Reimagining an Iconic 173-Year-Old Brand: Rishi Dave, Dun & Bradstreet

Rishi Dave is on a mission to modernize a 173-year-old brand.

I recently had the honor of speaking with Rishi Dave, the CMO of Dun & Bradstreet, a commercial data firm with a database that’s 235-million companies strong. The brand has been around since 1841, and Rishi is helping lead the charge to reinvigorate it. He and I chatted about technology, company culture, and his business priorities for 2015. I’m excited to share some key takeaways from our chat, but first, here are a few fun facts you should know about Rishi:

What’s his favorite book?

The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto

Favorite accounts to follow on Twitter?

• Scott Brinker
• Moz
• Harvard Business Review
• Hubspot
• Business Insider
• Social Media Today
• Ad Age

If he were not a marketer, what he would be?

A general strategist

Here are my top seven takeaways from my conversation with Rishi Dave:

1. Dun & Bradstreet in the Digital Age

Moving forward, the way Dun & Bradstreet activates the brand will be all about digital. Rishi and his team spend a lot of time thinking about how they can deliver great thought leadership, personalize their customers’ experiences, and combine digital experiences with live events. These insights came from feedback they gathered from their customers, partners, and employees around the best way to activate the brand. To me, this reinforces the idea that the number one way to improve your company is one of the easiest: simply ask people what they want and take their input seriously.

[Tweet “@DnBUS turns to customers, partners, & team for feedback on building the #brand.]

2. Brand and Culture Are Best Friends

Dun & Bradstreet invests heavily in their company culture to help strengthen the brand. They approach this in a very programmatic way to ensure they follow though on what they say they will do in terms of changing culture and policies.

On top of that, they spend a lot of time with employees on the local level to ensure that everyone feels heard and that they get their questions answered. This also helps ensure employees have a positive brand experience and feel confident presenting a consistent message about the company when interacting with customers.

[Tweet “@DnBUS spends time w/ employees to ensure everyone can speak a consistent message. – @RishiPDave”]

3. Culture of Experimentation with Technology

For Dun & Bradstreet, it’s all about data. Data helps them understand who they should target and how they should target them, says Rishi. They focus on taking the data they have and enriching it with third-party data using their own product. From there, the challenge is optimizing the relationships they have with their customers, vendors, and partners. They do this with a powerful marketing technology stack and a solid marketing strategy.

“You have to have a clear understanding of what your strategy is and how you differentiate yourself, along with how you build a thought leadership platform around that,” says Rishi. “From there, you go to your tools to drive the thought leadership which produces ROI from your tool.”

[Tweet “Have a clear understanding of how you differentiate your brand. – @RishiPDave #biztips #branding”]

4. Account-Based Marketing

“When I think about top of funnel, I think about who I want to target,” says Rishi. His team uses account-based marketing (ABM) strategies to laser-focus their marketing on best-fit accounts that are likely to become customers. Because of this, Dun & Bradstreet has an entire analyst team focused on which accounts they should be targeting across the sales and marketing departments.

Then, they divide the list of accounts into small, medium, and large-sized businesses. Each segment has different pain points and needs, so this is a great way to provide them with relevant marketing content. Finally they use account-based marketing tools to target them across a variety of channels.

[Tweet “Once @DnBUS determines target accounts to go after, they use #ABM tools for omni-channel targeting.”]

5. Trends in B2B Marketing

The biggest B2B marketing trend, says Rishi, lies in how people are thinking about growth. And it’s all about data. “As a CMO,” he explains, “I can talk a lot about martech stack, data, and content but when you look at who is growing . . . it’s the companies that know how to use data to optimize the ecosystem of relationships.”

Rishi thinks a lot about how to bring all the available data together to get a complete view of their customers. Then, he and his team use that information to determine which accounts to go after, who to partner with, and who to choose as a vendor.

Having that intelligence really drives the customer experience. Dun & Bradstreet works with Fortune 500 companies, many of which have invested heavily in creating an integrated view of business data. The companies that can do that are able to create a competitive edge, Rishi says.

[Tweet “The companies that create an integrated view of #data will enjoy a competitive edge. – @RishiPDave”]

Another trend he’s seeing is the rise of advertising technology. Adtech is critical for reaching customers with the right message wherever they are. B2B marketers have to know what content and experiences their customers really care about in order to stay relevant — and ultimately, they must use technology to get that content to their customers.

6. Defining the Brand Experience

Creating a killer brand experience was a hot topic in my conversation with Rishi.

“Consumer companies such as Red Bull and Coke are creating incredibly branded experiences that are unique to their brand,” he says. And Dun & Brandstreet follows suit, creating events and experiences that their customers really care about. “You need a great brand experience and you need a great execution machine to make it come alive,” said Rishi. “If you have one without the other, then you don’t get the ROI.”

The CMO plays a key role in ensuring the brand experience is executed properly. “The CMO’s job is to define what the experience is with the brand and then what the messaging architecture is that is built on top of it,” explains Rishi. In other words, you need to ask yourself, “What is the overall brand experience?” and “What are the messages that communicate that?”

[Tweet “The #CMO is responsible for defining the brand experience & the messaging. – @RishiPDave”]

7. 2015 Priorities

Rishi Dave’s first priority is to scale the Dun & Bradstreet brand. They’ve recently launched their new advertising creative, and now they want to figure out how to best scale that messaging. He also plans to scale their go-to-market strategy. The company has recently reimagined their buyer personas, which altered their brand experience. This is where the challenge of implementation comes in. Rishi’s priority here is to fine-tune the execution machine that makes everything come alive.

[Tweet “@RishiPDave’s 1st priority as #CMO is to scale & digitize the @DnBUS brand. #B2Bmarketing”]

There’s no doubt that Rishi Dave is the right CMO to lead the digital transformation of Dun & Bradstreet. The iconic company is clearly headed in a new — but very on-brand — direction. I hope that you found Rishi’s thoughts as insightful as I did.