Connecting Data: Dreamforce 2019 Takeaways

As I mentioned in our first Dreamforce recap blog, the Dun & Bradstreet Sales & Marketing Solutions team had a great week at Dreamforce 2019. This has become an event anticipated by sales and marketing professionals all over the world, especially for learning about the latest trends in technology and best practices. Over the course of the week, I had a chance to attend several sessions with takeaways relevant to our clients, and I wanted to share them in case you caught different sessions or weren’t one of the nearly 200,000 people who attended the show. (The first recap blog has links to our session presentations for your reference.)

I’ve attended Dreamforce for a few years now, and it’s been interesting to see the evolution of technology and the change in focus that has occurred for both marketing and sales teams. A few years ago, we were all trying to figure out how to use Big Data. We ultimately realized we had to layer analytics onto that data to make it useful. Then we started talking about getting the “right” data. This year, the focus is clearly on capturing and connecting data and insights across entire organizations to be able to discover the “truth” about our customers. In an environment where privacy is a rising concern, knowing the truth about our customers and prospects potentially gets harder. But those who are able to capture the truth – in the right way – will gain a competitive advantage through winning the trust of their customers and being better able to address their needs no matter where they are in their buying journey.

Here are a few themes that continually came up in the various sessions I attended. There are definitely a few things to consider as you finalize your 2020 plans!

Customer-Obsessed Precision

Forrester uses the term “customer obsessed,” and I like what that implies. In this session, Joe Stanhope, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, talked about allowing the customer to dictate how we engage. In a world where customers expect things instantly (à la Amazon, HBOGo, etc.), B2B companies must keep up with those B2C expectations.

In this new environment, companies are moving from being perfect to being fast, from being siloed to being connected, from being data hungry to being insights-driven, and from being customer-aware to being customer-led.

Marketers need tools and practices that can help drive personalized experiences by connecting data. For instance, the use of smart identity resolution to connect all data associated with a given company and its people – including online and offline activity – can help drive precision, scale, and persistence. Whereas a few years ago we dealt in segment “audiences,” today we are dealing in individuals or buying groups.

In addition, the “360-degree customer view” is expanding to include actions and behavior as new types of data to be captured and incorporated. By integrating unique data captured across departments, companies are able to use customer service, reporting and analytics, finance, and others – plus marketing – in the delivery of a consistent customer experience. Joe used a great term, “zero-party data,” explaining it as “data customers give to you directly.” They are giving you this data with the expectation you will make the experience better for them.

CDPs Are on the Rise

Customer data platforms (CDPs) came up more than once, which is no surprise given their essential role in connecting data. In the session by Marty Kihn, former Gartner analyst turned Salesforce insider, he described marketing as a branch of statistics – a take I found to be very interesting. So while the creative aspects of marketing are still important, more organizations are tasking their marketing departments with using data and analytics to drive real customer understanding and results. And that includes using data for total customer engagement.

With the number of data sources growing daily (this particular presentation showed a 50% increase in data sources used by marketing organizations in the last three years), more marketing orgs are turning to CDPs to help manage not only the data itself but the data in relation to the customer journey. Unlike traditional data lakes or MDM systems, CDPs are tuned to capture and make available specifically relevant customer information to provide customer-facing functions like sales and marketing with that single source of customer truth. With that source of truth in place, sales and marketing teams can answer the questions they have about customers and prospects and can design targeted campaigns to address specific needs.

Mr. Kihn also talked about having data ready when and where you need it so you can quickly activate it across multiple channels of choice. That omnichannel activation, however, only becomes possible when you have consolidated customer data stored in a single system that’s readily accessible when needed.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy was an underlying theme to many sessions I attended and was, in fact, so prominent this year that there was an entire session dedicated just to what marketers need to consider about data privacy. Depending on what type of business you’re in, you may be faced with multiple data privacy laws, from GDPR to CCPA to HIPAA, just to name a few. Marketers must take more care than ever in how they collect, store, and share customer data, or they risk facing fines. In addition, questions arose about what data is appropriate to use and what data might be a little “creepy”: While you may have the data, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s right to use it.

Some good guidelines were outlined in one of the sessions. Basically, only collect the data if you can say “yes” to these three questions:

  • Is it relevant to your business?
  • Does it help predict customer behavior?
  • Is it actionable in my marketing strategy?

And, of course, collect that data within relevant privacy regulations and guidelines.

Martech Is Evolving

Most brands realize that their martech stacks are too complicated and redundant. And tools to help engage with customers will continue to evolve and get more and more sophisticated. While simplification is probably inevitable, simplification can’t be achieved at the expense not doing everything you can to know your customers. The centralization and integration of all that you know is critical to being able to simplify. What this will ultimately enable is a smart and consistent overall experience for your customers, as opposed to varying point moments. This requires looking at the integration and rationalization not just of tools but also of data. Gone are the days of curating company and contact data in a haphazard and incomplete fashion. Any interaction with a company has to be captured and consolidated, associated with that company (for B2B use cases), and activated across channels and systems to really drive the delight in our customer’s interactions with us that we all crave.

There you have it – my key takeaways from Dreamforce 2019. I hope they will be helpful as you look ahead to 2020 and make your strategic and technological decisions. And if you need help curating, integrating, and activating data across your organization to create your own source of customer truth, We can help.