March 16, 2016

Innovators: Josh Mueller of Dun & Bradstreet on personalization

josh muellerWe recently sat down with Josh Mueller, the SVP of digital, operations and demand generation at Dun & Bradstreet, to discuss personalization. Dun & Bradstreet is a commercial data and insights company that provides business solutions to 87% of the Fortune 500. Mueller currently leads a global team of over 60 marketing, technology and creative professionals. Previously he led B2B digital marketing teams at Dell.

Personalization has been the go-to buzzword in retail for a couple years now. Is it overhyped or under-leveraged?

It’s both. There is no easy button for personalization and many companies underestimate the discipline required to do it well. However, there is tremendous upside to conversion percentages and the overall customer experience that most companies aren’t capturing. Improving technology and access to quality data has enabled marketers to provide targeted content and experiences to individuals more effectively than ever before. These capabilities open up significant opportunity, but deciding what to personalize and for who can be challenging. Because of that, it is important to recognize that your personalization strategy is really just a piece of your overall optimization strategy. Formulating and testing hypotheses for personalization should follow the same methodologies you are already using for optimization. You won’t know what will work at first, but the data is there to guide you.

How do you expect personalization will help you this year?

We’ve been aggressively modernizing and scaling our entire digital demand strategy from initial customer touch points all the way through conversion and retention. Dun & Bradstreet serves small businesses and the world’s largest organizations across multiple personas and lines of business. We rely heavily on personalization to effectively optimize the customer experience for these different audiences. A deeper dive on one of our major 2016 initiatives in this space, a data-inspired site redesign that Clearhead contributed to, can be found here.

Where are the tech vendors getting it wrong on personalization?

Many of them are selling an easy button that doesn’t exist. The technology is a critical enabler, but without the right data, strategy and discipline in place, the conversion improvements don’t come as expected and customers often blame the technology. It is important to articulate everything that needs to happen for effective personalization upfront and to either offer or partner with other vendors to provide the necessary services needed for success.

When will you know if you’ve gone too far on personalization?

This one is easy. Personalization is a form of optimization and should be tested at every phase of the customer journey. Anytime personalized content is too overt and not relevant to the experience, the customer might feel their privacy has been violated. There’s a delicate balance between providing a relevant experience based on what you know about a visitor and telling the visitor everything you may know about them. Striking that balance can be subtle, but is often critical. If KPIs are properly defined and can be tied to a dollar amount, it is easy to see when the pendulum has swung too far. Customer benefit has diminished and the necessary ROI no longer exists. Most companies are far from this with ample opportunity in front of them. We are still just scratching the surface.

What tech vendors do you look to for capabilities and thought leadership around personalization?

Dun & Bradstreet has great long-standing relationships with both Adobe and Oracle and we rely heavily on them for capabilities and thought leadership. My organization will be represented at the upcoming Adobe Summit as well as Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience. I also love to follow and read everything from the smaller tech companies that are innovating in this space. They are constantly pushing the envelope and improving the capabilities we need to give our customers the best possible end-to-end experience with our brands.

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