On this episode, I was joined by Juliana Roxa, Global Customer Marketing Director and Executive Communications Lead at SAP, where she helped lead the charge to unify the post-sales experience and build the customer marketing function from the ground up. Mapping out customer journeys can be a considerable undertaking at any company, but especially when you consider one like SAP with hundreds of thousands of employees and countless product lines. She breaks down her whole thought process and what she accomplished in the first year, her six key areas of focus and how she got buy-in from teams that had never heard of customer marketing. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Juliana.
Margot Leong: Hey, Juliana, happy Friday. I am really excited to have you on Beating The Drum. Thank you so much for coming on.
Juliana Roxa: Hi, Margot. Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here with you today.
Margot Leong: Can you share a bit about your background and your journey to customer marketing and your current role at SAP?
Juliana Roxa: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been at SAP for a little over 11 years now which is unbelievable to be honest. Time just flew by. But I’ve had several roles within marketing. I started at SAP in Brazil where I’m originally from. I was doing partner marketing in the beginning, then I grew in my role for partner marketing for Latin America.
Then I took more of a content role also for the entire region of Latin America, working closely with our global team bringing our messaging narrative to the region and making sure that would resonate with the different market units. And then that’s when the opportunity to join the customer marketing team came about. The team was just starting at that point five years ago.
And I knew the SVP that was forming the team and she needed some help. We discussed and she thought that it could be a good fit for the role because I’m really good in taking things off the ground. I’m a very self-starter, self-motivated person and then really good at solving problems. So I think that was a lot of what the role required in the beginning because we didn’t really have anything related to customer marketing at SAP. So I guess it was a lot more being able to see the strategy and make it happen then necessarily having tons of experience in doing customer marketing, which I honestly didn’t have at that point.
The past few years have been a lot of growth and it’s incredible to see the progress that we’ve made during this time and how far the team has come.
Margot Leong: You mentioned you’ve had a bunch of experience in different types of marketing roles, so like partner and field and content. And this would be your first time in customer marketing. But I’m assuming that not only you have that sort of self-starter mentality but I’m assuming you probably, maybe naturally also liked customers, which is probably one of the biggest prerequisites to wanting to do this role is like that sort of obsessive focus on customer experience.
Juliana Roxa: Yeah, absolutely. Especially when I was doing field marketing back in Brazil, I always really liked to engage with customers. I always had a very close connection with our customers and also with the business and the sales teams, of course.
But I’ve always been very passionate about what was the experience that our customers were having with our brand, with our products, et cetera. So there’s always been something that I brought into whatever role I was playing in marketing. So definitely that was a big part of also why I think I was a good fit for the role.
Margot Leong: When you were talking to SAP about this role in the customer marketing side, what was your understanding of what the role might entail? Was it basically everything post-sales?
Juliana Roxa: Yes. So that was pretty much all I really knew about it. It was that we would need to build a post-sale program because at that point, SAP didn’t really have anything established. SAP comes from an on-premise background, so it was a very different market back then when you were dealing with on-premise software, it was not as easy as today to change providers and go through lengthy implementations and things of that nature. So when SAP becomes a cloud company and really modernize the portfolio and makes everything cloud, we really have to start looking at how do we ensure that those customers are staying with us? How do we ensure that those customers are renewing? They are only going to do that if they are getting value from our products, really seeing the benefits.
So what I knew about the role was really that we needed to figure it out what was going to be the post-sale experience for our customers. So we started very early, looking at the various first step, the onboarding, what does that look like? What should that look like for a cloud company nd all of that, right. So going through all of the phases that our customer goes through until it’s time to renew, or we earned the right to ask them to become an advocate. Of course, we start the cycle all over again every time, but they are the last steps of the customer journey pretty much. So either they will continue with you and become an advocate, et cetera. And you get to expand your business with that customer, or they leave you and go somewhere else where they will feel really valued and they will have the experience that they are looking for.
Margot Leong: What you said about SAP moving from on-premise to cloud, I mean, this is a shift that that so many companies have had to reckon with. Once you move into cloud, once you move into a different payment model where there’s a lot less inertia for people to switch, there has to be a lot more focus on the experience later on down the journey. That must have felt, I think very like exciting, but also like totally greenfield for you to come in and be like, okay like, what do I do first? How do I even wrap my arms around this problem?
