When traditional IT companies go cool ways to connect with people

Today most ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) vendors such as HP, SAP, IBM, Oracle, Workday and Qlik among others usually connect with customer through User Conferences, World Tours, Seminars, Executive Briefing Centers, Sponsorship Activation Events and other event platforms. The ultimate goal is to drive demand and educate customers and prospects. They often host these events in large convention centers or hotels known to us for so long.

These platforms are usually very expensive and time consuming for all internal and external stakeholders. You need to travel, register, book a hotel and say good bye to your loved ones. Ever expanding customer bases and the need to educate even larger numbers of users within these companies are not making it easier for marketers.

The reality is that ICT vendors are able to reach usually only a limited number of customers and not frequently enough to let them experience their latest innovations. It’s not getting easier but harder by the day due to the fact there is just too much going on in our personal and business life. You might argue that virtual events and platforms are solving these challenges in an elegant way. Yeah, the idea to stay at home and watch keynotes, demos and even rock concerts in our lazy chair with a stiff martini, is flattering and definitely an option from time to time. However the reality is that people want to experience real products and talk to real people but they are not ready to spend too much time on the road.

image003In addition ICT vendors crank out more and more products, solutions and services and their audiences demand a more flexible platform to experience these products. Vendors want to launch a new product/initiative globally in a rapid pace to capture market share. The time to market is critical as IT products sometimes have a life span like a yogurt.

No matter what, today there is a clear need to educate, excite, amaze billions of users and potential customers at the time they want and in a digestible and fun format. Information and experiences on demand is what people want.

The idea of increasing headcount and marketing budgets is not an option for many marketers in today’s world so a more creative, flexible and fun approach is being explored by a number of companies. They really need platforms which enable audiences to experience products and solutions and close business all year round, everywhere and anytime.

What Apple and lately also Microsoft as consumer brands do so well with their stores is a route that SAP is also starting to explore for their B2B Business. SAP announced that it would open cool / hip cafes starting in Palo Alto at the University drive to connect with start ups.

image001Their idea is to build a trendy physical meeting/event spaces where start ups, customer, partners and employees can be motivated, educated, conduct business and learn from peers. In these spaces they can share ideas and projects when they want all year round.

In 1990 Volkswagen created the legendary ad slogan: Fahrvergnuegen (driving enjoyment). This is what SAP is trying to achieve. Enjoy SAP Software and I bet it will be done in conjunction with beer and brezen.

I believe this test, which was announced and launched in Palo Alto, Berlin, and Shanghai will enhance the brand by leveraging the latest SAP & partner technologies and be consistent with the essence of the SAP Brand in a experiential and storytelling way. Kudos to SAP for trying this new approach to reach its audience.

I think the market will closely watch this experiment and make similar decisions based on the following rational:

  • Connect with an innovative start up ecosystem in a more relevant way
  • Deliver products, solutions and services to achieve faster Go to Market velocity
  • Show innovation in a collaborative way including ecosystems, start ups, customers and universities
  • Connect in a personal way with your target audience
  • Ability to educate huge numbers of people at low costs on a global level
  • Show innovation in a trendy and easy to consume way