No question about it: starting a new job is tough, but it's especially tough when it involves handling a major rebrand for your organization. That daunting task awaited Alicia Tillman when she became chief marketing officer at SAP Ariba.
Ariba, the largest marketplace for business-to-business (B2B)transactions, had been in operation for nearly 20 years when the company was acquired by global brand SAP.
Luckily, Alicia has years of experience working with global brands. Before taking on her new role at SAP Ariba, Alicia was vice-president of marketing and business services at American Express, where she set the marketing strategy for the global business travel division.
Well-known in B2B, Alicia was also one of the world's best-known travel industry marketers. A believer in corporate social responsibility, Alicia in her role at SAP Ariba endeavors to find and mitigate slave labor around the world through a partnership with the organization Made in a Free World.
I invited Alicia to Marketing Smarts to discuss her commitment to stopping forced labor, as well as how to pull off a successful rebrand while growing sales at the same time.
Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Alicia:
B2B marketing is like dating: Buyers are looking for stable, emotionally sensitive partners (06:18): "The first thing we did was we brought SAP into our brand name, so we are now known as SAP Ariba. The importance of that is, one, to pay tribute to our now parent company, but even more importantly it's to showcase and align ourselves to what SAP as a brand is known for because...[that's] precisely some of the characteristics of what [B2B buyers] today are looking for.
"They're looking for global organizations that can help them scale their business. They're looking for an organization that puts the customer first.... Third, they're looking for an organization that has true financial stability.... And then fourth, they're looking for an organization that has strength in their operational scope but also has focus on that emotional aspect you can bring in terms of how you can take your products and services and really do good for the world, taking your products promise to a higher level."
To create an emotional connection with your buyer, help them to do good (09:22): "You really need to have a two-sided model when it comes to your brand promise and your brand obligation. Number one, you're absolutely expected to deliver products and services that help solve problems for our customers and are bringing them true value in helping to solve those problems. But the other half of it is 'how are we creating an emotional connection with our buyers?'
"The best way to do that is by taking our products and services to not only serve the problems that our customers are facing...but also taking that and solving problems at a much higher level, as well.... In our case...the Ariba network is the largest B2B network in the world, and you see the number of organizations that are transacting within and across the supply chain...all within the Ariba network. We have a problem within our supply chain....
"There's a tremendous amount of forced labor. But the biggest challenge that companies have in abolishing that is really gaining the transparency into where those activities are happening because often they happen several levels within the buying process. So you may contract with a particular supplier, but the number of times that supplier outsources the production of their goods is oftentimes unknown to you.
"So we've been working very closely with an organization called Made in a Free World that has been creating a lot of the data access to identify where these forced labor conditions exist in the world. When you combine that heat map together with where transactions are occurring, you can see the potential as to where forced labor exists. So this is the power of Big Data...."
Forget "B2B" and "B2C": B2B buyers are end users, too (14:53): "The greatest learning that I took from American Express is that, with every B2B decision-maker, they are also an end-user, as well. So if I think that there's any opportunity for B2B marketing to evolve, it's that we need to make sure that we're keeping the end-user in mind, as well. While there will only be maybe one or two or a small handful of business decision leaders within a B2B space...every end user is an influencer that will enable the business decision-maker to meet their goals...."
Alicia and I talked about much more, 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!
Music credit: Noam Weinstein.