Last updated: 7 steps to marketing nirvana: The path to a single view of the customer

7 steps to marketing nirvana: The path to a single view of the customer


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The first step on the journey to achieving marketing nirvana, upon which everything else hinges, is to unify your customer data so that your business can provide a single view of the customer to all the customer-facing teams. And this not only requires that systems are integrated but also that the IT and marketing teams partner to reach this goal. As a global enterprise, SAP Marketing is currently faced with the same challenges that other large organizations are confronting today.

I sat down with Lisa Hill (senior SAP CRM business analyst), Jochen Arnhold (IT business application manager), and Gero Wenzel (IT program manager) to better understand how SAP Marketing and IT are collaborating to enable a single view of the customer.

What is the goal of the project?

Wenzel: We were facing some real challenges with our data. Marketing alone currently has more than 150 systems. Data was kept in silos due to things like different IT landscapes, legal restrictions that required separation of data, and separate databases following mergers and acquisitions. At the beginning of the program in 2011, no single holistic view existed. We want to provide a single point of view for marketing contacts, accounts, and their interactions. The ultimate goal is to create real-time enablement of SAP’s management of customer interaction and determination of the next appropriate interaction.

Hill: Most importantly my goal is to provide our customers a simple, consistent, relevant, and individualized engagement experience.


What progress has your team made toward the goal of a single view of all customer data?

Arnhold: We have been working to create one centralized source of marketing data. We’ve shut down more than 10 databases and consolidated 24 million contacts into one database. We’ve provided new applications that enable marketing to visualize information on an aggregate level. We’ve been able to significantly improve segmentation for a much better end-user experience. We have automated nurture and routing rules for faster and more precise follow-up actions; the time from initial inquiry to response has been shortened from days down to minutes.


What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Hill: Change of this magnitude requires a great deal of change management. This is probably the biggest challenge we have faced and continue to face. Many marketers still think in terms of push marketing, whereas we are moving to pull. We are moving to listening to our prospects and giving them what they are telling us they are interested in. It’s a very different way of thinking, and it impacts everything, from how we plan to prepare and execute campaigns to how we treat contacts that are showing interest in SAP.

Wenzel: More than technical challenges, the program had to overcome organizational challenges, especially when we had to deal with county specifics, where we tried to push through a global standard.


What tips do you have for marketers who are trying to achieve the same goal?

Arnhold: Clearly identify the main business challenges, which will have the most business benefits when solved. It makes no sense to simply apply new technology, assuming it will solve all by itself.

Wenzel: The technical solution cannot solve any kind of organizational challenges. Keep in mind that the organizational change process is a major effort and has to be planned appropriately.

Hill: Start with your information strategy. The information strategy is the identification of cornerstone attributes to profile and engage with contacts. What is defined in this step will build the contact and account profiles as well as be used in automated decision making, scoring, and analytics.

Define the always-on engagement strategy. The engagement strategy is more than just nurture; it is an always-on engagement strategy, and it should be defined with sales. Decide how to progressively profile contacts, move a prospect from one buy stage to the next, and agree with sales when marketing will or will not engage contacts with associated pipeline.

The information strategy and engagement strategy can serve as the baseline for the implementation road map.


How have you seen marketing’s role changing in the area of customer data usage?

Hill: We have not seen it change yet on a mass scale, but we are getting closer. Assuming that there is an information and engagement strategy, an implementation team can deliver the automated processes to continuously drive engagement with contacts showing interest in SAP. Part of this strategy is ensuring that we are providing our customers what they need, when they need to make the decisions they need to make along their buyer’s journey. Assuming we achieve this, marketing can spend less time trying to figure out what we are able to figure out through the data capture, profiling, scoring, [and] analytics and more time on ensuring that we are delivering what our customers and prospects need when they need it. Marketers can become more strategic and precise and our buyer’s become better buyers – more informed educated buyers. If we all do our job well in this regard, we will, by default, deliver higher quality leads to sales.

Rethink customer engagement:
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This blog is part of our “Seven Steps to Marketing Nirvana” series, featuring recommendations on how to achieve the goal of marketing to an audience of one.

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