It’s Time For a Change of Season

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Maybe it’s the spring bloom underway here in the Northeastern part of the United States that has set my hopeful tone for renewal and growth. Seeing the yellow daffodils and forsythia that highlight my home’s front path always brightens my outlook. As they say, “Hope springs eternal.”

While I don’t think it was planned according to the seasons, it seems wonderfully coincidental that the new dnb.com is launching April 4. The new site will be a completely modernized experience, with a sophisticated responsive design, a heavy focus on content and an elegant overall user experience.

Along with this launch, the partner blog you’re reading will become part of a marquee editorial section called “Perspectives.” I love that Dun & Bradstreet is committed to sharing helpful content and our best answers to important trends and topics on the minds of our partners and customers – and that it will be getting priority billing on the new site.

Everything you’ve come to expect from this blog will be front and center in “Perspectives.” We will continue to share insights about the topics you care about – and hopefully that exchange of ideas, news and opinions will help as you leverage data and analytics to make important business decisions about critical business relationships.

Our partner relationships are very important to us, and the new site will showcase these relationships better than ever. The number and caliber of partners we work with continues to expand and includes market leaders in CRM, Digital Marketing, Master Data Management, Supplier Risk and Management, Credit and Risk, Compliance and Capital Markets, just to name a few. That’s a testament to our mutual customers’ needs for trusted data integrated in the tools they use every data to grow their businesses. It also shows the value our partners see in working with us.

We feel the same way, and it’s the reason Dun & Bradstreet has invested in a world-class team solely focused on our partner relationships, developing and bringing to market the solutions our mutual customers need. Exploring these solutions, and their place in the larger data world has always been the focus of this blog. Now it will be a primary content stream in “Perspectives,” alongside a variety of other related topics.

We’re dedicated to continuing an ongoing dialogue with you, in person and online. We’re excited to offer “Perspectives” on the new dnb.com as part of that information exchange. We’re hopeful you’ll find it valuable, interesting and engaging. And we so appreciate you reading this blog these last few years. We’ve enjoyed it and hope you have too.

So starting April 4, head to dnb.com “Perspectives” for great new content and stories – and in the meantime keep a spring in your proverbial step!

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never Is, but always To be blest:

The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

 

-Alexander Pope,

An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

Data and Instinct – Inspiration’s Yin and Yang

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With all the momentum around the easy access to customer data across the digital landscape and the variety of tools that let marketers make quick sense of that data, some might think human intuition is becoming obsolete.

We’re here to say human instinct is alive and well in the world of IoT and Big Data. Marketing Land’s article Human Intuition Vs. Marketing Data: Forging A New Alliance states,

 

“The human brain remains one of the most flexible and potent sources of computing on the planet…And the most effective marketing analytics solutions are those that recognize that human intuition – and perhaps most importantly, human curiosity – plays a critical role in moving from data to insight to decision to action.”

Netflix Decides with Data and Human Instinct

Netflix gets a lot of attention for its use of data to drive its powerful recommendation engine. It’s often cited as a key to the company’s continued global success, helping people discover lesser-known content that will delight them.

But along with streaming a large catalogue of movies and TV shows, Netflix has been gradually shifting its business model to emphasize more of its own original TV shows and movies. These Netflix originals (think House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black) have become cultural phenomena in their own right.

Netflix has said it uses data analytics in researching the development of new programming. But at the recent DLD Conference in Munich, Germany, CEO Reed Hastings noted that the company still leans just as hard on “gut instinct” in the realm of selecting its original content.

“We start with the data,” Hastings said. “But the final call is always gut. It’s informed intuition.”

It’s a good reminder for just about anyone working in the realm of Big Data. Yes, data can drive exciting new insights and learning. It’s a revolution. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to forget the human side of the equation.

And it’s notable that this argument is made by Hastings. Not only is he one of Silicon Valley’s most successful CEOs, he’s also a former artificial intelligence engineer. So he knows a thing or two about Big Data and how it works under the hood.

In the case of Netflix, that means the company bets big on data. But it also means, according to Hastings, that the people in position to make decisions have to be able to interpret that data, know its limits and make those hard calls on “gut instinct.”

Data won’t provide all the answers, and at some point the human in charge has to decide.

Of course, data picks right up again after those decisions have been made. For Netflix, that has provided interesting and unexpected insights into programming and viewing behavior.

