Build Trust with Your Customers: An Exclusive Q&A with Mark Freeman of DuPont Fabros Technology

by Jenna Sindle

Mark Freeman, Senior Director of Marketing, DuPont Fabros Technology

Business-to-business marketers know that a clearly defined message and specific target audiences are essential. But what makes a prospect choose your product or service over a competitor’s? Trust.

Here, Mark Freeman, Senior Director of Marketing at DuPont Fabros Technology, shares his advice for establishing trust with your customer base.

Tell us a little about your background and your current role at DuPont Fabros Technology.

I have nearly 20 years of experience spanning different industries, from publishing to technology, marketing in both product and service environments, and targeting both B2B and B2G.

At DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT), I was hired to establish and build a corporate marketing function. Though the company has existed since 2007, it wasn’t until two years ago that a specific focus was placed on marketing. We now have a small team responsible for all facets of corporate and field marketing, from branding, positioning and messaging to PR, AR, go-to-market strategies and lead generation.

How do you craft a unique positioning in a segment perceived by some to be commodity (i.e. data centers)?

When I joined the company, DFT was in a state of transition. It was the perfect opportunity to dive in and work with various stakeholders to determine what our positioning was going to be and how we would build a platform of differentiation.

Discussions were had with a wide variety of individuals: employees and executives from all internal departments, customers, partners (brokers), industry analysts and lost prospects. It became clear our positioning would be one of a premium nature. We have a sophisticated, high quality product and the market agreed.

Our strategy was to create messaging in the customer’s voice based on the multitude of conversations and interviews that had taken place. Many of our competitors were leading with technical or product messaging. Our goal was to begin by engaging in a dialogue with a prospect to better understand his or her needs before immediately jumping into how great our product is.

We also heard repeatedly from our interviews a consistent theme – trust. Customers come to DFT because they rely on our data centers and operations team for 100% uptime. Some of the world’s biggest technology brands, from Facebook to Microsoft, have applications running in our facilities. These customers trust us with their IT infrastructure.

This concept of trust came directly from the voice of the customer, and the outcome was messaging centered around “Data Centers Powered by Trust.” This is somewhat of an emotional appeal vs. technical and product-related, but at the end of the day, regardless of what business you’re in, what vertical you’re selling to or whether you’re selling B2B, B2G or B2C, people are people and want to engage with others they like and trust.

How do you measure success with your programs? How did you define your success metrics?

Since the marketing function at DFT is fairly new, we don’t have a lot of historical data for decision-making. That being said, all of our marketing programs have associated KPIs so we can identify the impact on the business. Digital and lead generation programs are fairly straight-forward to measure, from cost/eyeballs to cost/click, cost/lead, cost/opportunity, cost/sale, lifetime value of a customer, etc.

Other programs may not have a direct tie to revenue. For those programs, we agree on the objective and how it will be measured. For example, we recently engaged with a third-party research firm on a brand awareness study. We wanted to establish a benchmark for the level of aided and unaided brand awareness for DFT and our competitors. This study will be an ongoing measure to determine the effectiveness of our overall marketing strategy.

On the PR side, we may have a goal for coverage or placement, but all coverage is not created equal. We’ll have different weightings based on readership, etc. We’re also looking at share of voice and engagement on social channels.

How do you use multi-channel marketing to tell an engaging story?

At the foundation of solid marketing is persuasive communication and good story telling. I don’t recall a time when one marketing channel ever got the job done. To me, segmentation and multi-channel marketing go hand-in-hand. You have to identify your target segments and then determine where they live, work and play.

For B2B and B2G, oftentimes several individuals with different agendas are involved in the buying process. You may have three or four (or more) titles to target in a given industry. Each of those individuals likely needs a different message, communication or story . . . and it needs to be told in its own unique medium.

For example, if I’m marketing to a CFO, I may try to reach her through a publication like Fortune magazine with a message focused on ROI. That is much different than trying to reach an individual contributor on an operations team who is likely to have influence on the buying decision (though not the one to sign the check). All of these individuals are important, and each requires its own strategy for the message, story or content, the communications channel and the frequency.