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The Monday Stack: Meet SAP’s First CDMO

You need to know:  Mika Yamamoto (SAP)

Regular readers will know that Alicia Tillman is CMO of the global software giant SAP. Imagine how intrigued we were to learn that the company also has a CDMO. That’s chief digital marketing officer. We wanted to learn what the role involves, how it’s distinct from the CMO role, and how Mika Yamamoto got there.

“I started my career doing bank mergers and acquisitions in the United States after going to school in Canada, and did a lot of change management there, which is actually relevant to my role now. Then I went into Gartner as an analyst in the SMB space to pull primary data on the market, and forecast trends. That propelled me over to Microsoft, where I got hired to do SMB product management for Windows, and ended up doing mobility product management for Windows; so I launched Windows Vista, then did product management for Windows 7. Then I did channel investment strategy, which was again relevant to the role I play now. I did pricing for Windows, and launched the first Microsoft store.”

Then came a switch to a smaller space, a digital agency where she learned more about digital marketing, after which she was back in the big leagues. “I was recruited by Amazon to open the first Amazon bookstore,” which involved merchandising, marketing, and designing the experience (not the physical space, she emphasized).  

“Which led me to SAP. I was lured by Steve Singh, the founder of SAP Concur. He is known for driving incredible cultures in terms of diversity, trusting environments to work in, and being entrepreneurial.” She was back in SMB, as CMO of SAP’s SMB division. “It was an untapped market for SAP,” she said. “I realized that in order to see the velocity in gaining market share we really needed to invest in digital.” Her challenge was to persuade the Board; which led to the decision (last July) that, if digital was right for SMB, Yamamoto should be doing it for the company. “So I was voted in by the board for this position, while Alicia was already established as CMO.” She was to be SAP’s first CDMO.

Yamamoto describes Tillman’s role as “transformational.” It’s “about brand,” she said; about moving an almost 50 year old company technology company into the new “cloud-focused” world.  “All my experiences,” she said, “culminated in coming here. My charter is to be digitally-focused, and ROI-focused, and double marketing’s contributions to revenues inside SAP. The only way I can do that is by looking at out technology roadmap, our competences and skills, and changing our culture to be very results-focused.” Tillman, on the other hand, is working on the perception component of “driving a top 10 brand. We’re very tied together in terms of driving shareholder value, but our core KPIs are quite different.”

As CDMO, is she responsible for customer data across the board at SAP? “I own the data strategy for what we need to deliver, to be able to manage and optimize our performance.” This includes being responsible for identifying the data to be input into marketing operations systems, and customer scoring systems. “The data stores sit with our operations group; I don’t own that, but I do own the business requirements we have in terms of what types of data, how often we refresh it, and who gets access to it. I partner with our SAP COO, and the folks that drive enterprise analytics, to deliver on those requirements.”

Given the depth of resources within SAP, I wondered if Yamamoto leaned on any third party solutions in her marketing efforts? “Yes we do. Where we’re going in this world is establishing solutions which are best-in-class. Where we don’t have the functionality, we seek to partner. We have Hybris marketing cloud, CRM products, Gigya, but use companies like Demandbase and Bombora for account-based marketing; we use Adobe Analytics for enterprise analytics; and we use ON24 to drive webinars.” 

Is there a typical day for Yamamoto? That provokes laughter: Definitely not. But within her broad purview are all the SAP digital channels, including social; making sure there’s an “end to end view” of the experience SAP’s core audiences have; and developing a future vision for the marketing tech stack to drive “next generation experiences for SAP.” All of which requires strong alignment with Sales, and close ties with IT.

“I really never have the same day twice. It’s this constant juggling between current performance and future-looking. I’m responsible for the strategy, and the execution too. Which is a great position to be in.”


On the news front, the email deliverability mavens at Return Path just announced a single, unified Partner Platform for deliverability data. I spoke to SVP corporate development Ken Takahashi to find out just what’s new about the offering.

“Deliverability: When things go right, nobody says anything; when things go wrong, red alert. The vast majority of deliverability issues aren’t the ESPs fault. Marketers tend to inherit their reputation and deliverability issues as they go from vendor to vendor. The Partner Platform is the first platform really designed for the deliverability experts at the ESP. They really have an uphill battle. There are more clients than ever; the challenges get harder and harder as mailbox providers are customizing inbox placement; and to be able to pro-actively manager a customer, until this product rolled out, deliverability specialists were just using the same tools marketers used. A swath of different solutions.”

With potentially hundreds or thousands of customers, managing deliverability in the traditional way across an ESP’s entire network has become impractical. 

The Partner Platform draws on an extensive “reputation network” supported by almost 100 mailbox provider networks, “so we can see what those networks see about what brands and ESPs are sending.”  Takahashi also mentioned the acquisition of ThreatWave, a global email sensor network, “that gives us insight into some of the abuse and threat data related to spamming.”

But what’s specifically new about this way of addressing a long-identified problem? “Using the same tools an individual marketer has, it’s really hard for a deliverability specialist to sift through all the reporting results to know which ones are the most important, or ‘Is a problem systemic across my customer base, or isolated to a specific brand?’ Being able to have a singular dashboard, using all our different data assets, gives the specialist a lot more efficiency on time.

The Return Path Partner Platform is now available to ESPs.

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