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How Dun & Bradstreet increased engagement by 45% with customer-centric marketing ft. Nipul Chokshi (Inbound Success, Ep. 167)

How Dun & Bradstreet increased engagement by 45% with customer-centric marketing ft. Nipul Chokshi (Inbound Success, Ep. 167) Blog Feature

November 2nd, 2020 min read

How does a massive company like Dun & Bradstreet navigate a major change to its marketing strategy and, in doing so, increase audience engagement by 45%?

Nipul ChokshiThis week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Dun & Bradstreet Vice President of Marketing Nipul Chokshi explains the mechanics behind a major overhaul in D&B's marketing strategy, from a product-centric approach to a customer-centric approach. 

From how the company got buy-in across multiple marketing and sales teams, to what was involved in making the shift and the how it resulted in a 45% increase in audience engagement, Nipul dives into the details of exactly how D&B did it, and how any business - large or small - can apply the lessons learned to its own marketing.

Check out the full episode, or read the transcript below, for details.

Resources from this episode:

 

Nipul Chokshi and Kathleen Booth
Nipul and Kathleen recording this episode

Transcript

Kathleen (00:00): Welcome back to the inbound success podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth. And this week, my guest is Nipul Chokshi, who is the VP of marketing at Dun and Bradstreet. Welcome to the podcast Nipul.

Nipul (00:22): Oh, great. Thanks. thanks for having me, Kathleen. Hello to everyone and really excited to be here.

Kathleen (00:29): Yeah. I was excited to chat with you because you know, Dun and Bradstreet is, is such a, it's such a behemoth, really. It's a large company and you know, it's interesting. I think a lot of times people can, can be lulled into thinking that being head of marketing for large companies can be easier because in theory, your budget's bigger and you have a lot of staff, but I think, you know, trying to turn the ship while it's moving is can often be difficult at a large company.

And you had an interesting story that really appealed to me about turning the ship and what you all have done there and the results you've gotten from it. So I'm really excited to dig into that, but before we do that, can you just take a minute and for those who are listening and maybe don't know who you are, or, you know, have heard of D&B, but maybe aren't as familiar with what the company is today, take a minute and explain you and your role and perhaps your journey of how you got to where you are and then also what Dun and Bradstreet is today.

Nipul (01:27): Absolutely. So I'll start with myself. So I run what we call so I'm a VP of marketing at Dun and Bradstreet. And obviously as you mentioned, we have a pretty big marketing team. My specific focus area is in what we call portfolio marketing specifically for our sales and marketing solutions business unit.

As you can imagine, Dun and Bradstreet is a huge company. We sell to you know, all sorts of different stakeholders within our B2B customer base, ranging from finance professionals to risk management professionals, to sales and marketing professionals. And my business unit is focused specifically on solutions that are targeted towards B2B sales and marketing folks.

And so I've been at D&B for a little bit over a year now. I came in through an acquisition of a company called Lattice Engines where I was their CMO for the past five years.

Nipul (02:33): Lattice Engines. We developed AI software for B2B sales and marketing. So if you're a marketer looking to do account-based marketing and want to understand who your target accounts, where you would leverage our software, if you want it to be able to understand what the best way is to what are the key messages that would resonate with your target audience, you would leverage our software to do that and so on and so forth.

And so we were acquired into D&B. We're part of, kind of this bigger business unit called sales and marketing solutions which specifically sells as you can imagine to B2B sales and marketers to help them do their jobs back there. From the marketing side, leveraging the data and insights that we provide to help marketers do a better job of targeting and engaging audiences via more personalized campaigns.

Nipul (03:29): And then on the sales side, enables sales to be smarter in terms of where they focus their time and effort as well as helps them to kind of get better context around each and every prospect that they're calling into so that they have better conversations. Prior to Lattice I was at a variety of different places. And most recently before Lattice, I was at a company called Yammer which had been acquired by Microsoft.

I ran kind of our solutions marketing at, first at Yammer, and then Microsoft. Prior to that, I was at a company called Marketo. And then before that I did product management at a bunch of companies, including Siebel, Oracle, so on and so forth. So a pretty long windy road, if you will setting with product management to marketing, ultimately here.

Kathleen (04:21): But lots of brands that I think my listeners would be familiar with, including Marketo and Yammer. But what I think is so interesting is what you're doing at, at D&B, because honestly, and I'll admit, I, I don't think I was very familiar with all of the things that the company does today and, and wasn't aware of the extent of the solutions that it has for sales and marketers.

