BtoB's virtual event focuses on content, customers

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Keynote speakers at BtoB's fourth annual Digital Edge virtual event last month focused on how empowered marketers are using content, social media and other digital strategies to engage with customers and prospects in a self-serve economy. Jay Baer, president of marketing consultancy Convince & Convert, and author of "Youtility: How Smart Companies Sell More by Selling Less," presented the opening keynote address. Mark Yolton, senior VP-digital, social and communities at SAP, presented the closing keynote. "We used to build mindshare with people in one-to-one situations; now we build mindshare with information," Baer said. "The only way to compete today is to be massively useful. And, if you are, your customers and prospects will keep you close the same way they keep their friends and family close." The emphasis on being useful is being driven, Baer said, by prospects who want to talk to a sales rep only as a last resort. "We're in the era of self-serve information, where prospective customers will figure out for themselves whether you're the right company," he said. Baer offered several examples of businesses that provide useful information instead of self-promotion. These included a hotel chain offering unbiased visitor information to travelers regardless of where they stay; a cab company promoting a where-to-eat guide to tourists; a hospital publishing an app that helps parents research the correct car seat for their children; and a swimming pool manufacturer creating an e-book about buying options that, in some cases, recommends a competitor's product over its own. Baer said companies can gain market share through this kind of useful information by first determining potential needs of customers and prospects. "Discover search terms people are using. Listen to social chatter. Ask your front line," he said. "Then map those needs to potential programs, like blog posts, videos, print and e-books. And, importantly, market your marketing. Use social to promote your content first and your company second." During the closing keynote, Yolton echoed the theme that marketers must provide useful information to customers and prospects who are doing considerable research on their own before ever contacting a vendor. "Our buyers are looking at social media and are looking for peer recommendations before making technology purchase decisions," Yolton said. "Those buyers are about 60% down the purchasing funnel before they ever contact us or any other vendor. So we'd better be in that space when and where the customers are looking." Yolton discussed how SAP is using social media, online communities, websites and other digital channels to engage with customers and meet its corporate goals, such as exceeding $20 billion in revenue and achieving a 35% operating margin by 2015. "Tying our social media goals and our digital and community goals to these corporate goals is very important in order for us to be relevant to the company, and for us to be funded," he said. SAP's Community Network (launched in 2003 as the SAP Developer Network) now has more than 2.5 million members, gains more than 30,000 new members a month and attracts more than 1.2 million unique visitors a month. Users on the network engage in between 3,000 and 4,000 discussions a day, and there are more than 450 blogs posted a month. The company has also had widespread success with social media, with more than 4 million fans on various social networks, 16.5 million video views, more than 700,000 mentions of SAP in social networks and more than 1.5 billion social media impressions this year. "We aspire to be the most socially integrated technology company in the world," Yolton said. SAP will soon be integrating even more social media and online community content into, such as providing live Twitter feeds, community links, and blogs from customers and partners on and other Web pages, he said. Digital Edge also featured webinar sessions on emerging trends in marketing automation, email marketing, sales pipeline acceleration, social media and content marketing. Visit the show archive to see the sessions.

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