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Katie Bullard Talks Data Quality, ABM, & Triathlons

Technically Speaking: An Interview with Katie Bullard, DiscoverOrg's Chief Growth Officer

May 17, 2017 / HG Data Marketing

DiscoverOrg has been a pioneer in the sales and marketing intelligence software industry since 2007. The DiscoverOrg platform improves the performance of all prospecting efforts by providing the company, contact, and buying context needed to sell and market more effectively. DiscoverOrg helps companies across all verticals and development stages reduce time-to-direct connection, fill their pipelines, and improve their bottom lines. To find out more about the company and how it uses HG Data Technographics, we spoke with Chief Growth Officer Katie Bullard for an update.

There are a number of sales intelligence companies – what sets DiscoverOrg apart and has helped in its tremendous growth over the past 10 years?

Our founder, Henry Schuck, has said the original vision behind DiscoverOrg was based on his recognition that people were spending good money on bad sales intelligence data, and he didn’t think that should be acceptable. Companies were buying inaccurate, incomplete, and out-of-date data to make key decisions about who to sell to and who to market to – wasting their organization’s time and money. The fundamental attribute that makes DiscoverOrg successful is the accuracy of our data. We contractually agree with our customers to deliver 95 percent accurate data, which is unheard of. Our customers also value the depth of our data, which includes direct dials, verified emails, org charts, buying triggers, etc. . . . versus just a name, email, or phone number. Sales and marketing organizations typically have to go to multiple sales intelligence sources to access the comprehensive data that we provide.

Let’s talk about the 95% accuracy – how does DiscoverOrg maintain that level of accuracy when contact data is changing all the time?

The reason that we can provide the most accurate data available is because we have a team of 250 researchers with us here in the office that are constantly validating and verifying the data in our system. Most data providers scrape stuff off the web and then use predictive intelligence or machine learning to make sense of the data.  However, if you want your data to have the degree of accuracy we promise our customers, you need real humans to be involved in the verification process. Our team is focused on this mission. Every day, our researchers are calling, emailing, and following up on the information we collect. If the team finds a data point online, they validate it with someone at the company by phone or e-mail before it ever gets pushed to our platform.

On one of your recent Whiteboard Wednesday videos, you talk about getting started with account- based marketing. Do you recommend that lead-based marketing efforts should stop in favor of account based marketing?

There’s a misconception that you have to do one or the other. I think the most successful organizations do both. I’m not a proponent for ignoring inbound lead generation. In fact, more than half of our revenue at DiscoverOrg comes from inbound leads. However, that also means that the remainder of our revenue comes from account-based, outbound sales and marketing activities.

When companies have a balance between the two approaches, they ultimately realize the best result as it helps them maximize their revenue opportunities. But before you can embark on this more balanced approach, you need to figure out how to allocate your resources so that you can be successful at both.

At DiscoverOrg, we have two separate SDR teams that are dedicated specifically to inbound lead follow up or outbound ABM programs. This allows the teams to specialize and drive results for both lead-based and account-based activities. We’re also big proponents of really understanding your ideal customer profile, finding the accounts that fit that customer profile, and knowing when is the right time to engage and then build out really robust account plans around all of that. And we use DiscoverOrg ourselves to make this happen!

How does access to HG Data technographics bring value to your customers when integrated into DiscoverOrg?

DiscoverOrg customers can access HG Data’s tremendous technology database from directly within our platform, and we hear time and time again that understanding technographics is one of most important components in developing a successful ideal customer profile.

For example, for DiscoverOrg, when we’re looking at our list of top accounts, we know that companies that use Salesforce.com are a great fit for us because we have a seamless integration through our native application with their service. HG Data helps us identify the companies who use Salesforce.com so that we know exactly who to target with our outreach.

We’ve heard that our customers also use HG Data Technographics for other targeted technology campaigns – like competitive takeaway campaigns – and we often hear that personalized campaigns based on a specific technology have the best response rates of any prospecting activities they’ve ever done.

