Cisco Partner Marketing Chief Says To Expect Wider, Deeper Marketing Programs This Year

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When Amanda Jobbins took over as Cisco's vice president of global partner marketing last summer, step one was to ensure Cisco solution providers that the vendor's highly acclaimed partner marketing machine wouldn't miss a beat during the transition.

With that transition finished as of last fall, Jobbins and her team set about broadening the number and depth of marketing resources Cisco partners already had. To hear Jobbins tell it, attendees at Cisco's upcoming Partner Velocity conference will see many of the fruits of that labor first hand, particularly around Cisco's promised cloud marketing blitz.

"My goal is to make us the world's preferred partner marketing experience," Jobbins told CRN this week, noting that she'd organized Cisco's partner marketing resources into buckets such as brand and value, online and communities, marketing enablement, demand marketing and ecosystem marketing.

WIth definite exception, solution providers are notoriously poor marketers, and Jobbins said what she hears most often from many Cisco partners is either that their marketing is handled by a very junior person on staff, or they don't have much or any marketing staff, or they're asking Jobbins for resumes of marketing professionals.

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Cisco didn't hold a Partner Velocity in 2011 following its 2010 Partner Velocity in Barcelona, but the show was rebooted for this year and is set to take place in Las Vegas February 28 to March 1. Partners pay to travel to the event, which is by invitation only, but aren't charged to attend. Jobbins said Cisco expects representatives from 245 partners this year.

Scheduled external speakers include Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate and an expert in persuasive marketing; Dr. Martha Rogers, who is credited with creating the concept of one-to-one marketing; bestselling author and journalist Daniel Pink; and Peter Hinssen, author of The New Normal and a specialist in digital revolution studies how consumers adopt technology.

Jobbins has also changed the format from former Partner Velocity conferences -- Cisco partners will now also hear from in-house Cisco marketing experts. Traditionally, part of Partner Velocity's hook was that Cisco partners would listen to third-party marketing experts and not be subject to a Cisco marketing pitch, but Jobbins said some Cisco partners also sought marketing techniques and marketing-related discussion tailored to Cisco, not high-level advice.

"There was a huge focus on the external speakers in the past and the best practices they could share," Jobbins said. "But some partners attending have trouble differentiating themselves and articulating their value proposition in business streams. So each workshop will have a Cisco marketer who has executed a campaign and a partner who's used some of these best practices, along with the external speakers."

Partner Velocity attendees can also elect to receive one of three offers from Cisco: an infusion of joint marketing funds, high-touch assistance with social media, or the opportunity to work with a marketing consultant on an integrated campaign, from a professional audit of their current marketing strategy to executing the campaign itself.

There's a lot more to come from Cisco's partner marketing group this year, Jobbins said, including that Cisco will offer partners virtual marketing consultants -- effectively, a resource who a partner can contact over the phone to help build a marketing plan -- as part of a program. Pricing and access to those resources is still being determined, she said, though Cisco has been piloting them with hundreds of partners over the past few months.

Cisco has also made good on its promise to align partner marketing to Cisco's current marketing campaigns, which target three CIO "care-abouts": cloud, the bring-your-own-device trend, and the data deluge. It's a way to make sure Cisco partners can be sure their marketing lines up with what Cisco is dong at a corporate level.

"They know they'll get more bang for their buck," she said.

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