So it makes this conversation even that much more interesting because we have so many marketers who are listening. So you came to Dun and Bradstreet through an acquisition. And one of the things that you've worked on and it's been, how long since you've been there.

Nipul (05:01): I've been at D&B since July of last year.

Kathleen (05:04): Okay. So since you've joined, which is not a very long time you've worked on quite a large undertaking of revamping how the company approaches its marketing. So maybe you could give a little background on that and what led to it.

Nipul (05:19): Yeah, sure, absolutely. Right. So look, ultimately you know, while D&B was acquiring Lattice, it was undergoing a lot of transformation and change internally itself. You know, the company D&B has been around since like the 18 hundreds, like 1876.

Interesting fact that I learned the other day is we actually have two ex presidents who've worked for D&B in the past. So Abe Lincoln used to work for D&B yeah, as well as Taft, I believe was another person who worked for D&B. And so the company has been around very story company and everybody knows D&B most likely the this thing called the DUNS number which is effectively a social security number for businesses.

Think of it as a social security number for businesses. And it's an identifier that you need, if you're a business and you're looking to get a loan or you're looking to get government support or whatnot, whatever, right.

Nipul (06:21): If you're looking to do commerce. And so there's a whole big kind of data business there that the companies traditionally thrived in. And over time, it's built up a portfolio of capabilities and value propositions, not just for the folks on the finance side and the risk management side, which leverage that DUNS number, but also on the sales and marketing side where you can use the DUNS number as an identifier for that you can do better targeting for, for your you know, sales and marketing campaigns. You know, on top of that, there's obviously a whole bunch of other data assets that the company provides as well.

Firmographics, data, intent data, and so on and so forth. So that, again, from a sales and marketing standpoint, you can be a lot more diligent in terms of your targeting and your campaigns. And so the company's been around for awhile. The company had been public, like it went private in 2019. Just this part of an internal kind of transformational effort. The company was looking to really kind of revamp.

Nipul (07:44): The company went private in 2019, undertook a variety of different transformational initiatives one of which was really transforming its go to market fit. You know, traditionally from a go-to-market standpoint, the company took very much a inside out approach where it's like all the value props and all the campaigns were all about promoting individual products. And at this point we have hundreds of products that we sell just to sales and marketing folks and B2B companies.

And so you know, that as you can imagine, that not a very effective way of doing things. So the things that we undertook, our transformation effort was to really reorient our, go to market and make it a lot more customer centric. So that you know, rather than selling individual products you know, our key tenant is take more of an outside in approach to understand who are the buyers, what are the problems that they need solved and what the solutions, right?

Nipul (08:56): Not even individual products, but the solutions that we can deliver to help them achieve those and kind of solve those problems. And so that was kind of the crux of the effort.

And so there's a whole bunch of things that we can talk about just in terms of, from a marketing and sales standpoint that we've done to kind of support that. So at a, at a high level, that's kind of the gist, hopefully that gave a little bit of an orientation around and context saying the problem we're looking to solve.

Kathleen (09:29): Yeah. I love hearing that story because I think that it touches on a problem that a lot of companies have, and you don't need to be as big as, as Dun and Bradstreet to experience that where, you know, if you're a company that has multiple products or solutions that are seemingly quite different from each other, it's very easy to fall into the trap of marketing in, in silos, if you will, and pushing product out to your customers as opposed to taking a solution mindset.

So I, I like, I like how you kind of reframed that for the company and decided to look at it from a solution standpoint, but I have so many questions because that is way easier, said than done at a company of Dun and Bradstreet's size.

So, you know, you can sit there as a marketing team and say, we want to change this orientation, but, but to use the analogy from earlier, this is a massive, massive ship that is underway. So how do you approach that when you're in a company of that size, what's the framework that you use to go about doing something like this

Nipul (10:41): So we did as part of this effort first is everything that we think about from a sales and marketing standpoint, like the key tenant that we believed in is outside-in approach, right? So when it comes to developing campaigns and when it comes to developing sales and pitch stacks, right.

Obviously at some point we talk about product, but we also always, always want to start with, you know, who's the buyer persona and what's the problem that they're looking to be able to solve. So just kind of that shift in mindset what is foundational to everything that we do when it comes to developing our campaigns, developing our content, like, that's the number one question that gets asked rather than what's the product we're promoting. It's more like, okay, who's the target audience for what we're developing this campaign and this product for.

