CMO Close-Up with Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP

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Jonathan Becher was formally named SAP's CMO in August after serving in the role on an interim basis for four months. He succeeded Martin Homlish, who left to become CMO of Hewlett-Packard Co. in April. Becher had been exec VP-marketing for SAP since the business software giant acquired Pilot Software, where he had been president and CEO-CMO, in 2007. At SAP, he had overseen product marketing, channel marketing and field marketing. In his new role, he's also in charge of branding, advertising, marketing communications and online. CMO Close-Up: What do you see as your primary responsibility? Jonathan Becher: The first thing that comes to mind is a dramatic accelerator of revenue. I'm a business guy first, and I think of marketing as a business. Virtually everything we do, we ask, “How is this going to help sell more or how is this going to deliver more revenue in the short term?” The second piece is what I'll call the "steward of the brand' (by the way, which also helps accelerate revenue long term). In particular on that, it's [to] amplify the brand. It's [to] bring it to places that it's not been before. Stretch it in ways that it's not been stretched. Those are the two primary responsibilities. The third one—and it may be less expected but it's increasingly become part of my job—is help show how SAP has an impact on the world, not just on business. It's the softer side of the company. CMO Close-Up: How are you showing the softer side of the company? Becher: Part of it is we think about what we do not from a b-to-b or a b-to-c perspective—we actually internally talk about people-to-people: p-to-p—because [marketing] is all about people telling stories to other people. And I'm actually eliciting all 54,000 employees to be brand ambassadors and to change the way they tell the story of what SAP does. Because the mentality shift is it's not about the users of our software, it's about human beings who have their own stories, their own problems, things they want to do. So we're changing a lot of the stories we do tell in order to recognize that. I'll give you an example. One of things you say is, “You may or may not know that SAP's customers produce more than 70% of the world's chocolate.” That's a fun way of describing the value of SAP. Or if chocolate is not your vice, our customers produce more than 72% of the world's beer. If you're more of an exercise person, we can say that more than 85% of the world's athletic footwear companies run SAP; you run to get rid of the beer and chocolate. By changing the way you tell the story, you connect at a more human level and recognize that SAP is doing things not just to help businesses run better but actually to help the world run better. CMO Close-Up: “Adidas runs SAP.” SAP has been running variations of that ad for a decade. Do you plan to continue that messaging or move on to something new? Becher: Even though you asked me an “or” question, I think the answer is “yes.” It still does encapsulate the brand, but we will make a little bit of a change, an extension. That is the heart of what we really do, the heart of the value proposition that SAP brings to customers. We help them do what they already do even better. That has taken us a long way. What's happening now is we have a bunch of new solutions that are in the market—primarily around big data, mobility and the cloud—where frankly we're less well-known. Analytics, which is part of big data, is by far the fastest growing part of our portfolio. The second piece is historically we've been primarily a direct sales company. Increasingly, we're going through additional routes to market. We're selling through distributors, through channel partners. In those channels, marketing has an even bigger role to play, but the overall brand “run better” has to extend from the corporate suite, where we're really well-known, down to individual lines of business. CMO Close-Up: How important is content marketing for SAP? Becher: The short answer is very. But there's what I might call a fundamental change in how content marketing is working. In the so-called “good old days,” the philosophy was: How do I control the message? Part of what's happened is social media has broken down the barrier between those that give the message and those who perceive it. We're all writers now; therefore it's not just about controlling the message. In fact, you rarely control it. It's more about orchestrating the message and getting it adopted. In many cases, the content doesn't come from us, SAP, but it comes from the customer or a partner. A simple example: Some of the most compelling content about what we do comes from the SAP Community Network. That's our platform that allows our customers and partners to blog and comment. There are something like 2.8 million members on that site now, and they go in and have discussions, often without us being involved whatsoever, about the value, the attributes of a product, how to install it, how it works, how to change it for a particular industry that we may not be very prevalent in. Is that content marketing? Yes. Is that us doing all the heavy lifting? No, we're just moderating a bunch of that. Our standard website is Everything on is published by us. I can imagine a future where maybe we publish less than 50% of the content. The rest of the content [would come] from the greater community.
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