You were recently promoted from CMO to Chief Growth Officer – congratulations! Can you talk a little bit about the transition to the new role and some of the challenges you face as CGO?

As Chief Growth Officer, I’m responsible for product management, marketing, and managing partnerships – fundamentally, I’m focused on understanding the market challenges we’re trying to solve, and then delivering and marketing the products and partnerships that solve those problems. As Chief Growth Officer, my responsibility is to ensure that market insights drive the decision-making in our product and market strategy so that we’re always focused on bringing profitable solutions to the market that people value.

One of the challenges of anyone in this industry is the pace of change in sales and marketing technology. Because things move so fast, we’re rarely developing roadmaps more than 12 months out. We approach our growth strategy holistically: once a year, the DiscoverOrg leadership team gets together and we do a deep analysis of our different growth vectors and prioritize our short-, medium-, and long-term goals. This gives us guidance for the year, but things can still change pretty quickly; it is not uncommon that a product we anticipated to build 12 months out is brought in faster and built in 3 months instead because we recognize a more immediate need. For companies to survive in this industry, they need to be nimble like that.

I am always thinking about what the next growth opportunity is for us. There are so many different avenues to go down – new datasets, new platform functionality, new channels, new geographies – so the biggest challenge (which isn’t specific to just DiscoverOrg, of course) is prioritizing where to focus resources based on what is going to drive the most demand. It is always tricky to negotiate the priorities, but at the same time we know that we can only be successful if we work together toward a common purpose and can operate together in this fast-paced environment.

2017 marks the 10th anniversary since DiscoverOrg was founded – what’s the biggest change in sales intelligence since the company was founded? What’s stayed the same?

The industry is so different now! In 2008, I worked for one of the legacy market leaders in sales intelligence. When I think about the data they offered, which was mostly account or company intelligence, there was very little focus on the contact and contextual buying intelligence we have access to today. The availability of data now is so vastly different and there’s such an expansion of what sales intelligence means. Even just over the last one to two years, the industry has changed. We’re starting to see more use of predictive intelligence – to determine not just that this company or person is a good fit for me – but that they are a good fit for me right now. The advances in how we’re able to gather data is so far above anything we had 10 years ago. And, of course, 10 years ago, you couldn’t get technology installation information either – certainly not at the level that HG Data provides.

On a side note, you’re a triathlete – how do you apply the lessons from your triathlon experience to your corporate experience?

I want to write an entire blog about this! But until then, I’ve narrowed the lessons down to three. First, when I started doing triathlons, I was a runner, but I had never really been a cyclist or swimmer in the competitive sense. Through the process, I discovered that I’m never going to be the best cyclist out there – in fact, I typically just hope I’m not last in that leg! But, the key takeaway I discovered fairly quickly is that it is ok to not be the best at everything – you have to know and play to your strengths. A lot of businesses fail when they try to be all things to everyone.

Second, in every race I ever done – almost 30 now – at some point, I want to stop. Maybe it’s a muscle cramp, flat tire, or a punch to the face during the swim – every race brings some challenge that makes me think about stopping. But every single time I feel this, I have to block out that thought and put it to the back of my mind. Then I take a deep breath and keep going and I can always manage through it. In business, there’s going to be some point that you think you can’t succeed. I see this happen a lot when people move to a new role or new industry or new company and they fear the unknown. Every one of us feels that way at some point – no matter how long we’ve been working, or what roles we’ve been in. But, in fact, we all are good enough – you just have to take a deep breath and focus.

And thirdly, any time I do a race, I feel like my biggest competitor is myself – especially since I’m rarely going to win the race. Winning for me is just trying to be better than I was the last time. And that can come in various forms, such as lowering my overall race time, having a better swim leg, figuring out how to clip into my pedals, or having faster transitions. While winning is of course the ultimate goal in business, what I try to instill in my team is to keep making progress no matter what you’re doing. If we can get incrementally better on something every day, we’ll keep moving the company forward and growing.

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