Interview of Michael Bird by James Hercher of ADEXCHANGER:
Dun & Bradstreet has come a long since it developed one of the first credit reporting systems in the mid-19th century; And has even come a long way in the past half-decade, when it shifted to data-driven online media.
And somebody’s buying what D&B’s selling. The company was acquired earlier this month for $5.38 billion by a group of private equity firms, which plan to de-list D&B from the New York Stock Exchange.
So what’s the plan now for an 180-year-old brand looking to hammer out a new identity for itself – and for B2B advertisers – online?
“We’ve historically brought this strong credibility and trust, and in the past few years we’ve been hyper-focused on building out our presence online and figuring out how to apply that data and credibility in this environment,” said Michael Bird, the company’s executive VP and global GM.
AdExchanger spoke with Bird about where the company is growing and how it plans to move further into data-driven sales and marketing.
ADEXCHANGER: What’s the opportunity on the table for Dun & Bradstreet?
Bird: If you go back to 2015 and D&B’s deal for Netprospex, which is how I joined the company, I think it marked a decisive move into the sales and marketing ecosystem. Those sales and marketer teams were becoming increasingly data-dependent and reliant on this ecosystem of marketing cloud and technology companies.
But we feel those executives don’t have a software problem; They have a problem with the data itself and with data effectively being leveraged across all these different places. And in that sense – managing sensitive data across all these accounts and companies – it makes sense for what D&B has been doing for about 180 years.
And in terms of growth right now, we’re seeing a lot of pick-up among mid-market companies and newer technology companies. Going back our B2B business has been mostly large enterprises, but there are fast-growing, data-driven companies in HR, IT, staffing, educational services that are changing those markets. With cloud providers these companies can cheaply warehouse and compute huge amounts of data now. That’s the kind of company that’s calling us and looking for ways to do this right now.
You have this influx of cash and resources, so what are you thinking about in terms of buying or building right now?
We have a tremendous set of tools, and right now it’s about integrating them together. Where I see our road map going, for instance, is building on things like a recently launched product called DataVision that essentially is a customer data platform for the B2B marketplace. CDPs have been very active and an important part of the stack for consumer marketers, but it hasn’t crossed the chasm to B2B and we’re squarely focused there.
Right now we’re working on identity resolution. We have this deterministic data set and are getting it to the point where we can say with confidence who’s who and who’s not in online media environments.
Once you have your own data really well in order, the next step is building out analytics and segmentation. We’ve matched and integrated our data with the major cookie and ID pools, like LiveRamp, Oracle BlueKai, The Trade Desk and Adobe Audience Manager, so it’s available the places where marketers go to do that segmentation.
We’re moving closer to that targeting and then to the real-time media activation space. Right now we’re filling out key partnerships and building the targeting tools, but it will eventually make sense for us to be more active there and own that capability.
Does that also mean competing with new kinds of companies?
The landscape is changing. There are lots of companies that could be competitors or partners, and that seems to ebb and flow. But in part because we are a data company and not a media company we end up being an attractive place for partnership. You can’t deliver the entire solution yourself, but make the data available with the technology marketers are using.
We’re not doing site design or dynamic content, but that’s where partnerships and integration comes into play. We can help inform what content and communications you display based on whether someone has professional buying power for your service, for example, or where they are in that B2B funnel. That’s going to help you get people to that sign-up or white paper or whatever conversion with fewer steps.