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How SAP turns users of its social network into sales-ready leads

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SAP is known worldwide for its business and analytics applications. It has more than 170,000 customers and more than two million members of its social network, the SAP Community Network (SCN), which was created as a way to disseminate information.

About a year ago, hoping to boost its overall thought leadership and turn some of its SCN members into warm leads, the SAP marketing team launched a series of webinars using ON24 as its technology platform. The first webcast, which focused primarily on the North American and EMEA markets, took about six weeks of planning. It went live in March 2011.

The webcasts consistently perform for the SAP marketing department, providing a conversion rate of between 40% and 55% including both live and on-demand viewers, said John Morris, SAP's senior manager-eChannels marketing. “We're getting sales-ready leads to handoff,” he said.

There was a learning curve at the beginning, said Sona Venkat, SAP's senior director-eChannels Marketing. The first lesson, she said, was getting alignment from the company's internal and external stakeholders. “It was so important to get the right buy-in and the right input and expectations,” she said. There were other lessons as well. Venkat and Morris provided these tips to help marketers get the most out of their webinar experiences.

  • Choose the right speakers. Venkat said she looks for both subject matter experts and executives who are media trained and comfortable in front of an audience. From the beginning, the webinar team had people coming to them wanting to be part of the series, but desire doesn't always translate into a good speaker, she said. “We tend to focus on people who can connect with an audience who are also designated experts in a particular field,” Venkat said. Companies can also do well looking outside their organization. Bloggers, analysts, partners and customers are often willing and able to act as speakers. Having one person speaking an entire hour gets boring, she said. Instead, look for opportunities to create panel-like experiences that are interactive.
  • Choose the right content. Many of the webinar topics are inspired by the SCN. If customers and users are asking questions about a specific topic, there's probably a reason. If you're planning on a live question and answer session for the end of your event, have seed questions on hand just in case the audience is quiet. Don't make up questions, though. Take them from other customer interactions such as emails or support forums.
  • Employ a multichannel promotion strategy. SAP uses its own marketing lists, sending out emails to people who might be interested in a particular topic, but marketers also rented lists from third parties, said Venkat. Social media is also very important, Morris said. “The secret sauce is using a variety of sources marketing through our own online communities [such as SCN] and blogs, traditional email and social media,” he said.
  • Pick the right day and time. SAP webinars are presented Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays since they see higher attendance on those days. “Wednesdays seem to be the best day,” Morris said.
  • Always follow up. SAP has a rule in place that everyone including attendees and no-shows gets a follow-up email between 24 and 48 hours after events. They include a link to the event on-demand, more information about the webinar topics and promotional material about the next planned live event. “We often can't address every question that comes up during the events, so we will do a blog to continue the discussion,” Morris said.
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