Nipul (11:45): Right. So it even extends to the product organization. And so, and that's pretty basic, that's like bread and butter stuff, right. As a marketer, you're always trained to do that, but somehow you know, this kind of, that focus had gotten lost. So that's number one.

Number two you know, in terms of executing on that and the whole transformation we found, obviously it's really critical to be aligned on priorities. So between the sales team, the marketing team, the product team, right, the business development team and the executive team you know, we found that it was really critical that all of us are aligned on what are our business priorities, right.

Which you know, which parts of the market do we really want to make sure we were growing and which parts of the market are we saying like, okay, they're just going to be on there.

Nipul (13:19): And the second thing is that we knew we wanted to make sure that we were all aligned on our priorities.

You know, everybody from a product perspective, sales perspective, marketing executives you know, we wanted, you know, a key part of this was making sure we were on the same page in terms of, you know, from a business standpoint, what were the number one, two, three, four, five, you know, things that we wanted to make sure that we were focused on whether it's you know investing in a particular market you know, from a product standpoint that in a market go to market standpoint, whether it's, you know, kind of making sure that, you know, we were exiting a particular market and whatnot.

So that alignment at the highest levels around our business priorities was absolutely critical. And then double clicking on that a little bit more, just kind of the relationship between sales and marketing.

Nipul (14:16): We felt that it was absolutely critical to make sure that we were all aligned on what our ICP was. So that was something that was you know, something that we focused on from a sales and marketing standpoint is what are the specific you know, for each of our business priorities who are the buyers that we actually want to target?

And what did they look like, right. Not just in terms of the titles, but kind of the types of companies as well. Right? So company size company industry, right. If they bought a certain kind of D&B product already, right, as well as level of engagement that they might have in painstaking detail, we rolled out, you know, kind of our buyer profile, if you will, for each of the different parts of our business and made sure that, you know, from a sales and marketing standpoint, we were all kind of on the same page there.

You know, as a, as a company that, you know, sells data insights and the ability to kind of end the promise of data and insights for sales and marketing, we felt like it behooved us to kind of drink our own champagne there. Right. so that we can drive that alignment which was absolutely critical.

Kathleen (15:30): I have to stop you and ask one question, cause this is like, I'm dying, I'm dying to know the answer to this. You said you all, you had to get on the same page with sales and business development and product. And of course I'm sure executive leadership, that's like, that's easy.

Again, another thing very easy to say, but that's a massive, massive consensus building exercise. I mean, can you just give me maybe a short glimpse into, like, how did that process work and was it really driven top down? Cause I imagine you'd have to have high level executive buy-in to get all of those parties to the table and to get them to agree to fundamentally change the way they approach going to market.

Nipul (16:09): Yeah. We were fortunate that we did have that top-down agreement. Right? So everybody from the president of D&B down to the president of sales and marketing solutions to our EVP is down to my level. You know, everybody was aligned in terms of like, okay, like we have to take things from a customer first perspective if the D&B is going to thrive, right?

Like that's a key, key aspect of growth for us, key lever of growth for us. And then in terms of the individual priorities, that's where again, kind of at the EVP and VP levels, that's where we kind of said, okay, you know, given kind of our high level targets around where we want to be as a company from a revenue standpoint, from a customer acquisition standpoint and an overall company growth standpoint, what does that mean for each of the business units?

Nipul (17:05): Like the sales and marketing business unit, for example as well as within sales and marketing business unit, what does that mean for the different kind of you know, solution areas that comprise that business unit?

And so it was definitely a top down effort and we were fortunate to have kind of senior management driving that effort to kind of you know, make sure that we were successful. Because as you suggested, like I've been in companies where, you know, unless you have that top-down effort driving the alignment you know, it becomes a bit of a challenge, especially in large companies like the D&B you know, sometimes it becomes like pushing on a right, if you're trying to do things more at the grassroots grassroots level.

Now having said that it's not like all of a sudden, you know, just because it was top down, everything just clicked into place.

Nipul (17:59): There was a lot of debate back and forth between you know, different folks within the business units and across business units as well. But ultimately we kept sight of, you know, kind of the values that we want to do in here too, in terms of making sure that we're honoring our client, making sure that, you know, we were investing appropriately in growing our franchise and so on and so forth.

So there were definitely, you know, tactical things we needed to get done there to drive that alignment, but the top down set the stage, if you will for the alignment on the priorities.

