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SAP's CMO: 10 Ways To Architect A Digital, Social Business

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I recently had the opportunity to interview one of the most social CMOs in the world, Jonathan Becher, the Chief Marketing Officer of SAP, arguably one of the most social enterprises in the world. As CMO, Becher used to sum up his role as "brand to demand", but since he has recently been given the additional title of Chief Communications Officer he is changing the definition of his role to "voice to choice".

When we think about "voice" we are programmed to think about the customer's voice, something that has become more and more real and relevant thanks to social media. There is another voice that we must develop and nurture and that is the voice of the company and its employees. Becher tells us he is not so sure that a single voice from the company is the way to go anymore. He feels that because employees are constantly interacting with people that every employee should have a voice. The question then becomes: How do you harness all the voices into one coherent voice to customers? In an effort to get everyone at SAP to have a voice and tell their story, Becher created the CERN model. The CERN model is a framework for employees to tell their Customer, Employee, Resource or Network story in a way that will ensure that each story, while not identical, is consistent.

Becher says that SAP is not a B2B company, which implies they sell solely to one or two people in the enterprise, but increasingly it is people buying software, people-to-people. A recent Harvard Business Review post takes it even a step further advising CIOs and CMOs that there is no more B2B; it's now P2P (People-to-People). If that's true, and I believe it is, then Becher is onto something here with his idea that each employee should have a voice.

Here's a top ten list for what today's social CMO should be doing based on our talk with Becher:

  1. Think Impact and Influence over "Ego-metrics" - With large companies like IBM claiming to have 40,000 bloggers active in 70,000 communities, it is clear that enterprises recognize the importance of scaling the voice of their brand. Becher tells us that he too used to be into publishing big numbers, but now he realizes that he would rather have 1,000 people making a big impact than have 65,000 people that are tweeting and just listening to each other. "That's not amplification, that is just talking to each other and that is what I don't want," he says.
  2. Determine the right measure of influence - Becher admits that a few years he ago thought that he needed to make big corporate events even bigger. But when it became physically impossible to grow an event to over 20,000 people he realized that the size of the event was the wrong measurement of influence. Today, the measurement of influence is: Were the right people there to maximize his business objective to sell more software? What percentage of the pipeline showed up and after they left where did they move down the funnel toward being more likely to buy?
  3. Don't forget your position - One of the challenges in enterprise software, is that vendors listen to each other and then end up repeating the same messages until finally all software vendors start sounding alike. If you're not careful before you know it, no one vendor is distinguishable from anyone else. Becher combats this challenge with the philosophy that part of the heart of marketing communications is positioning and messaging. He tells us, "Position is what angle you want to take and message is how you deliver that single position to the audience you want to reach. Messages start sounding the same when you forget what your position is." Becher's rule of thumb for determining if you have a good message: If any other vendor can say the exact same thing, then it's not a good message. At Enterasys, we employ the logo test. We ask ourselves, if we were to remove our logo from any of our marketing vehicles, would a customer be able to distinguish it as being ours?
  4. Be deliberately digital - In a recent Harvard Business review post, CMOs: Build Digital Relationships or Die, we are told that in terms of maintaining and cultivating customer relationships you need to be thinking digital. Becher says that unless you embed digital into everything "digital is dead". Like social, digital is just another way to accomplish your business goals. His deliberate approach to digital is to ask the following questions: When can we be digital first, when can we be digital only and when do we need to be digital to be on top? The category that digital falls into becomes the tactic to use digital. Becher has a group that handles digital, social and communities. They like to think about a digital as a bull's eye. "The center is our owned properties (company website), the next circle is our owned but not controlled communities, the outside circle is everything else (Facebook, LinkedIn, bloggers). Our goal is to bring people from those other communities into ours," explained Becher.
  5. Democratize Business Intelligence - While SAP does have about 15 "data scientists", Becher's ultimate goal is to enable the rest of the marketing organization and the rest of the company to help them make decisions on their own. He uses a CMO-level dashboard that allows him to see summary information and drill down information for a variety of data points. Surprisingly, he only has a couple of data scientists that are just focused on social analytics, since they automate this with a software sentiment tool. However, he does have about a dozen people embedded in the marketing organization that are working on social analytics.
  6. Communicate with IT - A now famous January 2012 Gartner report finds that by 2017 marketing people will spend more money on technology than IT and we have all been hearing a lot about the blurred lines of the CIO and CMO. In-line with Gartner's findings, Becher says that his marketing budget already does include a substantial amount for technology. He says that the biggest challenge is for the business and consumer to be able to describe their need in a way that will allow IT to decide if they need to build or buy. To help with this process, he pleads the case for each business unit to have a Business Information Officer (BIO). This role is responsible for translating needs between marketing and IT and driving the requirements, but not the implementation.
  7. Create a Social Business - Becher says at SAP they think of social primarily in four ways: Social marketing, social development, social support and social selling. Sentiment is done for each of the four categories. For example, sentiment for support gets auto -fueled into their trouble ticket system. Sentiment for social development is a more unusual one Becher explains, "At SAP Idea Place we are doing the equivalent of crowd sourcing for features and functions and products to be developed. In just 18 months we have had about 10,000 ideas from customers, partners and professionals and already 600 of them have been delivered into product." What better evidence of listening, engaging and responding to customers? The co-creation of value that comes from having a community that generates ideas and solves the problem is the definition of social business.
  8. Build programs from the audience in - At SAP there is a program for everyone. Becher's philosophy is to have this orchestration of stories (collected by the CERN model), and to have a group responsible for telling this story and listening to the feedback on the story, by audience. He believes in the power of communities and the power of audience marketing communications. He says it starts with the people you want to talk with and then designing a program based on their needs. "Before we take a tactic and push it out to an audience, we say let's start the other way around, let's build it from the audience in rather than from our products and services out," says Becher.
  9. Talk their language - Becher always uses the language that each specific audience uses, as opposed to using their SAP marketing language. He refers to a line of "business user" products they have that became a large fraction of their revenue, even though it came to surface that the product name did not resonate with customers. After doing some research they renamed the product to better identify with their audience.
  10. Be social to listen, not to talk - When Becher worked for a small start-up, prior to coming to SAP, he started using social to figure out how to get his story out in an economic way. He quickly found Twitter to be the "ultimate listening platform", enabling his sales reps to go into first sales calls knowing more about the issues happening at that company and what they needed then the people in the room, and come out as trusted advisors. Today, Becher is using his 140-character sound bites to constantly learn and keep pace with the ever-changing world around him and says, "If we think that what got us to here today is going to get us to where we need to go, we are fooling ourselves, so to me, the more I listen (and engage when I can) the better. If you think of social as a bullhorn shouting into the wilderness, you have it all wrong, flip the bull horn around and listen, it is the ultimate listening platform."

As we concluded our conversation Becher's final words of advice for all of marketers and communications people ring true: "If you focus on what your end customers want everything else takes care of itself."

You can watch the full interview with Jonathan Becher here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 4PM EDT as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.

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