My partner Eric Koch and I registered for the SAP Marketing Innovators Competition in March. As we were registering, we knew that we would only be able to brainstorm ideas until the winter semester ended, because we were both stretching ourselves with other commitments (full load of school, internships, and student organizations).
When our finals ended on April 24 at Grand Valley State University, we immediately committed our first week of freedom to begin to develop our idea. April 30th we were satisfied with what we had accomplished and submitted our marketing plan and resumes. Next, we waited in anticipation to hear back from SAP to see if we were chosen as finalists.
May 12th Domenic Colasante called my cell phone while I was at work; I did not answer because of an unknown number. Nevertheless, as I listened to the voicemail, I started jumping up and down in my cubicle because I was going to (our dream world) SAP Americas HQ in Newtown Square, PA. Eric had a similar story, where he was in all day training at Steelcase when he received a call from a Philadelphia area code. From that point, we were determined to do whatever it took to win this thing.
As functional users of SAP, we felt we had a leg up on our competition. We have had no marketing experience besides our core business-marketing curriculum. However, we were extremely process oriented from our mentor and professor Dr. Simha R. Magal. We had one problem… I started my internship at Owens Corning in Toledo Ohio May 18, which was going to make working on the project a little more difficult. In order to overcome this obstacle we used Skype to communicate/collaborate every night after work.
The entire 36 hours that we were in the hands of the SAP Marketing Specialist team was an amazing experience for the two of us. We stayed in the SAP cottages where they only let their finest customers stay. The first night (June 11), the SAP Marketing Specialist interns took us out to dinner. Getting to know the interns was a great opportunity to relieve our anxiousness, get a feel for our competition, and ask important questions that were on our mind.
The next morning we opted to take a 15-minute walk across SAP campus to the headquarters building instead of taking the shuttle to shake out a little bit of our excitement. We received ‘executive’ treatment throughout the day. During our meals, we were able to begin networking with the SAP executives who were judging us. While other teams were presenting, different marketing executives talked the remaining teams about their roles at SAP.
Each team at the competition was assigned to one SAP intern, who looked over them and answered any questions throughout the day. Before the presentation, our assigned intern (Ben Coggins) took us into the prep room 20 minutes before we had to present. Confident that all of the preparing we had done over the last month would pay off, we decided it would be a good idea to loosen up and listen to none other than “Eye of the Tiger.” This helped loosened the mood and got rid of any butterflies that might have still been lingering in our stomachs.
During the presentation, we were less nervous than when we had presented in front of our co-workers. It felt like we were explaining our marketing process to people who wanted to learn what we had researched. It was an amazing relief to have given a presentation we were both satisfied with. The judges’ feedback was great; it made us both confident that we will be able to make the transition of presenting to our classmates to colleagues smoothly.
Sitting at the awards ceremony was intense. The two of us waited anxiously with sweaty hands until Jeff Vail (Vice President, Enterprise Field Marketing, SAP Americas) said, “The winners are Grand Valley…” At that moment we stood up, shook hands with each other and both new that all of the hard work was worth every minute. In short, our plan incorporates how SAP can utilize LinkedIn and personal messages to connect their sales force to top executives at corporations that are customers or could be potential customers of SAP.
After we had accepted our award, we met Bob Lobue, the head of University Alliances Community at SAP. He congratulated us on our award and talked to us for the first time in person. In the past, we have been connecting with Bob trying to create an SAP related student organization. He was wondering how far along we were; luckily we were pleased to inform him that we had already formed a group of students and had hosted elections for the upcoming academic year. We are proud to announce that the Enterprise Systems Student Union will be the first SAP aligned student organization.
Thank you to everyone at SAP for giving us the opportunity and putting on such an amazing event. Eric and I will never forget the marketing innovators competition. You have no idea how excited we were at the chance to go to at SAP HQ, winning the competition, and getting to share our experience!
(Special thanks to my partner Eric Koch who helped add content to this blog post)