Are You Ready for a Cookieless Digital Marketing World?

Dun & Bradstreet VP of Product Marketing Deniz Olcay discusses how to get your sales and marketing tech stack ready for a cookieless world.


There is increasing uncertainty in the B2B digital marketing world caused by privacy rules butting up against a desire to personalize messages in attempt to cut through the clutter caused by a proliferation of competitors blasting  their messages across multiple channels. This is the transcript from a 22-minute podcast in which Dun & Bradstreet VP of Product Marketing Deniz Olcay discusses how to get your sales and marketing tech stack ready for a cookieless world.

Tim Hagen: Hi everybody. It’s Tim Hagen, and welcome again to another video podcast. And today we have a special guest Deniz Olcay from Dun & Bradstreet. Today, we’re going to talk a lot about digital marketing. Dun & Bradstreet is one of the worldwide leaders in that space. How are you doing Deniz? 

Deniz Olcay: Great. It’s so nice to meet you and thanks for having me on. It’s a pleasure. 

Hagen: Tell our audience a little bit about yourself. 

Olcay: Sure thing. I’m vice president of product marketing at Dun & Bradstreet. I joined the firm, oh gosh, maybe six years ago now. I got my start in B2B consulting, in sales training, then I pivoted over to product marketing at Dun & Bradstreet right around when we launched a lot of our digital marketing solutions. So I primarily lead our messaging and positioning and also sales enablement efforts for our portfolio.

Hagen: Cool. With that being said, what’s your value proposition? What do you provide to the marketplace?

Olcay: Dun & Bradstreet essentially empowers sales and marketing teams with better data and insights to help them grow their business. One of our crown jewel assets is our data cloud. We have about 420 million businesses across the entire globe covering about 98% of global GDP. We have all the firmographic details behind those accounts, the intent signals behind those accounts, and what their behaviors are online, in addition to the people at those accounts, because, at the end of the day, marketers and sellers need to reach people to help them make a decision, right?

So we service that data through software built on top of that data foundation to help you clean and consolidate your data [and] to help you better engage audiences with relevance across multiple channels. That might be email that might be advertising, that might be sales plays, right? And also empowering salespeople to close business faster, by getting insight into some of those trigger events – what’s happening at a company? Are they changing locations? Do they have a new C-level executive? Are they in market browsing for something online?

So we can aggregate a lot of those signals and supplement what organizations collect as their first-party data – what they know about accounts – with the additional intelligence that we bring to the table through the data cloud. We face customers that have challenges around reaching their audiences all the time. Again, our value proposition is just to help them reach the right person at the right time with the right message to help them grow faster.

Hagen: What’s the major problem that you see in the industry across all organizations? I know that’s kind of an unfair question, but what’s the major overall problem that you see?

Olcay: Good question, Tim. We try to boil it down into something we call “the Three Ps.” It’s a fancy acronym, right? Privacy, personalization and proliferation, just to make it easier to remember. We’re seeing an increasingly uncertain future with the rise of GDPR CCPA… all these different four-letter acronyms – some buzzwords that hopefully, folks are familiar with. But we’re going to dig deeper into that throughout the conversation. A lot of those privacy regulations around how data is managed, how marketers are able to collect and use data are causing a lot of uncertainty about what channels are viable for them going into the future. We see a lot of problems there and we help certainly address some of those. We’ll dive into a little bit of detail on this podcast about that.

We also see personalization as an increasing challenge. Buyers are increasingly on digital channels conducting their research. I mean, we’re all home now, right, and increasingly reliant on digital channels to make more educated decisions about what we buy. It’s important for marketing and sales teams to personalize their approaches and their content and their messages to make it most relevant to their audiences – to stand out from the noise – because ultimately, all your competitors are also online. It’s really difficult to do that because we’re seeing a lot of proliferation – the third P. We’re seeing a lot of technology tools with lofty promises, right. Marketing and sales teams get caught in that promise and all that pizzazz. They bring all these technologies in, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have good data powering those technologies, if those technologies aren’t talking to each other, and if you don’t have the right team with the expertise to manage those tools, it really is still a challenge. It doesn’t really solve your problem of better engaging your audience. So again, to summarize, it’s sort of the Three Ps that we see organizations primarily challenged with – privacy, personalization and proliferation of tools.

