SAP’s CMO: Every Company Is A Technology Company

As the marketing chief at a sprawling enterprise software company, SAP CMO Maggie Chan Jones has unique insight into marketer pain points. At the top of the list: fragmentation.

“There are thousands of marketing technology providers across different marketing functions,” Jones said. “One of the biggest headaches a marketer has is trying to sell one customer story across so many different systems that may or may not be talking to each other.”

Cross-channel communication is a “very tall order” for a CMO and, increasingly, the chief information officer, she said. The two roles are growing closer, both out of necessity and as part of a natural evolution within the C-suite.

“Multiple people in an organization influence a technology decision-making process and purchase, from finance to sales and marketing to human resources,” Jones said. “Today, everything touches technology, and in a way, that makes every company a technology company.”

AdExchanger caught up with Jones.

AdExchanger: Does SAP use its own marketing and advertising technology?

JONES: SAP runs SAP. We use our Hybris software together with HANA, which is our data platform, to help us do a better job with customer segmentation and as part of our marketing automation capabilities.

Being in a technology company, I also have the luxury of being able to go behind the scenes and spend a lot of time with our development colleagues to see where the technology is going.

What new responsibilities do CMOs have to take on as the job gets more technical?

Today, more than ever, marketers have data at their fingertips coming from the digital journey of their customers, but it’s not just about gathering the data. You need to understand what the data is telling you, what insights you can get from it. And then you need to take action by running pilots to get a better understanding of what experience truly resonates with the customer.

Marketers need to be part scientist, part artist. When I talk to CMOs across different industries, they’re all thinking about how to use data to make decisions, but you can’t forget about the storytelling piece. The word I always go back to is “experience.”

SAP launched a campaign last year centered on the notion of “live business.” What does it mean to run a live business?

Being a live business means using insights in the moment to make decisions right then and there.

It’s a company like Brooks Brothers using our SuccessFactors software to help them identify employees to recognize for their great customer service in a store. It’s ItaliaRail in Italy using IoT and our sensor-based technologies to predict if a component will need maintenance. Imagine if the air conditioning breaks in a train car and it’s 90 degrees outside – that’s going to have a dramatic impact on the customer experience. And it’s the NHL using Facebook and SAP’s data platform to identify and target the hockey fans who are most inclined to connect with the brand.

Is there still a divide in the C-suite between marketers and the technology folks?

We’ve been talking about this problem for a while. When I talk to customers, the best conversations are the ones in which the CMO and the CIO are together because they can be on the same page about the customer journey and what the experiences are that they want to create, so that the business and technology leaders can collaborate.

You talk to a lot of advertisers. What are the primary challenges you hear them talking about now?

They want one view of their customer, they need a clean, easy-to-use data platform and they need modernized processes.

Another headache they have is the need to drive growth. We did a study about 18 months ago in which we found that 92% of CMOs pointed to growth as part of their mandate. But there are many pieces to the growth puzzle: sales and marketing alignment, content marketing, data-driven decision-making, storytelling.

Marketing is not one size fits all. Some companies are great at storytelling, but they may need more help being persuasive in digital, while others are smart about digital, but they have trouble telling their story.

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