Rishi Dave (right) on stage being interviewed at a business technology conference. Dave, chief marketing officer of Dun & Bradstreet, caught up with CMSWire to discuss the role of marketing and technology.
Rishi Dave (right) on stage speaking at a business technology conference. Dave, chief marketing officer of Dun & Bradstreet, caught up with CMSWire to discuss marketing and technology.

Marketers have long been known for their creative, design-oriented branding efforts that rely on visual concepts, color-scheming, market insight and communication strategies. It is artistry. Those traits still matter today, but clearly marketers have acquired the need for technological prowess in marketing. The goal? Marry technology with art.

Marketers can now because of technology take what once was art and blend that with hard science, according to a piece on marketing technologists by CIO.com. Scott Brinker's research on chiefmartech.com confirms this. Most organizations (50.3 percent), Brinker found in his 2017 marketing technology report, see marketing as an equal art-science blend rather than one over the other. He coined the role of "chief marketing technologist," or those who combine technology and marketing in their roles.

"Marketing now must be well versed in customer data, analytics, mobile, social and marketing automation tools, and that requires new type of executive," according to CIO.com contributor Marco Antonio Cavallo. 

Art and Science Intersection

Rishi Dave is one of the marketers that represent this science-art blend. Dave is the chief marketing officer at Dun & Bradstreet, and he holds degrees in chemical engineering and economics with honors from Stanford University and an MBA in marketing from the Wharton School. 

What's it like to sit the center of the intersection between art and science? CMSWire caught up with Dave to discuss his role at Dun & Bradstreet and his views on the intersection of marketing and technology. 

Rishi Dave: Data-Driven Marketing the 'Norm'

Headshot of Rishi Dave, chief marketing officer of Dun & Bradstreet, who talked about the role of a chief marketing technologist.
Rishi Dave

CMSWire: What led you to your pursuit of a chemical engineering degree focus? 

Dave: I have always loved chemistry, and I find chemical engineering to be a fascinating combination of chemistry, math, analytics and creativity. 

CMSWire: What was the focus of your career roles before you made the switch into marketing? 

Dave: Early in my career, I focused on analytics, modeling and strategy and then evolved into sales/business development before landing in marketing. I started my career as a strategy analyst where I was building huge Excel charts that modeled complex business decisions to help executives understand how each potential decision could affect the larger business. I also held several sales and business development positions where I helped build complex partnerships with other organizations.

CMSWire: What was your view of marketing when you were NOT in marketing? 

Dave: I viewed marketing and advertising as one in the same. Basically, I thought marketing was a squishy brand thing where a bunch of people create ads and not much else.

CMSWire: Why did you make the switch to marketing? 

Dave: I wasn’t proactively looking to make a switch and more so fell into the opportunity. At Dell, I was working in strategy when I was asked to lead the company’s web analytics effort. At that time, Dell was implementing an analytics tool and learning how to leverage it to drive the business. Eventually, I was asked to run digital marketing for part of the B2B business. Back then, no one believed that digital mattered in B2B like it did in consumer ecommerce. Leveraging my love of math and experience in web analytics, I was able to build and lead a team that proved the case for digital in B2B marketing and became a strong driver of pipeline for the entire line of B2B businesses.

CMSWire: What were the challenges when you first got into marketing vs. now? 

Dave: At first, our struggle was to prove that marketing was driving sales in B2B. It seems simple now, but that was the first step. The scope and organizational expectations of marketing have increased drastically since then. Today's marketers are tasked with scaling companies from top to bottom, by working at all levels of the funnel and owning so many aspects of the revenue cycle including brand, customer experience, sales enablement, digital, content and more.

CMSWire: Do you think CMOs like yourself — and other marketers with engineering/technical backgrounds — have a competitive edge over those marketers who don't possess the technical chops? 

Dave: Absolutely. As data-driven marketing becomes the norm, being comfortable with math and understanding how to approach complex problems with data and creativity helps me provide a different perspective, from the mindset of an engineer.

CMSWire: Do you think a technical background is a must for today's marketers? 

Dave: It’s not a must, but learning how to work and be comfortable with data and analytics is becoming critical. Any marketer that comes from a technical background also needs to learn how to leverage creativity, too.

CMSWire: What do engineers/IT want from marketing today? 

Dave: A two-way partnership, along with strong data management and governance.

CMSWire: And what does marketing want today from engineering/IT? 

Dave: The same thing.

CMSWire: The single biggest thing to understand for marketing in a digital world is ... and why?

Dave: There is a low cost of failure. It is best to have a strong testing plan where experiments are continually run, so the ones that work best can be scaled. If a marketer only allocates budget to what they know works, they're not facilitating long-term, sustainable growth.

CMSWire: A big theme from MarTech Boston this year was how customer experience is a cross-organizational effort. How do you see the importance of internal processes/employee experience as it relates to marketing, and how does Dun & Bradstreet approach this? 

Dave: We see brand and culture as one thing, which means your people are your brand. When I joined Dun & Bradstreet, one of the first things we implemented were tiger teams, or cross-functional marketing units created around a specific persona. Previously, these job functions — content, creative, analytics, etc. — were siloed. By creating an environment where a group of specialists can work together seamlessly around a common goal, the customer actually ends up getting a more consistent and integrated experience.