Ahem….OK, that’s not a modest statement, but this is no ordinary advocacy program either. I’ve just spent two weeks at SAP Tech Ed, our annual technical conference, and came away compelled to share the story of the gem that is a key ingredient in the success of SAP’s much-admired online community—the SAP Mentor initiative. B2B marketers often ask how to create successful advocacy and influencer programs. What are the key ingredients for building a successful advocacy program for your company? Here’s what I’ve learned from SAP’s Mentor program:
1. Have an inspirational leader
The SAP Mentor Initiative is led by Mark Finnern, a long-time SAP employee who exudes passion, competence and leadership. The members rally around Mark’s brand of leadership and the culture of the group, making membership something that many community participants aspire to. Initiative benefits are well articulated and the bar is set high for the additions of new members (which happens twice a year). Mark’s persona is synonymous with the group—he embodies the values the group seeks to operate by.
2. Ensure the group’s ability to influence your company’s direction on strategy and products
The SAP Mentors are highly regarded by SAP’s leadership team. They are a must-have appointment at SAP’s SAPPHIRENOW and SAP TechEd events for our co-founder Hasso Plattner, our CEO Bill McDermott, our CTO Vishal Sikkha and our CMO Jonathan Becher. These are lively, challenging sessions where execs know they can get honest, unfiltered feedback that represents the views of SAP customers and partners.
3. Offer a substantive agenda that keeps advocates informed about company products and strategies
The SAP Mentors keep a rigid, no-nonsense schedule, with calls at least once a week (Mentor Mondays) where they are briefed by SAP and each other on the latest technology offerings. Marketing hype is not allowed—
these conversations are by practitioners, for practitioners—
with straight talk about evaluating, implementing and upgrading our software and services.
4. Cultivate a “work hard-have fun” culture
The Mentors are hard-working community members. They rank at the top of the contributors’ list with the greatest number of community points, badges and followers, author the most highly rated content (blogs, discussion posts) and are generally regarded as thought leaders for their product of interest. No posers in this group. In addition, this merry “wolf pack”, as they call themselves, have a grand time at SAP’s major events connecting socially, with lots of pictures posted to capture the fun. The in-person event fun continues on Twitter on a daily basis. The group has its own @sapmentor Twitter handle that is one of SAP’s most active accounts.
Follow @sapmentors on Twitter or visit their homepage on the SAP Community Network – listening and observing is the best form of market research. Then, launch your own program. If done well, it sends positive vibes in your company’s ecosystem about your transparency, progressiveness and inclination towards open innovation.
* SAP Mentors are the top community influencers of the SAP Ecosystem. Most of the ~130 mentors work for customers or partners of SAP. All of them are hands-on experts of an SAP product or service, as well as excellent champions of community-driven projects.