by Allison Banko
Founded more than 170 years ago, Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) stands as the world's leading source of global business insight.
D&B offers solutions for risk management and sales and marketing, allowing businesses to better market their value proposition, according to Jacqui Kearns, Senior Vice President, Leader of Global Digital, Analytics, Operations and Technology, D&B.
While D&B's services run on data, its internal processes once did not — especially when it came to marketing. As little as five years ago, the company's marketing organization was even decentralized.
This was the case until Kearns took on the challenge and assumed leadership. Kearns has since taken on the department with Jeannine D'Allegro, D&B's Vice President, Global Leader of Digital Properties, Optimization and Social Media, by her side.
"When we first started, we adopted websites that sat on homegrown platforms," D'Allegro said. "There were some incremental wins [such as] if we tweak this, we get a few more leads here and there."
However, decision-making for D&B's digital marketing was muddled, and priorities were dictated by whichever company team reached the department first. This led to unfounded redesigns and inconsistent experiences because no one was relying on data to support Marketing's endeavors.
One day, Kearns sat her team down.
"You know what?" she asked. "Where do we want to be?"
The team's answer — as well as the team's vision — was to become "a premier digital exchange."
The question was, how were they going to get there?
"From selling solutions here, [we know] what people are looking for and what they want when they're asking for marketing campaign support," Kearns said. "It is — truly in a B2B space now — more data-driven than ever before."
The team wanted to practice what it preached: make decisions based on data.
To become a "premier digital exchange," D&B's digital team implemented the multiplicity strategy, originated by Google's Digital Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik.
"It's a strategy that speaks to the qualitative and quantitative aspects of Web analytics," D'Allegro explained. The strategy consists of seven circles
- Multiple outcomes analysis
- Experimentation and testing
- Voice of the customer
- Competitive intelligence
The circles differ in size, correlating to the amount of data the team has access to.
"It's really about gathering all of the information to get to that golden circle in the middle, which is the insight," D'Allegro said.
By relying on qualitative and quantitative data, the team could stop prioritizing based on who contacted the team first.
"When someone gives you their opinion of why something should work, we can marry that with the data and come up with a solution that makes everybody happy," D'Allegro added.
Because D&B's new digital strategy was built on data, the team needed to create an infrastructure to support analytics decision-making. D&B achieved this thanks to three key components:
- The roadmap
- The technology
- The skill set
The team especially emphasized developing internal resources and skill sets for data interpretation.
"How many people have reams and reams of data and reports and they couldn't begin to tell you how that makes their business work?" D'Allegro said.
D&B didn't want to rely on vendors to understand analytics — the company wanted to develop that skill in-house.
Because the digital team set a clear vision to become a "premier digital exchange," maintenance and continued long-term success was vital.
"Everybody can spend two years designing something great, but if you can't maintain that and be agile on a regular basis, then that's a problem," D'Allegro explained. "The way you do that is to be able to measure your successes and use them to keep going."
That trio of key components would serve as a strong foundation to propel D&B forward.
Key Component #1. The roadmap
Under Kearns' lead, the digital team built a roadmap to visualize where the team wanted to be as well as what the team needed to accomplish to get there.
While the roadmap drove to the "where" of being a "premier digital exchange," the team developed a plan based on analytics to drive results as well as make design and experience changes that would transform the way D&B conducted business.
Instrumental parts of delivering on the vision included the development of an IT foundation (tools, software and platforms) to collect that data and then have the internal resources to analyze it.
Key Component #2. The technology
Digital asset management (DAM) software served as an integral part of D&B's foundational technology. DAM equipped the team with the ability to gather and centralize version control and put processes and governance in place around all of D&B's content.
"We do a very extensive job making sure we have more tagging associated on each page to get the right information," Kearns explained.
Whether this is a call-to-action or something more content-focused, the team always seeks to discover what visitors are looking at and why.
"We want to improve that experience and get [visitors] to come back," she added. "[We want to] resonate that connectivity with them."
As Kearns was ushering in the technology transformation from a software standpoint, D'Allegro was hunting for tools equipped to track behavioral information on D&B's users.
The team selected Web analytics tools that allowed them to look "over the shoulder" of visitors to see how they were engaging with the D&B website. D&B also invested in testing platforms to conduct A/B and multivariate tests.
"We are extremely data-driven, but again, data is quantitative and qualitative," D'Allegro explained. "So we've been marrying all of those tools together under the umbrella of that overall multiplicity strategy."
Key Component #3. The skill set
Though the team invested in dozens of tools, they wanted vendors to serve as a complement to D&B's strategy, not as a driver.
"One thing, and I actually really applaud this from MarketingSherpa's perspective, too, is we don't want to be led down a path by the vendor before we've really identified that need internally and [that] our roadmap really could grow from purchasing that solution," Kearns explained.
During the past three years in her role, Kearns said she has learned that there is "no endless bounds for a tool, but there is definitely a defined amount of people and resources that you can bring in and hire to understand how to use and apply those tools."
