Marketing Innovation For The Intelligent Enterprise: Reading Vs. Listening

Ginger Shimp and Jeff Janiszewski

The following is the fourth in a series of conversations about marketing innovation with Jeff Janiszewski and Ginger Shimp from SAP North America Marketing. In this blog, they discuss how they were able to repurpose their assets through innovation.

In our last blog, we mentioned that we took on the herculean task of versioning research reports about digital transformation for 15 industries.


Keeping track of all those reports and getting them from the idea stage through research and writing, to the versioning stage, to editing, and finally into the hands of the right potential customers was a gargantuan project management effort. We’d love to take complete credit for that, but there were many hands involved.


Fortunately, all of that effort paid off. They were quite successful in the end, but I’ll never forget the day I got a phone call from one of our account executives. He said he loved the research reports and wanted to get them into the hands of some of his customers. He asked how he could get a printed version of the report. I said, “Really? A printed version‽” “Yes,” he replied a little timidly, and I said, “No, we’re not going to make printed versions of research reports about DIGITAL INNOVATION.”

Not only would that be completely antithetical to our message, but after all of the effort to create these reports, we wanted to gate the information so that we would know who was reading them. Yes, our focus was to provide potential customers with valuable information to earn their trust, but ultimately, we still needed to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts and drive leads. So being a key asset for us, we needed to track where these research reports went. Printed copies would not be helpful.


However, that account executive had a point. Not everyone consumes content in the same way, and as we’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot of information fatigue out there. As much as we champion technology, there are a lot of executives burning their retinas out with all that screen time.

So, imagine a scenario where an executive is waiting in an airport or on a plane or a train, where it’s a little awkward to read a PDF on a computer, and a handheld device is just too small for tired eyes. Naturally, a printed copy would make sense for him but that doesn’t work for us. We needed an innovative solution, and so we found ourselves embracing the design thinking process again. We’ve already empathized with our audience, and we’ve defined the problem.


We still wanted to gate the asset, but we wanted to give our potential customer a break from the screen. Well, I happen to be an avid reader. I always have a book or two going, but my time is limited. I like to read when I’m working out on the elliptical or treadmill, but it’s hard with all that movement. Jeff’s the same. He’s a runner. I’ve started listening to audiobooks, and it turns out he’s done the same. In fact, we’ve started to recommend books to each other.

Right, and it struck me that this could be our solution. On average, Americans spend nearly four hours per day consuming audio.



In fact, 44% of Americans have listened to audiobooks. Not surprisingly, 47% of listeners choose a smartphone as their listening device on a regular basis, so we’re thinking they must be on the go as much as we are.

Audio research reports – particularly ones that can be accessed via a mobile device – were not only the ideal solution, but as far as we know, a completely novel solution.



With the boom in audiobooks, it wasn’t hard to find someone willing to do the narration, but the prices and services vary widely. Not only did we need someone who could record and edit the reports, but we needed someone who could understand the complex nature of our content.

We also learned that narration can be time-consuming and that it requires some talent. It would be tempting just to have the intern do it, but trust me, you need at least semi-professional help with this because it goes a lot faster and the output is worth it.


On the other hand, there’s a lot of talent out there, so with a little effort, you should be able to find the right person.


Another lesson learned was with the content itself. It turns out that written text is not always easy to read out loud. Our reports had very complex sentences, technical terms, and acronyms that didn’t translate well into the spoken word.


We also had bullet points, callout boxes, footnotes, long web addresses, and pictures that weren’t compatible in an audio format either. So, in a perfect world, we would have had a script written specifically for the audio reports.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to rewrite all those reports and pass them by all of the key stakeholders again. So once again, it was very helpful to have a trained narrator who was familiar with our content and could make adjustments on the fly without stopping for clarification every few minutes.


  After we had the first four reports recorded, we ran into another unforeseen issue. How to publish them.


Yeah, it’s hard to believe we didn’t think about that upfront, but we were in a rush to get things done and just blithely said we’d figure it out later.



Not surprisingly, Audible and Google Play and the others are all looking for some sort of revenue stream. They typically get paid a percentage of the book sales. But we didn’t want to sell the research reports, we wanted to give them away … to anyone who registered for them.

We might have been able to find a way to issue some sort of coupons to be redeemed for the reports, but that was obviously going to be very complicated and time-consuming and was also not a very user-friendly experience. (Remember we are empathizing with our customers.) We could have created our own audiobook publishing site, but that would have even taken longer.


Fortunately, a simpler, more elegant solution was available – YouTube. Of course, we all think of YouTube as a site for video, but it’s quite effective for audio too. YouTube allowed us to mark the research report as private so we could gate the report. As an added bonus, not only were we able to include a cover graphic with contact information and live hyperlinks, we were able to bookmark all of the chapters of the reports for our listeners and easily track the number of downloads.

Interestingly, because of our internal processes, there was a few-hour lag time between when the audio reports – now video audio reports – were uploaded and when we were able to gate them. And in that short two-hour window, before we even had a chance to drive customers to them, each of the reports received dozens and dozens of hits. It was then that we knew we were really on to something.


Right now, the program is still new, we’re very busy tracking all the metrics on it, but the early results are very encouraging. And we can confidently say it will return far better results than we’d anticipated. The most encouraging part is that we seem to be increasing the market, in that we’re getting a new audience for audio instead of the same audience who’d already downloaded the PDF versions. There is some overlap, but it’s tracking at less than 10%.

Even more exciting for us is that we’re getting a more executive audience. So, all those VPs and C-suite people on the go appear to be tuning into the audio versions. In our next blog, we will detail our second attempt at audio marketing innovation, our Searching for Salaí podcast.


Once again, thank you for reading and please don’t forget to leave us a comment.


Read the other articles in this series on “Marketing Innovation For The Intelligent Enterprise.”

About Ginger Shimp

With more than 20 years’ experience in marketing, Ginger Shimp has been with SAP since 2004. She has won numerous awards and honors at SAP, including being designated “Top Talent” for two consecutive years. Not only is she a Professional Certified Marketer with the American Marketing Association, but she's also earned her Connoisseur's Certificate in California Reds from the Chicago Wine School. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of San Francisco, and an MBA in marketing and managerial economics from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Personally, Ginger is the proud mother of a precocious son and happy wife of one of YouTube's 10 EDU Gurus, Ed Shimp.

Jeff Janiszewski

About Jeff Janiszewski

Jeff Janiszewski is an SAP award-winning B2B marketeer with a proven track record of designing, implementing demand generation and pipeline strategies that generate sales across a diverse range of industries and solutions.