For example, the company is funding development of an original French-language series, called Marseille, because data shows that French TV is popular around the world. That might come as a surprise to people in France, where the reputation for the quality of TV shows remains far below the country’s films.

Netflix also discovered through its data that many shows develop audiences in ways that might seem unpredictable. For one new show, Narcos, the plot is based in South America, created by a French studio and a massive hit in Germany of all places.

Discovering what drives those connections, Hastings said, will be a key tool in Netflix’s long-range goal of revolutionizing the way we make, watch and discover content.

Marketing Land’s article hits the nail on the head: “Creative interpretation of the data is always going to be essential.”

The inspiration companies find to solve their biggest challenges hinges on people knowing what questions to ask and what priorities to set. Data is essential in helping answer those questions and achieving those goals. When human instinct and the right data work in concert, the yin and yang of inspiration comes to life in the best ways possible.

Data Dialogue: CareerBuilder Consolidates CRMs, Identifies Hierarchies and Provides Actionable Insight for Sales Enablement

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A Q&A with CareerBuilder’s Director of Sales Productivity  

CareerBuilder, the global leader in human capital solutions, has evolved over recent years to better meet marketplace demands. “We’ve moved from transactional advertising sales to a software solution, which is much more complex with a longer sales process and a longer sales cycle,” says Maggie Palumbo, Director of Sales Productivity for CareerBuilder.

With that, it is critical that the sales teams Palumbo works with must be armed not only with information on which accounts to target, but also with intelligence they can use to approach – and engage – the potential customer.

More, as they continue to expand globally, their need for consistent data and CRM consolidation has become a priority. Establishing one system whereby employees all see the same information better positions the company for continued global expansion through more informed decision-making.

We talked with Palumbo about how she has been leading this effort.

What are you focused on now as you look to your priorities moving forward?

In the past, we did not have much in the way of governance. We had loose rules and accounts ended up not being fully optimized. We’re focused now on better segmentation to figure out where we can get the best return.

We use tools from Dun & Bradstreet to help us accomplish this goal. Specifically, we rely on geographical information, SIC codes for industry, employee total and other predictive elements. Then we bring it all together to get a score that tells us which accounts to target and where it belongs within our business.

How do you make the information actionable?

We are unique in that we take the full D&B marketable file, companies with more than 11 employees, and pass it along to a sales representative. Some reps, those with accounts with fewer than 500 employees, have thousands of accounts. What they need to know is where to focus within that account base. Scoring and intelligence allows us to highlight the gems within the pile that may have otherwise been neglected. The reps at the higher end of the business have fewer accounts and require more intelligence on each account to enable more informed sales calls.

Because we’ve moved from a transactional advertising sales model to one based on software solutions, our sales process is now more complex. The reps need intelligent information that they can rely on as they adjust their sales efforts to this new approach.

How do you make sure you’re actually uncovering new and unique opportunities?

We’ve gone more in-depth with our scoring and now pull in more elements. We also work with third party partners who do much of the manual digging. With that, we’re confident that we’re uncovering opportunities others may not necessarily see.

How do you marry together the data with the technology?

When the economy went south, our business could have been in big trouble. We are CareerBuilder. For a business whose focus is on hiring, and you’re in an economy when far fewer companies are hiring, where do you go with that?

Our CEO is forward-thinking and already started to expand our business to include human capital data solutions. With that, it became clear that we needed to have standardized data, which we do via our data warehouse. Once the data is normalized and set up properly, it can be pushed into the systems. Pulling the information from different sources together into one record is the challenge. We use Integration manager for that; the D-U-N-S Number serves as a framework for how we segment our data and we rely heavily on that insight.

How does Dun & Bradstreet data help within your sales force?

Data we get from Dun & Bradstreet provides us with excellent insight. While the reps may not care about the D-U-N-S Number, per se, they do care about the hierarchical information it may reveal—particularly with the growth of mergers and acquisitions over the past few years.

What other aspects of your work with Dun and Bradstreet have evolved?

We are a global company, but we are segmented. As we move everyone across the globe onto one CRM platform, we are creating more transparency. That is our goal. In order for people within the organization to effectively partner with each other, they must see the same information, including hierarchical structure. D&B has helped us bring that information together and identify those global hierarchies.

