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Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett

SAP Mentors suck…at marketing


Two years ago, the idea that SAP Mentors would attend SAPPHIRE in any numbers was about as likely as my drawing pleasure from a root canal filling. The most common thought went something like this: “Why would I turn up to a customer sales pitch. I’m a geek, I do code. Sales/marketing is irrelevant to me.”

Wrong on every point but perfectly understandable. SAP is, after all, the company that prides itself on world class engineering. In that world what would something as mucky as ‘marketing’ have to do with the more cerebral and luxuriously satisfying world of writing ‘that’ near perfect piece of ABAP code? 

The point that SAP Mentors are missing is the reason they were chosen in the first place as Mentors. Because SAP thinks they are among the best of the best. Is that not worth something to you? Should there not be a quid pro quo? 

The way I sum it up comes in the Hugh MacLeod cartoon ‘Quality’ where the real story is that SAP is not just about the quality of what it delivers but the amazing things it enables. Sure – there are plenty of naysaysers (heck – I’m one of them) but at the individual and sort-of-collective level, Mentors bring value and change to SAP. When that happens then god-dammit, you deserve the opportunity to shout it from as many rootops as you can find. But how, without appearing like you’re selling your soul to some low ball marketing sleaze scheme?

That’s remarkably easy. The story around ‘Quality’ and its immediate results will soon be told at the upcoming SAP Inside Track in London where I will explain what happened, how it works and how you can benefit. Even if you are not an SAP Mentor but just someone who is passionate about SAP (we want to hear you dude) then I would encourage you to attend. I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t attend then you are likely to be leaving money on the table of your next SAP engagement.

The only way that SAP remains a great organization is through the great people it has internally and around it. It is time to celebrate the value delivered.

My question to you – are you in or are you out?

Illo credit to @Blag – I laughed my *** off when I saw it.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      there are different way of marketing. some feel comfortable hustling and twisting arms of every prospect they see, but there are many who prefer more subtle ways like offering free cheese to the hungry corporate rodents on their way to the most shining trap in their neighborhood.

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      agree...and that's why I will present on comfortable ways for geeks to do this stuff: if they wish. Not everyone wants what I say - and that IS FINE.
      Author's profile photo Martin English
      Martin English
      To a certain extent, marketing yourself is a game; presenting a particular (not necessarily an entirely truthful or even palatable !!) side of yourself to people in the hope that they will give you something in return for some, all, or maybe even none of what you have to offer them.

      Now, I've always thought that the passive-aggressive geek way of dealing with ("It's all a game and I'm not playing") just does not jibe with reality.  After all, super-geek was playing 'the game' to get that second 20 inch monitor...  It's 'just' that you're a dirty money hungry suit, while super-geek is a purely technology driven .... what ever they are 🙂

      If you're a rockstar you can get away with that, or at least make a living, changing startups every couple of years before you wear out your welcome. However, by definition, very few of us are rockstars. I'm not - exposure to a few that I think ARE, has shown me that.  But I do have one thing in common with the rockstar, and thats a passion for technology and SAP.

      This is where, I think, we converge.  I have no choice...  Well, I do, not between "marketing myself" and "staying pure", but between what I want to get out of marketing myself.  I have chosen to market myself based on my passion and knowledge of the technical parts of SAP, but I have to do this in the language of my Customer.  I work for an SI, so this can be the end client, but it also includes the internal project managers, the resource managers, the divisional leaders etc so that I get the training and the work and the exposure needed to keep up to date. 

      This serves two purposes; the main one is that this is the job what I want, the work I want, for its own sake.  But it also means I get the opportunity to market myself, by keeping in the face of those who control the work - be they end customers or internal customers.

      One practical effect of this is that even though I'm still a 'techo', I have to be presentable enough and articulate enough to talk to a business person about what value I can bring to them, their project, their company.  I have to be able to talk in their terms.  Not how many SAPs you get out of a P-Series box running AIX 6.2 v AIX 5.3, but what does it enable them to do.  In a sense, I have to convince them that I can help them dazzle their boss (or shareholders, or customers, or ...).  In some case, if I can spell it out in dollar terms, so much the better. 

      If the hard-core think that makes me a sellout, then tough.  After all, I'm going to Teched this year as a thank you for taking on a piece of work no one else wanted.  I could have taken the pay rise, but I'm still a 'techo'.  It's just that I've got an extra way of getting what I want 🙂

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      @vijay - excellent thoughts and exactly what I want to hear so I get the context of how you guys have to live's more than marketing I know....
      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      @martin - In offering a track at Inside Track I am marketing - voila!! But at the same time I'm hoping to help Mentors find ways to get some of the individual attention that might help in their careers.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      CRM is one of my favorite areas - and within CRM, I focus mostly on Marketing and Sales. So a large part of my professional life is spent with people who do marketing/sales for a living. But when I see that I am being pitched using the very strategies that I evangelize at my clients, I have an inexplicable feeling - my own dog food is too sweet to spit, and too bitter to swallow !