Kathleen (18:36): Yeah. I can't even imagine what a long slow slog slash battle it would be if you were trying to do this from a, you know, initiated from, from the marketing department without that kind of support.

So, so what does it, what, how did, how did it play out? Like what I feel like there are so many things that need to change. I mean, in essence, you almost need to change everything when you really make this shift. So how, how do you change everything?

Nipul (19:05): Yeah, no, absolutely. Right. So you know, when it came to changing and driving the actual transformation at a tactical level you know, there were really three key kind of pillars to our strategy if you will.

First was segmentation you know, so and again, I'm speaking specifically to the sales and marketing business unit, that's kind of, you know, what, what we've been working on, but this a similar sort of exercise when, on, in the other business units at D&B as well.

So you know, at the end of the day, you know, what we do is we sell to sales and marketing folks kind of this promise that you can engage with buyers in a more targeted way, in a more relevant way in a more customer first way. Like that is our value prop. And so you know, as I said earlier, like the phrase drinking our own champagne applied really well here.

Nipul (20:02): And so a key pillar to our execution strategy here was all about segmentation and making sure that we were really clear, like once we know what the ICP is, then it's a matter of figuring out, okay, you know, which of these, you know accounts and personas within each of these accounts.

You know, we leverage our own AI models to be able to identify, which were the highest propensity targets for new customer acquisition for cross sell opportunities, upsell opportunities you know, what was the low hanging fruit in terms of opportunities where we might be able to arrest churn and improve on retention rates as well.

So that segmentation where were able to leverage our own software to be able to kind of triage and identify, you know which accounts within our ICP we should actually be targeting was, was a key part of the execution which gave us kind of this list of accounts and contacts, if you will, for different campaigns that we would run.

Nipul (21:08): Right. We also then use data to be able to say, okay, for each of these accounts, you know, for new customer acquisition versus cross sell versus upsell and whatnot where are each of these accounts in the buying journey? You know, are they already like engaged with the D&B brand? Are they on our website? You know, have they like been engaging with our campaigns, they've been attending our webinars or are they just anonymously browsing our website. If they're not on our website, not engaging with us, are they actually in market?

So right. We leveraged third party intense signals to give us a sense of kind of what kind of interests you know, that helps us to identify what use cases they might be interested in you know, to, to kind of identify. So what we did was as part of this segmentation exercise is really kind of take our ICP and our target market and segment those accounts into different cohorts, right?

Nipul (22:05): Based on propensity to convert based on buyer stage as well as based on the use case and the interest that they would exhibit. So that was, that was a first and the kind of very critical pillar of, of of this overall strategy from an execution standpoint. Once we have that, then it boiled down to how do we actually engage with these buyers in, in a more relevant way across different channels.

And so the idea here is we developed programs, right, that were, you know display programs, paid social programs, you know, webinar programs, content programs, SDR, outbound programs, right. Where we would kind of say, okay, let's make sure that we design and develop these for each of the segments. And we call these always on campaigns where these are programs where we've planned them out to over like say 12 months.

Nipul (23:09): And basically the idea is that they're always on and you know, very targeted towards each of the different types of segments that we're going after, whether it's new customers, cross sell opportunities, upsell opportunities, and so on and so forth. So the second part of this execution strategy was very much a how do I kind of engage buyers in an omni-channel way across all of these segments that I've just identified.

And then the last piece is measurement. You know, we are very well instrumented at this point to be able to kind of say, okay you know, what kind of top tips are working, what tactics aren't, what's the ROI on certain tactics. And so we don't, again, from a marketing standpoint, necessarily report on leads internally when it comes to identifying what's working, and what's not for our campaigns.

Nipul (24:06): What we're looking at is account engagement, right? So every week we'll look at a report that says, you know for our website visits, it's not just people who visit our website, obviously that's important from an overall brand standpoint, but we'll also look at website visits from our target accounts, from the high propensity accounts and the segments that we've actually identified.

And the idea is that, you know, from a demand generation standpoint, we want that number to be increasing over time, same thing with form sales and leads or hand-raisers, whatever you want to call it. Right. We call them the hand raisers on our website. You don't want to just track anybody who comes in as an inbound way, right?

Obviously we're not going to ignore them, but over time we want to see kind of that number of inbound leads coming in from the segments, the high propensity segments that we've defined to be increasing over time.

Nipul (25:00): Right? Similarly, we'll look at click-through rates on our ads, right. I don't know, you know, not as important to me to understand anybody who clicks through an ad more important for me to understand whether it's a target account, they're a high propensity target, that's actually click through on an ad.

