Purpose-driven B2B marketing is both possible and profitable, according to the CMOs of Google and SAP

Purpose-driven B2B marketing SAP Google
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When she joined software giant SAP as its marketing leader about nine months ago, Alicia Tillman did something she said most CMOs don’t often to: look backwards instead of forwards.

Speaking at the company’s annual user conference, Sapphire Now, Tillman said she wanted to figure out her strategy by looking at the original purpose behind SAP, whose stated purpose is to “help the world run better and improve people’s lives.” This, she suggested, is where purpose-driven B2B marketing should always begin.

“Every company started somewhere, with a dream,” she said during a session at Sapphire Now, which was livestreamed. “Most often it was a vision to do something that the world hasn’t seen before, or improving on what the world has seen.”

Tillman’s mission since then is to not only make sure that original vision isn’t lost, but that is articulated in whatever marketing activities SAP pursues, she said.

“Our problem was in our storytelling,” she said. ”You can overtalk about purpose to the point where it’s not as authentic as it needs to be.”

Tillman said she wants to emphasize that authenticity by showcasing the way SAP customers are helping the environment, improving economies or lifting up societies. She pointed to Vectus, which is using its HANA technology to streamline operations and eliminate water waste to provide more reliable water services to millions in India.

SAP is equally drawn to the purpose-driven B2B marketing from one another customer, Google, which makes use of its technology in its Google Cloud business.

According to Alison Wagonfeld, VP of marketing for Google Cloud, the company also makes use of its customer’s accomplishments, particularly in areas where cloud supports the use of artificial intelligence machine learning. In health-care, for instance, she noted how AI is being applied to retina scans to detect likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

“We’re now finding that AI can allow us to expand into fun purpose in all the ways that Google Cloud can go to market,” said Wagonfeld, who joined Tillman onstage.

“Within Google Cloud we also like to look at impact in terms of how we help our customers’ customers — for instance, how are health-care providers helping their patients.”

Purpose-driven B2B marketing can also come from within, however, Wagonfeld referenced the search giant’s efforts to use AI to figure out ways to reduce the cost of cooling by 40 per cent.

“We thought we had done all this optimization work,” she said, before a group from its DeepMind team came forward with ideas for additional reductions. “Those are the kinds of stories where purpose really happen, and it’s really meaningful to work at a company where you can feel that impact.”

Tillman outlined a six-stage strategy for purpose-driven B2B marketing. This started with identifying a brand’s purpose, then defining it, integrating it into marketing and other areas, proving the results to customers and the world, ongoing measurement and growth.

“We know that collectively we have this ability to do great things in the world,” she said. “The same is true for enterprises and the truth is, companies with a clear purpose are winning in today’s economy.”

The full session from Sapphire Now 2018 is available below.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.