      What I really love about mentor program is that it does not conpromise my independence and objectivity. If that ever changes - I will gladly relinquish this honor. Marketing has a stigma - and geeks hate to be told by any one other than other geeks. But there are plenty of good stuff that mentors are passionate about - and when we tell that to the world of geeks, it carries some weight. This is win-win for every one, and guess what - this is marketing too !

      And one parting shot - marketing people are people too. The negativity we show causes them a lot of hurt and grief.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thank you for bringing this point up. A very valid one and a much needed one at that. However, I beg to disagree on this as marketing, as we have all seen in our careers, must be done with the Mentor community & today, that may not exist.

      It's great to be walking around in a T-Shirt at an SAP event but that is something that Mark and SAP are doing to market the mentors. The real challenge comes in when the Mentors (certainly not all), remain a geeky bunch, without much influence in their respective ecosystems. That also has much to do with their placing in the food-chain within their organizations.

      After a point in time, it is not about marketing onself, but about brainding oneself (there is a difference) and using the Mentor stripes to influence transformation - could be workforce transformation cutting across Organizations, Business Solutions that go beyond SAP's approach alone and a holistic view in heterogenous landscapes with a process and financial approach to the same.

      I had brought this point up in one of the meetings (which may not have been taken too well), but it is important for SAP to understand that the Global SAP Mentor Program needs to go beyond leeching onto the SAP Ecosystem for self-marketing, but to use that to influence SAP Customers, System Integrators and Other players that form a business solution for SAP Customers, where there would always be an element of Business Consulting and a Business leader's perspective to things.

      A blanket statement may not be totally correct in this case (with all due respect), but - a classification of Mentors in terms of the geek brigade, the Analyst stream, Process experts and Business people would (in my opinion), take the program to greater heights.

      Stripes or no stripes, but there are folks out there i interact with on a day-to-day basis, who can influence thought processes. Having been through the whole nine yards of Business functions, I would say that SAP knowledge is given as a baseline, but the power to Influence for the benefit of SAP and ourselves is a direct result of the branding one is able to achive with the Mentor stripes.

      But an SAP Mentor is a person, I would term as Leader 2.0. Not sure if made any sense above, but what the heck. I'm doing it.

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks for your perspective Kartik. It's one I fully understand. Can I persuade you otherwise? Example: when the C5 set out I had Martin Gillet very much against anything we said - on video. Over time he came to 'our' side and is a monster advocate for change. Another ex: @ewH has been violently against certification. On the most recent podcast he says that if there is value for him then he's in. We;'re changing perceptions so...can we change yours?
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Post this SapphireNow, 8 years of SAP ecosystem drive, was fed up with the geeky tag that goes around with the mento badge. And thanks again for bringing this up, its not about the bragging rights, it's about influencing and being part of the change. So, if there is value like in the examples you quoted, am completely open and would be very happy to be a moose on the loose with the ideas.

      PS: I follow you and every one of the SAP Mentors with a hawk-eye on every tweet. My apologies for the typo on your name (pardon my clumsy fat fingers) And try joining one of the SAP India mentor calls, I guarantee you, you will not attend more than once.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hey Kartik, could you elaborate on the India mentor call comment please? I have never attended one of the India calls - but the ones I take in US time are mostly a very good use of my time.
      Author's profile photo Abesh Bhattacharjee
      Abesh Bhattacharjee
      Hello Kartik,
      I would also like to know what about the SAP Mentor calls in India makes you think otherwise ? Given the fact I've attended most if not all of them ?
      Author's profile photo Harald Nehring
      Harald Nehring
      I'm always baffled at this "techie" vs. "marketing" posturing, as I'm confused by the "business vs. IT" mantra. I've worked on all sides in my career and always met bright, dedicated, and professional people in all functions as well as self-indulgent, silo-thinking, and self-righteous dorks. All I can recommend is respect for other trades, especially for technical people to understand that they rely on an "engineered market" that values their produce, as well as for marketeers to cherish the engineer's ability to create some of these markets in the first place. Maybe I'm mellowing with age...
      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      @harald - I wasn't trying to resurrect that argument but can see how that might be one interpretation.
      Author's profile photo Jim Spath
      Jim Spath
      Dennis - another interesting perspective on the Mentor program, from my pony-tailed cousin across the pond.  I like to drop the M-Bomb (Metrics) into these kinds of discussion whenever I can: "How do you measure the success of the Mentor program, or an individual Mentor role?"  One tangible result I bring home to my company is a stack of business cards, and a stack of virtual cards, in places like LinkedIn.  But sheer numbers aren't valuable, quality contacts are. Another correlated value scale is blog page hits.  Thanks to Marilyn Pratt and others in the SAP Community Network, a blog I posted here on an SCM upgrade hit the number one spot on popular posts during and after #ASUG2010 / #SapphireNow.  But, again, popular doesn't equate to quality.  I'm often baffled, and have written about this, that content that I think is important, controversial, and meaningful gets few reads, while other, less stirring works, continue to attract eyeballs.
      A primary value I bring to my job security, and job worth, at my firm, is my ability to get questions answered.  There is no doubt that the Mentor lemon, the moderator M, the ASUG volunteer "V", and the other hats increase my impact.  How to measure this is another question.