So that level of measurement where we look at not leads and clicks, but we looked at the engagement from the different accounts and segments that we've defined is absolutely critical because that enables us, like right now, we're in the process of planning for 2021. And so we're looking at all these numbers to say, okay, you know, a program might be really effective in terms of driving click-throughs.

But if you add the lens of, okay, how many of those clicks actually came from, you know, high propensity targets like that program might not be as you know, good for us to invest in. So those are the sorts of discussions we're able to have as a result of, you know, kind of measuring, not leads and clicks, but the actual account engagement, if you will.

So those are kind of the three key pillars for our strategy, if you will, when it comes to executing this one is all about doing the segmentation. Second is then, you know, engaging each of these prospects across the segments through 10 different channels, and then measuring the account level engagement that we get.

Kathleen (27:29): Okay. I have a lot of questions based on what you just said. The first has to do with software. So you started out talking about how you, the, the first order of business was really segmenting and using data and placing your, your ICP in different cohorts.

And you're using your own technology for a lot of this. So the first question I have is is the technology that you're, this is, this is something that you're selling. And is, is this something that is only available to like large enterprises, or do you have SMB versions of this? Like what kinds of companies would your software be right for? Cause I'm just trying to connect in my head, like who out there could really replicate what you did using the same solution that you use for yourself.

Nipul (28:17): Yeah, no, absolutely. And actually we have you know, several thousand customers actually leveraging our software for various elements of sales and marketing. But basically what we do is we sell a an ABM platform and account based marketing platform.

And it's not just for large enterprises. We actually have small and mid market companies leveraging this as well. In order to drive you know, more targeted marketing, more, you know, better marketing using our platform. And so yeah, I mean, ultimately you know, our, our software at least for, so we sell within our sales and marketing solutions business unit, we sell to different personas, right? So we sell to marketing like demand gen and digital marketers. And for them, our value prop is being able to use our platform. We have an ABM offering that enables them to execute on ABM programs.

Nipul (29:21): Like the one that I just described in a more scalable way. We also sell to you know, sales and marketing operations folks. And so there, we have a data quality and they customer data platform offering that enables them to make sure that whatever data they need about their prospects is as complete and as clean as possible.

And they can then kind of merge all of their data into a single place so they could do segmentation. And so that's kind of the second audience. And then the third audience that we sell to is sales leaders. So sales leaders who are looking to improve on their prospecting efforts, we'll leverage our Hoovers offering, D&B Hoovers. And so, you know, there are a variety of data and insights and AI driven insights that we provide as part of that platform.

Nipul (30:19): That just makes it easier for reps to be able to say, okay, you know, if they're creating a prospecting list, they want to see, okay. I want to create a prospecting list that of folks who would be interested in ABM software, for example based on third party interest signals that they are expressing third-party intent that we might be expressing so they can use Hoovers to do that.

So we have different flavors of our solution based on who it is that we're selling to and the problem that they're looking to solve. And so what I just described and what we're using is really our own ABM platform, which, you know, digital marketing and demand gen marketers would really care about.

Kathleen (31:00): Well, I love that you answered the question also by leading with who are the customers that it's right for it, because that's exactly what you're talking about as the whole theme of the podcast. So that's great. And that's one of the things I was like to ask, because I think it's easy to hear people say, we use this technology, but if it's not something that's somehow accessible to most marketers, then, then it, there's not a lot you can take away from it, but it's, it's great to hear that you have solutions for that.

So my second question is, in listening to you talk about this, it struck me that, that it sounds as though this must have also prompted some internal changes as far as how your teams functioned and perhaps even potentially were structured because you're, you're really revising how you segment, you're talking about using data to hone in on who the prospects are, who's really in market, based on their intent signals. How did that change the way that you and marketing worked with sales in particular?

Nipul (32:00): Yeah, so I mean, there were obviously changes from a sales and marketing standpoint you know, in terms of how the organization structured and all that stuff. Right. but ultimately traditionally the marketing team at D&B was very functionally oriented right where you had kind of a paid media department, a email marketing department, a, you know, a social department and so on and so forth.

And so what we did was we kind of shook things up a little bit by kind of making it more of a cross-functional team where you know, we have a demand gen team that is focused across all of these different personas and that demand gen team consists of kind of a program manager, as well as, you know an email marketer as well as a paid media person.