Hagen: It’s interesting, because you described a lot there and you were making a joke about all the acronyms. How would you describe today’s customer? Where do you feel like you need to educate them? And what’s the ideal solution you think they’re seeking, potentially not even understanding some of the things that you just brought up? Do you run into that in terms of customers needing to be educated and things like that, and what do they ideally look for?

Olcay: I am educating myself every day. I’m a subject matter expert because I’m in this space, but I see new acronyms every day. We joke about it internally and say I can imagine the difficulty that customers have to go through. We’re trying to vet all these different solutions. We want to help them. But it’s just such an exploding space.

[Unintelligible] Brinker mentions  8,000 technologies and still growing. I mean, when is it going to stop? I think the challenge for buyers is really cutting through the noise and trying to really understand what do these solutions do, right? Do I actually need it? How is it going to fit into my technology stack? And how is it going to help me power growth? And again, they’re reliant on some of their own research. They have to go to some of these brands and take what they say for granted from their collateral, and also lean on sites like G2 crowd or some of these peer review sites. Also, analysts like Forrester or Gartner are a big help, too, to kind of get an objective point of view on “does this technology really help me solve my problem? What does it actually do? How does it compare to others?”

So I think we’re just faced with a lot of information out there that’s hard to digest. Again, it’s a very competitive market. A lot of your competitors are also using the same tools and the same data, so it’s hard to stand out. At the end of the day, it’s all about delivering a compelling message to your audience at the right time. It all kind of boils down to that. Technology, data… those are all enablers to help you do that. I think the core of what customers need to do hasn’t really changed in decades. Hundreds of years ago, when you were advertising, you were still trying to pique interest from your audience and get them to do something. That core tenant hasn’t changed, but a lot of the ecosystem, the technology, the data around it has changed. 

Hagen: How do you go about educating your customer? Because when you think about what you just said, nothing has really changed in terms of what we’re trying to achieve with our message. How do you go about educating your customer? What does that ideal process look like when you engage with the client? What do they experience with Dun & Bradstreet?

Olcay: Good question. Again, we try to educate our customers through some of the combined research that we do with analysts firms. We try to bring in that outside and objective point of view. This could be a Forrester; this could be a Gartner. We find that objective point of view certainly adds a lot of credibility to our message, and also helps them get a landscape assessment of what else is out there. “How does this ecosystem of technologies and tools fit into my stack?” Or, “How can it help me?”

We also find that customer use cases are a big enabler and educator. When you think about the technology adoption curve, you have early adopters and then the majority decline, right? I think a lot of the technologies are at the beginning part of that curve, so a lot of customers are skeptical – “You’re telling me it does this thing. I’ve been burned in the past.” We see that a lot – “I’ve worked with another vendor. They promised XYZ. It didn’t work.” And now you’ve got a skeptic. We’re seeing that skepticism more and more with our customers, so we need to prove that by saying, “Look, with customer XYZ, we achieved these results. Feel free to talk to them or we can dive more into detail there.” We’re seeing that a lot, in addition to the “try before you buy.” At the end of the day, they’re trying to reduce risk for their business, so we’re seeing a lot of customers wanting to sort of dip their toes in the water [and] test out a lot of these new solutions, especially around overcoming some of these privacy challenges that we’re seeing because it is an increasingly ambiguous space. You look at Google – one of the obviously major players in the market with a lot of influence – even they’ve gone back and forth in some of their announcements around the technologies that are going to enable a cookieless future. I think that’s really important.

Hagen: What’s your ideal solution for the most common problem in the marketplace? If you had to describe your ideal customer and maybe ideally how you’ve gone about solving that problem, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Olcay: I think it goes back to what I was saying [about] delivering the right message at the right time. The way we go about it is really trying to deliver the right data and intelligence to inform that decision, but also ensuring that teams across an organization have a common foundation for knowledge. As we see this proliferation of tools, especially as an organization grows in size, you see pockets of intelligence that they use. The decisions that you make have to be grounded in data in this day and age. And we see that these teams are often not even talking to one another. They’re sort of making isolated decisions. It’s not a bad thing. It’s totally normal because these tools often don’t integrate with one another. The way we try to approach the problem is say, “Hey, look, data can be the unifier of not just your technology, but also your teams.” If you get that common foundation of knowledge of your customer – Who are they? What are they doing in the market? What are the signals that you’re observing (both what you collect and what other data providers provide) – you can really get that trusted common foundation of your customer to guide your decisions on, to answer your question, how to best engage them. “What message do I deliver to them? What are their needs? And how can I get them to select me over all the alternatives that are out there?”