      It was good to see you again, Dennis.  TechEd Berlin next?


      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      That's an excellent point Jim. The accountant in me wants to sit down and dream up all sorts of measures you probably cannot use and then go: ' told you so.' Just so's you know that you can take the accountant out of their office but you can't take accounting thinking out of the accountant. 😉
      Author's profile photo Nathan Genez
      Nathan Genez
      I, or one of my partners, goes to at least 2 conferences a year.  I find it invaluable to stay in tune with the market, customers, and SAP itself.  But I haven't been to SAPphire in years because the focus is too salesy and not nearly as informative (in a pragmatic sense) as the 'expert' conferences from WIS.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I believe we define community marketing differently - and loosely, and think the Mentors are effective at this-irregardless of a geek or BPX or business tag- and that they have a valid role at SAPPHIRE.

      I participated with a group of three Mentors in a Microforum in ORL with a VP from big customer who knew absolutely nothing about the communities. They got her EXCITED ABOUT AND AMAZED at the resources that she could find about HCM by simply leading her thru the HCM forums, blogs and articles. They were totally credible and the "geekiness" actually made the conversation more credible to this customer, because she could see how her team could get more done faster with SCN. There are lots of customers in roles like hers who come to SAPPHIRE who want to hear from real hands on practitioners like the Mentors.

      This is how the word gets spread about the communities, not with marketing per se. Our job is to create the opprtunities for more meetings like this to happen at Tech Ed and next year's SAPPHIRE, which we are working on.

      Author's profile photo Dennis Howlett
      Dennis Howlett
      Blog Post Author
      @gail: I wonder if you're misunderstanding my point.

      What you're describing is what I would term value back to SAP not value to Mentors per se.

      When the C5 undertook its project we had to come up with a marketing plan to push the agenda. Why? We were tackling something everyone hated us for at the beginning. We had to find ways of reaching out  and working OUTSIDE of the Mentor forum. This was about our effort being accepted as representative of valid outcomes done in a way that SAP could not (and probably would not) otherwise undertake. In that sense it fulfills @ccmehil's innojagd idea.

      That doesn't stop us sharing the what and how we executed plus learnings which I think in this case is fundamentally different.

      Not everyone wants that but that's OK too. And FWIW, my ideas around marketing are nothing like those of a traditional marketer. Heck - I'm told I'm a marketer but I've never been trained. I just know a bit about what works.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Dear Dennis,
                            Greetings !

      It was evening of 25 May, finished reading your blog and packing up the day to rush hurriedly for a party of my colleague who recently got married. But, my mind was still working trying establishing the correlation between the pictorial and the lines in your blog.

      It is nice roof top terrace garden restaurant that serves exotic dishes and delicacies, wines, good music -one of the best and expensive outlets in the town. While going through the big list of dishes in MENU, we asked the waiter what is the very very special dish out here that he can recommend so that everybody can try out and relish it. With the warmth of hospitality on his face, waiter with a very big smile said, everything is special and excellent here. The evening continued with fun, food and music. Listened to Bryn Adams ‘the summer of 69’, duet by Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand ‘You do not bring me flowers’ ……….

      My thought hit me, as I was still inside your blog interpreting.
      Is this waiter here to serve the customer or doing marketing or he really knows how to cook the dishes and delicacies listed in the flamboyant Menu of restaurant or is an expert.

      While walking down the stairs of the building after the party was over, the thoughts also started down to grow deep into the era of evolution of ERP. Driving on the roads towards my apartment, the glimpse of big hoardings caught my sight off. Stopped the car to read the attractive holiday packages displayed on the hoardings- “Malaysia truly Asia”, Explore Africa “Come and enjoy the night safari in Africa”……….


      Before going to bed, I revisited the blog. I read, reread, then unread, learned and then tried to unlearn. Dropped mails to my friends for their views on SAPPHIRE.

