Ginger Shimp, Senior Marketing Director at SAP,
is an award-winning marketer with 25+ years’ B2B experience. Since 2004, she has helped companies in myriad industries run better by telling, not only the SAP story but the stories of her customers and their customers. Developing content, engaging channels, deploying tactics to educate, stimulate interest and drive demand: Marketing isn’t just what she does, but defines who she is!
MEDIA 7: You have been associated with SAP for more than 17 years. How has the journey been like?
I love where I work. SAP employs some of the most phenomenal marketers, and the opportunity to work with them on a daily basis is energizing and inspiring.
When we’re young and just beginning our careers, it can be soul-crushing to hear a potential supervisor say we’re not a good “fit”. We don’t fully appreciate the implication of that sentiment. But as we mature and have the experience working in a variety of roles for myriad employers, we realize how crucial “fit” is.
We spend one-third of our lives, one-half of our waking hours, five days per week at work. It’s very important that we like where we work. I have learned to approach my work with a philosophy that I want others to want to work with me. Of course, I don’t get this right 100% of the time, but it’s what I aim for. Even if I don’t care for them personally or really dislike working with them, I try to keep in mind that I don’t want them to have that impression of me.
Fortunately, at SAP, those times are extremely rare. Our people, our culture, and of course our customers, are simply extraordinary. I believe in our products and services. I have faith in, and respect for, and admiration for our customers. At SAP, we don’t just sell software, we improve people’s lives. SAP customers represent 98% of the top 100 most valued brands in the world. Did you know that SAP customers:
-produce more than 78% of the world’s food, more than 85% of the world’s pet food, and more than 62% of the world’s movies;
-represent 100% of the world’s top 20 greenest automotive companies and 100% of the world’s top 15 greenest IT software and services providers;
-distribute more than 76% of the world’s healthcare products?
That’s an awesome responsibility, a humbling privilege, and one heck of an exciting journey. I love my job!
M7: In all these years, what are some of the most effective marketing strategies that you have put in place, which have helped you to drive revenue?
Definitely an integrated strategy will win out over a random act of marketing every time. That’s not to say we shouldn’t experiment with tactics. For example, I worked with a colleague, Jeff Janiszewski, several years ago to develop an audio drama called Searching for Salaì as a means of using real storytelling techniques to gain the attention of a business audience who perhaps hadn’t really paid attention to SAP previously. We had tremendous success with that.
So last year another colleague, Julie Stoughton, and I asked ourselves how we could use that tactic and build upon the prior success. What we wound up with was another audio drama but one that had even more business structure to it, The Retrofuturist Chronicles. Listeners who enjoy the show head over to our landing site — www.inspirethefuture.com
— and read the blogs, which not only continue the experience but also build an elegant bridge to SAP products and solutions. They get immersed with everything from animated videos that talk about business pains through the eyes of a child to in-depth white papers. My colleague Aswin Mannepalli did a masterful job concepting and scripting the 30-second videos which allow visitors to determine which business pains are a fit for them. (There’s that word “fit” again.) In fact, the whole team has poured their hearts and souls into the effort, which all began with one of our VP’s, Michelle Schooff, thinking about how her little nephews approached the pandemic versus the messages that were flooding our inboxes. I love how we were able to take previous tactics that had worked well, experiment with new ideas, and blend them all to create a solidly integrated and extraordinarily compelling campaign.
We launched this campaign for six industries and our results exceeded not only our stated expectations but also our most fervent hopes. We’re currently developing season two and not only will we add another eight industries, but we’ll also look to see what else we can do to rise above the noise in the marketplace while delivering value to our customers and prospects.
Another tactic I am using on a different campaign also came about from brainstorming with Jeff at around the same time we developed the audio drama. This one was far more untried; in fact, we couldn’t find any other example of it. While Searching for Salaì involved our taking an existing tactic — the audio drama — and tuning it for a business purpose, this other tactic came about from our own experiences. We call them audio whitepapers. We were researching how whitepapers are still one of the most valued offers in a B2B marketer’s arsenal yet how difficult it is to get senior executives to read one. We asked ourselves about our reading habits and somewhere in the conversation, Jeff and I got to talking about the types of books we read versus the ones we listen to. Turned out we both listen to non-fiction. We talked about how we listen on our phones while traveling and/or exercising. We talked about smart speakers. And suddenly, we had this crazy idea. So back we went to researching. We discovered (at that time):
-CEG research found 49% of the nearly 500 CEOs surveyed say they download white papers.
