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Active Social Listening Turns Critics into Mentors at SAP



Jonathan Becher
Chief Marketing Officer
SAP

eMarketer: SAP sells primarily to the C-Suite of large businesses. What’s effective in reaching this audience?

Becher: Rather than immediately jumping up and saying, “Here’s my product. Buy it, please,” we try to create an ongoing conversation. For some companies, it might only take weeks, but for others, it might take months or even more than a year to engage them to the point where they eventually come to SAP.

I’ll use a bull’s-eye analogy to describe how we reach this audience. The center of the bull’s-eye is our SAP-owned site, where we do our best to control our messages. SAP.com is where our traditional marketing rears its head. That’s where we feature customer testimonials, and it’s where a lot of our lead generation takes place.

“We use the SAP Mentors to get the word out about our products, but more importantly, to get the word back to us as to what works and what doesn’t.”

The next ring on that bull’s-eye is the SAP Community Network, where we have nearly 3 million members. That community site is made up of customers, prospects, partners and thought leaders. We participate in the conversation and in some cases we influence it.

We also have a group called the SAP Mentors. This group is essentially the technical liaison between SAP and the greater community. These people are advocates, but they’re also our critics. We use them to get the word out about our products, but more importantly, to get the word back to us as to what works and what doesn’t.

eMarketer: Does that group have a more powerful voice than the SAP brand itself?

Becher: Very much so. And part of how they earn their power is being tough with us. A large fraction of their feedback is tough love, for lack of a better term. Along those lines, we recently started bringing live content feeds onto our website. I got asked last year, “What happens if that live feed is not always positive?” I enthusiastically said, “That’s fantastic.” If there’s something that we’re not doing well as a company, if we don’t know about it, we’re never going to change it. It’s much better if we put it right there on the front page and acknowledge we have an issue with whatever that is and deal with it. Ignoring it is much worse.

eMarketer: How does SAP use social media?

Becher: We have something like 20 different LinkedIn communities where we engage in the conversation as a participant. We’re not controlling it at all. The reality is, there’s a much bigger world beyond our own sites, and people are having conversations about us. So, we want to go in and embrace the conversations that are happening on social networks and on SAP influencer sites.

“We have something like 20 different LinkedIn communities where we engage in the conversation as a participant. We’re not controlling it at all. ”

We have more than 100 employees at SAP who blog or communicate in their authentic voices on social sites—sometimes on SAP properties, but often not. Their stories are related to SAP, but not SAP-centric. They are displaying leadership on a variety of topics: What’s the next generation of retail look like? How do you actually really make better decisions from data? What’s the best mobile device? That’s part of our content strategy. That’s part of our thought-leadership strategy. Yes, they’re SAP people, but they don’t go out and say, “Buy SAP now.” That’s not their goal.

eMarketer: Content marketing can be difficult to tie to return on investment and to measure in general. What works for SAP?

Becher: We are in the business of making money, so my definition of success isn’t even leads, it’s revenue. I’m accountable for marketing’s impact on revenue, not just the revenue overall. Therefore, I don’t just look at what I tend to call “ego metrics.”

An ego metric might be how many people viewed the blog post we ran on Forbes or how many page views there might have been on SAP.com. Rather, we measure what impact we achieved. An impact might be, “I want this many people to convert to leads,” but often the impact is, “I actually want to change the funnel so I have more of these kind of opportunities that are slated to close in the following couple of quarters.”

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer corporate subscribers only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a corporate subscriber, click here.

Check out today’s other articles, “This Year, All Publishers Go Mobile” and “In France, Twitter Finds an Older Niche.“

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