D&B wanted these people to be within their offices as D&B employees. D'Allegro added that having those resources in-house would allow for more collaboration when consultants do come in for projects.
"You absolutely want to use consultants for their expertise, and part of that expertise is because they simply deal with so many businesses that they have a benchmark," she explained, "but you should never use them to rely on bringing your business forward."
To build internal resources and skill sets, the team hired individuals with analytical backgrounds.
"It's an easy playbook that we created," Kearns said of the hiring process. "We looked at where we wanted to be and who we needed to get there."
The team focused on D&B's digital properties in its paid, owned and earned environments and then on resources who had the understanding and ability to contribute within those areas.
Surprisingly, D'Allegro and Kearns' hires did not have traditional marketing backgrounds.
Instead, D&B formed its infrastructure with individuals of scientific backgrounds. D'Allegro said she believes many people in the analytics and digital fields have scientific or analytical specialties instead of marketing because of the way the field has evolved over the years. New opportunities in marketing have attracted these types of professionals.
For example, D&B's director of SEO has a doctorate in physics. Another employee who manages the multiplicity strategy has a medical degree from China along with a slew of master's degrees, "none of which are in marketing or anything to do with marketing," D'Allegro said.
"It's really a mix of the right skill sets within," she added. "Then, they come in and really learn how to apply their skill sets to the needs that they have. That's how we've been lucky with building a phenomenal team."
Using data and analytics rather over opinions and competing teams to drive decisions has proven to be fruitful for both D&B's marketing and internal harmony. The fact that the team set a clear goal of becoming a premier digital exchange, everyone is now on the same page, D'Allegro explained.
Directionally, she said, everyone knows where D&B strives to be and they have no problem helping one another get there while recognizing where everybody's strengths lie.
"That's probably a key component that you never see when people ask why one company is successful over the other," D'Allegro said. "It's just that we bring together all of our strengths. Together, we are much more powerful as a whole than any one bright, brilliant person that we have on the team."
She stressed the importance of understanding that data is not quantitative only — it is qualitative, as well.
"While people are giving their input, that's data, but it's how you use the data," she said. "Instead of one person's opinion, marry a group of input with some quantitative information. Use one to follow up the other. That's the biggest component."
The team hones in on using multiple types of data to find success and drive decisions instead of just one. As previously mentioned, the multiplicity strategy D&B utilizes encompasses clickstream, multiple outcomes analysis, experimentation and testing, voice of the customer and competitive intelligence to inform insights.
A key mistake D'Allegro has seen in the marketplace is too many people getting caught up in that clickstream data, such as traffic to the site and number of clicks. While that's important, she said, that information alone won't unveil how engaged someone is due to other factors that could have driven them to the site.
"What's been important is marrying the different types of data to get a full picture," D'Allegro explained.
On the other hand, a data point some may be ignoring is competitor information. D'Allegro once read something that really stuck to her when it comes to this data.
The piece likened your company to a driver in a car. You're driving with blinders on your windows going 110 miles an hour. You think you're doing fantastic. But once you roll down your window, you see your competitor driving next to you. They're going 150 miles an hour.
"You thought you were doing great because it wasn't in comparison to anyone else," D'Allegro said. "Competitor data is very important. How are competitors presenting the opportunities? What is the experience? These days, it's all about the experience."
D&B collects competitor information with the help of tools and a competitive analysis group. The team analyzes both qualitative and quantitative competitor information including site traffic, clickstream data, domain authority, reviews of the site experience and social media buzz.
Utilizing this data and strategy has resulted in numerous wins for D&B, including:
- Reduced homepage bounce rates 21%
- Increased clickthrough from D&B's homepage to other product and informational pages 25% to 200%
- Doubled lead gen from chat after improving communication to users
When the company hired a new chief marketing officer, he even reconstituted the architecture for Kearns' department to include the analytics for all of D&B. This included inbound, outbound and everything that happens both traditionally and digitally.
Now, Kearns can be that "insight engine" for business partners, sales, operations and customer service.
"That context alone, I think, is why and how marketers are changing organizations," Kearns added. "I think that's why we also attract talent, because Marketing is now the leader in that space for D&B, and I think that's what excites people to join our team."
The fact that the team has grown with new hires to support analytics decision-making has also been key for D&B. Other team members have also developed the skill set to successfully formulate the multiplicity strategy, applying it to D&B with data and insights.
"We have built a team of people who are just inquisitive by nature who are excelling by nature," D'Allegro said.
Being a 170-year-old company with an established brand presence can provide the opportunity to build a great digital experience, she added. However, it's been important to use all of the information together to drive that.
"I think advantage we have is we do consider all of the qualitative and all of the quantitative," D'Allegro said. "Clickstream is important. Competitive is important. Voice of the customer as qualitative is important. Social media feedback is important. But if you ask, what is the strongest data that we use? It's the integration of all of them that makes it the strength that we have."
- Diagram of multiplicity strategy
SourcesDun & Bradstreet Adobe
Related ResourcesRethink Web Analytics: Introducing Web Analytics 2.0
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