Hagen: it’s interesting that you use the word “unifier.” Do you find customers – and I know I’m one of them – where we find a tool, and then a department over here has another tool. Do you feel like sometimes technology drives those pockets and there isn’t that consolidation or that unification of the data?

Olcay: Absolutely. The technologies that you’ve already invested in weigh into your decision-making process 100%. These tools aren’t cheap, let’s be honest. You’re looking at probably a six-figure investment, maybe even more in some cases depending on the size of the organization. And you’ve built a lot of institutional knowledge around that technology – the teams that are enabled to use that technology. Ripping and replacing that or changing that is a big pain point, and speed to market or agility is important. You can’t just stop what you’re doing and kind of reassess your tech stack on a whim. We’re finding that customers really value integration a connectivity of data and systems. [It’s] top of mind in terms of making a buying decision. That’s where it Dun & Bradstreet has a really strong value proposition to customers to say we both have the data that can stitch these technologies together because they’ll speak a common language. Software A and software B have the same data or same view of the account, so they can actually intelligently exchange information. But we also have software applications built on our data that can actually turbocharge or amplify the intelligence of the core stack elements that you’ve invested in. This could be a CRM or a marketing automation or demand-side platform or a DMP – all these digital advertising type technologies. We tack onto that and we have an open foundation, is what we like to say, so we connect and play nice with all of your systems at your organization. We have over 550 integrations. There’s 8,000 technologies, but we feel like we have a good coverage of some of the major ones that customers invest in. Usually, when we’re in a conversation with a customer, it’s always “Yep, we integrate with that and yes, we have the data for that.” So it’s a good value proposition for customers that are looking to connect those disparate silos and also ensure that they’ve got the common foundation to engage those audiences with relevance.

Hagen: I would imagine when you go into companies and there’s all these tools, the complexity of the project can be quite deep at times. By having that platform in that depth, it must position you differently in the marketplace. Would that be true?

Olcay: Absolutely. Organizational maturity, size… all of these are factors. When you look inside a small business, the challenges they have, aren’t too dissimilar to a larger business. It’s just at a different scale. When you move upmarket, you see a lot of customers that have already invested in best-of-breed tools like a Salesforce CRM. There’s a lot of gravitational pull around that. There’s a lot of data in that repository that people trust. But there are other complex silos of data also within those bigger organizations, and it’s the challenge of, “How do I bring all of those together? How do I unite that under a common foundation?”

On the lower end of the market, you just have more confusion around what is the best solution for my business that’s trying to get off the ground. Maybe we got a round of venture funding, we have aggressive growth targets to hit, and I need to make sure the decisions I make are really on point because I need to grow and penetrate the market. We see a lot of customers investigating different best-of-breed tools that will give them an edge over some of the more established players in the market. So again, it’s just different levels of maturity – different sides – but a lot of them have a common challenge. Everyone is trying to better understand their customer. Everyone is trying to reach them. Everyone is trying to stand out from the noise. We do hear a lot of, “Hey, I’m very unique.” But there are a lot of commonalities in the challenges that we see quite frankly. We have the data and the software to help solve some of that, even in some of the uncertain future that we’re seeing with privacy regulations and the cookieless world.

Hagen: As a closing question I’m going to ask you to do something that’s a little bit weird. We didn’t plan for this. Step outside of Dun & Bradstreet, and if you had to advise a customer who is about to look into your services or digital marketing, and you were to give them some advice – you’re counseling them, you’re not promoting Dun & Bradstreet – what are the things that companies need to do?

Olcay: Do your own research. We see it all the time, right? It’s baked in our messaging as well. We say, “buyers are enabled to do their self-research. They have self-guided journeys.” I would say talk to your network and your peers. Chances are a lot of these organizations – the people that make buying decisions – have a strong network. You’re not alone in this, so you should talk to your peers and see what they have invested in, what data they trust, what sources they trust. Get their opinion on it. But again, take it with a grain of salt. Do your own primary research as well. There are a lot of publications out there that have a point of view around what solutions do and what value they add. Read up on those publications.

