs robust, clean, integrated data like a car needs oil.
3. Marketing technology investments without the supporting people and process investments will drive negative ROI.
Amy Gesenhues: Before we begin, can you tell me more about your role as CMO and how your team is structured?
Rishi Dave: Sure, my focus as CMO is running global marketing here at Dun & Bradstreet. So what that specifically means is it includes the persona go-to-market strategy, our events marketing, internal and external communications, alliances marketing, our demand generation program, including digital, our analytics and data strategies [and] our marketing technology stack.
Specifically, how we’re organized is really around a few core functions. [First], I have an organization that focuses on our persona and solutions based quota market, and that organization focuses a lot on who are our core personas — what are their pain points? How do we address those pain points? They also drive our alliances marketing, as well as our events marketing.
Second, I have an organization that’s focused on demand generation. That includes digital marketing [and] website marketing technology, as well as marketing operations and a lead process.
Third, it’s an organization [that is] focused on data and analytics — that’s both sales and marketing analytics and customer service analytics. It’s all our analytics that we leverage internally to drive our business.
Amy Gesenhues: And where does marketing technology fit into Dun & Bradstreet’s marketing functions?
Rishi Dave: I own our MarTech stack and strategy, and we leverage it for all our programs.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you share a specific example of how Dun & Bradstreet leveraged marketing technology during the brand modernization process? How was it implemented, what were the challenges around it and what was the pay-off?
Rishi Dave: Yes, so here’s a great example. The challenge that we have as a company is that we serve an extremely diverse customer base. We serve everyone from a family-owned pizza joint all the way up to the Fortune 500. We serve something like 90 percent of the Fortune 500, with big, huge solutions that cut across the enterprise, and then, even within an enterprise, we serve different constituencies that don’t always overlap.
So the big challenge that we had was, when there’s so many different segments of the population that could interact with us on and offline — let’s pick a specific initiative, let’s focus on digital — how do we make the site relevant for whoever comes? How do we understand whether they’re Joe’s pizza shop or they’re a representative from a Fortune 500 company? And… whether they’re a marketer, or a finance person, or some other department within that company.
That was a fundamental challenge when we designed our new digital experience. And, obviously, the other one is that we want to make it along the lines of our modern strategy and modernized brand.
The biggest challenge we had was several-fold, and it does fall under the classic people, process, technology.
People: We have different constituencies within our company who benefit from creating these content-rich experiences on our website and then capturing leads and driving them. So we had to spend a lot of time, organizationally, on how we designed these personalized experiences.
It was a great challenge to work with all those groups, understand what kind of experience they want to architect for their customer type, vertical department, etc., and then how to make that come alive on the web, leveraging technology so that we don’t serve up a big, multi-million-dollar enterprise message to a small business, for example.
The process challenge was how do we make sure that what the customer sees — whoever the customer is — is the best piece of content, and best experience for that customer when we launch the site, but also as we go forward, because that should be changing on a continuous basis as we build audiences.
That involved a lot of building a robust set of testing processes, a robust content calendar, building processes where we work with everyone across the company.
Once we said here’s what our brand stands for, here’s the personas we target, here’s what the needs are for these different segments, and here’s the process we’ll use to make sure that we always have relevant stuff — then we say, okay, technology comes into play.
We leverage technology to make sure that when they actually come to the site, they get the right content that we designated for them, and, as we know more and more about them based on our data on them on and offline, we serve up the right experience, move them down the funnel, and then get them to the right salesperson or whoever within the company.
That’s where we use technology like I described, web visitor ID, which can identify who the person is, what industry they’re in, potentially what department they’re in, tie it to our data, and get them the right experience.
I think that process is very critical because a lot of companies jump right into the technology, and they don’t think about the strategy, people and process first — which is actually what you need to do to get the ROI from your technology.
Amy Gesenhues: As CMO, what would you name as your primary challenges around your brand’s marketing technology strategies ?
Rishi Dave: I would say the biggest challenge around our MarTech strategies is really building the processes and the right people around the technology.
Building that first before we leverage the technology, that’s the biggest challenge. Because the technology is great, and it’s getting better and better, and there’s lots of it; but unless you have the right people and processes around that, you don’t get the ROI — and that’s the biggest challenge.
And honestly, the grand modernization defined the strategy that we wanted to drive from a company perspective, but the people and processes help us make that come alive, and then the technology helps us get the results.
Amy Gesenhues: How does your marketing technology overlap with the company’s overall technology needs? Are there clear boundaries between how your team uses technology and how other parts of your organization are rolling out technology initiatives?
Rishi Dave: It’s pretty clear from our perspective. Both myself and the CIO are partners in this journey.
I think the role of the CIO, and the CMO, has changed quite a bit in the modern context, in that, end of the day, we both think about sales, and we work together on the best way to execute our technology strategy to drive sales. So we have a very good partnership around how we leverage technology.
For example, for the modern context, a lot of CMOs increasingly own the marketing technology stacks because that’s the primary lever by which you have the marketing strategy come alive, as well as drive those great experiences for the customers.
