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SAP Ecosystem - 31 Keys to Success: Keys 1-4 - Avoiding SAP Marketing #Fails Print E-mail

We're in a different marketing era, and those who don't get that are struggling to keep up. The SAP ecosystem is no different. The "New Rules of Marketing" mean that customers are empowered to research and evaluate companies on their own. They are resistant, sometimes even downright hostile, to receiving unsolicited promotional content. Even the trusty email inbox has become treacherous ground for the marketer as prospects weed out non-essential queries, and priority filters limit all but white-listed content. If the prospect doesn't invite you in, you're not sticking around.

The guidelines in this document have been used by my clients to create a better "content marketing" approach. Content marketing is at the heart of a broader strategy called "inbound marketing" that engages prospects on social channels while also attracting search traffic via compelling content. In turn, these new visitors are measured and qualified into the pre-existing sales funnel. At the heart of this approach is the goal of becoming relevant to the SAP community by making a difference in people's lives. That may sound ridiculously subtle by marketing standards, but in the new rules of marketing, good content takes center stage and lead generation becomes a byproduct of building trust.

On the upside, there is tremendous opportunity in content marketing. Very few vendors in the SAP ecosystem utilize all the best approaches in a coherent overall strategy. Too many still overpay social media and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) "gurus" instead of seizing the opportunities to create truly awesome content and get involved in community projects. The good news is that you don't need SEO gurus anymore - many of these content methods can be bootstrapped when money is tight. On the flip side, a serious time commitment, and an overhaul of stale marketing culture is required to take advantage of these new approaches.

Following are 31 guiding questions and best practices, all of which were compiled while helping the most successful third party SAP firms execute. Some of them were refined in collaboration with these firms via good old trial and error. Not all of them should be used - you want to play to your strengths. However, I recommend a three year roadmap that incorporates all of the tactics - even if there is a conscious decision to postpone some until a later point. These 31 points are in rough order of priority.

1.  Sales comes first: before expanding into content marketing, make sure existing leads and prospects are not being lost due to inefficiencies. Content marketing strategies take time.

  • Does your sales team have adequate input into your marketing strategy?
  • Are you using marketing automation and demographic analysis tools to make sure that you give your best salespeople only the most pre-qualified leads rather than wasting their time "fishing"?
  • Has your sales director provided the marketing team with a profile of your ideal customer?
  • Is there a transparent way for the sales and marketing team to share and collaborate on lead information, perhaps via an online portal?
  • Have you formed the right partnerships with complementary firms who can cross-sell your products or refer leads, jumpstarting sales while content marketing and search-based lead generation approaches take hold?

2. Does your sales team have the pre-sales content they need to nurture prospects into sales?

Once prospects are in the sales funnel and interested in kicking tires, the whole mentality behind content changes. Inside the sales funnel, prospects expect content that will help them evaluate a product and make a purchasing decision. Product demos and case studies are particularly powerful in this regard.

3. Existing customers also come first.

Serving existing customers is also a top priority before moving into broader community engagements. Are there glaring needs in customer support that would aid in retention and cross-selling opportunities? Examples: Creating help videos for tricky software areas, conducting satisfaction surveys and (very important) implementing the feedback, creating a public ideation site that solicits product improvement ideas, or even creating virtual customer events and live help sessions via Google Hangouts. What is the ultimate accomplishment in this area? An actual on-the-ground user conference. Facilitating peer-to-peer interaction between customers is a cutting edge tactic in the new marketing, which means: step out of the way and let customers learn from each other.

Final tip for the first three points: have a sales and customer nurturance strategy document that outlines the steps towards a full fledged user conference.

4. Craft a three year strategy that centers on content marketing but also considers classic marketing tactics such as pay-per-click, trade show booths, and event participation and sponsorship.

An inbound marketing strategy in the SAP ecosystem should have two guiding themes: thought leadership and community involvement, NOT branding products and pushing services.

Example: Instead of pushing a product that makes SAP security easier to administer, focus on a thought leadership goal around becoming a recognized leader in governance, risk, and compliance, which could include sharing presentations, blogs, conference keynotes, and contributing to community projects such as wikis and educational programs. Developing a genuine passion around the core topic underneath your product can become a rallying cry for the internal team, while pushing them to become experts in their field and share impactful content themselves.

Once thought leadership is sorted, the logical implementation steps get sorted. Example: Don't create a LinkedIn group about your company, create (or participate in) a LinkedIn group around your firm's areas of expertise, and so on.

You may want to flesh out your new marketing vision with two other themes: customer relevance and the power of narrative:

Customer relevance means stepping back from the classic pitfalls of overhyped product development/messaging around "technical revolutions" and "game changing technology" in favor of a more immediate question: what SAP pain point does my solution solve? You want to be able to say in a simple, buzzword-free sentence how you make a customer's life easier. Those firms who can't explain how they help SAP customers save money or grow markets end up lagging behind - an ironic fate given that they were trying to conquer the market with transformative solutions.

Incorporating the power of narrative means framing everything your company does in terms of a compelling story. Example: "Our product began with a consultant in his spare time in his garage trying to solve a customer problem. The customer loved it, and shared it with her peers. It was a solution that customers demanded." From a marketing angle, that story might then be fleshed out by smaller stories that fill in the big picture. It's hard to tell a good corporate story if your company is not transparent and you aren't able to put a human and sometimes imperfect face on what you do. People relate to stories they can get behind and root for.

If the community is rooting for you because you are doing your best to offer a far better value in your area of expertise, and if you are going the extra mile to share not only your successes but sometime your struggles, then you are creating a rootable story. People love the underdog, and there is something to be said for a company that ruthlessly serves customers in a market where big fish often dominate through "golf course relationships" rather than providing true customer value.

Here's the clickable Table of Contents for the four part web version: 

Keys 1-4 - Avoiding SAP Marketing #Fails (and Report Introduction)

Keys 5-12 - The Challenges of Transparency

Keys 13-21 -  Don't Get Fooled by SEO and Social "Gurus"

Keys 22-31 - Why Buying Influence Doesn't Work

Download this entire "31 Keys" feature as a PDF (128KB)

Links to additional articles cited in this document:

SAP, social media and decision makers

Power of pull and ERP content curation

How to avoid getting ripped off by SEO "gurus."

On SAP Mentors and leadership

Have follow up questions?

Contact me on LinkedIn, Facebook Twitter, or Google Plus.

About Jon Reed

jon-headshot-150x150.jpgJon Reed is an SAP Mentor and independent analyst who blogs, Tweets, and videocasts on SAP market trends. Jon is the driving force behind, an interactive web site that features Jon's long-running SAP podcast series - unscripted conversations about SAP trends. Jon's client services are focused on the creative integration of media into a mold-breaking business strategy. Jon is also an Enterprise Irregular, an influential consortium of enterprise bloggers and practitioners.

Jon has been publishing SAP market analysis for more than fifteen years, and he is the author of the SAP Consultant Handbook. Recently, Jon and partner-in-video-crime Dennis Howlett launched - a video commentary web site for the on-demand enterprise. 






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