      Tom (hypothetical name) is a bright and intelligent SAP Consultant in a multinational in India. Did post graduation in honors and had brilliant academic career and was a successful professional. His passion for innovation, ideas, engineering……. ….made him to switch to SAP consulting career. Enjoys challenges. He wears spectacles now and everybody calls him with love Einy. Many gets confused with his nick name and wonders- is he named after EINE table in SAP. But not true, this an honor to him and compact, slim stuff Einy, the Tom  ………coined after Einstein. He earned this respect as he is known for his problem solving ability and brilliance and is a proud owner of the name Einy.

      He reports to Mahesh (hypothetical name) engagement Manager in his company and enjoys a very good repo with him. Tom was curious and ambitious to visit SAPPHIRE, landed him to Mahesh’s cabin.

      Tom: Hi! Mahesh,

      Mahesh: Hi! You looks smart today, sure you gonna kill some bird today, be seated.

      Tom: I want to make it to SAPPHIRE this year, please make my sponsorship and nomination from the company.

      Amazed and surprised Mahesh: What? You know the cost? Fee, stay, flight tickets, accommodation, food expenses, …..blah, blah, blah…….. Just convert Euro into INR and imagine the figure in INR. Then Visa issues…..Over and above we have to end up paying fringe benefit tax to government on your trip may be.

      Tom: But Mahesh…Mahesh…..

      Mahesh: Man the economy has not yet fully recovered; company cannot make it such a luxury. Also, if another of your friend expresses the same desire then…… No No
      just keep it simple young man. To justify this cost in my competency is too hard, never heard such a request in past.

      Tom: Mahesh can you please….

      Mahesh: Anyhow, are you catching up in the evening weekend party of the company, smarty!

      Tom was thinking if he can manage from his own. If he tries this, then he has to declare to government while filing tax return for his foreign trip.

      Tom have a treasure of cap, pen and a laptop carry bag with a SAP logo- gifts either he received from his friends who visited TechEd or purchased from SAP online shop.

      IPL (Indian Premier League), T20 Cup or 20-20 cricket more famous with this word, is a big cricketing event in India. Lots of cricket, fun, fanfare, pump and show, money, parties…. All big corporate houses are sponsors to this gala.

      Recent news from Indian cricketing world, Reliance may sponsors Indian cricket team. It is estimated Sahara India, the current sponsors, are spending 2 crores (INR) on each test match, 1.9 crores (INR) on each one day match and 1.8 crores (INR) on T20 match on sponsorship.

      Sponsors markets there products through these events, a small logo on the player’s T-shirt makes wonder in business.

      But there is no mass corporate sponsorship for any educational event, as it does not reaches the masses for marketing their products.

      Do not forget every company has CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative program. One can see nice clicks on the company’s websites or company’s magazine showing employees planting trees, organizing blood camps, visits old homes, etc, etc, etc

      Today, I checked my mail box, only one response to my mail. Happy though I opened to read my buddy’s view, found some greetings and links. Clicked on the link, amazed, it took me to tourism sites where I can get sufficient information on tourism and African Safari. Then enjoyed the photos of my friend recent visit to Kenya and the Safari

      Overjoyed thanked my stars and my lovely friend.


      I took my journey to next step to read about the mentors section in SDN. Found the interesting timetable on mentors’ engagement in SAPPHIRE, about the eminent speakers listed for SAPPHIRE. Gathered all the information I could dig.

      I opened online Cambridge dictionary to find out the meaning of SAPPHIRE and geek.

      Sapphire is a stone worn by many in India to change the luck and fortunes.

      In one of my presales niche, I questioned the client why he is going for SAP. Answered with a pride my friends company too has this product “SAP”.
      For him it is in vogue. I was part of that implementation later.
      This reminded me of an interview when the Satyam Scam broke out. On CNBC TV, the expert aired the view that when it comes to investing in India, you are not investing in a corporate but in a family business.

      Getting visas to European countries, the America is a Hercules task in India- with holidays/tourism visa no issues- thanks to mushrooming of travel agent business in every nook and corner of markets.

      Will the budgets, visa regulations control the cross exchange of ideas? Or the event only confined to eminent speakers, CEOs, VPs.

      Just if you can please happen to find how many from India and third world countries made it to SAPPHIRE this year and the past.

      In India we have SAP India and SAP labs. Welcome will be the days when SAPPHIRE will be conducted in India- not to be a distant dream for many aspirants who want to listen and meet in person their gurus.

      SAPPHIRE !!!

      When it will be easily accessible to all SAP Citizens….
      Many thanks to the internet era and technology, more the lovely the slogan of Nokia “Connecting People”

      Now, Tom, the Einy is preparing for SAP mentor role.