Marketing technology is, for the most part, a cloud-based software, so you as the CMO don’t have to rely as much on the IT department from a technical standpoint, and you can bring marketing technology online very quickly, and you can use it very quickly as a CMO. You can make adjustments on the fly very quickly because it is cloud-based software and it is innovated in the cloud and all those kinds of things.
So the reliance on technical integration with the IT department is much less than it has ever been historically. Now, obviously, strategically, the CIO and the CMO have to align, but that’s more of the partnership that the CMO and the CIO have together, [and] we have a very positive and strong one.
Amy Gesenhues: When did you see this shift begin to happen — when marketing teams started taking more ownership over technology?
Rishi Dave: I wouldn’t characterize it as marketing taking more ownership of a technology. It’s really marketing owning their marketing technology stack. Historically, if you look like 15 years ago, there wasn’t really robust marketing technology in place, and so, maybe 20 years ago, technology was really in the CIO’s domain.
Now, as marketing has evolved, and marketing technology has evolved, it’s become more and more owned by marketing because it’s so easy to bring up and bring onboard in the cloud without technology integration. As marketing technology has improved, drastically, and more and more marketing technology has come onboard, and has been more and more critical for this craft of marketing — it’s naturally moved into the marketing realm.
I guess to answer your question of how has this happened, in general, I think it’s happened as marketing has evolved as a profession and become more data and analytics and technology-centric. And as these tools have come online, marketing teams have brought them online themselves as they’ve evolved their marketing organization.
It goes back to that people, process, technology piece.
The way I’ve seen it in marketing is, as digital came onboard, as customer behavior changed in terms of their experience, marketing departments had to change their people and their processes around that. Then the technology evolved, as well, to support and accelerate that. It was a natural evolution that has happened over the last 10 years to make that happen.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you name any specific areas where you’re seeing the biggest impact from your MarTech strategy?
Rishi Dave: I think a lot of the evolution is happening around data and analytics. Which is kind of the oil that makes all the marketing technology work.
Specifically, what’s happening today is that data is in silos — where, generally, a marketing vendor will have one set of data, another vendor will have another set of data, the finance system will have another set of data, the customer experience system will have another set of data, and none of it is connected.
There’s a lot of investment and change in how we connect the data across the marketing technology stack, as well as across all of the technology we have across the company to integrate that view of the customer. How do we simply clean up that data — and supplement that data — with third-party data to make sure we have integrated a full data set that we can work from?
There’s a lot of things that are evolving from that perspective.
There’s a lot of evolution happening from an analytic standpoint, in terms of how we use that data to actually drive marketing. What accounts do we go after? How do we use predictive analytics to prioritize the accounts we go after and determine what opportunities are within those accounts? How do we look at modeling — and this is stuff that we do today — to look at which accounts are we doing well? And which accounts are similar to those accounts that should be doing well? Let’s target those accounts.
There’s a lot of innovation happening in the data and analytic space, and that’s, I think, the greatest opportunity going forward. Because once you have good data and analytics, then it takes your marketing technology investment to a new level.
Let me give you a quick example. Once we modernized our brand, and we said, okay, here are the key departments we want to go after, we used analytics to determine which customers — which potential companies — gave us the biggest opportunity, and what specific opportunity we should target.
Once we understood that, it helped us prioritize within our marketing technology stack, and within our digital advertising audience solutions strategy, who we actually go after, and which account. We also embedded that analytics into the sales floor stash boards of our sales teams in North America, so that they can see exactly who they should go after, and with what solutions, so that helped prioritize their efforts as well.
That’s a great example of how good data and good analytics can fuel how you execute a marketing technology stack.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you see the role of CMO evolving as marketing technology continues to grow?
Rishi Dave: The biggest place where I’ve seen the evolution of CMOs is in the analytic and technology capability. CMOs increasingly are becoming much more savvy in terms of being comfortable with data and analytics and obviously, understanding technology.
I mean, historically, cleaning up your data, integrating your data, even analytics was something that the CIO did, or some geeky organization or technology organization did. It’s very much changing. Great companies now, their CMOs are very much involved in their data strategy. They obviously own their marketing technology stack and how that stack drives marketing. So that piece is where a bulk of the change is going on in the CMO’s world.
Now, at the same time, and here’s the big challenge, the CMO still needs that ability to be creative, to write great content, to write great messaging. It’s a challenging situation, but you have to be able to do both. You have to be able to be both — very creative and content-oriented — so that you know what to say to customers to get them excited. But at the same time, you have to be very data, analytics, technology-oriented to make that come alive for your customers.
The last piece I would say on that is the leadership qualities of the CMO have changed as well, because it takes a different type of leader to be able to manage such diverse talent. You have a highly creative team, you have a team that is very focused on data and analytics, and you have a team that’s very technology-oriented.
It’s a new challenge for CMOs, and I would say the number one challenge for CMOs is to be able to lead such a diverse set of people, and get them to all work together in an integrated way on behalf of a customer.