The Digital Future

Kevin Benedict

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Digital Marketing : Article

Insights and Strategy from SAP's VP of Web Marketing Gail Moody-Byrd

Digital Transformation at SAP

Kevin: Gail, Thanks for joining us today!  Let’s talk about your title, Vice President and Head of Web Marketing at SAP.  What do you get to do in this role?

Gail: It’s really an interesting new role. It was created to do a couple of things. SAP.com, the website, is going through a transformation and we are moving from a site that largely generated awareness and shared information, to a site that drives business value. The team that works for me does a couple of things. We manage the web pages for products and industries, and now we are responsible for the performance of the website. How are the pages performing? How are they connecting with our visitors? We are making sure that every interaction is a good one.

We are giving website visitors a lot of opportunities, through chat and other things, to engage with the site.  We are also making sure that the hand-off from the website to the sales team is clean, clear and effective, and the leads they are getting are qualified and really interested. It’s an exciting time.

Kevin: Is the relationship between marketing and sales changing today?

Gail: Yes, today we are now part of the sales engine and technology. They (sales) are backward integrating into us (marketing) and we’re integrating forward into the sales. We are using all the technology that the SAP C/4Hana Suite has to make sure that we’re an integral part of the sales process.

In the past, sales didn’t think that the website was really that important [to making sales]. It was more of a showcase for customer references, but not really a place to do business. We are changing that.

Kevin: That’s interesting, because as more of our sales and marketing are done digitally, we need to use all the data we have about a website visitor and their actions to create a personalized and contextually relevant customer experience in real-time.

Gail: Yes.  We are engaging with website visitors in real time as opposed to just showing them content.

Kevin: In this series we talk a lot about digital transformation. I think there’s almost no other place where digital transformation is more significant today than in marketing. In what ways have you seen marketing change because of emerging digital technologies?  

Gail: We have finally reached a point in marketing where we practice what we preach.  For example, earlier we mentioned content engines. We’ve done a very good job at SAP.com of creating great content that customers like to interact with, but now we are transforming that process into something like a content supply chain. It’s very efficient.

Kevin: When we talk about digital transformation, I feel we now have better knowledge about and control of our data. In the past, we didn’t even know what data we were using. We just did our best, right? It was wild and crazy. We would grab data from here and there, but now we must manage it carefully and be disciplined.  We have to be able to justify where the data is, and how we’re using it. That wasn’t possible before digital transformation.

Gail: That’s true. What this era allows is for customers to be more deliberate and intentional with us. We have research that says that by the time somebody comes to SAP.com, 70% of their product/solution research is already done.  Customers talk to their peers, they’ve gone to conferences, they’ve done Google searches. So, they know what they’re looking for. Our site will now allow them to simply notify us that they are ready for a trial. I’d like to see a demo. I’d like to talk to a salesperson.

Kevin: That’s so important because if you have 10 steps in a customer journey from awareness back to advocacy. They can say I’ve already done all this research I don’t need to be seeing this. What I need is ABC.  They can raise their hand and identify where they are in a sales process.  

Gail: …And, a customer journey doesn’t stop at advocacy.  In the cloud world, it’s really important for retention and repurchase. If customers subscribe to a solution, but it’s not used, we won’t get the renewal of the contract.  It’s important to focus on issues related to retention, and the buying experience for renewing, cross-selling and upselling.

Kevin: That’s expanding the role of marketing dramatically isn’t?  You have to continue to market after the sale and all year long. You must promote use, customer service, value, other solutions and services, etc.

Gail: Right, it’s part of a continuous journey today.  We are rethinking the entire sales process of how someone moves through the process of becoming a customer from a prospect.  So much is coalescing around the strength of your customer base and community. Our communities become a critical tool. SAP has the SAP Community Network, where you and I first connected many years ago.  Having people, trusted advisors and influencers who are strong advocates for your company’s products and services, at both ends of the spectrum has been so key.

Kevin: In marketing today, everyone’s talking about two things in particular – personalization and contextual relevance. How does SAP think about personalization?

Gail: It’s a big deal for us. It’s what my team does. We’ve just launched a new brand campaign with Clive Owen talking about SAP and the intelligent organization. When someone watches the TV commercial and comes to our website, they have an experience related to the commercial – a personalized journey.  Another example – we use a marketing tool called Demandbase that uses IP detection, identifies if the visitor is from a small to medium business (SMB), and then personalizes their experience. Our chatbot overlay pops up and says, “Hey, I see you might be from an SMB.  I’m an SMB digital adviser, how can I help you find what you’re looking for?”

Here’s another example of personalization with BOTs.  In India, we’ve got a huge user base and probably 50 sites there. There is such a huge demand for SAP training that we’re testing chatbots to help us route inquiries. When visitors come to our site from India, a BOT appears and asks, “Are you interested in training and development?” The BOTs can assist with realistic and useful responses. This frees up humans to deal with more complex customer service issues.  We are also employing BOTs for some of our analytics products where there are more routine questions. We’re very aggressively working on our BOT program.

We also offer personalized pages, as well as personalized engagements, as a result of conversations with our inbound sales teams.

We’re personalizing using a few different tools, Demandbase, LiveEngage and Adobe. We’re using the full Adobe stack and it’s one of our biggest initiatives.

Kevin: Let’s shift our conversation now to customers. How have you seen customers’ behaviors change over the past five years?  Are they consuming content differently? Are they looking at videos more than reading white papers? How are they being impacted by mobile devices?

