SAP gets creative with SME marketing

LAS VEGAS – Although a large majority of German business software vendor SAG AG‘s (NYSE: SAP) customers are in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) space and SAP has invested heavily in both product development and channel enablement to service this market, SAP continues to fight the perception that it’s only for large enterprise companies.

It’s a common lament for SAP’s partners: they’re confident with their ability to compete with SAP’s SME suite of offerings once they’ve got their foot in the door. The challenge is getting past that door in the first place, when SAP is seen as large, costly and complex.

In an interview at SAP’s TechEd conference, Prasas Akella, vice-president and head of SME marketing with SAP, told CDN that SAP is taking a new approach to try to shift that market perception of SAP in the SME by investing heavily in what he calls the awareness side of the business. A key part of the strategy is getting into communities of interest that can influence IT buying decisions in the SME. It’s not about pitching SAP, but talking about what companies should look for when it comes to ERP.

“It’s groups like the American Accounting Association, or private equity groups; people with influence over buying decisions,” said Akella. “It also includes social media. LinkedIn has very active ERP communities, and we’ve dramatically increased our presence there over the last few months.”

Other initiatives include an “Always On” weekly webinar series with product experts, with host that include third-party validators of SAP offerings. Similarly, SAP has expanded its SAP Mentor program from the large enterprise space into the SME this year. SAP Mentors are evangelists and power users, often bloggers, that validate and spread the word about SAP within their communities.

“We need to bring buyers, developers and partners together in a multi-pronged attack that lets us touch all these different people,” said Akella.

Another channel being utilized is TechEd itself, which is primarily enterprise-focused but this year has SME sessions and a presence from SAP’s SME team for the first time. Akella said many large SAP customers have subsidiaries that are SMEs, and SAP hopes to reach those companies through their corporate parents.

In other SME news, Akella said partners should be watching for a number of developments from SAP in the months to come. Among them, Business One, SAP’s SME ERP, will launch on HANA later this year.

“It’s real now; we’re just making it customer ready,” said Akella. “You’ll see a bigger push into Business One coming, and several different aspects will be discussed that the channel audience will be interested in.”

HANA is a big focus for SAP , and while the initial push is in the enterprise space, Akella said HANA, SAP’s real-time analytical engine and appliance, is very relevant to the SME market. The hardware is being scaled down to SME levels, and applications are being developed to meet SME use cases.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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