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Cisco wants channel partners to Engage with digital marketing

For several years now, former Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Tiffani Bova cautioned that customers, not technology, are the most disruptive aspect of business today. More than a year ago, in an interview with SearchITChannel, Bova said, “No longer are technology providers in control of the buyer’s journey, which means neither is the indirect channel.” This shifts the way in which the channel sells, communicates and engages, with the customer becoming the new “competitive battleground,” she added.

With the recently announced Cisco Engage digital marketing services, Cisco is striving to get partners to become digital marketing warriors, with the goal of realizing increased revenue.

The intent of Engage is centered around helping partners deliver relevant content to customers in the way they want to consume it and when they want to consume it, according to Michelle Chiantera, senior director of partner marketing at Cisco. “We know that customers make a lot of decisions and they’re doing a lot of self diagnosis in digital social forums and this is extremely influential to their purchases,” she said.

In stark contrast, 90% of the marketing activities that Cisco does on behalf of partners or with partners use traditional marketing methods such as events and telemarketing, for example. While those tactics may be comfortable for partners — if they ever were comfortable with marketing — they reflect the way customers historically purchased product; new consumption models and new ways of buying technology are making traditional marketing methods obsolete.

Shannon Mullen, marketing program manager at Datalink, a Cisco Gold certified partner, was attending her second Cisco Marketing Velocity to learn what she can about new tools and directions in marketing, get reenergized and to ultimately share what she’s learned with work colleagues.

But even she admitted that there’s often a gap between what she takes away from events like Marketing Velocity and the marketing that Datalink implements in practice — or, in some cases, doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Now, Cisco isn’t going to start telling partners what they can and can’t do when it comes to marketing, but they have every intention of trying to change minds and the marketing methods used by partners. “We’re going to do this by introducing them to digital services and give them the opportunity to test it and see value and to make shifts their marketing strategy,” Chiantera said.

And, partners won’t be going it alone. Cisco will make digital experts available to help partners on their journey.

Today, there are four pillars to Engage: Marketing Velocity, Partner Marketing Central, digital demand generation services and, digital marketing expert. Overtime, Cisco will add additional services to Engage.

Here’s Chiantera’s quick dive into the four pillars:

Marketing Velocity is Cisco’s annual marketing event but it’s also Cisco’s content-rich marketing enablement platform, which offers webcasts, live events, e-learning and communities. About a month ago, Cisco launched the Marketing Velocity Hub — this is where partners can access content on the latest marketing trends. “Marketing Velocity is centered around personalizing what our partners need to build their marketing practice in a way that’s real-time,” she explained.

Partner Marketing Central (PMC), a content library and a way for partners to execute their funding, has been around for a long time and needed simplification. The new PMC gives partners an easy way to view all of their funding buckets from a single platform. Cisco is also enhancing the campaign library. The big takeaway: Cisco’s goal is to drive pieces of content, which will be refreshed on an ongoing basis and can be pushed in a digital and mobile manner.

“We’re also going to make sure the content is proven so we’re going to track and measure how that piece of content performs,” Chiantera said.

Additionally, to enable channel partners to use digital channels to promote their presence, Cisco will offer “prepackaged” tweets, or thought leadership around technology, to help partners promote themselves or their brand as expert, for example.

Demand Generation Services will be customizable for partners at different points in their digital marketing efforts.

Digital Marketing Expert — The goal is to have digital marketing experts available to help partners along their digital marketing journey. Cisco’s objective is to make this scalable and able to meet partners needs whether novice or advanced in digital marketing.

At the same time, Chiantera admitted that it’s time for Cisco to “eat its own dog food.” “Meaning, that we need to engage our partners in a digital manner,” she said. So while Engage enables partners to move forward with digital marketing, it’s also going to allow Cisco to have a relationship with channel partners in a real-time and personal way.

Finally, if you haven’t thought about it already, anything that partners learn about digital marketing can be applied to all marketing that the firm needs to do. So that means, while Cisco’s goal is to help its partners become digital marketers and better at engaging the customer and selling product, the knowledge has universal application.