Brands can create a better customer experience by being purpose driven – Interview with Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP


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Today’s interview is with Alicia Tillman, the new global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of SAP, the world’s largest provider of enterprise application software. Alicia joins me today to talk purpose and how brands can create a better customer experience by being a purpose driven brand.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Public Enemy and getting practical with AI in the contact centre – Interview with Mikhail Naumov – and is number 245 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Alicia:

  • Marketing teams around the world need to take on the responsibility of understanding the customer, what motivates them, what drives their buying behaviour, what it takes to earn their loyalty etc
  • Whilst, buyers buy the practical benefits of a product or service (how are you helping me here and now and today either in my personal or business life…) that is now table stakes for brands and customers/consumers are increasingly buying based on a company/brand’s purpose and how focused they are on the greater good.
  • Buying with purpose will emerge as the sustainable differentiator that separates one company from another.
  • Buyers believe that companies have a responsibility in society to help solve challenges as they relate to things like the economy, societal challenges and the environment.
  • There is an expectation from customers that they want companies/brands to do good in some way.
  • That presents marketers with an opportunity to help drive purpose driven strategy in their companies.
  • Research from Cone Communications found that 91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues and 90% would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible or deceptive business practices.
  • Purpose could be core to what you do or part of your business operations.
  • Purpose is just as important to your workers as it is to your customers.
  • When companies have purpose driven strategies you see increases in sales, share price and the firm’s ability to attract higher performing talent.
  • Founded over 40 years, SAP has always innovated and built technology to serve the agenda of their customers so that they can help the world run better and improve peoples lives. That is the purpose and mission of SAP.
  • If you haven’t built your company from the ground-up with a greater sense of purpose at its heart then when thinking about establishing your own purpose start with your workers and your culture.
  • Think about how they are connected, why they come to work, how diverse and inclusive your workforce is, how is it empowered, how is it managed etc etc
  • SAP has over 80 different networks that cover it’s 87,000 workers worldwide that give its employees a voice, sense of comfort, belonging and community.
  • The more diverse your employee population the greater your ability to create innovation that can work for your customers.
  • If you innovate in a silo, where everyone looks the same, sounds the same and acts the same, then there is no way that you are going to be able to innovate in a way that works for a vast and diverse customer base.
  • Focus on your employees first. The more that you can create a culture of diversity and inclusion the more successful your company will be.
  • Alicia cites Tom’s shoes and their One-For-One initiative as an inspiring consumer brand that is purpose driven.
  • Alicia cites Hakusan, a SAP customer, who they are working with to help predict earthquake damage and have have helped them develop an earthquake monitoring system, which turns the iPhone of home owners into their personal seismometer.
  • Or, Stara farm equipment, another SAP customer, who they are working with to help them realise their vision of sustainable farming.
  • As a result of all of this, starting in early 2018 SAP will start to talk not about its technology but how their customers are using their technology to address the economic, societal and environmental challenges that we face.
  • One bit of advice from Alicia….marketers and leaders need to adopt the mindset of ‘&’. What she means by that is that marketers and leaders need to get out of their chairs and meeting and silos and get out and speak to customers and colleagues and partners so they can think about ways to innovate together.
  • Wow service/experience for Alicia is something that is simple yet sophisticated and memorable.
  • Alicia says work hard, play hard, be fair, be collaborative and always have a positive way about you.
  • Success is all about what makes you happy.
  • Always have a plan and be prepared.

About Alicia

Alicia TillmanAlicia Tillman is the Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, where she is responsible for creating and accelerating the companies brand across the globe. Alicia previously served as the CMO for SAP Ariba, an SAP company, where she led the development of the marketing strategy across the globe. Prior to joining SAP, Alicia spent 11 years at American Express and was the head of Marketing and Business Services and previously head of Public Affairs, Corporate Communications and Media Relations for the Global Business Travel division.

Find out more about SAP at, say Hi to the folks at SAP and Alicia on Twitter @SAP and @aliciatillman and connect with Alicia on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Seth Sawyers for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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