Nipul (32:55): Right. and so we've kind of made it more of a matrix organization where you know, each of these campaign teams, if you will, are accountable for driving revenue for pipeline and revenue for the company. And so my team, my team's role is to really kind of own each of the campaigns.

So we have campaigns running against, you know, the marketing and digital marketing persona. We have a campaign running against the sales leader persona, and we have a campaign running against the sales and marketing operations persona.

So I've got portfolio marketers who are responsible for kind of the programs within each of those, and they'll work closely with the demand gen folks to do the, to execute on the programs, they'll work closely with the appropriate product marketers to make sure we're incorporating the right product messaging and all that stuff into the campaigns as well.

Nipul (33:51): So there was definitely a little bit of a change in terms of how marketing worked, right. It was a lot less siloed we needed to within marketing, kind of get rid of those silos and act as one team that was, again, very much focused on the buyer and, you know, each buyer gets its own campaign. So like, you know, it's kind of like a campaign team there.

At the same time you know, just kind of sales, you know, sales was always very much as usual is always very much focused outside in, right. When it came to engaging with targets and, you know their segmentation was you know, kind of a little bit ahead of ours when it came to how they were organized. So we're definitely more aligned with sales in terms of, you know, kind of our approach here from a campaign standpoint as well.

Kathleen (34:45): That makes sense. So you, your team is responsible for campaigns and you're, you're working on the portfolio stuff. I imagine that there are other groups within the company that are targeting the same customer audience that you are. And you talked about working closely with the demand gen teams. I'm really curious how do you, as a company resolve, making sure that it doesn't look like the right hand, isn't talking to the left and when the customer starts to get these different campaigns and communications.

Nipul (36:05): Yeah. Yeah. That's a really, really great, great point. Right. So so ultimately there's definitely a lot of, lot more collaboration. So for example, we've got campaigns aligned to each of the different personas that we'll speak to, and for each campaign, there's kind of a list of accounts that you target. Right. and the idea here is every week, like, as a team overall, we get together to say, okay, what are the programs that we're launching this week?

And, you know, what's the potential for overlap. And so that's something that we're consciously, always looking at. And based on the specifics of the individual program, we may decide like, okay, it's okay for us to kind of send these two emails, targeting two different personas at the same company with two different offers.

That's totally cool. But if it's the case where you're trying to send one, email, two different emails to the same persona at the same account within a particular week, that, that we don't find as much any more, to be honest, because what we've found is you know, because we've structured these campaigns to be persona specific and each campaign has its own list of accounts.

Nipul (37:25): You know, we rarely encountered a situation where we wind up sending to a, like a marketing leader. We're only sending the messages through the through our campaign that targets the marketing leaders, if you will. Right. and so we don't necessarily see that conflict as well, but you know, there are instances like we'll definitely be sending for example, emails and offers to one account but two different personas in that account.

And we're constantly looking to make sure that, you know, there's not a lot of conflict there that we're not hitting. You know, we're not seeing as spammers if you will, for that account. So as a team, we kind of go through that. And I, I have to tell you that that's probably something where we need to improve on just in terms of developing more of a process oriented way of solving it right now. That's definitely more of a one-off thing that we're doing on a weekly basis as a cross-functional team.

Kathleen (38:26): Well, I think, I mean, if you figure out how to solve that, there's probably a whole nother market opportunity. And so you described, you described having a weekly meeting where you any conflicting campaigns but is that, is that same approach how you handle, because you talked earlier about having always on campaigns.

And I imagine that's really where the biggest opportunity is to kind of trip up because you've got all this stuff running in the background based on rules. And how do you approach that? Because I don't have a good answer for that.

Nipul (38:57): Yeah, no. So what we'll, what we do is we basically, we look at things like we, so you know, we'll every week as we look at the reporting in terms of which of our target accounts, in which of our buyers within target accounts, are we actually pursuing you know, those are great ways for us to be able to identify like, Oh, why are we like sending, you know, the same email or like two different emails to the same person? Did they in like three days? Right.

So after the fact we're definitely able to like, capture that. We also you know, again, if you think about it, like we have a campaign running against marketing leaders we have a campaign running against sales leaders, and then we have a campaign running against sales and marketing, like rev ops leaders.