Juliana Roxa: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It was a blank piece of paper pretty much when the team first started. And the first thing we did was talk to cloud companies. SAP acquired a lot of companies in their own journey of becoming a true cloud organization. We spoke with those companies and with a lot of colleagues in the market just outside. I was really keen on understanding how native cloud companies were doing that. What was important, what were their KPIs and all of that.
But also I had to stop and look at the current experience at SAP, and also we have such different types of products, right? It’s a totally different experience for a customer that is, for example, getting a supply chain system versus you know, HR system versus a travel system, et cetera. They are expecting different things. They have different timing. It’s a different sales cycle. Everything is different.
So I had to really understand what is valuable for them when they engage with us? What are they expecting from us? So it was a lot of collecting information in the beginning and really reading, I did courses and read books and all of that. So really educating myself first and looking at what we had, how things were working or were not working until we could define, okay, those are the areas of focus because you can’t be everything to everyone. So we had to really draw that line on the sand and say, okay, those are the areas that we really feel that we can add value to. And those are the areas that we are focusing on at least to get started.
So we define that initial baseline of what customer marketing should look like for SAP and then we started building it step by step.
Margot Leong: Got it. To recap, it sounds like the first step was really okay. Let’s talk to other people that have done this already. And then you were thinking about how do I apply some of those learnings to SAP? Did you also talk to a lot of internal stakeholders as well just to understand what the existing journey looks like?
And this is another question too, but SAP has probably several product lines, not just one product with one journey. How did you approach that?
Juliana Roxa: Yeah. So let me answer this question in two parts. So first yes, absolutely asked many different areas inside SAP to understand what was going on, what we had available, what type of data did I have to work with, right, in the first place. Because all of that impacts what types of programs you are building, what type of technology we have and all of that. It was from talking to product people, developers, et cetera, to obviously people that were facing the customers and hearing and they needed and could give direct feedback. But even people from operations and understanding what is the billing cycle? How do they get their log-in information? All of that goes into the experience that the customer has with our company, right? So we need all of that.
So it was a lot of knocking on doors and getting people to share information and to support us, which was not easy in the beginning because obviously the very first year, no one really knew, we didn’t have shared KPIs with any other areas. So why would people give us their time? So that was a lot of work, especially in the first couple of years, a lot of internal building and relationship building and educating as well.
And then on the other hand, so answering the second part of your question. Yes, SAP has many different kinds of products, thousands of products really, and the way that we bucket those products together is by line of business.
So we talk about HR or people. So all of the systems that we have for HR and HR related functions, sales and marketing, for example, purchasing, travel, obviously ERP, right? Our ERP and analytics, the platform. So we have those big buckets of products and we knew that we had to support everything that was cloud but we did prioritize.
So today, the entire customer marketing organization does support all of the SAP cloud products, but we couldn’t be everything to everyone that they want. So what we did prioritize was based on their participation in the business really, so what were from a business point of view, the priority products.
So obviously we started with our ERP Cloud. ERP is SAP’s major product, so we started there. Then we moved to HR. So all of the sectors portfolio. So we were closely aligned to the business in understanding the priorities in terms of revenue, number of customers even, what was available already in terms of content, information, et cetera, for each one of those lines of business. SAP has so much content available, that it’s even a little bit overwhelming to navigate some of that.
So we also took advantage of those areas that had all that content in leveraging what already existed and making that a lot easier to consume and delivering that to the customers in the moment that they needed based on the phase that they were going through their journey. So all of those came into account when we were defining how to prioritize.
Margot Leong: At a company at the scale and size of SAP, I can imagine you have so many product lines, basically a lot of marketing teams on probably all of those different product lines who are all churning out content. If it’s not all unified, you probably have evergreen content. You probably have timely content. A lot of the stuff that you push out, typically in marketing, you know, a good chunk of your customers actually will never see. It makes a lot of sense to take a step back and be like, okay, what can we repurpose and would be valuable at specific times for those customers. So you actually get more exposure for content you’ve already written that would be even more valuable to them as long as you time it correctly.
