SAP And The New B2B Marketing And Communications Model

If the German software company SAP AG is not yet at the top of your mind as one of the world's most recognizable brands, here’s betting it will be. The business software management company was ranked the 24th most valuable brand in the world in 2011 ahead of Amazon and Nike. Not bad for a company that does the behind-the-scenes work that help businesses run better.

SAP has cracked the code on turning a giant company with 60,000 employees and 3,000 products that are sold in 130 countries into an integrated marketing and communications machine. Indeed, SAP has transformed its communications and marketing for today’s 24-7, multichannel, transparent world. And if SAP can do it with its 3,000 products, you can do it too.

So, what is the secret to its success in B2B PR and marketing?

Here are 4 key ways the company has strengthened itself:

1.Strategically used its 60,000 employees as brand ambassadors. As Hubertus Kuelps, SAP’s head of global communications, puts it, “It’s not about the seven spokespeople in our PR department but in how we can use our 60,000 employees as communicators, and how many folks within the company can produce content.”

Example: One smart way SAP employees are serving as brand ambassadors is through Forbes.com, where a paid sponsorship provides SAP with a blogging platform. Some 40 employees have blogged on the site from its CMO Jonathan Becher to Michael Brenner, SAP’s senor director of global marketing. Don’t expect to read brain-numbing tech pieces; the posts are highly accessible. Check out this fascinating one by Becher on the reverse psychology of likeability, which garnered 48,583 views, 464 tweets and 595 shares on Facebook. SAP says that Forbes Advoice (the official name of the sponsorship) generated over one million page views last year and brought it exposure to a more mainstream audience it otherwise would not reach.

2.Changed its marketing focus from a push to a pull mentality. Its marketing objective shifted from helping the sales force sell to helping buyers buy, according to Becher.

Example: Business Innovation from SAP, a content site meant to appeal to buyers early in the purchase cycle by focusing on business innovation rather than deep technical knowledge. Established in late March 2012, the site focuses on business topics such as analytics, big data, cloud computing and mobile. The articles are appealing and far from the typical B2B tech company’s yawning self-promotion. About 75 percent of the content is curated from external services and an average of eight articles a day are published. The site so far has attracted 236,000 unique visitors, and according to SAP, is drawing visitors and generating leads and deals it would have never seen without this.

3.Integrating its marketing and communications. The company has successfully linked these two functions so they are able to amplify their messages.

Example: SAP insures marketing and communications are in sync by promoting interaction between the teams. Someone from communications sits in on weekly marketing meetings and vice versa. This makes it easier for the company to coordinate its marketing and PR messages. For example, when SAP had a major article run in the Wall Street Journal on HANA, marketing teams were given a heads up to leverage the article for lead generation and social media activities.

4.Humanized itself by talking like real people rather than a robotic corporation.

Example: One way SAP has done this is by hitting an emotional cord, not just a technical one. Check out its splashy Run like Never Before TV ad, unveiled in April 2012. The ad focuses on how SAP makes people run better in every part of their lives.

I'd love to hear what you're doing to better sync up your marketing and PR.

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx.

[Image: Flickr user Chris H]

Add New Comment

4 Comments

  • Rebecca Caroe

    This is a really helpful article.  It shows that while big $ budgets can help, the connection is emotional and between people.  We forget sometimes that brands are made up of folks, not automatons!
    Thanks

  • Wendy Marx

    Al, I appreciate your insight. While true that SAP is using traditional advertising, it's doing so more like a B2C company than the traditional B2B company, in that it's telling an emotionally-charged story. At the same time, it has empowered its employees  to tell the company story and via Forbes.com turned its brand (and by extension its employees) into publishers. In addition, the company has totally embraced content marketing for education and engagement. Lastly, SAP has successfully synced its marketing with its internal and external communications. In my book, it's ahead of the pack in a lot of ways.

  • Al Shultz

    Well, how amazing is that! A really successful, leading-edge, high-tech company marketing itself with (gulp!) traditional media — TV advertising!

    Could it be that the basics don't change?! Yes, Virginia, TV, print, direct mail still work. And in the right hands, work really well.

    Al Shultz
    http://www.alshultz.com/