Creating a Culture of Customer-Centricity: SAP's Chief Digital Marketing Officer Mika Yamamoto on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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Mika Yamamoto wouldn’t stop talking at work about how enterprise software giant SAP‘s small-to-midsize business division needed to start aligning all of the company’s technology solutions to enhance customer experience across the board.

She talked about digital transformation and customer-centricity. She talked about the importance of having a human touch while taking advantage of all the insight that technology gives brands into the needs of their customers. Before long, executives at SAP started to talk about digital transformation, too—and that Mika should be the one to lead the charge.

“I was in the small-to-midsize business space, and in order to reach that space at scale efficiently and profitably, you’ve got to use digital,” said Mika. “There’s no way that you can target that market—for which there’s millions of entities worldwide—in any other way, so I thought, ‘If we’re really serious about this, I need to go around and ask all the board members of SAP…to invest in the technology and competencies and processes and KPIs required to take us digital to see the market share that we wanted to see.”

I invited Mika to Marketing Smarts to discuss her new role as SAP’s first chief digital marketing officer, and the ways she’s going about altering SAP’s customer experience as it relates to digital to “make sure that [SAP] can continue to surprise and delight customers.”

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:


Prioritize your technology projects based on customer preferences and behavior (10:52): “It’s important to recognize what customers are looking for and what they want. Turning on a bunch of technology can overwhelm an enterprise…and, frankly, can overwhelm a customer with too many touchpoints…. Getting to ‘just right’ in terms of a context-sensitive and customer-needs-sensitive type [of] environment where we’re communicating in a very personalized way with our customers is the ultimate goal.

“We’ve looked at opportunities that exist in search engine marketing to be relevant in search results (paid search), and that’s something you can turn on pretty immediately. Then we’ve looked at how we’re touching base with our customers now (whether they’re in the sales funnel, whether they’re existing customers): How would they want to hear from us? And prioritizing where were are compared to pour competitors, where we are compared to other world-class companies out there, then focusing on places where we think it would matter most to our customers. Those would be tier-one areas.”

Nurture your customers, but not too much (12:54): “[We focus on] understanding the customer journey and understanding where, how, and which channels are most effective for reaching out. And then nurturing them, but not too much. You could pet your poor hamster to death. You can definitely care for your customers a little too much and drive them away. We definitely want to reach that balance where we’re getting them information at point of need.

“The amazing advantage of digital is that you can start to look at demand signals and understand that, if I’m looking for something, I might be going to a website multiple times a day and downloading whitepapers and attending webinars. I’m putting out some pretty good signals that I’m pretty engaged, but you might be looking at a website maybe once a week and maybe not necessarily opening every email you get, and that’s a signal that you’re not as engaged as I might be. So we’re going to contact you a little differently so that we’re sensitive to how engaged you are.

“That’s a huge advantage of digital, to be able to do that consistently and use machine-learning to be able to understand and refine those touchpoints so we get to that razor’s edge where we’re communicating enough, but not too much.”

To create a customer-centric company culture, measure performance differently (17:53): “You need a customer focus, absolutely, so with that comes a set of measurements. You measure differently. You don’t measure for activities on how many mails did you send, you measure for how effective were the mails that you created and sent. You measure for customer delight in interactions versus activities. So the outcomes that you’re seeking change the way you measure people’s performance internally. It’s a changed management approach, so it requires to also have a different set of competencies. How we train people is different. It’s been a balance in bringing in people who really are exceptional at driving digital transformation inside the company while mixing that with the incredible DNA we have of people who’ve been at SAP for 5, 10, and 15 years. That comes with a richness of history that we have to not let go of, because that is our heritage and made us successful.”

To learn more, visit SAP.com, follow the company on Twitter @SAPNorthAmerica, and be sure to follow Mika on Twitter @MikaYamamoto11.

Mika and I talked about much more, including how to undertake an audit of existing technology in use at your organization and how to use machine-learning to personalize your customer communications, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by GoToWebinar:

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is director of product strategy, training, at MarketingProfs. She’s also a speaker, writer, attorney, and educator. She hosts and produces the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. To contact Kerry about being a guest on Marketing Smarts, send her an email. You can also find her on Twitter (@KerryGorgone) and her personal blog.

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