Digital Marketing

Break Free B2B Marketing: Sean Crowley of Dun & Bradstreet on Cracking the Alignment Code

Break Free B2B Sean Crowley Image

Break Free B2B Sean Crowley Image

“Integrated marketing” is an ideal with clear appeal, but one that is often difficult to actualize in practice. Developing a truly integrated strategy — in which marketing functions in lockstep with sales, product, and other departments — is immensely challenging, especially within large and complex organizations.

It’s not necessarily for a lack of trying, or a lack of good intentions from all involved. These roles simply operate and think differently from one another. Friction and disconnects are inherent. Silos are pervasive.

As the Leader of Integrated Marketing for Sales and Marketing Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet, Sean Crowley tackles these barriers head-on each day. Eager to hear his philosophies on bridging these crucial gaps, and to learn what’s working at D&B, TopRank Marketing’s Joshua Nite joined Sean for a chat during B2B Marketing Exchange in February.

“When you look at being able to bring people together, it’s about creating a common message, a common purpose, and a common effort with everything that you do and how you go to market,” Sean says. “Because it does take a coordinated effort. And if teams operate in silos, you lose the combined value of the efforts that they make.”

“Alignment takes a coordinated effort. If teams operate in silos, you lose the combined value of the efforts that they make.” @seantcrowley on #BreakFreeB2B #SalesMarketingAlignment Click To Tweet

During the conversation, Sean explored many of the practical, nitty-gritty elements of alignment, including centralization of data, joint representation in customer meetings, and rethinking operational structures. He also cited a famous ocean buoy near Hawaii as a metaphor to make alignment more granular and manageable.

Read on to find that connection explained, along with other highlights and the full interview for your viewing or listening pleasure.

Break Free B2B Interview with Sean Crowley

If you’re interested in checking out a particular portion of the discussion, you can find a quick general outline below, as well as a few excerpts that stood out to us.

  • 0:45 – Cracking the code of integrated marketing
  • 1:45 – Top obstacles for sales and marketing alignment
  • 3:15 – Bringing data into product development
  • 4:30 – Which data streams best inform customer insight?
  • 8:15 – Refining data and putting it into action
  • 9:00 – Empowering people to get the most out of data
  • 10:30 – Keeping data clean and consistent
  • 11:30 – Where to start with creating alignment?
  • 13:00 – The value of marketers joining sales meetings
  • 14:45 – How to structure operationally for alignment?
  • 17:00 – Keeping marketing involved throughout the customer journey
  • 19:15 – What should marketing look like in five to 10 years?
  • 22:30 – How can marketers break free?

Joshua: We talk a lot here about ‘don’t try and boil the ocean’ but it seems like this technology can help us figure out which particular bucket of the ocean we should be picking up and boiling, right?

Sean: So it’s funny you mentioned boiling the ocean. What are those signals in that ocean? I’m a skier, so I like to ski. There’s a buoy off the coast of Hawaii — Buoy 51101 — that the skiers know. It started off as, surfers used it to identify surf swells so they knew when big waves were coming, but then the skiers actually started to draw a correlation between when they saw the buoy pop, two weeks later there was a big storm in Utah. And it’s actually proven out 70 to 80% of the time to be actually pretty accurate.

So it’s using this intelligence, using technology, and artificial intelligence to identify those buoy pops and create relevancy around that, to actually identify and know how to act on that data. A buoy popping doesn’t cause, but is an indicator, of a storm in Utah.

Joshua: So if you’re, say, a marketing leader who wants to reach out to sales, wants to get that alignment, maybe even wants to start uniting under the same umbrella, where do you start?

Sean: For me, it starts at the leadership level. You really need to reach across the aisle and have a common objective, which we all do but it’s hard to sometimes break through that sales and marketing dichotomy at times, in terms of: marketers will say sales never follows up on the leads that we send them, and sales will say marketing doesn’t send us good enough leads.

I think it would be helpful for us to put ourselves in one another’s shoes. One thing that I say to people on my team is, we have an inside sales organization that’s following up on the leads that we generate — let’s spend a half a day on the phone following up with the leads and actually understand the challenges that those salespeople have day in and day out in their job and also hearing from the customers or prospects what their challenges are. If that’s not available, I would say reach out to some sellers and say, “Hey can I join you on a couple of sales calls? I really want to understand how you position our product, how you actually are providing value to the client and to hear what they have to say.” That’s a really good way to establish credibility and to say, I’m here to work with you to solve for our common objectives.

“Reach out to some sellers and say, ‘Hey can I join you on a couple of sales calls?’ That’s a good way to establish credibility and say, I’m here to work with you.” @seantcrowley on #BreakFreeB2B #SalesMarketingAlignment Click To Tweet

Joshua: When we’re talking about alignment, do you feel there is more value in keeping sales and marketing as distinct disciplines in teams, or do you see a tiger team format working, or even a more broad blending of skill sets together? What do you think is the way to go forward?

Sean: Actually Dun & Bradstreet sales and marketing report into the same leader right now, our Chief Commercial Officer. We report both up into the same leader and from that perspective, it’s organizationally forcing that alignment because we felt obviously that it wasn’t as tight as we would like it to be.

We actually have a tiger team. I lead a tiger team of marketers within the sales and marketing line of business because the integrated marketing role sits at that nexus of sales, product, content marketing, demand generation, social media and all of those things coming together. So when we’re releasing and launching campaigns, we want to make sure that we’re bringing in the perspectives and the expertise of each of those functional areas so that they’re well represented, that they’re well integrated, and then when we go to market, we can execute in an omni-channel environment. You know, omni-channel is another big trend that we’re seeing these days, and I think back to that live business identity that I was talking about earlier to ensure that you have consistency of messaging to a target persona and target audience, regardless of what channel they’re choosing to interact with you on. The balance of power of information has shifted from the vendors to the consumers, to the buyers, and they can now go and search for information much more readily — much more freely — and they want that choice of how and when they choose to interact with you.

So you need to make sure that your email campaign and the messaging there is aligned to the programmatic ads that you’re putting out there in media, and that is aligned to the social media that you’re doing and to the talk tracks that you’re handing off to your sales team. So it takes a coordinated approach, and we felt that the tiger team is a valuable way for us to manage that complexity, to create alignments, and to ensure that as we go to market, we’re doing it as a team.

“It takes a coordinated approach, so we felt that the tiger team is a valuable way for us to manage that complexity, to create alignments, and to ensure that as we go to market, we’re doing it as a team.” @seantcrowley on #BreakFreeB2B Click To Tweet

Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few interviews to whet your appetite: