Dun & Bradstreet recently released their 9th Annual B2B Sales & Marketing Data Report which is designed to help B2B companies understand customer needs, develop more effective sales and marketing strategies, and better target their efforts for maximum impact. We had a chance to ask Jenn Atkins, Chief Marketing Officer, Dun & Bradstreet, North America about the contexts and some of the nuances of the data. We’ve compiled that question-and-answer session below.
In the report, you note that “Confidence in sales and marketing performance is high, but challenges remain.” Can you elaborate on that – What are the primary challenges that your research identified and how are marketers handling them?
The top challenge our survey respondents identified when it came to their organization’s current ability to meet its sales and marketing objectives (in late summer, 2022) was the Supply Chain crisis, although inflation and staffing issues, related to the recent Great Resignation and their ability to retain and hire good employees, followed close behind.
As for the challenges they see ahead of them throughout 2023, most respondents reported that inflation would make it difficult to meet their sales and marketing objectives. However, supply chain challenges, staffing issues, and an economic downturn would still be issues they would be navigating this year.
Dealing with business volatility and disruption is something marketing teams are having to face more regularly, whether we’re talking supply chain, economic forces, or any myriad of other disruptive forces. Great marketing teams are prepared to pivot to fill resulting revenue gaps or adjust to changing business landscapes – and often do so with decreased budgets and reduced head count. There is a dire need to understand what your customer’s pain point is and demonstrate how your company can solve it. But when working within tight constraints, the key is to have quality, complete data that allows the team to make an informed decision about how best to prioritize accounts and then accurately target them.
When the pandemic hit, everything – literally everything changed in an instant. Post-pandemic, the world is still shifting, changing & morphing albeit a bit more slowly than 2 years ago. What are some of the post-covid “hangovers” that enterprises are still recovering from?
While it is clear from our research that B2B teams no longer view the Covid-19 pandemic as the greatest challenge facing their organizations, our report identified three “Post-Covid Hangovers”:
- Hangover #1: We have to work harder to reach prospects and customers. There’s still fallout from office closures, the shift to remote working, and job switching. The overwhelming majority of our respondents, 92%, said it was challenging (“somewhat challenging” and “very challenging” combined) to identify and reach prospects and customers.
- Hangover #2: Customers want experiences, not transactions. Covid-19 influenced purchasing behavior, and customers expected companies to rise to the occasion with a transparent digital experience and consistent online/offline experiences.
- Hangover #3: ABM strategies must continue to adjust, and businesses are shifting focus or increasing focus on new customer acquisition, retention, or growing business with existing accounts.
The context for go-to-market strategies has been changing but that change has more recently accelerated. What are your recommendations as businesses recalibrate their GTM approaches?
In order to have meaningful customer connections that drive the business forward, we should know everything we can about the customer and be sure our go-to-market teams are aligned with the same view of the customer.
To adapt and fare better during uncertain times, organizations should recognize, and act on: a solid foundation of quality first- and third-party data; the need for account-based sales and marketing strategies; and organizational alignment with a single and complete view of accounts — a single source of truth across the business.
Data is the common denominator here. Teams aligned around better data can help organizations grow, protect the business from risk, and improve operational efficiencies.
The report presents a lot of data around the hurdles to deploying ABM (account-based marketing) strategies. Can you elaborate on some of the key findings?
As the report points out, when done right, ABM can be game changing for go-to-market teams. That said, it is a sophisticated tactic that needs several factors like resources, teams, and business objectives to align for positive outcomes. Budgets and people appear to be the primary hurdles for ABM right now. This should not come as a surprise in today’s environment. We’re all being asked to do more with less dollars – while still continuing to optimize and grow the business. Within the context of ABM, budgets relate to data quality, digital expansion and getting the most out of our technology.
Not having the right resources and personnel can be a huge barrier to entry, and in this competitive job market, it has become more difficult for many organizations to attract and retain the right team members who can help prioritize and execute an effective strategy.
When faced with a budget and people crunch, there is often a tendency to think that new technology will make up for the lack of the former two. I’m not saying that technology will not help – it most definitely can, but all technology has the same rule – it is only as effective as the people who run it and what you feed into it. With ABM, especially when budgets are tight, you really need to make sure that the investment is in the right personnel, quality data and then the technology to bring sophisticated strategy and complete data together for an account-based program to bear fruit.
That organizations need to be aligned around a shared set of goals is fairly obvious but the report goes beyond that and suggests that a successful ABM strategy requires alignment around a shared dataset as well. Talk to us about how enterprises can begin to cross silos (and moats) to begin making that happen?
It is foundational that your organization first agrees on an informed, common definition of who your customer is – from basic information like geographic area, revenues, company size to more sophisticated intent data – and how to prioritize the right accounts. With that initial alignment right at the start, a data-informed strategy can be created that includes prioritized accounts everyone is aligned on as well as an accurate master data set that go-to-market teams can work with, resulting in more impactful, cross-channel campaigns with better results.
The quality and completeness of account data is key. With complete (master) data, accurately defining and targeting of accounts allows for better personalization and tracking of accounts through the funnel. Your CDP (Customer Data Platform) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) will often perform better as well.
It really comes down to focusing on the quality of the data to inform strategy right at the outset. Leadership needs to drive that initial sea change, instilling that mindset into teams. If my team is truly data-driven, then I can trust that the decisions they are making are likely to lead to successful programs.
With the business world virtually swimming in data, what are your recommendations for:
- Maintaining solid security standards:
D&B More isn’t necessarily better. Don’t try to ingest more data than you can manage and that your team can ever hope to leverage. Next, we often don’t equate data silos to data security, but the traditional isolated approach to managing our data only adds to our security risks, so removing data silos also advances our data security.
- Navigating changing privacy legislation:
D&B: We need to prioritize our organization’s first-party data, and focus on creating more meaningful, personalized customer experiences at every touchpoint. We also want to be sure that the third-party data providers we work with are honoring privacy regulations and applicable laws, too.
- Deriving insights from it:
D&B: The pace of change in business coupled with the ever-expanding volume, variety, and velocity of data coming into the organization makes it increasingly difficult to manage our data, let alone derive insights from it. Information is spread across multiple departments and disparate systems, creating inefficiencies, and hindering well-informed decision-making. Companies also need to embrace newer technologies like AI and machine learning to accelerate their ability to realize the full potential of their enterprise data/strategies and enable digital transformation.
You can download D&B’s full report here.
Photo by Zach Betten on Unsplash