Every now and again in the brand marketing business you get a chance to see a C-Level executive speak in an unguarded fashion with no product to promote and no agenda to push. At the Brand Innovators BtoB event at SAP on Monday, we had a chance to see CMO Jonathan Becher in just such an atmosphere as he addressed the audience at its NYC headquarters on a range of topics. He spoke not only to the current state of BtoB marketing, but about the mechanics behind the culture and philosophy of one of the world’s biggest global brands.
Among those topics:
“Failure is the new black.” Becher was hardly encouraging mistakes but he does encourage risk among his marketing department and across SAP. He admitted that risk is “a tough thing” to encourage. However, the ease of marketing testing, campaign data, community engagement and overall customer data safety, he said, can breed flat results. Instead of rewarding the KPI’s that exceed expectations, executives need to look at the KPIs that show some of the nuances and riskier parts of the business.
CMO Tenure: A famous (or infamous) Spencer Stuart report in 2006 put the average CMO tenure at 23 months. Its update released in May shows it has risen to 45 months. What happened? Becher says it is simply a different era of business management. Business press headlines no longer read that “marketing is looking for a seat at the table.” Marketing is driving the data, product information, promotion and even the lead generation that produces revenue. “Marketing is business, and business is marketing,” he said. Power has shifted, he says, to the CMO and marketing, because marketing has come to include and define the customer-centric approach that any company must have.
BtoB Definition. Becher is not a fan of the “BtoB” nomenclature. Affirming a theme that was repeated several times on Monday, he stressed that the purchase decision for even very expensive enterprise software is no longer centered with one person. With social media and other community creation initiatives, everyone has input. SAP has as much in common with a CPG brand, he says, as with enterprise software companies. “There’s more in common with an impulse purchase than you think,” he says. “Glass buildings don’t buy software. People do. That’s why customer segmentation is as important for us as it is for any company. We’re thinking about the people using our products as much as the people buying it.”