Siddharth Taparia SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP

Presenting

Siddharth Taparia

SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP

Siddharth leads marketing transformation and strategic partner marketing for SAP. On the day-to-day, he's responsible for understanding the implications of how users interact with SAP across physical, digital and social channels.

Siddharth Taparia SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP

WHAT IS SAP?

As the market leader in enterprise application software, SAP is at the center of today’s business and technology revolution. SAP helps companies streamline their processes and use data to predict customer trends across the entire business.

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Turning customers into customers for life

Siddharth Taparia is not afraid of thinking long-term. As the SVP and Head of Marketing Transformation at SAP, he heads up strategic partner marketing and oversees SAP’s Marketing strategy & transformation. That means that he has a keen interest in how users interact with SAP offline and online through its website and apps. In his role, there are any number of ways he could approach it. He could try to drive certain user funnels, he could try to increase the number of new users into the site on the presumption that they’ll grow the sales funnel, or he could try to build an ecosystem of content that appeals to a specific and targeted audience.


On some level, he has to do all of those things. But biggest challenge he faces is answering the question: how do we turn customers into customers for life? This question is perhaps notable for what it is not. It’s not “How do we reduce churn? Or “How do we increase retention?” As Siddharth says, the big question is “How do we get people to enter into a business relationship with us, a multinational B2B SaaS business, that, forgive the cliche, will stand the test of time?”

These are the kinds of questions that any marketer might have, but they’re particularly vital for software subscription businesses. At a multinational B2B SaaS business, “knowing your customer” involves knowing 378,000 customers across 180 countries, which, even for the most extroverted person, seems unreasonable. But it’s something they’ve managed as a company. It’s how they continue to keep customers coming back for more. So how do they do it?

“How do we get people to enter into a business relationship with us, a multinational B2B SaaS business, that, forgive the cliche, will stand the test of time?”

Data: the next best thing 01

When it comes to getting insights into how users feel about a particular product, Siddharth starts with the obvious method. “Nothing beats talking to a customer live. We do that all the time. Speaking with our customers gives us the chance to see what challenges they are facing. Still, that’s only anecdotal evidence, so we supplement it with research. This research tells us who they are and how their habits can help predict what they’ll do next.”

That all sounds well and good: use data to understand customers. It’s something every marketing organization claims they want to do, but often struggles to execute on. How does SAP pull it off? “We have to make sure that we’re not just aggregating data, but slicing it so that it tells us specifically who we are looking at and allows us to interact with them in a way that lets us reach them. Understanding customer personas allows us to target customers and give them customized experiences.”

Beyond the obvious benefits of using data to know more about your business and using that knowledge to make smarter decisions, Siddharth also points to one of the lesser-discussed benefits: having a neutral arbiter that ends arguments.

“Basing the conversation on data means arguments aren’t decided by the most powerful person’s motivated reasoning; they’re fact-based. The numbers either make your case or they don’t.”

Retaining customers for life 02

For a large company like SAP, the benefits of using data are amplified by the timescale they operate on. Unlike smaller competitors who need to worry about surviving the year, SAP can step back and think longer-term. When lifetime value means lifetime value, customer satisfaction is paramount.

“Making a sale is great, but what happens afterwards is equally important. What that means for us is simplifying our organization for the customer, so that when they interact with us, they don’t feel like they are being handed off from department to department to department.” In other words, no one wants to feel like a hot potato or someone else’s problem. Instead, customers expect that the brand on the other side treats them like the human that they are. They accept criticisms. They speak with a human voice and treat them with dignity and respect. They work to get better.

Of course, this concept is easy to agree with but very hard to actually make real. One way to move large organizations like SAP to build long-term relationships is by creating incentives aligned with subscription-based pricing models, which in turn helps teams focus on what happens after the sale. “We are constantly balancing our focus between acquisition and retention. What is the type of training that customers require? What aspects of their experience could be improved?  If we can improve those aspects of their experience, will they become champions of the product? And if they do, what will they need from us in order to advocate effectively for the product to a colleague or manager?”

Practically, the focus on retention can shift on how the marketing team views other critical channels and assets for communication. For example, as more and more of the customer journey takes place online, a website and online ecosystem that has what both prospects and customers alike are looking for are essential.

“To an outsider, SAP.com might look like it serves one purpose: to explain our products and solutions to prospects and customers. But people visit our website for a lot of reasons. They might want to ask for customer support, to learn about a new feature, to find out where an SAP event might be happening, or even to find a community of like-minded users and product experts that either has challenges like theirs or can help solve those challenges.”

It’s not enough to have all of these pieces housed together under one domain—the experience for the Fortune 500 or a small/mid-size (SME) customer must be seamless, even if different departments provide the content.“Typically, customer needs are met by different departments. Services are handled by one team, community is handled by another team, and Marketing certainly is. In the past, customers could see through these seams. So as a company, we had to come together and ask  ‘How can we make this experience cohesive? How can we ensure that when a customer comes to the site looking for our community, we can identify whether they are an expert or a beginner?’ We want to expose them to an independent voice, that is not Sales, that is not Marketing, that is not Support, but that is representative of a community, that comes from interacting with your peers.”

Making a sale is great, but what happens afterward is equally important.

Typically, customers needs are met by different departments. Services are handled by one team, community is handled by another team, and marketing certainly is. In the past, customers could see through these seams. So as a company, we had to come together and ask ‘How can we make this experience cohesive?'

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Unsatisfied employees can’t make for satisfied customers 03

Siddharth’s work requires serving a global customer base, and serving a global customer base requires a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds. In order to do that, we need to be able to speak our customers’ languages, literally and figuratively. Retaining a diverse, global customer base happy requires having a diverse, global workforce. I want everyone to feel like they belong and like they can take pride in what they do at SAP.”

Building a happy, diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do, it is a business imperative for companies that want to think creatively and build community with a global customer base.

“A diverse workforce is an innovative workforce. Diversity is not merely an end goal in itself; it’s part of a process that allows organizations to think in different ways.”

Fundamentally, that’s what drives Siddharth: by building better companies, we can build a better world. “I want to ensure that we create a world for future generations that is better than the one we were given. That means reversing damage to the environment, creating a more equitable society, and building a strong economy. On a day-to-day basis, that means encouraging and mentoring the generation joining the workforce right now, so they can bring their skills and talents and aspirations into the workplace.” In other words, treat every relationship like it’s one for life.

A diverse workforce is an innovative workforce.

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