Juliana Roxa: Exactly. And there was a lot of technical content that was not created by marketing that we needed because at some point in the journey. So for example, when you’re are talking adoption. It’s not really a marketing issue, right? You are not going to solve that with you know, a beautiful marketing campaign necessarily. So you really need that technical detailed content. Of course you have to identify what is the issue, why that adoption is not necessarily being successful at your organization, but it’s probably something you are not going to solve with full marketing content only.
So we also started digging into what our product teams were creating and other teams had and also repackage, repurpose. There was a lot of content that was also not necessarily easy to digest so part of the work of the team was making it easy to consume, to digest, to understand and to replicate. Repurposing content is really valuable, especially when you already have so much available.
Margot Leong: You’re actually amazed probably by the fact that you have so much available already, that you have access to.
That first year when you were doing a lot of that external research and internal research, how did you think about setting goals or deliverables? When you’re in a situation where you are building something totally from scratch, especially at a company as large as SAP, how do you basically set goals in terms of what you’re trying to achieve? And how much time do you give yourself in terms of the research side of things? Then you can move on to the next phase of, okay. X, Y, Z deliverables or something like that, but it would be great to talk about how you presented that, how you thought about.
Juliana Roxa: One thing that I’ve learned in this process was that it’s a lot better to start small and fast, and then scale, rather than waiting for everything to be perfect or waiting until you can launch this launch this big huge animal that’s going to take you a year or two to get off the ground.
So we did take a few months in the beginning to get a good understanding of what we needed to do. You can’t really rush yourself into getting to the right strategy. That will take a few months. Obviously it shouldn’t take years, but it will take a few months, especially when you’re talking about a company the size of SAP. Maybe it’s a smaller organization, it’s a quicker process, but that’s just a lot of data, a lot of information.
And also one thing that was really important, it was to understand what other areas were doing, because it’s such a matrixed organization that it’s hard to have visibility into everything that everyone is doing. So we had to be really careful not to do anything that was conflicting in any way, or that was just a repetition of someone else’s work.
So there was a lot of investigation that we needed to do on that as well. So that did take us a few months, but once we decided, okay, this is the approach. Those are the areas that we were focusing and we started with those six areas of focus for us, and we started building them one by one, but then again, what we did was start small.
So it started with one product or one line of business in our case, and one small set of customers. Launch it quickly, test it out, get feedback, improve, and then scale, right. That was the approach we took.
And you have to understand you walk before you run, right? So you’re not going to be able to implement a full function in our case with six large focused areas that each required a very well structured program and team and organization in a matter of months.
We prioritized what we needed to do and the part of setting the KPIs was really important in that phase, because when you are talking to an organization, normally you need to show your results to get the funding or the people or whatever resources that you need to grow. So we had to show very clear results.
So basically what we did was after defining those six areas: onboarding, go live, value realization, adoption, renewals, and loyalty and advocacy. We started building each of those programs one by one. And for each program, we would have a different set of KPIs. And of course the KPIs were also evolving with time.
So in the beginning, the very first onboarding program, right? You create your ebook, your initial communications, emails, tutorials, et cetera, et cetera. How you start measuring that in the very beginning, it can be as simple as views and clicks , but as you get more and more information and more and more response and knowledge, and you get more used to understanding what your customers care about in that specific scenario, you evolve your KPIs accordingly.
So for example, you could look at the time that customers take to activate after they receive all that onboarding material, right. Is that time becoming quicker or et cetera? So for each one of those six areas, we had very different KPIs that were evolving as we were able to sophisticate the program and we were able to collect data.
But one thing we did have to do was set KPIs from the very beginning, even if they were really simple initially, like for example, campaign performance. Because that was the only way that we could go back and show progress to then get additional resources to keep growing the team and keep growing the function.
Margot Leong: I see. Maybe if we were to lay this out, right? It sounds like the first thing would be find the strategy. This quarter, interview X teams, do research internally and externally, develop a hypothesis and strategy. And then maybe the next quarter would be identify specific product line that you want to test with and start with these areas. And then with these initial KPIs, narrowing every quarter based off of your learnings.
Juliana Roxa: Yeah, exactly. This roadmap is really important and it also varies a lot, depending on what type of product we are talking about here. Just in general, when talking about software, I would think most cases could be somewhat similar in terms of what are the big areas of focus in my point of view.
