Lessons from Dun & Bradstreet’s SVP of Global Marketing
“You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
Dun & Bradstreet’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, Josh Mueller, is a firm believer in this adage. When it comes to B2B marketing, the first encounter with a potential customer is crucial. “A bad first impression can completely derail our marketing efforts,” says Mueller. “Most buyers will form an opinion in a matter of seconds, and that’s why it’s vital to create the best first impression and really set the tone with that person going forward.”
Mueller believes making a strong first impression begins with having great content. “When done correctly, content should be the answer to a reader’s most burning question. Creating informative content that offers readers advice and tips about topics they care about helps build trust and lays the foundation needed for turning a reader from a prospect into a customer.”
It seems to be working. According to recent research, 74% of companies indicate that content marketing is increasing their marketing teams’ lead quality and quantity. “Content continues to be the most important thing that marketing provides to prospects and customers,” says Mueller. “World-class marketing strategies and delivery mechanisms fall short without great content.”
But, even as content has become an integral part of the marketing mix, many organizations still struggle with implementing and executing a sound content strategy. Analyst group Altimeter found that more than 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy. That’s a problem, because content can’t be produced in silos. Content marketing is a whole lot more than writing. Sure, on the surface the purpose of content seems obvious – to craft conversational messaging that helps drive awareness. But businesses cannot ignore the importance of creating direct, revenue-producing activities. That’s why content must be an all-hands program managed through the same lens as other ROI-focused initiatives.
“As we’ve evolved and modernized our own marketing organization, we quickly realized that our content team needed to be integrated into the larger Demand Generation team,” explains Mueller. “The fact that we need to constantly communicate relevant messages to buyers across all stages of the sales cycle, while meeting the needs of unique buyer personas, made it only logical for the entire marketing team to be involved in developing and distributing the messaging.”
By integrating content into the marketing organization, Mueller believes Dun & Bradstreet could be more deliberate when planning and producing content to maximize its overall effectiveness. “Content doesn’t play a supporting role, it enables everything we do as a marketing team,” says Mueller.
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We sat down with Mueller to get his thoughts on all things content, specifically on the benefits of having content live under the global marketing umbrella.
Why did you choose to bring content under the demand generation team?
At Dun & Bradstreet, we define demand generation more broadly than many other organizations do. For us, demand gen is the full suite of marketing activities focused on optimizing every customer touch-point for progression throughout the buying journey.
It isn’t that the content team is under the demand gen team, but that content is inextricably linked with our customer touch-points and fundamental to our ability to create demand. Ensuring relevance and providing value are fundamental to achieving our broad marketing goals.
Can you explain how the web team and demand gen team each play a hand in content marketing?
Writing is only one part of content marketing. The strategies to provide the experience around the content, distribute the content, and ultimately drive desired customer actions requires a concerted effort across multiple disciplines. One hand must know what the other hand is doing to ensure a seamless workflow between teams. As we’ve seen, there are time-sensitive demands to publish our content, and that can only happen when all teams are functioning as one.
What are some of the biggest challenges of having all these different teams working together when they have historically operated independently?
I anticipated that we would have far more challenges than we’ve had. It’s been inspiring to see how well these teams have become one and I credit the teams’ optimism and desire to expand their craft for the successful integration. We are all working towards the same goals, and playing to everyone’s individual strengths has made for better collaboration.
What do you see as the long-term benefits of the collaboration?
A big benefit that will continue to pay long-term dividends is having the integrated team rally around the customer with a concerted effort to optimize the customer experience. It’s music to my ears to listen to our content experts now talk about SEO strategy, UX, and site conversion along with our demand gen team debating content strategy tactics starting at the awareness stage.
At its core, Dun & Bradstreet is a data company. How has that factored into guiding content creation?
Data is fundamental to better understanding and identifying our desired audiences. Large brands are complex, with many different targets. Often, you don’t know the specific individual, but using technology and data to determine the persona, company, and geographic location allows you to serve the right message.
We perform a lot of upfront propensity modeling and intent analysis to establish initial targets and then leverage our own deterministic data throughout our MarTech stack to deliver personalized experiences.
What’s more, we’ve developed an editorial insights engine that leverages our own master data, search trends, social signals, and behavioral data to identify potential topics that are meaningful to our prospects and customers. We layer on those insights with the creativity and experience of our teams to develop our content strategy and roadmap. At the end of the day, we need to know who are audience is , what it wants, and how we can help. It’s never about what we want to say.
Speaking of data, how important is content sequencing – being sure to surface the most relevant content to the reader?
It’s critical. Customers define their own journey, but proper content sequencing allows marketers to define a clear path that can be personalized based on deterministic and behavioral data. There have been many times when a single piece of content led me down an unplanned two-hour journey of content consumption. That’s good content sequencing. Our website was specifically built to enable this based on what the reader is consuming.
There’s ongoing debate around where content should live, some say it must be on the company’s website, others disagree. Where do you stand?
Content should live wherever it needs to in order to be delivered to the right person at the right time. That may be on your website, but may also be a presentation at an event, in a meeting with a customer, or proactively pushed to a mobile device.
That said, your website should absolutely serve as a front door to your brand that enables prospects, customers, employees, and investors to effectively engage with your brand.
Seeing as content is integrated with the demand gen team, what are your feelings on gated content? Should we require contact information to access larger assets like eBooks and whitepapers?
There is no single right answer here. It completely depends on the goal of the content and sometimes you want to do both. Obviously short-form, snackable content like blogs and infographics should be ungated. You want those to be consumed and shared far and wide. My personal preference is to limit gating whenever possible, but there are times where it makes sense.
Moz’ founder, Rand Fishkin, had some great thoughts on this topic.
Are you able to derive opportunities to enhance the content experience by looking at basic website metrics? If so, which help inform the content strategy?
Absolutely. Even basic things like visits, shares, bounce rates, and heat maps can provide meaningful insights. These basic metrics start to become much more valuable when you start to effectively identify the visits and segment them into audiences.
What do you feel are some of the most important KPIs for content, specifically?
Many brands make the mistake of measuring all content in a similar way. Some content is intended to create a lead, but content has many different purposes and should be measured accordingly.
We’ve built a framework around this using our customer-centric journey.
Every piece of content created is strategically tagged across our MarTech stack, a journey phase where we have specific KPIs for different content types and vehicles. The specific KPIs differ, but a common theme is driving a specific action and journey progression.
How do you see content creation evolving at Dun & Bradstreet?
Content continues to take on many new and exciting forms due to advancements in technology (e.g. artificial Intelligence, augmented and virtual reality). We’ll continue to invest the resources to leverage these trends to give readers the best experience. Again, our content strategy is about giving the audience what they want, when they want, and how they want it. That will remain the focus of the entire marketing team.