Nipul (39:45): Right. and so because there are very specific titles that fall into each of those personas. You know, we don't, we haven't necessarily run into a lot of the, you know, on the outbound anyway, we haven't necessarily run into any of their conflicts, the conflicts come in where let's say it's a rev ops leader that fills out an offer for our for an offer that was intended to on our website that was intended to the marketing layer. In which case we have internal kind of pre negotiated rules of engagement, if you will. That again, reflect the current priorities of the business where we say like, okay, if it's a red lobster leader that raises their hand for an ABM platform offer, then you know, let's make sure that we're forwarding them to the right the row to the right SDRs for, for qualification.

Kathleen (40:42): Yeah, that makes sense. Now, the other question I have is you talked about how in account engagement is a very important kind of measure for you in terms of the quality of interaction and the responses to your marketing, as opposed to the hand raising and the leads.

And this is something I've always grappled with. You know, when I look at things like lead scoring engagement, you, you have your demographic elements to scoring, and then you have your behavioral elements and, and engagement being a key behavior element.

But I I've seen many cases where, where engagement scores don't work well because it's like, Oh, page views and email opens and this and that, and that it doesn't necessarily always equate to an in market person or quality leads. So how do you, how have you made sure, how have you architected your engagement scoring so that, you know, that in this case activity does equate to interest and lead quality?

Nipul (41:41): Yeah. And so that's where part of this is like, it's an ongoing kind of, we're tweaking this as, as we go along. Right. and so what we'll do is we'll kind of put different weights based on different types of activities. And right now we're at a stage where we kind of have a hypothesis as to what those weights are. Right?

So if someone, for example, engages with us at kind of a highly curated online event, right. The equivalent of like a local dinner that we might be running, that's definitely weighted a lot higher than someone who just downloads a top of funnel, like white paper, right. So we, the way we've architected it, we kind of take into account, not just the person who's in the titles and all that stuff around, who's actually engaging on the CTA. But we'll also look at, you know, what kind of engagement that is, right?

Nipul (42:39): Whether it's a website visit, whether it's a download of a top of funnel, piece of content, whether it's just clicking on an ad, whether it's attending a webinar or an online event that's curated. And so we've got different weights associated with those that enable us to just really calibrate that. And right now, you know, we, we have kind of an initial model of that running.

And you know, just based on my prior, cause we actually had a model of this running out loudest and we found that it requires iteration, right? You need to constantly tweak it. And again, that's where having a really good relationship with sales is absolutely critical. Right. you know, the SDR is actually within marketing. So I considered them to be marketing, but then also the, the reps in terms of, you know, the leads that we pass over to the reps, just kind of having that close relationship and that constant feedback with sales.

You know, so in addition to the cross-functional marketing team that I talked about, we also have a weekly kind of leadership sync between sales and marketing. Right. and so there's a lot of, you know processes that we've put into place to make sure that that feedback is ongoing so that we can continue to iterate on this engagement model.

Kathleen (43:56): That's great. Well, I could talk all day about this because this is such a complicated topic, but we don't have all day. So I want to make sure to ask, I know you're not far enough into this where you have really concrete results yet, where you can say this was the transformation the before and after, but I imagine anecdotally you have some interesting results that you might be able to share.

Nipul (44:19): Yeah. Absolutely. Right. So you know the way I'll phrase it is, we've seen improvements in terms of our engagement rates within our target accounts and the segments that we've created, the high propensity segments. So at the top of funnel where we were looking to, like, we have programs running against targets that haven't necessarily engaged with the D&B brand, like they haven't visited the D&B website or whatnot. So these are effectively cold prospects. What we've seen is we've seen a 45% increase in terms of engagement from prospects who haven't necessarily engaged with us ever or at least in the last 12 months. Wow. Yeah.

And then, so we've been able to, you know, kind of leverage our you know, our, our intent data and our targeting to, to help, to kind of achieve that. And at the same time, we've also been able to, you know, just improve on the ROI of our digital campaigns. And again, the reason for that is because we've been more targeted, right. We're not doing necessarily spray and pray anymore from a paid display campaign standpoint. And so we've been able to just make more effective use of our digital dollars there.

Kathleen (45:41): And that's in what time period, because this didn't, I mean, this hasn't been in place for very long. Yeah.

Nipul (45:46): Right. Yeah. No. So that's something that we've seen over the last three quarters. So yeah, so we started kind of in earnest around this earlier this year. And so we've seen kind of the improvements over that time.