This is where we started, right? Onboarding, go live, value realization, adoption, renewal, advocacy. Those big areas, I think they can somewhat fit any software engagement customer journey. And it varies because in some organizations, marketing won’t be responsible for that and even for us, today our team is not responsible for the onboarding anymore, but we establish ed that program. We created the baseline. We created the materials, we created the process etcetera, then we hand it over to another organization because as we were evolving as a team, we also started to see where we can add more value.
The onboarding is a very specific example here, but it’s not necessarily there. So once you can establish the process, the branding, the language, the look and feel, touchpoints, what type of content should go in there? We create that framework. We get the template and we actually created the program. We handed it over to another organization where it makes more sense that those guys would have easier access to the customer’s information to trigger that onboarding.
You really have to see what makes sense in your organization, but whatever the area is that you decide to focus, that you see where you can add more value. So for example, advocacy in general is an area that sits within marketing, at least in most cases that I know. Because it’s an area that marketing can add so much value to.
And you can start with a very small program that could be as simple as getting a quote from your customers and creating a few social cards for your social media channels and rewarding them with some swag, for example. Very basic, very simple, and very easy to implement. You can not do that forever, but then as you start getting those relationships in, you can start creating a more structured program until you get to a point that you nurture long-term relationships with your customers and they all actually become partners. And then you have a full blown marketing plan for one specific brand that you really going to want to go out there and they are really strong advocates, they’re really using many of our products. And they are super open to speaking on your behalf, doing media interviews and talking with analysts and speaking at events and et cetera, et cetera.
So it’s a process and there is a lot of room to grow. But it’s important that you start somewhere. Just keep an eye on how you can improve and really focus on the areas that you can add value, that you can move the needle for the business and not just be only the area that is sending emails out that lots of people are not reading.
Margot Leong: The great side effect of all of the work that you do to even understand the internal landscape of how you’re talking to customers is that you and your team probably understand better than probably most people at SAP, so many different departments and what they do when they’re touching customers.
Juliana Roxa: Yeah. That’s very true. And it’s obviously not only the team that I work with, but also there are other teams within marketing that always also work very closely with our customers. And the very interesting thing is that we collaborate a lot and help each other a lot. So there is, for example, an amplification team as part of my larger organization. They are really focused on the top 20 to 30 brands or so in building that very close, strong relationship with those guys.
And then my team runs other customer success programs that brings a pipeline of customers that are willing to share these stories and do a lot of promotional activities with us and a lot of advocacy with us. And obviously we have our customer reference team that is product and regional oriented. The good thing is that we all work a lot together and we feed each other areas with customers that we are personally working with or stories that we receive within our different programs and we leverage each other’s work.
So sometimes in one of my programs, I see a great customer story that might not be in SAP’s formal customer reference program and that becomes a customer in the pipeline or the customer reference program will bring customers to participate in a program that I run, et cetera. So that’s a really cool, interesting model of collaboration.
The other very interesting thing that we have today that took a long time to build is that we created this model of engagement, where we have hundreds of amazing stories available. And obviously they are on the website or in the system and anyone can find them, but not a hundred thousand people know how to find them. So we have a very simple way where people can come and place a request. And it doesn’t have to come from marketing anyone in the organization. It could be, I’m organizing these events and I need a customer in this area with this profile, et cetera, do you have someone and then I’ll help them to find and engage with that customer.
So for example, the innovation awards, which is a program that my team runs and they see, oh, there’s this amazing story that I saw in and I’d love to have this customer join me in the podcast. So they create a very simple request and then my team helps them get that customer to participate. In 2021 alone, we received over 350 of those requests, so it’s an amazing opportunity for us and an amazing opportunity for the customers as well, because that also creates a lot of exposure and a lot of visibility
Margot Leong: I wanted to go back a little bit to starting with those six areas of focus and with a small set of customers for ERP Cloud and you had a different set of KPIs for each of those focus areas. Let’s go into each of those just briefly. I think most people will understand them, but how you define them at SAP and maybe just some examples of types of programs that you tried and tested for each of those focus areas.
Juliana Roxa: Okay, let me see, because it has been five years. It’s changed so much, but let’s try it. So it started with the onboarding. The onboarding was about creating an experience at all because we didn’t really have anything established. It was a very kind of operational type of, this is your login information and link to our community and go figure things out a little bit. Also like different programs, you know, some areas had something a little bit more comprehensive, others didn’t.