Gail: There are so many interesting nuggets here. In this information age there’s so much content to consume, and customers have so little time to spend on it. As a result, we want to provide shorter snackable content. Videos are critical. Making sure that we have 1 to 2-minute videos that show customers using our product. We need to make sure people can quickly see product demos, move quickly to a product trial, and then quickly buy the product. Speeding up the pace of engagement on our site is critical. We know that people don’t have days to review things.

Visitors have already done a lot of their homework, and they are now looking for a very specific experience.  We’ve got a lot of people in our UX team looking at how we can help customers accelerate these processes. Video consumption, heavy emphasis on demos and trials.

We are also looking closely at what used to be called the SAP store. It’s now called SAP digital. Making sure that the transaction capabilities are embedded into the website.

Kevin: Technologies and products continue to change, as does the different content needs of prospects, customers, partners and internal sales teams as well. Do you customize content for each group? Are there multiple sources of content that you guys have to manage on your own website?

Gail: Yes, there’s actually a content supply chain within the web area of SAP. It’s a major initiative.  It’s sort of a C-level initiative within the organization.  The content needs are large and cover everything from event content to enabling the salesforce. Honestly, it’s one of the toughest challenges we have.  Content needs are becoming more sophisticated and personalized.

Google is increasingly discerning about what it will allow to show up on the top of the page for search result.  Contents is not just about writing today, rather it’s about making sure that it’s effective and it’s answering questions that people are asking on Google.

We’re increasingly employing agencies to work with our writers to make sure that the content we produce is something that can outpace the competitors. Content that will show up on page one of a search result.  Daily we are looking at SEO, and improving our content.

Kevin: Do you employ activity-based marketing – where you look at what people are actually consuming and doing on a website?

Gail: Yes.  One of our KPIs is asset consumption rate. We’re actively looking at whether it’s gated content or non-gated content. Is the asset being consumed? Then on a regular basis we’re cleansing the site to make sure that content assets that aren’t consumed are replaced with content that is or will be based on the data. We tend to know what works well. Long white papers don’t, short videos do, customer testimonials are at the top in terms of what performs well. That is the job of the web strategist, and half my team is comprised of web strategist.

Kevin: That’s a cool title!

Gail: Yes.  Their job is to manage the performance of a web page. Consumption is the number one thing they are looking for. We’ve gone from quarterly reviews, to monthly, to weekly, to daily and now toward real-time optimization of our web pages. That’s our aspiration. We’re adding a lot of performance management people.  We need to be the same as Amazon in terms of the way we’re thinking about the content we’re providing. It’s a highly competitive market. 

Kevin: It’s so different than it was 10-15 years ago when websites were mostly static brochure pages.

Gail: Right, and the bill of materials was created every six months seasonally. Today, we have blown-up the bill of material concept and it’s an ongoing iterative process of reinventing the site every day.

Kevin: Let’s talk about the role of influencers and social media now. What’s the role of influencer marketing, and has it increased or decreased in importance over the years?

Gail: It is critical. The market doesn’t want to hear SAP talking about SAP. They want to hear from knowledgeable influencers who are looking at other companies, who are engaged with our competition and can speak openly and honestly about where and how SAP stacks up. There’s a whole influencer program at SAP. We have a new Head of Influencer Marketing and it’s a key part of what we do.  Influencers are an important part of our community.

Kevin: I’ve been a member SAP’s Mentor and SAP’s Influencer programs, among other things. Influencers are sometimes critical of SAP. Sometimes they don’t like the moves that SAP makes.

Gail: Yes, but that’s what we want.  We want the user base to have a voice. It’s really important. On the topic of social media marketing.  You and I were around in the days where the SAP community network (online forum) was all there was.  We saw this emerging opportunity in 2009 to start our social channels. We were really the first team to brand them and we’ve now grown to about 1,200 social media accounts across the company. Linkedin, Twitter, even WeChat in some of the Asian markets.  It’s really an essential part of the way that customers come to trust your brand. There was a study done just a few months ago that explored what helps customers to trust a brand.  One of the essential factors is when a brand and a customer are connected via social media networks. Although, it’s still difficult to tie social media to direct revenue – it does improve brand trust and that’s important.

Kevin: Are there still problems needing solved in marketing?

Gail: Always! For example, we know that voice search, and the ability to get information untethered from a website, laptop or a mobile device is the way the market is moving.   We need to enable voice to voice communications that lead to SAP product sales. In addition, enabling systems that can anticipate your needs and answer your question before you even say it. That’s the world we’re envisioning and our aspirations are high and the team is full of Red Bull.

Kevin: Let’s look at the future.  How do you see marketing changing and evolving over the next two years?

Gail: I think we’re going to be even more data-driven. What I’m seeing now is the rise of the data scientists. A person that can anticipate what we should be doing. That’s where all the action is right now. Working for the Chief Digital Marketing Officer at SAP it’s kind of the rise of the data nerd. In the next two years, I see that only increasing.

Kevin: All you nerds out there did you hear that? There’s hope!   You’re going to be really cool someday!!

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict serves as the Senior Vice President, Solutions Strategy, at Regalix, a Silicon Valley based company, focused on bringing the best strategies, digital technologies, processes and people together to deliver improved customer experiences, journeys and success through the combination of intelligent solutions, analytics, automation and services. He is a popular writer, speaker and futurist, and in the past 8 years he has taught workshops for large enterprises and government agencies in 18 different countries. He has over 32 years of experience working with strategic enterprise IT solutions and business processes, and he is also a veteran executive working with both solution and services companies. He has written dozens of technology and strategy reports, over a thousand articles, interviewed hundreds of technology experts, and produced videos on the future of digital technologies and their impact on industries.