Cisco Revamps Marketing Arm To Help Partners Engage With Customers In New Ways

The new Cisco Marketing Velocity program brings together the company’s existing resources and brand-new services to help its channel partners digitize and evolve their marketing efforts.

Cisco Systems is reconstructing its "underutilized" marketing arm to help channel partners reach more customers, engage with them in new ways and earn more revenue.

The new Cisco Marketing Velocity program will tie together all of the tech giant's marketing resources and programs, such as Cisco Joint Marketing Funds and Partner Marketing Central, in one place for its more than 60,000 partners across the globe. The program will help solution providers digitize their marketing practices, apply for and make use of marketing funds, and even co-market alongside Cisco, the San Jose, Calif.-based company said Tuesday.

Cisco does more than 85 percent of its business through the channel, so helping partners evolve and boost their marketing efforts is "critical" in helping both Cisco and its partners succeed, said Boon Lai, vice president of global partner marketing for Cisco.

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"Companies that have a strong digital marketing presence see a 9.5 percent increase in revenue year over year," Lai said. "Our research shows that 40 percent of customers are willing to pay at least a 35 percent premium to purchase from a Cisco partner, so we know that B2B buyers recognize the value of brand, and we are investing [in marketing] here with our partners."

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The first step in Cisco's marketing overhaul includes Cisco Marketing Velocity Learning, an always-on space where partners can go to learn about marketing and customer experience in real time. Marketing Velocity Learning now has 80 percent more learning content and on-demand training for partners, according to Lai. Cisco also has tripled attendance for its live learning events and has regionalized certain topics to demonstrate how specific markets are being impacted, he said.

Next, Cisco has overhauled its Partner Marketing Central platform, now known as Marketing Velocity Central. Solution providers can use the updated self-service portal to find free customizable campaigns, social media and website syndication, and an enhanced marketing content library. Partners also can use advanced campaign analysis capabilities, such as campaign tracking and customer contact engagement scoring, through the portal, according to Cisco. New to Marketing Velocity Central is the development of "cross-portfolio" marketing campaigns, Lai said. Marketing Velocity Central also will contain an agency marketplace that partners can use to connect with specifically chosen demand-generation agencies.

"To be successful, we really need to understand our customers and build very authentic connections," said Julia Noskova, vice president of marketing for Toronto-based Softchoice, a Cisco partner and solution provider focused on data center, cloud, networking and managed services.

Business customers are spending time learning about new services online and from their peers, and the conversations are very different than the product-related conversations of the past, Noskova said. That's why it's so important to have a digital-first approach to marketing.

Softchoice has strived to be a "human company" in the way it interacts with its customers through virtual events and one-on-one communications, she said.

"We have been working with Cisco and using their resources to help us zero in on specific targets and higher accounts we can go after together," Noskova said. "I've been really impressed with Cisco's digital consulting capabilities."

As part of the revamp, Cisco also introduced a new co-marketing service for select partners, Marketing Velocity Activate. The program combines data and joint planning between Cisco and the partner to engage customers digitally and drive new revenue, Cisco said.

World Wide Technology (WWT), a top global Cisco partner, has been involved with the pilot test for Marketing Velocity Activate. The St. Louis-based solution provider hasn't spent any of its own money on marketing and advertising and is already seeing results.

"We've seen, just in the pilot program, $10 million in pipeline that's been developed as a result. One of those leads has actually converted into actual business so far," said Chad Bockert, vice president of marketing for WWT.

The global solution provider has been changing how it engages with customers, and Cisco has been instrumental in helping WWT build a new digital platform for delivering content to its clients.

"Being able to have someone like Cisco helping to educate and train us on how to be effective at marketing is something we've always relied heavily on. This new change is one more evolution in making marketing more simple and integrated and really allows organizations like ours to become leaders from a technology perspective," Bockert said.

Marketing Velocity Activate initially will be made available to a group of about 100 Cisco partners during the company's 2020 fiscal year, Lai said.

Now known as Funding for Marketing Velocity instead of Cisco Joint Marketing Funds, authorized partners can continue to take advantage of marketing funds to promote their companies and the Cisco products and services they sell, the company said. Cisco wants the updated program to offer a more personalized approach to procuring marketing dollars for partners, Lai said.

"We are tailoring our marketing [efforts] to meet our partners where they are on their digital transformation journey," said Lai. "We designed this connected path of learning, funding and then executing and activating to help them elevate their marketing practices and, more importantly, further enable [our partners] to become trusted partners to an organization."