Tell me more about how linkage has helped you.

We used to be all over the place, with multiple CRMs across the organization globally. Some were even homegrown. We also wanted to get a better view on hierarchies. We lacked insight of what was going on with a company across multiple companies and therefore couldn’t leverage that information. We had to bring it all together through linkage. We’ve made great progress in terms of the global hierarchy and global organizational structure, and we couldn’t have done it without D&B.

Parting Words

As CareerBuilder continues to grow globally and evolve as a company to meet customer needs and demands of the marketplace, aligning the sales process with actionable intelligence is critical to its forward-moving trajectory. “It’s all about fully optimizing the data that’s available to us so that we can focus our efforts on where we can get the most return for the company,” said Palumbo.

New Research: Data-Driven Marketing Trends

charts magnifying glass blog pictureSay the right things to the right people at the right time.

Meet those three requirements and your marketing will work. But this recipe for success depends on your ability to know your market and your buyers – and how to reach them.

That’s easier said than done. Why? Because the data you rely on for marketing insights can be volatile.

Consider what happens every 30 minutes*:

  • 120 business addresses change
  • 75 phone numbers change
  • 20 CEOs leave their jobs
  • 30 new business are formed

There’s one clear answer to the challenge of constant change: access to constantly updated information about your customers and prospects. This is the foundation for data-driven marketing efforts.

Key Findings from Data Driven-Marketing Trends Research

As providers of a continuous stream of commercial data and insights on more than 250 million company records worldwide, we strive to keep a constant pulse on how marketers use data to achieve their objectives. Our partner Informatica is also committed to helping marketers make data ready to confidently connect with customers.

So together, we engaged Ascend2 to conduct a study. The goal was clear: Learn how CMOs and marketing pros are meeting the challenges of achieving data quality for data-driven marketing.

You’ll be surprised at some of the findings from the benchmark report Data-Driven Marketing Trends: How and why data quality will optimize the effectiveness of your data-driven marketing strategy.

Here are a few highlights:

  • 58% of marketers cite personalizing the customer experience as the most important objective of a data-driven marketing strategy
  • 57% say improving data quality is the most challenging obstacle to data-driven marketing success
  • 69% use both internal and external resources to improve their data quality

These marketers validated the importance, challenges and impact of data quality on their marketing success. They also recognize they can’t do it alone – getting and keeping quality data requires third party enrichment.

There are many more useful findings in this report — sign up for your complimentary copy

* Source: Dun & Bradstreet; The Sales and Marketing Institute

***

Informatica and Dun & Bradstreet have partnered to enable Informatica’s customers to use D&B’s data and insights to identify risk and opportunity across the enterprise. D&B data is integrated within Informatica workflows, delivering data on demand at the point of decision, when, where, and how it is needed. To learn more, visit www.dnb.com/informatica.

B2B Marketing Executives’ Data Quality Delusion

hot_air_balloon_above_jets_730x487Besides maybe Chrissie Hynde, B2B marketing executives are the greatest pretenders ever.

We embrace the Moneyball theory. We believe “data-driven” marketers are more successful. We invest in marketing automation tools, CRM systems and analytics technologies to improve how we collect, manage and leverage data. All this so we can understand—and serve—our customers better.

Sounds about like what every B2B enterprise marketer is proclaiming, right? Kind of like “Brass in Pocket.” We know the words by heart.

Beneath this devotional litany to data quality, the enterprise reality is quite different. We don’t know our customers very well. And time after time, the customer experiences we deliver fall painfully short of buyers’ expectations. Dirty data misdirects our messages and drains our budget dollars.

When pressed, we admit these things. But shockingly, most of us don’t do a darn thing about it —except adding another “cutting-edge” tool to camouflage our data quality floundering.

Yes, yes, these martech enthusiasts insist, we understand the importance of data quality to personalized marketing. After all, we’ve been talking about marketing to a segment of one for years now, haven’t we? If you’re not data-driven, you aren’t in the game. But what good is data if your team isn’t talking about how to act on it? Speaking of collaboration – let me ask you something: How good is Slack for that?

Distracted, Careless or Couldn’t Care Less?

