Ole For Marketing! 25 Scenes From Cisco Partner Velocity In Barcelona12:00 PM EST Fri. Dec. 17, 2010
Cisco brought 200 international partners to Barcelona for Cisco Partner Velocity, a unique conference that focuses on best practices for marketing, and uses principally outside marketing experts, not Cisco executives, as presenters.
Meetings were intense and days were long, but that hardly prevented attendees from getting out and about in Barcelona, especially since the conference was conveniently located near the city's bustling waterfront district, the Rambla del Mar.
The W Barcelona, opened in 2009, is one of the city's most buzzed-about hotels, situated right on the water and sporting 26 stories and a post-modern look shaped like a billowing sail. You wanted floor-to-ceiling views of Barcelona from all sides, as well as the ocean? You came to the right place, amigo.
Luanne Tierney, vice president of worldwide channels marketing at Cisco, is the conference's driving force, and she was highly visible -- and heavily armed -- during its two action packed days.
Cisco's marketing resources are there for partners' use, Tierney reminded attendees, but without a true marketing plan -- one that uses the latest and greatest tools and stands out from the pack -- resources themselves are just resources.
Partner Marketing Central has been one of Cisco's most important channel offerings from a marketing standpoint. Having debuted in late March 2010, just in time for this year's Partner Summit, it's an online resource center through which VARs learn about, find tools for and understand how to market their businesses for a more demanding set of customers. Tierney and the Cisco team touted some of the resource's successes thus far.
Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization (WWPO), was the surprise Cisco guest at Partner Velocity -- his first, as Tierney noted from the stage.
Cisco execs try to practice what they preach, Tierney said, and both she, (@ldtierney), and Goodwin, (@keitheg), constantly updated their Twitter feeds. For followers, Goodwin was outdoing Tierney at last count -- ironic, considering, "I taught him how to do it!" Tierney said.
At the kickoff to Partner Velocity, every seat had a cardboard box, and on the inside was a message to "Free Your Mind." Partners were then asked to tear up the box and scatter the cardboard pieces into the air as a way of doing exactly that. Freeing for attendees; not so much for hotel staff, though.
The first of the Partner Velocity keynoters was Anders Sorman-Nilsson (right), creative director of Thinque, who urged attendees to "thinque funky" and realize that in such an interconnected world, customers want to be engaged at the level of all their emotions and interests. He urged attendees to unleash their inner super heroes: think differently, in other words.
What do customers want? They want a compelling experience, reciprocal loyalty, differentiation, coordination, innovation and a personal focus, argued Scott McKain (left), author of The Collapse of Distinction and other marketing expertise bestsellers. But what they're getting is more often than not customer service, endless prospective, sameness, confusion, a commitment to the status quo and a product focus.
"Too many focus more on what they have to sell as opposed to what we need as customers," he said.
The biggest destroyers of differentiation, McKain told partners, are copycat competition (merely imitating or improving on what someone else has already done), not recognizing tougher competitors, and complacency bred by familiarity. To be distinct, you need to have clarity, creativity, communication and a customer experience focus, and do all those things well.
Dr. Flint McLaughlin, director of online research company group MECLABS, focuses on Web marketing optimization and told attendees that "most of us cannot express our value proposition in a single sentence."
Remember, McLaughlin said, clarity trumps persuasion. If your online marketing doesn't clearly offer appeal, exclusivity and credibility, your message isn't what it could be.
At one of Partner Velocitys's most-talked-about sessions, a panel of solution providers from around the world joined Tierney to debate the effectiveness of -- and best practices for -- marketing around cloud computing. While some of the discussion got quite contentious, all could agree that proper cloud marketing means selling an experience: what is it that the cloud will do to transform how customers do business?
From left to right: Cisco's Tierney; Peter D'Almeida, managing director and chief executive at N-able, Sri Lanka; Denis d'Ambroise, president of Infra-Solutions, Montreal; Bob Olwig, vice president of corporate business development at World Wide Technology, St. Louis; and Chris Gabriel, director of global marketing and solutions at Logicalis, Slough, UK.
The evening shifted from marketing seminars to an expansive cocktail party and dinner at Bell Reco, a stunning, private family-owned mansion and one of the most highly regarded properties in the Catalonia region. Finished in 1950, the exterior is a collection of gardens and passageways.
It's a popular spot for event functions, Bell Reco is, with capacity for some 490 people.
Unwinding after a long day of meetings meant plenty of vino -- and more than a few quaffs of Estrella Damm, the Spanish pilsner that's been brewed in Barcelona since 1876.
Enjoying the scene are Alex Krasne, global media communications manager for new media at Cisco; and Charles Sommerhauser, senior public relations consultant for global corporate communications at Cisco.
Andrew Stewart, vice president, corporate services and marketing for Compugen, Richmond Hill, Ontario; and Richard Carson of Unis Lumin, Toronto, Ontario pause to refresh.
Peter Alexander, vice president of worldwide field marketing for Cisco; Luanne Tierney, vice president, worldwide channel marketing, for Cisco; and Chad Berndtson, Networking Editor at CRN get ready to move to the next event.
Participating in the conference are Bob Olwig, vice president of corporate business development for World Wide Technology, St. Louis, and Lynn Simonfy, business development and partner alliances manager at ePlus, Herndon, Va.
The mansion's main hall at Bell Reco leads to the dining room/garden: all 570 square meters of it.
Keith Goodwin (left), senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization; and Kent MacDonald, vice president, business development at Long View Systems, Calgary, Alberta are table mates.
Video, mobile apps, social CRM and social networking are all tools that change the marketing game, Cisco's Tierney emphasized throughout the conference.
Managing the customer life cycle is the key to creating unprecedented mind share, wallet share and market share, argued David Nour, CEO of The Nour Group. It's all in how you execute -- especially when it comes to engaging customers over social networking platforms -- and it's important to remember "what got you here may not get you there."
Greatness isn't born, argued Daniel Coyle, it's grown. Coyle, a contributing editor for Outside magazine and author of, among other bestsellers, The Talent Code, urged attendees to think differently about how they acquire and how they nurture their talents and those of others.
Another year, another successful Partner Velocity, and now most Cisco partners gear up for Cisco Partner Summit 2011 in New Orleans.