So what we did was harmonized the experience because it doesn’t matter what product they are buying. They should be getting the same experience from SAP. They shouldn’t be getting more or less depending on what they’re buying.
It was really about creating a consistent welcome email to help the customer, so it goes with this specific information on the product that you bought, obviously in the logo and everything, but they all look the same. They have the same message. You know, you received them from the same kind of address and they will all link to an ebook where you can find all of that same. We establish a base level of information that everyone should get. Obviously we work with different regions to translate everything, et cetera. We started there.
And then obviously after that, we created tutorials for some other products. After you establish that baseline, there are areas that we want, or that needs actually to invest a little bit more or have a little bit more or less handholding or support. But the important thing was that we created that consistent experience for everyone. After you sign the contract, it should happen. We established that onboarding welcome package and communications.
Then when we moved to go live, go live is tricky because the timing is always very different. It can mean very different things to different companies. Sometimes company’s are super happy about the go live. Sometimes they are not so excited because they didn’t have the smoothest implementation. So it was something that we had to work a lot closer with our customer success managers to understand where the customer was really.
So what we did was create a package that the customer success managers could use on their go lives. We have our customers divided obviously based on different criteria: the size of their business, et cetera. So minimum we had some sort of celebratory beautiful message that we would send and would include kind of an executive video, things of that nature. That would be the full virtual experience for customers that we consider fully tech touch.
And then we were building on top of that experience until we got to that level of do a full party in that customer’s company for their team and things like that. So what we did was work with the business and sales teams, customer success managers, et cetera, and creating those packages that they could request. So they could request packages with swag items and balloons and banners and whatever they needed if they wanted to do a physical celebration. We as marketing, we would not go and plan one single event for each customer.
But what we did was create a platform where the account team could request different types of materials that they could use with their customers in the moment of their go lives. And we would again, offer that baseline communication that was available to everyone. You know, with specific accounts, the account teams could build on top of that with packages that we made available. So that was another example.
Then when you talk about adoption and value realization, we really need to understand a lot of the customer behavior to create effective programs. How are the solutions being used? What are the key challenges that they face for that specific solution? In some cases, again, if you were talking about an HR system and you have to have everyone suddenly adopt, in a hundred thousand people organization, everyone suddenly adopt your development and performance goals platform, how do you do that? So you have to create a compelling campaign. So it was a lot of repurposing the content that existed, and making sure that customers were finding them, able to easily understand them, that they were being delivered to the customer in the right time.
You know, we created some new things, for example, a change management template to guide some customers through change management. So a few things we created from scratch, but it was a lot of leveraging the content that existed to help the customers with their adoption issues and realizing the value that they were getting out of SAP. And that was also a lot of working directly with those account teams and customer success managers, and giving them those tools to deliver to their customers. Because this is not something that marketing will necessarily be able to impact directly. So we deliver those communications to the tech touch customers.
And obviously we have some information in terms of, is that the right time, but it’s not perfect. I’m sure. We use all the data that we have to do the best we can, but it’s so much more effective when you’ve packaged all of that content and you give to a customer success manager and you say, just give that to your customer when you know when the time will be right. And they do. That is a lot more effective.
So when the customer is in their change management process, that customer success manager can say, Hey, by the way, here is a template that you can follow for your change management that can help you based on best practices from thousands of other customers.
And then when you talk about renewal, honestly, renewal, if the customer is having a positive experience with our brand, with our products, then it should be a no brainer. You shouldn’t have to convince them all over again that they should renew if they are satisfied with what they’re getting. That’s why it’s so important to build that experience from the beginning and make it right and make it valuable because it doesn’t matter what you do two months before the contract is about to be renewed, right? If if all the years of engagement or from the moment they sign, they are not feeling satisfied, they are not getting what they expected from you, they are not having a good experience, you can do the most beautiful marketing campaign for now. It’s not going to matter.
So for the renewals, it was very similar to the onboarding, was more about harmonizing communications around that stage. And again, in tracking those engagements and making sure that those customers were adopting. So adoption is a big part of renewal.