And I would say also look at analysts firms. Take a look at the Gartners of the world, the Forresters of the world, and what are they saying about the space? What maturity stage is it in? What’s the promise? Is it growing? Are people adopting it? What are customers saying? Take a look at that. Also, when you’re vetting individual providers – you might be vetting Dun & Bradstreet, you might be vetting someone else – I would say take a look at their track record and what they have accomplished with other customers.

You don’t have to jump into the ocean. You can dip your toes in the water and test before you commit. That’s totally normal. We all do it, even in our personal lives. You don’t just buy a car on a whim, although some people buy cars online. I don’t know if I’m one of those people. But again, “try before you buy” is a good strategy, especially in this new, uncertain future that we’re seeing in the digital world. There are a lot of opportunities to test new technologies and new solutions.

You look at something like the cookie going away and you know everyone thinks the roof is going to fall off and the sky is falling. But Google’s latest announcement to delay that to the end of 2023 gives a lot of organizations time to prepare for that and test alternatives, because when that cookie goes away, it is going to severely limit advertising scale – to be able to reach a broader array of audiences – and you need to supplement that with alternative channels that don’t rely on cookies. A lot of those are in development right now, but there are opportunities to test that with a variety of firms such as Dun & Bradstreet and some others as well. I would say test, test, test, and don’t leave it for the last minute.

Originally, Google was going to remove cookies at the beginning of 2022. That’s six months away! I think a lot of people were excited about it, but we found that a lot of people were not even prepared. I think [for] a lot of people, it was a deep sigh of relief when Google announced [its delay]. My jaw dropped on the floor when I heard about it because it really was a seismic change just overnight. Now that you’ve got the luxury of time, don’t leave it for the last minute. Start investigating a lot of the solutions that will help you do audience targeting or programmatic advertising and retain some of that scale that we’re so accustomed to now with third-party cookies. You need to retain that and have ways to accommodate that when the cookie does go away.

Hagen: Great advice. Last question: What do you want people to know after listening to this? What’s the major nugget you want people to know about Dun & Bradstreet?

Olcay: 2: Good one to close out on. I would say Dun & Bradstreet has the data and software to help you reach the right audiences while helping you navigate an uncertain future. That would be the easy one-liner that I would want folks to walk away with. A lot of times customers don’t know that Dun & Bradstreet is in the digital marketing space. One of the benefits of having a grand legacy brand is that you’re recognized, but a lot of times you’re recognized for what you were versus what you are. Dun & Bradstreet has evolved a lot over the past few decades. We are at the forefront of the digital marketing industry by helping you deliver the software and the data to help you reach your audiences, even in this complex, uncertain future.

There are a couple things we can do for organizations. We can help you boost your first-party data. As third-party cookies go away, it’s really important for marketing and sales teams to tap into their first-party data. A big source of this is who’s coming to your website. We can, de-anonymize those visitors, map it back to a company identifier, and help you build up your first-party data asset so you can use that pool of audiences to actually retarget them when they leave your website – serve them ads when they move away – because first-party data are still safe. That not going anywhere. That’s one of the things we can help you with.

We can help you get that single source of truth that we’ve been talking about – stick together the DMP, the DSP, the ABM, the CRM, the MAP… I can keep going. The idea is if those systems don’t talk to one another and they’re not grounded in the same data, it’s just a bad decision waiting to happen. We can help you unify that data in a common core and help you activate against those audiences and make sure that your sales team, your operations team, your marketing team are all singing from the same sheet of music.

We can also help customers explore non-cookie-reliant targeting strategies. If you’re looking to do social media ads, connected TV ads, delivering ads on Hulu or some of these other platforms, we can help with that, and also work with emerging identity graphs out there, which are mapping to their own unique identifiers, like the LiveRamps of the world, the Trade Desks of the world. We’re taking more of an agnostic approach, and diversifying the way that we map our data, because at the end of the day, we don’t think it’s going to be one standard that rules them all in the future. There’s probably going to be multiple ways that you’re going to be able to reach your audiences, and we can help you navigate that uncertainty. We can help you test some of those approaches and just be better prepared. There’s no better plan than to prepare. That’s really what we help customers do and navigate that uncertainty.

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