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Cisco Marketing Velocity event focuses on business storytelling

Cisco executives urge partners to use storytelling and content marketing techniques, noting that traditional B2B marketing methods are under pressure.

MONTREAL -- At Cisco Marketing Velocity 2015 on Monday, Sherri Liebo, vice president of global marketing at Cisco, told an audience of 270 partners from 36 countries that storytelling to bring bold new ideas to life is the key to marketing today.

At a time when marketing is moving away from outbound broadcast networks and toward an inbound social digital world, Velocity attendees were told to "be bold." That's the theme for the Cisco Marketing Velocity and Cisco Partner Summit 2015 events, both taking place this week.

"With big data, faster adaptation and shorter lead times, it means that we live in an always-on, real-time marketing environment," Liebo said. "So it's not about campaign planning for the next quarter or even the next month; the focal point for winning marketers is what … to do differently in the next hour," she said.

Buyers are in charge. Ninety percent of buyers initiate the first part of the buying process and 67% begin their buying journey online, Liebo said, citing research from SiriusDecisions. In addition, she said, the window of opportunity to sell to a buyer is 90 days and a buyer touches a company 11 times before making a purchasing decision, citing research from Forrester.

Marketers who understand that and use Twitter have twice as many marketing leads in the pipeline, according to Liebo; those using social media have a 100% higher lead-to-close ratio than those who don't; and those who do content marketing generate three times as many leads at a cost that is 62% lower than using traditional marketing methods.

The keynote session focused on content and storytelling. "They're independent but connected by necessity," said Liebo, who added that they're "the what and the how."

The "what" is engaging content. It begins and continues conversations. It's the give and take of conversation, as well as the promotion of a partner's brand identity and image. "It invites customers to buy from you because they have discovered that you are the right choice for them," Liebo said.

The "how" is compelling business storytelling. "We all need to become masterful storytellers, to create an experience that's easily remembered and unique," she said.

Harking back to Liebo's statement about a partner's brand identity and image, Karen Walker, interim chief marketing officer (CMO) at Cisco, reiterated that customers buy brand and reputation -- it's not just about the product. The Cisco marketing executive cited some figures: 60% of customers make their purchase decision not because of the product but because of the brand. "That's because their buying decision is a lot more emotional than rational," she said, an uncomfortable fact for business-to-business (B2B) marketers.

Looking to make the audience of marketing professionals even more uncomfortable, Walker cited additional stats that confirm that the customers own their own purchasing journey. Fifty-seven percent of buyers make a decision about what they are going to buy, and from whom, before contacting anyone.

"Marketing is going to be in a position -- because of the digitization of marketing, and because of all the journeying done online -- to sense, listen and engage with customers in real time and really know what's happening, what they're thinking, where they're going, what they're interested in. And we, as marketing, need to step up and be the custodian of that customer data and insight," Walker said.

Looking at what's ahead for B2B marketers, the CMO pointed to change. She went further than that to say that B2B marketing no longer exists and that companies market to people and not a job title or a building. Marketers must learn business storytelling in a B2B world, she said.

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