Simplifiers Interview: Alicia Tillman, CMO at SAP

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Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview leaders, often CMOs or CEOs, that we deem simplifiers. In this Simplifiers interview I speak with Alicia Tillman, CMO at SAP.

MM: What does SAP stand for and how does it deliver on that promise every day?

AT: The SAP brand promise is to help the world run better. We create technology that enables our customers to truly run better so they can change the world and the lives of the consumers they’re servicing.

MM: What role does simplicity play in delivering on that promise?

AT: Our operating principle is “Run Simple.” This notion of simplicity, and helping our customers navigate from the complex to the simple, has always been our goal. As a result, we have simplicity as a mindset, and hold people accountable for delivering simplicity as an output. But striving for simplicity is difficult—honing in on what matters and what’s going to make a difference is the hard part.

MM: How does your organization strive to create simple experiences?

AT: SAP HANA is our absolute north star when it comes to enabling our customers to navigate the complexity of their businesses. HANA increases the speed at which companies can analyze data by more than 10,000 times, which enables our customers to run faster, run better and run simple.

MM: What benefits has your company experienced from simplifying?

AT: In order to create memorable and delightful experiences, we lead internally with Run Simple at the forefront of our culture. At the core of a memorable customer experience is simplicity. The more complicated an experience, the less delightful. If we use simplicity as an operating principle, and use it to define success for our employees, then our team will operate simply, which will ultimately benefit our customers.

MM: How do you lead as a simplifier?

AT: I lead by being really clear on what we’re held accountable for, what our goal is and what our priorities should be as a result.

MM: How do you strive to keep things simple for your marketing team everyday?

AT: I strive to keep things simple by always delivering three things: One, I bring vision. Two, I define reality to ensure we’re crystal clear on our goal and accountability. I set a north star, which guides the team regarding SAP’s brand by checking that our aspiration aligns with our customers’ needs, and that we only offer capabilities that are core and authentic to us. Three, it’s my job to inspire.

MM: What’s the most recent, simple customer experience that inspired you?

AT: Etsy is one of my favorite marketplaces. I like to give gifts that are relevant, personal and which feel special. Etsy is my go-to resource for that because its designers offer so much customization.

On top of its creativity, Etsy offers tremendous convenience. You can order a customized good made especially for you and have it delivered in less than a week, which is certainly an example of simplicity.

MM: What is the biggest mistake brands make in regards to simplifying?

AT: One mistake brands make is they keep their heads down in their work and internal complexities and fail to see or deliver what the customer actually wants.

My advice is, put yourself in the place of the customer. What do they want? What experiences do they find delightful? Get out into the field. Listen to what your customers say about your product and how your experiences make them feel. Once you do this, priorities will become clear and you’ll figure out how to navigate your company’s internal complexities.

MM: What are the key indicators that simplicity is driving your business?

AT: We closely track our customer loyalty rate and Net Promoter Score (NPS), which are incredible indicators of customer satisfaction and willingness to recommend our product. Another important metric is overall brand value, which we use to assess what our brand is best known for and to determine whether we are empowering our customers.

Planning is absolutely a measure of your ability to drive simplicity.

MM: What does simplicity mean to you?

AT: Simplicity requires dreaming big and putting a plan in place to make that dream a reality. We all have dreams, but often don’t have enough plans. The raw motivation that comes from an exciting dream doesn’t last forever. The plan is where the success will be made.

Planning is absolutely a measure of your ability to drive simplicity. When you think about the measures that need to be taken to accomplish a goal, the complexity begins to unravel. It forces you to confront questions such as: How clear is your vision? How prepared are you? How strong are you at staying accountable?

MM: What is the top piece of advice you’d give to other brands trying to simplify?

AT: One, always aim big. Everyone wants to feel motivated, so have an inspiring goal. Two, be clear. Put a plan in place for how to pursue your aspirations. Three, be consistent. Don’t have one dream today and another tomorrow. Four, be authentic. Don’t create dreams that aren’t an honest reflection of you, your company or what you’re truly in the business of providing. And finally, strive to gain people’s trust. You’ll know you’re on the path to success when you have customer trust.

MM: Thank you.

This is this an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with EVP – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Henry GomezCMO at Twitter, Leslie Berland; CMO at Blue Apron, Jared Cluff; SVP, Global Brand Management at American Express, Clayton Ruebensaal; EVP and Group President at Verizon Wireless, Ronan Dunne, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Cofra Holding Ltd, former CEO of C&A China, Lawrence Brenninkmeyer; CMO at The Recording Academy, Evan Greene; CMO at Mary Kay, Sheryl Adkins-GreenHead of Marketing at Home Centre, Rohit Singh BhatiaSVP, CMO of Aflac, Gail GaluppoSVP and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions, Carol KruseManaging Director of The Nature Conservancy, Geof Rochester, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Motorola Solutions, Eduardo Conrado, EVP; SVP, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Abbott, Elaine Leavenworth, GE CMO, Linda Boff; McLaren Automotive Head of Brand Marketing, Stephen Lambert; Ascension Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Nick Ragone; Hertz CMO, Matt Jauchius; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans; McDonald’s CMO, Deborah Wahl; President, Liza Landsman and VP Marketing, Sumaiya Balbale; Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman; Ally Financial CMO, Andrea Riley; Gannett CMO, Andy Yost; CVS Health CMO, Norman De Greve; Dunkin’ Brands CMO, John Costello; Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh; Southwest Airlines CMO, Kevin Krone; and Google CMO, Lorraine Twohill.

Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview:

Margaret Molloy is global CMO and head of business development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy and Instagram:@MargaretMMolloy

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