-An IDG survey of IT professionals found that 72% of respondents stated that they found that white papers were extremely useful in their decision-making process.
-A Harvard Business Review study confirmed that senior executives are incredibly time-crunched.
-Edison Research revealed that Americans spend nearly four hours per day consuming audio and 44% of them have listened to an audiobook.
-18% of Americans own a smart speaker, and 71% listen to more audio once they purchase one.
So, we asked ourselves: How can we use this audio trend to increase our total market AND increase our hit rate with senior executives?
We started to connect the dots among the points above and the thought hit us ― audio white papers … white papers delivered in audiobook format.
First, we engaged an analyst firm to position our message to 15 industries via white papers, framing the unique benefits including use cases and customer stories.
Next, we hired a professional voice-over artist to record the papers in the form of an audiobook.
Finally, since this had never been done before, we blazed our trail by posting them as videos on YouTube (unlisted so they wouldn’t come up in search results) with chapter indexes to allow listeners to skip around. Then we promoted them on a landing page which required registration. We knew that registered listeners could distribute the link to others who could subsequently access them sans registration, but it was a good start.
Overall, we overshot our goal, delivering 144% of the plan by the end of the year.
-21% of listeners were C-Suite level
-55% of listeners were VP level
-24% of listeners were Director level
-34% of listeners were from companies with revenue < $500M
-19% of listeners were from companies with revenue between $500M and $1B
-47% of listeners were from companies with revenue >$1B
To emphasize the point I made at the beginning, you have to have an integrated strategy. These audio whitepapers were a significant contributor to an overall integrated campaign:
-9.16% average open rate on whitepaper emails
->18.8K total whitepaper downloads on a goal of 10,000
->33K total engagements on a goal of 20K
->234K blog views on a goal of 100K
28% cross-industry share of voice on a goal of 21%
-~4.5K blog referrals
-Lead volume %YoY = an increase of 630%
-Marketing new pipe value %YoY = an increase of 65%
It’s an exciting time to be in marketing. Web events will continue to play a strong role and we need to rise above the noise.
M7: Given SAP’s target customers, what marketing channels do you use, and which ones do you see as the most promising?
GS: I could have answered this question so much more easily a year ago but 2020 has forced us to rethink. However, I am a firm believer in audio. I still love video, but I think we’re all getting a bit fatigued with it. If I had to bet, I’d bet on smart speakers becoming a very intriguing tool in the B2B marketer’s toolbox so I would look for unique ways to integrate sound. There’s such an emotional connection to be had when you can hear the passion and the enthusiasm in someone’s voice versus merely reading words in print. And I’m an inveterate reader, so for me to opine in this way … well, I must really believe.
M7: How do you target content to your audience, and what are the challenges that you face while producing effective content?
GS: The best thing about marketing technology is we never have to fear an overwhelming sense of ennui while working. We always have something to learn, something new to try.
What’s more, digital transformation is all around us. The Internet of Things enables us to connect to and follow almost any device or asset. Connected networks and in-memory platforms provide immediate access to a stunning range of data. Business processes can be harmonized across all functions and departments. You can respond at the moment. Because you are armed with real-time insight into your most pressing questions. Digital transformation is about how technology profoundly improves the performance and impact of businesses.
Digital transformation is no longer a question of when, but one of how fast. So we marketers must adapt to this business environment at an amazing pace. One that leaves us breathless. And we’re not always funded to achieve the results that our teams expect of us, so we have to get creative. Fast.
I’ve found that the key is to get the seminal asset created, quickly and cost-effectively. This is the motherload of information and we always keep this behind a gate; no one gets it for free. It could be a whitepaper or a video or a microsite, etc.
Once we have this created, we run it through something I’ve termed a Digital Chop Shop©, creating derivative pieces as fast as the speed of thought, each one tuned to how different target audiences like to consume information.
These derivative pieces will be the first things that our prospects see and that’s why I say we start at the end — with the whitepaper for example — and then work backward to create the remaining content.
Let me give you an example from our 2016 Live Industries campaign:
We began with a seminal piece of content that was laden with a valuable insight: SAP’s CEO and Chief Transformation Officer co-authored a white paper on value creation in a digital economy. This became our starting point.
First, we versioned that single white paper into 25 industry-specific assets. Next, we created 10-20 blogs, 2 infographics, 5 tweet cards, and podcasts, videos, and webinars from each industry paper.