So when we’re looking and a customer is at 50% adoption, what are the chances of full renewal? We had to keep pushing content for them to adopt and be in a good place, say over 80%. So the renewal would be a lot more likely. So for us, the renewal was more about creating that consistent, harmonized experience and all the work that we’re doing before until we got to the renewal, than really creating a marketing program that was solving all their renewal problems. I don’t think that there is such a thing.
And then advocacy, right, can be done in so many different ways. We do have a customer reference program that does a great job, but then what else? So one of the things that we use, for example, for advocacy, is the SAP Innovation Awards, right? So we celebrate our successful customers. We do lots of promotion about their stories, and it’s a way that we can find stories that we probably wouldn’t otherwise and it’s so amazing to see.
Last year we got one that was super interesting from an NGO in Nigeria that was using SAP to reduce sexual violence against women. My mind was blown when I saw that, it was so amazing that you see companies using their technology to really make change in the world. So it’s really about celebrating those stories and creating all of those amplification opportunities for those stories. So it’s a win-win and it has to be a win-win.
Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. And anything you’re doing to optimize those different areas, you’re automatically creating a higher likelihood of advocates and putting in all that groundwork basically increases the amount of advocates, but also makes the existing advocates much more likely to want to go above and beyond for you because already to make them believe that you will continue to deliver and create a win-win experience because you have laid the foundation for everything before that.
The last question I wanted to talk about is: you’re coming in, maybe a lot of departments have never heard of customer marketing. You’re responsible for that bird’s eye view and being like, okay, these are areas that we can improve or optimize. Naturally when you’re coming in to a different department and saying these things, there can not be some natural defensiveness or people worrying about you stepping on toes or things like that. How do you get that buy-in essentially?
Juliana Roxa: Yeah. It was really hard in the beginning, especially when no one else had any KPIs related to what we were doing. It took a lot of education and trying to explain to people why that was important then to the point that we were discussing before this, about creating that holistic experience. So when it comes time for a renewal, you ensured that the customer will renew. And more than that, it’s the only way that we’ll be able to do up sell, cross sell.
So we’re trying to get people to understand that this has a true impact in the business and revenue, et cetera. That’s the way that I actually did it was, first, anytime that I went to a meeting that I needed to get buy in, I would do my homework and looked at what is this person or this team’s KPIs? What do they care about? If I am successful in what I’m trying to do, and if they help me, how will this impact their KPIs and what they are trying to do?
So I would tailor this pitch and tailor the presentation to each person or each team that I was talking to and saying, Hey, explain what we’re trying to do, et cetera. And if I’m successful, this is how I will directly impact what you are trying to do here, this KPI of yours or this goal, et cetera, et cetera. So if you help me get there, that’s how you are benefiting from it. That approach normally will have people consider your request if they see a true benefit that they are getting out of it, so trying to always relate your goals to the other person’s goals.
Margot Leong: Yeah, in the past, when I’ve done this with different teams, something has helped me is that everybody has good intentions, right? Everybody is working so hard. They’re all trying to meet their goals, but if you think about customer success, for example, or support they probably have so many things they would like to do better for their customers.
If marketing is able to come in and say, Hey basically I really love the intention and the focus that you guys have around these areas. Something that I noticed that we might be able to help you with is you know, making these emails look more consistent, or packaging things up for you in this way that would make the customer happier. And honestly, a lot of times when you talk to people like that, they’ll be like, oh my gosh, I’ve been wanting to do that. I haven’t had the time. Please take that off my plate. So I’ve found that actually works really well because they’ve been wanting to do it themselves anyway, it will be really helpful for them.
This was an amazing conversation. For any listeners that want to reach out, what’s the best way for people to reach you via LinkedIn or email, anything like that?
Juliana Roxa: You can find me on LinkedIn, just shoot me a message. I always respond to all messages or at least I try to, I don’t ignore people. I promise. So do feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to share my knowledge, anything that I can to help people and to make connections.
Margot Leong: It was such a pleasure having you on, Juliana, and I so appreciate it.
Thanks for tuning into this episode of Beating The Drum. For more interviews with advocacy leaders and tips on creating customers that will sing your praises, head on over to our website, beatingthedrum.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to rate and review us. If you know someone that would be a great fit for the show, I would love to hear about it. You can reach out at beatingthedrum.com. Take care, everybody.