This B2B lead generation case study is about the SAP Community Network, a private B2B social networking site 2M strong maintained by the CRM ERP software company.
There are plenty of great examples of B2C companies using social networks to grow market share but far fewer on how B2B companies tent pole online communities to generate leads.
B2B vs B2C lead generation are very different exercises, since businesses make purchasing decisions differently than individuals.
SAP is one of the few software companies with a private social network for B2B lead generation, lead nurturing and lead qualification.
The SAP Community Network is growing monthly at the rate of roughly 30,000 members from 200 countries worldwide.
Based on their conversion rates, private social networks just may be the killer app for B2B lead generation.
1. Customer Success as a Lead Gen Tactic
“If it can make our customers more successful than our competitor’s customers, then our competitor’s customers are going to come to us. Or our customers our going to buy more, upgrade faster, extend their capabilities and so forth,” says According to SAP VP Mark Yolton.
And that’s precisely what the SAP Community Network does, and B2B events are a great place for them to grow members.
2. Generating Leads with Target Market Expertise
By providing a target audience of SAP users and prospective customers with free access to subject matter experts, the SAP Community Network helps its customers implement solutions and resolve issues faster, decreasing time to market.
“Our hope is that if they can reduce some of the burden of day-to-day operations, adopt best practices and overcome challenges faster, they’re going to have to budget left over to buy more stuff,” says Mark Yolton.
When customers use the SAP Community Network to resolves issues, the conversations get left behind where they can be found by others, and help them too.
But they can also be found be tire kickers and work to generate leads.
Rather than rely solely on SAP content marketers to share bottom of the funnel, conversion oriented white papers and reports, prospects self-qualify reducing the cost per lead.
3. Self Serve Lead Qualification
Customers use the SAP social network to increase their knowledge of the CRM provider’s their organization at a very low cost.
Members can share blog posts and marketing automation tips for other B2B marketers.
These savings extend to SAP as well, because customers share knowledge directly with other customers, reducing the demand on the SAP sales team to educate the marketplace.
The scale of the SAP B2B social network is also beneficial, since its sheer size increases the possibility that there will be customers within the same industry to share best practices.
4. Lead Nurturing through Brand Awareness
For SAP’s third-party system integrators, participating in this B2B social network allows them to participate in active lead gen activities and build their reputations to attract new business opportunities.
By enabling digital marketers to maintain an active community where customers, prospects and integrators can education one another, this private B2B social network goes far beyond the simply landing page approach.
Community managers even award a member of month designation to recognize most helpful participants.
SAP’s social network has become a primary channel for customers and partners to demonstrate their expertise within a focused community, and in so doing, generate qualified leads.
The SAP community network has been recognized by the Altimeter Group and SiteIQ as exemplary of effective online social networking for business gain.
And Mark Yolton does an outstanding job articulating the benefits that SAP and its stakeholders reap from their branded B2B social networking environment.
If you want to read more detail about this B2B lead generation case study, you can find it in my B2B Lead Generation Book published by John Wiley & Sons.