Siemens exec breaks down borders, connects

February 1, 2007

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

When you think of boundary-breaking tech marketing, Apple, YouTube, MySpace and Google come to mind, not Berlin and Munich, Germany-based Siemens AG. Yet the quiet, understated Siemens is best-in-class at global marketing.

Listening to Jack Bergen, senior vice president of corporate affairs and marketing for the $110.8 billion Siemens, you realize Bergen is no ordinary marketer. Bergen is a multidisciplinary executive who was born to break down borders.

He’s a former Army Ranger and Vietnam vet who graduated from West Point and taught English, philosophy and ethics at the military academy. He worked as a strategic planner at the Pentagon during the Reagan administration and was the chief speech writer for Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

Before joining Siemens in 2001, Bergen was the founding president of New York-based Council of Public Relations firms. He played a key role in the Westinghouse-CBS merger and was CEO of GCI Group, Grey Advertising’s PR arm based in New York. Bergen’s held top positions at Hill & Knowlton, RCA and GE.

So what’s a West Point grad doing at the top of one of the world’s biggest technology organizations? He’s helping Siemens CEO Klaus Kleinfeld write the playbook on business-to-business tech marketing.

Consider these facts: Siemens invests $6.3 billion in R&D annually and 75% of Siemens’ revenue comes from products that didn’t exist five years ago. They have more than 53,000 active patents and created 8,800 inventions in their last fiscal year.
The 159-year-old company operates in 190 countries, employs 460,000 people and ranks No. 21 on the Fortune 500 list. The company has a market cap of $85.8 billion.

Siemens markets under the tagline, “Siemens Global Network of Innovation.” Bergen is not happy with the line. “We’re working on changing that,” Bergen says. “It doesn’t really help us cross borders,” he adds. Crossing borders and connecting with customers is what Bergen’s marketing playbook is all about. He wants to tear down geographical, organizational and functional boundaries.

One way Bergen crosses geographical borders is by linking his CEO with the world’s power players. Bergen is proud of his executive relationship management program.

“When Klaus Kleinfeld became CEO, we set up a system for him so that he could very quickly get to know people,” says Bergen.

Bergen and his team identified global leaders who Kleinfeld felt he should know to advance Siemens’ business.

“We saw an article in The New York Times about Hank Paulson—who is now the Treasury Secretary and had been head of Goldman Sachs—doing a lot of running when he traveled,” Bergen says. “Here was an opportunity for the boss to make a connection—a personal connection. It could be a phone call. It could be a note. It could be an e-mail.”

Knowing Kleinfeld is a marathoner who wanted to build relationships on Wall Street, Bergen proposed an e-mail from Kleinfeld to Paulson that read in part, “I’m going to show my wife this article about you and your itinerate life. She’s always on my case (about) traveling so much and always spending so much time running.”

According to Bergen the note generated a response that led to a relationship. Last May, when new German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the United States and wanted to convene a group of American and German CEOs, the Paulson/Kleinfeld relationship was pivotal. They teamed to bring the group of business leaders together. “It became a very historic meeting,” Bergen says, and good for Siemens’ business, as well.

When Siemens, a perennial competitor to GE, posted good financial results while GE struggled, a Wall Street blog suggested former GE CEO Jack Welch must have gone to Siemens. Bergen saw the opportunity to create a connection.

“We alerted Kleinfeld, and he wrote a three-liner note to Welch that said, ‘I’m complimented for them to think that you are running the company,’ ” Bergen says. Welch replied within 30 minutes that he’d like to come and see Kleinfeld.

“It all happens by these little notes,” he adds.

To break down organizational boundaries within Siemens, Bergen has instituted a City Ambassador’s program.

Siemens is composed of large vertical units in Information and Communication, Automation and Control, Power, Transportation, Medical and Lighting. Typically there’s not much collaboration across these units, but Bergen’s changing that.

“In one city we brought all the people from our 13 operating companies together in a room,” Bergen says. “Two of the companies are at the same building, but they did not know they were in the same location.”

“I give each one of the City Ambassadors money and someone from my staff to work with them. They find ways to work together,” Bergen says. Getting Siemens people acquainted stimulates new business. Bergen funds bonuses of $500 to $1,000 for cross-divisional leads with $5,000 going to the individual whose efforts generate the most business.

“It is one of my smallest marketing investments,” Bergen says. “You don’t need a lot of money.” The program resulted in $130 million in incremental business last year for Siemens.

The functional barriers that Bergen is trying to obliterate are those where advertising types don’t talk to PR people, and direct and online marketers don’t talk with special events experts at Siemens.
Bergen draws an oval with all the marketing and communications competencies surrounding a central circle containing the terms “customers and influencers.”

“If you want funding for an advertising program,” Bergen says, “you have to use one or more of the other competencies.”

Such cross-functional thinking is transforming Siemens. Mundane golf events have become multidimensional thought leadership programs with a charitable component. Sales efforts selling high-tech medical diagnostic devices have become digital health initiatives that unseat entrenched competitors.

“It’s all about people working together,” says Bergen, the master at getting people to collaborate across boundaries of geography, organization and function.

Michael Krauss is a president of Market Strategy Group, based in Chicago, and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Mkt-strat.com or news@ama.org.


 

 ©2007 Marion Consulting Partners