Too many enterprise marketers continue to embrace the concept of good data quality without the commitment to really carry it through. When asked how often they cleanse their database for accuracy/quality, 29% B2B marketing executives say “quarterly” and 27% “don’t know.” A 40% fail rate on prospect data shouldn’t be the industry norm. Certainly, we’re distracted by technology and seduced by the promise of a “solution.” But this huge challenge can’t be solved by taking small steps or repeating the same practices. Maybe a fear of the unknown is also a factor. (“Big data”–even when it’s clean–seems ginormous when you don’t know what to do with it or how to act on it.) However, I suspect the more likely reason is more banal: They simply don’t care. Or, at the very least, they don’t care enough—which, to data quality purists, amounts to diddly squat.

In case I’m sending out a holier-than-thou vibe, let me set you straight. I’ve been guilty of my own data quality delusion. Actually, it’s the flip side of the uncommitted stance I’ve been describing, but detrimental nevertheless. Looking back now, I see how it has skewed my marketing in unhelpful ways—a shameful irony that makes me feel like a slug, considering the content I create aims to help B2B marketers do their jobs better.

For the five years I’ve been a member of the Dun & Bradstreet marketing team, I’ve never questioned the value of good customer data. I’m convinced the benefits far outweigh the costs. From my perspective, it’s an investment that makes uncommonly good sense because it helps marketing grow the business. Bad data is a risk that I, as a marketer, definitely want to minimize. And I’ll invest sweat equity to do exactly that. For years, I assumed most of my colleagues in other B2B companies felt the same way. At times, I even questioned the wisdom of repeatedly pounding on data quality benefits in our content. Why pummel marketing executives with what they already know?

Boy, was I wrong.

My Moment of Truth

My wake-up call turned out to be a simple survey. Last month, Dun & Bradstreet partner Data.com distributed a session questionnaire during a Dreamforce session. Basically, the survey asked B2B marketing executives about their greatest marketing challenges and opportunities in 2016. I’ve shared a few highlights below.

  • Improving customer data quality was the #5 marketing priority. The top priorities, in the order of importance were: aligning sales and marketing teams, driving more brand awareness, turning more qualified leads into customers and generating more leads.
  • Respondents’ confidence that their marketing organization “knows customers”was 5.82 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest score).
  • The #1 reason for their organization not understanding its customers was “poor customer data inside Salesforce or their marketing automation system.” Other reasons, in descending importance: Reps input wrong or NO data into CRM, poor or lack of a data quality strategy and lack of the right customer data (no industry information, location and/or business title).

These B2B marketers, 61% of which were director-level and above, acknowledge that good quality data is important for understanding customers. Yet they prioritize converting qualified leads—and generating more leads—above improving customer data quality.

But how can marketers achieve these goals without high quality data?

Keeping this question in mind, let’s look at these marketers’ top two priorities for 2016.

A Silent Partner to Marketing Priorities

Priority #1: Aligning sales and marketing teams – Customer data is the foundation marketers use to target the best prospects and customers and nurture engaged connections into relationships. On the sales side, teams use data to create conversation-starters, customize pitches and close deals. Why, then, don’t marketing and sales continually share customer interaction and behavioral data with each other? Too often, it seems bidirectional data-sharing starts and stops with marketing’s lead “handoff” to sales.

If marketing took the initiative to share a data-rich roll-up of the lead relationship with sales, think how much more “aligned” the two groups would be. If the two teams worked from the same accurate customer picture/relationship map, imagine how much smoother the marketing-sales transition would feel from the customer’s perspective! For a buyer, few things are more annoying than being pulled back to square one in a vendor relationship—especially when it’s necessitated by the vendor’s internal hand off. (Talk about stalling buying momentum!)

Data-sharing between sales and marketing not only puts the two teams on the same page, but also paves the way to a seamless customer experience. Goodness knows, we can do better here. (The marketers in Data.com’s Dreamforce survey rated their effectiveness in providing a positive and effective customer experience as 5.54 on a scale of 1 to 10.) For sales and marketing to align with each other is good, but aligning together—behind the customer—is the ultimate. Thank you, data!

Priority #2: Driving more brand awareness –Those who still think brand awareness happens by outbound marketing alone probably got into Nirvana only after MTV Unplugged came out. The days when brand awareness measurement relied on push campaigns and primary market research are long gone. In the words of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

What sticks in people’s longer-term memory is not your witty tagline or guffaw-worthy Super Bowl commercial. It’s their direct experience with your brand (via sales, customer care, social forums and other interactions). And this customer experience is captured by both internal tools and external sources, from your CRM and marketing automation systems to Yelp reviews, Twitter streams and third-party data providers. Yup, we’re talking about customer data. And the better the data quality, the better you can measure your brand’s impact—and how well its authenticity resonates with buyers and influencers.

