With 19 industries to cover, SAP created an extensive content marketing campaign that delved into not only relevant topics across those industries, but how personas within them would want to consume the content.
Read how the marketing team at SAP executed this expansive campaign, and drove over 9 million impressions.
This case study is a Reader’s Choice nominee for the MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 Awards, the third of four that will be published over the next two weeks. SAP was chosen by our panel of judges for the team’s dogged pursuit of not only topic relevance for customers, but consideration over how the customer would best absorb the content. The group was able to remain thoughtful of what content would bring the most value throughout a massive content campaign that could have easily become overwhelming.
Please visit our blog on Monday, September 12 to vote for the Reader’s Choice Award.
“We are a global organization with a highly matrixed marketing department. One of our core marketing competencies is that we go to market by industry, fine-tuning both our products and messaging for 26 vertical industries,” said Ginger Shimp, Marketing Director, SAP North America.
Often, she added, they also message at the sub-industry level. SAP, which is a multinational business operations and customer relations software corporation, has marketing teams that are focused on content development, demand generation, social media, paid media, and events, among others.
In this campaign, SAP came up with 19 industries that hit across the spectrum.
“We have retail and consumer industries. We have utilities and public sector industries, [and] financial services industries like banking and insurance. We have manufacturing industries, healthcare life sciences-type industries, professional services industries … construction. We had oil and gas, utilities, wholesale distribution, just across all industries up and down the supply chain,” she said.
The challenge for this campaign was to develop industry-specific content to fill a full campaign reaching out to these groups.
A major challenge of this “digital transformation”-themed campaign was how to rise above the noise in the marketplace to reach these personas with valuable content.
“We did this by speaking in the language of our customers and prospects,” Shimp said. “How do we fit in to that mix and what help can we offer? That's where the industry specificity really came into play. Digital transformation hits each industry in a unique fashion.”
She explained that it is a different set of solutions depending on the industry, what stage of growth the company is in, and what their legacy products are.
Shimp and her team looked at all of the different tech and data trends in customer’s industries, and realized that “digital business was really in its infancy. We saw this need to help our customers embrace the digital future by sharing the knowledge we've accumulated by helping so many clients who are at every stage of the journey.”
With such a large campaign covering a wide swath of customers, another challenge was making sure it didn’t spin out of control. Especially since this campaign required having several different agencies working alongside Shimp, some writing additional content, and others developing themes that would envelope the entire campaign.
“You could imagine with so many industries, you could very easily wind up with disparate campaigns. We really wanted to hold it together,” she said.
At the same time, Shimp wanted to be cognizant of the fact that “we couldn't overstep our boundaries and we needed to make sure we were very tightly aligned with our company messaging inside our campaign messaging.”
With so many people working to execute, putting up different landing pages, email messaging, event signage, remaining disciplined on the desired message was vital.
For example, she said, “the industry team has had to reach out and talk to the solutions teams and get their expertise when we were crafting different pieces of the messaging to make sure that we were on track.”
Developing the content was the first step, according to Shimp, and “we activated 19 industries with a full complement of industry-specific white papers, videos, infographics, blogs, surveys, presentations, email promotions, and more by creating unique digital hubs.”
Each industry was customized for the particular audience while still maintaining a consistent look and feel, she said, “which was crucial because we also wanted to appeal to the ecosystems of each industry.”
By tuning the messaging around a hot topic like digital transformation specifically to each industry, SAP was able to uniquely appeal to each customer audience, and demonstrate the benefits with examples from their own ecosystem.
“We adhered to the buyer’s journey in terms of targeting the multitude of assets we had developed. We also worked to ensure that we played to the various ways in which people consume information,” she said.
Not only did the team produce this content, but they built it out to appeal to different preferences for digesting information. According to Shimp, this campaign covered “email, tweets, blogs, LinkedIn status updates, posts on the SAP Community Network, radio, virtual events, in-person events, outbound and responder follow-up [calls], Account Based Marketing, and individual account meetings.”
Step #1. Always serve the individual customer
“People's capacity to communicate in real time, not only with each other, but with businesses … that's growing and growing,” Shimp said.
This incredible ability to connect and follow in the current digital age convinced SAP that customers had to be given those options through immediate access to content and data. From their vantage point, Shimp and her team saw how business processes are becoming harmonized across all functions.
“What that means is connected networks, memory platforms, those are providing that immediate access. It's right here, it's right now. We hear about real time. What we're seeing is there's almost a step up from real time. How do you communicate that? That was what we were after,” she said.
In this far-reaching campaign, it was vital to not lose sight of the individual customer. Then, work out from there.
“We have line of sight, and pick a single customer. Not only … for what that customer is doing, but what that customer's peers are doing and what that customer's supply chain is doing,” said Shimp.
Part of working with an individual customer mindset is figuring out how they want to digest the content you’re creating.
