Conversation with Jonathan Becher - CMO - SAP GlobalMarketing

SAP CMOSAP India is the fastest growing subsidiary of SAP AG, and Jonathan Becher was in India to understand the industry trends and speak to the influencers and bloggers. Paul Writer also managed to sneak in a few minutes to have a conversation with this Global CMO on tips for blogging and the initiatives at SAP to reach out to the community of developers and bloggers to leverage social media in spreading the Brand SAP. The conversation was short but his viewpoint was interesting…

On Social Media:

Jonathan Becher started by saying “I think we are reaching a danger point for social media. If we are not careful it will explode”. This sort of set the mode for the rest of the discussions.

Just like email, 10 – 12 years ago, became the cost efficient way over mass media advertising – a cheaper means to communicate with your audience without spending top-dollar – today it is the same with Social Media - the cost-less way to reach your customer and target market. However, just like email has become spam and junk today so will social media if we are not careful and don’t keep the integrity of the medium.

You don’t want your twitter to have ‘TWAM’ right? It should be the conversational platform that is started out as and therefore it should have quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many times you have put your opinion out there. According to Jonathan an interesting metric could be the percentage of your tweets that got ‘re-tweeted’ by more than 2 people.

He also went on to say that your presence on social media should be a reflection of you and your brand. You should be able to be real on this medium, let your hair down and be yourself – but maybe within some parameters.

On Communities...

Since the intention of his visit was an outreach to technology and social media bloggers there were several discussions around how SAP has a successful community which not only drives value to the brand but has also been very successful in converting customers to use their products.

The SAP community network is over 2.5 million strong. How did they get there? They started 9 years ago with mostly developers and it was mostly to assist customers - more like post-sales enablement. It was largely a system for reading early warning signals. What the customers are thinking or feeling about a product, are they moving away or losing interest. Toda, it has reached the other end of the spectrum where it has become a place for innovation. An ‘Idea Place’ where developers, partners, customers and the community at large are a part of the innovation at SAP, ideas are proposed and discussed and implemented when ready. It has also found prominence in the middle of this bandwidth of engagement where there is active feedback, recommendations to each other in the community – resulting in faster adoption of products and technology, more commercial traction and has infact, helped SAP to move from a push to a pull marketing model.

At SAP Community development is happening both in the hosted social network space and in it’s core community – SAP Community Network (SCN). Apart from this online activity they also host the SAP TechED annually which is not only attended by thousands of developers, partners and members of the community but is also broadcast and attended by millions of others who participate in it digitally – in a two-way interactive format.

Here is the game in numbers:

  • On SCN they have approximately 2.5 mn registered users
  • There is an engagement with about 9000 bloggers currently
  • And as far as India goes there are a lot of big numbers at play –
  • The 2nd largest SAP lab for development and research is in Bangalore, India where HR Applications, Mobile Solutions, Supplier relationship management, HANA and BIG Data activity is ongoing
  • 17% of the total number of followers of SAP are fro India – Second only to the USA which is at 23%
  • 19% of the total visits on Social Media are from India
  • SAP has 120,000 Fans on facebook of which India is the NO.1 contributor with 27000 fans and followed by USA at less than half that number

An interesting anomaly presented by Mark Yolton puts into a nutshell how SAP sees its community development activities and how they have infact enhanced their reach and driven business for the company.

The universe for SAP is like a Target Practice Board with its concentric circles. At the center of the board is the core of the organization – where they are in complete control of the message delivered and this is where they want to lead all their stakeholders to. As you move away from the core the circle encompass more and more people but the organization gives up some of its control over the message. Reaching more people and a more open forum for discussion and interaction is the SAP managed community SCN which is partially controlled too. Further out is the large universe of Social Media users on platforms like Facebook and Twitter where the control moves out of SAP and to the administrators of these forums and lastly is the whole wide universe of users of the internet and the WorldWideWeb. The idea is to draw everyone closer and closer to the core of SAP just like an archer would!

The Interview...

Here are the excerpts of my quick conversation with Jonathan D Becher

PaulWrter: What is the importance of technology for a global marketer? JB: Today’s Marketer needs to marry the Art and the Science of marketing - at the one end is the art of marketing involving all that is creative and emotional – the brand and the image part of the company and at the other end is the logical and number based science of marketing which talks of analytics, reach, information, data. Often the two are not talking to each other. The old purchase funnel concept of consumer behavior has completely changed today is non-linear today with so many ebbs and flows that make Marketing a fascinating discipline. There are so many ways in which campaign effectiveness can be measured and analysed using predictive technology to gauge consumer behavior. A favourite example is how Amazon revolutionized this through it’s recommendation engine for ‘if you liked this you will also like…” Similarly in their B2B space also, SAP uses predictive modeling to arrive at narrowing down whom to sell their over 1000 product line to and so when they launched HANA they had already got the information on who was most likely to buy and therefore directed their marketing and sales campaign to those – it was amazingly accurate and while it is studying patterns to aid the process it is not to be treated as a crutch.

PaulWriter: Since you are a regular blogger yourself what are your golden rules for blogging? JB: I blog as regularly as I can on the subjects of management, leadership, strategy apart from my SAP focused blog on event and product launches. Here are 3 Tricks from my blogging experience:

  • An interesting title that captures the interest of the reader immediately
  • Regular blogging schedule where your audience actually knows the cycle you write in and waits for it
  • Know your audience –most important – use analytics from your own blog. Who is reading it, when and where are they from. Then tailor it to suit the primary audience – for eg. I started out writing for my peers but soon found out that UK based students read my leadership blogs most – so now I work with that

CMOs make terrible bloggers as they are obsessed with perfection and rarely let their hair down – you have to be genuine for it to become a successful blog and if you are not ready to make mistakes your followers will drop off…

I would have liked to know more about CHARITRA which stands for Charity Transformation and is an interesting new innovation at SAP. It is an online platform that connects various entities like individuals, corporate houses, government bodies, foundations, NGOs etc for executing a social cause. Using Charitra, individual volunteers and NGOs can action their causes, by posting their needs and ask the community at large for help. Individuals or groups (corporate houses, govt bodies etc) can view these needs and satisfy them by contributing their resources, skills or time for the cause. I would have liked to ask more around this – but maybe we can save that for another conversation

About Jonathan Becher: As the chief marketing officer (CMO) of SAP, Jonathan Becher oversees the development and execution of marketing strategy across the globe. He champions SAP's focus on customers and world-class innovations, while continuing Marketing's focus on building the SAP brand.

Jonathan is a frequent speaker at industry events, an active member of the enterprise applications community, and author of multiple papers on a wide range of subjects, including a popular blog.

Jonathan holds a master’s degree in computer science from Duke University in North Carolina, and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Virginia.

Comments (1)

Allan Fernandes

Besides India if you look at Latin America like Brazil , Uruguay and Argentina is catching up with SAP . We have many SAP experts in Argentina only because of the language barrier they are not so much recognized compared to India.