Working with our industry sales team, who were a tour-de-force in their own right, we created pitch decks to explain SAP’s Digital Transformation story to each industry, a “TED Talk” video, a one-page summary, 25 industry-specific whiteboards to train the sales team on how to pitch the pitch (on a whiteboard), and 25 value surveys to see where people were in their digital journey.
Thus, our single white paper spawned over 650 snackable, socially sharable, digitally native content pieces. But we didn’t stop there. Because we knew we had to connect with prospects who had never had a relationship with SAP, we had to establish ourselves quite firmly as thought leaders. The key to this was begun in 2013 when SAP started openSAP, an Enterprise MOOC platform for massive open online courses (MOOC), hosted at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, and provided to the public free of charge. While the MOOC concept is already quite popular in academia, SAP is one of the first companies to adopt it for business-related training purposes. We worked with openSAP to develop separate sets of courses focused on digital transformation and tailored for IT Users, IT Leaders, and Business Leaders.
Our marketing team uniquely activated each industry with a full complement of industry-specific whitepapers, videos, infographics, blogs, surveys, presentations, MOOCs, email and social promotions, and more, all housed within unique industry-specific online hubs.
And as you can see, we had something for those who like to read, listen, talk, look at pictures, interact, etc.
Say “no” when we know we can’t. And then our teams will trust us even when we need to integrate our personal lives into our work lives.
M7: What do you believe are the top three product marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
GS: In no particular order:
Without a doubt finding a way to build relationships. We’re particularly challenged currently at replacing in-person events. Getting that going will require time to think and reflect on how to do events. I’ve banned the terms “unprecedented” and “new normal” from my marketing because they’ve become so overused but you get the idea. It’s an exciting time to be in marketing. My team is currently working on a strategy so that we’re not mindlessly doing one web event after another. Web events will continue to play a strong role but as I’ve said before, we need to rise above the noise.
What’s more, direct mail has been hampered because people were not going into their offices. My opinion is that there will be a role for direct mail post-COVID-19, but this is our opportunity to do something fresh.
Additionally, we marketers have been focused on storytelling for quite some time, but few people take the time to truly understand the basics of story structure. We hear “make the customer the hero” and we don’t question that. Yet it’s absurd. At the heart of the story, the structure is the concept of pity-fear-catharsis … how we transition along that path.
The old standard was: Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back.
In our case, we need to care about our heroes and their struggles so that we pity them. We sympathize with them. At times we even empathize with them. Then we fear for them. We need to be concerned about whether they will be able to resolve their business pains. Finally, we need to celebrate their victories and want to share their successes with others. Or perhaps commiserate their downfall and strategize how to recover. We’ve got to become master storytellers for our messages to resonate with our intended audiences.
I am a firm believer in audio. I still love video, but I think we’re all getting a bit fatigued with it. There’s such an emotional connection to be had when you can hear the passion and the enthusiasm in someone’s voice versus merely reading words in print.
M7: You are an avid writer and extremely active on social media. What is your secret to maintaining a healthy balance between your personal and professional life?
GS: There is no such thing as work-life balance. Hasn’t been for many, many years. And this pandemic has only shown a very bright light on that fact. What we have is a work-life blend. If I need to visit my dentist to get my teeth cleaned at 10am on a Tuesday, I schedule it. If I need to run to the grocery store between meetings on any given day in order to get dinner ready, I do it. But then I will likely also be online for a couple hours at 9pm, or over the weekend. One of the first things I do in the mornings is to check my email and respond to anything that came in overnight. I always have my phone with me so I’m completely accessible but in all my years, I’ve never once encountered a marketing emergency. It’s a myth. At best, it’s like the sighting of a rare wildebeest. At worst, it’s like an imaginary unicorn.
We need to quit beating ourselves up about this. We need to manage our reputations, do what we commit to do. Say “no” when we know we can’t. And then our teams will trust us even when we need to integrate our personal lives into our work lives. As I mentioned earlier, we spend one-third of our lives, one-half of our waking hours, five days per week at work. And we’re constantly trying to connect on a “human” level. So this is a fact of life.
So no: there’s no balance; there’s a blend.
M7: What is the marketing mantra that you swear by? Any advice for budding marketers?
GS: I have a couple of quotes on my bulleting board and I think it’s obvious why they appeal to me.
Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can.
— Arthur Ashe
Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.
— MC Escher
Taken together: Don’t wait for “perfect” but also keep striving to rise above the status quo.