Kathleen (46:00): 45% improvement is huge, especially when you have the volume that Dun and Bradstreet has. And especially during a time, like COVID, when many marketers are trying to keep their noses above water. So kudos to you and your team on that. All right. Shifting gears, before we wrap up, I have two questions I always ask all of my guests. And I'd love to hear what you have to say on this. The first one is, this podcast is all about inbound marketing. So I'm curious if there was a particular company or individual that you think is really showing the, the way when it comes to being a great inbound marketer.

Nipul (46:37): Well, I mean, inbound marketer for my Marketo days, and I still contend she's one of the best, Maria Pergolino. I think so she was the head of demand gen at Marketo way back when and then, you know, now she's off doing great things at she was at Anaplan, I think, and now she's at Active Campaign. She's their CMO. So she's awesome. Just as inbound, like in terms of setting up these huge inbound campaigns that deliver a lot of great results you know, obviously HubSpot from a company standpoint has always done really well there in terms of that. But outset. So I'm not going to just rely on that. I mean, I think you know, I'm, I'm a big marketing geek, so I try to sign up for as many offers as possible to see what people are doing.

Nipul (47:28): And, and so from a content standpoint, from a tactic standpoint, and so I found that like, NerdWallet is actually really good at inbound marketing specifically their content you know, use it to how they use content is, is really effective. I'm assuming it's effective.

I just think it's really compelling from an end user standpoint, Notion and they, they provide kind of this Wiki like collaboration software for B2B and B2C. I, I think like they've been doing a great job as well in terms of their inbound marketing. So those would be my like three examples if you will, Maria, from a person standpoint and then Notion and NerdWallet from a company standpoint,

Kathleen (48:15): I love that you called yourself a marketing nerd. I too am a marketing nerd and we love marketing nerds around here at this podcast. Second question, speaking of marketing nerding out the biggest challenge I hear most marketers talk about is that it's just so hard to keep up with the incredible pace of change within the world of digital marketing, particularly how do you personally stay up to date and keep yourself educated?

Nipul (48:42): Yeah, I mean, I think so two things. Like, you know, first as I mentioned earlier, I mean, I try to just see what other companies are doing as much as possible B2B and B2C, because again, from a B2B standpoint, there's a lot to be learned from B2C tactics. So I like to sign up for a lot of offers just to see how other companies do it. So that's kind of that firsthand research, if you will, that's always ongoing.

The other thing is obviously there's no shortage of communities out there and people to follow on Twitter and whatnot. You know, one community that I found really effective is the Revenue Collective community. I think you're a part of that as well. Right. And so I, I find that the discussions on Slack are really, really you know, are really insightful and really deep and really kind of cut to the core of, you know, what a person in our position would care about.

Nipul (49:45): So I found that was really effective. You know, and then a whole bunch of just, you know, other folks that I follow on Twitter you know you know, ranging from like Scott Brinker to Sangram, you know, to you know various other folks. So that, that you know, kind of just, again, like just kind of a news network, if you will that helps me to keep abreast of what's what's the latest and greatest, but I, I do have to say that the thing, I mean, it's funny, like over time as everybody kind of joins these communities and starts following the same people, everybody taking away the same lessons and you see a lot of commonalities in marketing.

So I've started doing more and more of not just tech companies, but also just looking at more, you know, I keep kind of a personal you know, on my hard drive, I have all these Google word docs with screenshots of like ads or non-tech company offers that I just feel like you know, we'll, we'll provide a better lesson for me in terms of understanding, you know, kind of different angles, different tactics and so on.

Kathleen (51:02): Yeah. The echo chamber effect is definitely real. And I liked what you said about looking at B2C because it's true. I mean, even though we say we're B2B, we're still selling to people within these businesses. So it's like, it's all about selling to human beings, regardless of whether equity for a company and our spending the company's money or spending their own money.

Exactly. That's great. Well, Nipul, if somebody wants to learn more about Dun and Bradstreet and, and some of the stuff you talked about, the products they have for sales and marketers, or if they want to reach out and ask you a question or connect with you online, what's the best way for them to do all of that?

Nipul (51:36): Yeah, sure. So so first of all, just always available via my Twitter handle @nipulc. The first initial of my last name, I'm also available on LinkedIn. And then for D&B just check out D&B.com.

Kathleen (51:58): Awesome. I will put links to all of those things in the show notes. And so go check those out if you want to connect with Nipul. And if you're listening and you liked what you heard today, or you learned something new, I would love it if you would head to Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice and leave the podcast a review. And if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me at @workmommywork because they could be the next interview. Thanks so much for joining me this week Nipul.

Nipul (52:25): Thank you. Thanks for having me.

 

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