Data Quality Imperative: Do As You Say

Good data quality clearly propels marketers forward to achieve their most important goals. Why, then, isn’t it a higher priority for enterprises?

When I asked B2B marketing strategist and author Ardath Albee this question, she shared her observations. According to her experience, data quality initiatives are sparse because:

  • Data is siloed and dirty, making data quality difficult to tackle.
  • Budgets for this work are lacking.
  • Marketers aren’t prepared to deliver a data quality payoff—i.e., they lack the skill to analyze data to gain useful insights.

Albee believes this lack of skill explains why few B2B marketers are practicing lead scoring and progressive profiling. (After all, why augment or enrich data you already have if you’re unsure what to do with it?)

Am I giving the Data.com survey too much weight? Maybe. It’s very possible more enterprise marketers are making data quality a top priority. Certainly you can find surveys that make this claim. But troublesome facts remain. For example, only 66% of B2B marketing executives are investing in a data-driven marketing initiative within the next year.

While we can’t change budget realities, we can change minds. Don’t let shiny new technologies distract from the hard foundational work we need to do with the data assets, core technologies, people and processes we already have.

For those who are true believers (and doers) in data quality, keep pushing. For the pretenders out there, isn’t it time you got real?

Shelly Lucas (@pisarose) is a content maven, Bad Cat Calendar fan, art lover, and a content marketing director at Dun & Bradstreet.

Image credit: “Dream Place” by Peng Chen, Flickr  http://ow.ly/TgTOB. This post originally appeared on Connectors, Dun & Bradstreet’s blog for data-inspired B2B marketing executives.

D&B Partners with Oracle BlueKai to Deliver Optimized B2B Ad Targeting

marketers-datainWith a focus on driving success for our customers across the enterprise, D&B continues to blaze new trails in the B2B marketing space. Building on our strategic relationship with Oracle’s Data Cloud group, in which D&B is the backbone of the Oracle Data as a Service for Business offering, the two companies have extended the solution by entering into a new digital marketing agreement to deliver commercial audience segmentation data as part of the BlueKai Audience Data Marketplace and Data Management Platform (DMP).

The expansion of this partnership recognizes that marketers are looking to mine, refine and target with precision all prospect and customer touch-points throughout their marketing platforms. This new combined offering helps organize and make available B2B cookie data, so businesses can personalize content and delivery to distinct audience segments.

As a publisher to the BlueKai Audience Data Marketplace, D&B delivers information on 152 audience segments, so enterprise sales and marketing teams using the BlueKai platform can target more granular segments with the right messages and offers. The combined offering delivers on a key value proposition for B2B marketers: using deterministic rather than probabilistic tools that provide the necessary insight to create campaigns and deliver more relevant, targeted offers that resonate – maximizing ROI.

To support and ensure our success in this new space, D&B has formed an Audience Solutions Group. Its task is to discover, evaluate and harmonize new data sources, and leverage technology to tailor the offering specifically around the complexities faced by the B2B marketer. Leveraging over 600 known attributes, D&B Audience Solutions can provide a deep understanding of both role and business behavior within a client company by mining the following types of attributes:

  • Company information, including number of employees, annual revenue and maturity
  • Industry classifications such as SIC and NAICS
  • Functional data for contacts, including area of responsibility, domain expertise and seniority
  • Decision-maker contacts in IT, financial and business roles

This new partnership brings enterprise customers another step closer to true data-driven decision-making. D&B’s vision is to drive value from our immense commercial assets – and to help enterprise customers speed up revenue cycles using the marketing platform of choice.

Reading List

Want to learn more about how BlueKai can help your team turbocharge B2B sales? Here are some resources to get you started.

– Oracle whitepaper: BlueKai DMP Demystified
– Forrester report: Navigating The New Data Market Landscape
– Forrester blog: Regulators Navigate New Data Sources To Better Know Their “Customers”
– Winterberry white paper: Going Global: Programmatic Audience Development around the World

Image credit: Oracle BlueKai