You could be a lot better at social networking, and Cisco wants to help you get there.
That's one of the premises of Cisco's new Partner Marketing Central, an online resource center through which VARs can learn about, find tools for and better understand how to market their businesses for the 21st century. Best of all, the service, which includes everything from social networking best practices to marketing campaign how-tos, is free to all Cisco Certified Partners.
"It's been tough the last 18 months, but now it's time to help partners accelerate in the recovery," said Luanne Tierney, Cisco's vice president of worldwide partner marketing. "As technology evolves, so does marketing. We're now going to give you an engine so you can do it on your own with help from Cisco."
Cisco Partner Marketing Central includes social networking tips, sample campaigns and other tools available in 13 languages, and customizable platforms for partners to design and implement plans for marketing around events, around promotions, and around other things key to business development.
Partners who use the site can also "click-to-chat" and locate Cisco representatives who will guide them through what's available.
"In the past we haven't been as flexible. Partners have told us they want to use our marketing but they also want to put their wrappers and their messaging on it," Tierney explained. "A lot of what they ask for is specific. Things like 'I just want to do a virtual event and how can I use social media marketing to drive people to my event' and 'how do I set up a Twitter feed.'"
More often than not, Tierney said, partners also like to know what's worked for other partners. Part of Partner Marketing Central is an area where partners can look at different campaigns and see how other partners have rated them on effectiveness and ROI. It's a partner community around marketing techniques, as Tierney described it, with "Cisco's marketing muscle behind it."
Social networking is still the marketing piece that confuses many partners, she said. While most at least understand that they need to have a social networking presence -- be in LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other popular platforms -- many don't yet use it as more than an extra form of advertising.
"I don't think there's one magic bullet. It varies according to partners," Tierney said. "What they need to know is that an integrated plan is multiple touch points. You can't just have one campaign and be done with it, you have to continue touching."
It's also not a scenario where you flip the switch on, say, Twitter, and suddenly find yourself swimming in customer leads, she suggested.
"It takes time to build an online presence," Tierney said. "If you've hung in there and made it integrated, it's like a constant drip approach. But we hear from partners who have tried a lot of different techniques with Twitter and Facebook and they get hooked, and they see it working."
Tierney said Cisco will continue to offer marketing resources through Cisco events like Partner Velocity. VAR marketing will also be a key focus at Cisco's forthcoming Partner Summit, she said.