“Some people, they need something that feels live … so we did videos. We had our experts giving talks in sort of that TED talk format,” she said, explaining that they also created video versions of white papers because hectic senior executives might not take the time to sit down and digest a 20 to 30-page whitepaper.
“They can digest a four-minute video. They can forward that to somebody else and say, ‘See what's behind the curtain here,’ if you will. That person would be the one to download the full whitepaper,” she said.
That would hopefully lead to some content exploration, which would have the senior executive come across thought leadership pieces put out on blogs, executive-level PowerPoint presentations posted up onto SlideShare, or even attending an event.
Examples of the offers and assets created for this campaign were:
All of the different platforms were spawned from an original white paper, unique for each industry, and grew out from there.
Step #2. Find underutilized sources of valuable knowledge
One of the biggest assets for this campaign was in-house talent, according to Shimp.
“We hire phenomenal people. We really do. They're so knowledgeable,” she said. The only challenge was “nailing their feet to the floor and getting them to articulate what they know.”
Shimp and her team started to develop the content, and decided that the white paper was going to be the seminal piece of this campaign, where “just about everything we need to know will have been captured in the whitepaper. From there, we could really go to town from a marketing perspective,” she said.
Everyone working on, or near this campaign, “is a master of our own industry from a marketing perspective,” she said.
Shimp is currently responsible for two industries, but at the time she only had one.
“So I would not dare to make a decision for one of my colleagues. That's their area of expertise. While we're all phenomenal marketers, once you paint us with our own area, that's what winds us up and gets us running,” she said.
One of Shimp’s colleagues volunteered to contribute to the campaign, since he was working on one with a similar topic. He brought a fresh perspective, she said.
They wanted to run the campaign with industry specificity, and then back up to show customer what digital business meant overall, or more broadly. He suggested flipping that model, and starting with a broad message that would keep narrowing to a point.
“Both of them are valid. We're glad that we did both ways,” she said. Nothing went wrong with running this campaign inverted from the rest, she added, but it was always out of sync. Even though that tactic didn’t lead to anything, it was a good lesson, she said, because they learned that the campaigns work best set to the same model.
Step #3. Give content time to resonate with customers – and the bottom line
“We tried to boil the ocean,” Shimp said. “We thought that we wanted to run the campaign in six months. What we're seeing is we really need to run the campaign for a longer period of time.”
There was so much content to develop and push out, it wasn’t able to get done in such a short amount of time, she said.
“We have this great information and we don't want to hold it hostage. We want to shout it from the rooftops. We want to just parachute it on top of the mountain with bullhorns blasting this great information for people to consume,” she said.
That desire has to be balanced, Shimp added.
“On the other hand, we have shareholders. So we actually need to sell some software along the way and we need to generate demand,” she said.
She and her team decided to drip out smaller bits of ungated content, to pull people in, and tease more valuable content.
“Many of our tactics were absolutely free. You do not have to register to get this information. Then we would just hold close to our vest some information so that we had a way of determining who was really interested so we can put them in a nurture queue,” she said.
Step #4. Continually evolve the campaign
“We're continuing to measure because we didn't drop all of the industries at once. New industries were coming in,” Shimp said.
It’s been important to remember that one industry can’t necessarily be compared to another, she added, and they are currently evaluating the aggregate results.
“We’re looking at how we can take the campaign, parse it up and pull it into account-based marketing,” she said. The goal is to go into those accounts, and analyze how to bring relevant information to customers in a personalized way that will deeply resonate.
“Not surprisingly, we would love to rest on our laurels. Honestly we're all tired,” Shimp joked. “The late nights and the tears and OD'ing on caffeine and sugar and going without sleep. We still had a blast doing it. We're a bunch of marketing geeks over here.”
The results of those sleepless marketing sessions are the following:
Marketing generated opportunities (MGO) equaled $3,675,000. MGO’s are new opportunities created from marketing leads that have been accepted by sales and converted into opportunities, according to Shimp.
The marketing touched pipeline (MTP) equaled $50,037,709 in this campaign as well. MTP comprises all open opportunities that have at least one qualifying marketing activity after the opportunity creation date.
“You want to be in it for the long haul,” Shimp said. She added that a key piece is that “the communication doesn’t just mean to customers and prospective customers. We have to do it internally as well. We have like 68,000 employees. We need absolutely every single person moving in the same direction.”
According to Shimp, the CEO of SAP has a saying that guided them in this campaign – “you simplify everything, so you can do anything.”
“That's what we're trying to do. Streamline this as we push it out to all of our network and our peers so that everybody's got this same message and the drumbeat gets louder and louder and louder. I'm looking for a deafening cacophony,” she said.
Email Marketing: Extra Space Storage uses a customer-first approach for a 50% boost in email conversion rate – Another Reader’s Choice Nominee
Mobile Marketing: How a private jet charter provider’s app averages 500 downloads a week using customer-centric booking experience – Another Reader’s Choice Nominee
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