For any channel marketer trying to compete with Cisco’s Marketing Velocity program, the IT, networking and cybersecurity solutions provider isn’t making it easy. In addition to connecting and integrating the components of Marketing Velocity, its best-in-class channel program under one offering, the company added a new co-marketing service that supports insight-driven joint planning to enable Cisco and partners to better engage customers and drive revenue.
With approximately 85% of Cisco’s revenue going through its 62,000 partners, digital channel marketing has become a crucial component of the company’s overall success. And feedback from partners continuously reiterated that digital marketing is a key area in which they need help, said Boon Lai, Cisco’s Vice President of Global Partner Marketing.
“Many of our partners realize that as we move into the digital world, the role that marketing needs to play and can play is much more elevated,” said Lai. “And particularly, if we start to look at smaller businesses, that’s where you want to move into much more efficient, lower sales touch journeys. What we see a lot of our partners doing is really embracing digital marketing, and specifically with us as a partner.”
“Our intention and our ambition are to continue to build on our marketing practice to benefit all of our partners and also influence the industry,” Lai continued. “Building up the capabilities of digital marketing can ultimately enable increasing business growth.”
Following The Buyers’ Digital Journey
Cisco has not missed that B2B buyers are shopping differently. “We know the world is being digitized and that 61% of B2B transactions start online,” said Lai. “And before they actually speak to a sales rep, they’re already 60% through the buying process. It’s critical that partners understand the importance of starting the digital marketing journey at the top of the funnel all the way through the 60%,” he said.
Lai stressed that companies that have a strong digital marketing practice enjoy a 9.5% increase in revenue. “That means that together, between us and how we collaborate with our partners, we can get that 10% uptake if we are both invested behind our marketing practice.”
Co-marketing with Cisco can be especially rewarding for partners. According to Lai, 40% of Cisco customers say that they would pay a 35% premium to purchase products from a Cisco partner. “We need to be where our customers are, which is in the digital world.”
Cisco has been consistently adept in collaborating with its vast partner ecosystem, noted one industry analyst. So, for rivals aspiring to offer matching levels of digital marketing collaboration, “they have their work cut out in catching up with Cisco.”
“This further evolution of Cisco Marketing Velocity displays how committed Cisco is to help their partners grow their digital marketing capability and, more importantly, outcomes,” said Steve White, Program Vice President, Channels and Alliances at IDC. “Marketing Velocity was already a leading light in the partner marketing space, but these changes really do show that Cisco is the benchmark for marketing with partners.”
Cisco’s reputation as an innovator in channel marketing is well established. The company “has been at the forefront of many advances over the last 15 years, recognizing early on the correlation between partners’ marketing expertise and return on investment,” noted Canalys, a research firm. “It was one the first to develop marketing concierge services for partners and create customizable assets via a partner marketing portal.”
Cisco’s Marketing Velocity conference, a global event created more than a dozen years ago to promote the importance of marketing to partners, continues to provide attendees with cutting-edge information. “I was stunned at the quality of the people they had presenting,” said IDC’s White, after attending his first conference.
Raising The Best-Practices Bar
The expanded Marketing Velocity program connects and integrates Cisco’s existing capabilities under one offering, bringing a comprehensive program to support its partners’ own digital transformation. The expansion will enable partners from end-to-end by helping to elevate their marketing practices, delivering marketing funds and offering enablement tools to accelerate their field activation.
“This is more than just bringing all of the partner marketing resources under one brand,” said Lai, in a press release. “It’s ultimately about integrating and up-leveling our partner’s marketing practices with an end-to-end solution to attract new customers, deliver more sales and drive profits. We are deeply committed to investing and accelerating our partners’ marketing expertise though this new platform.”
The newly expanded Marketing Velocity consists of four components. Cisco Marketing Velocity Learning is an education and empowerment gateway that promotes partner marketing practices by providing real-time access to marketing education. The Marketing Velocity Hub features a new navigation that provides easier access to a curriculum of on-demand, online training tools including webinars, E-books, videos and training courses. Fully 80% of the content is new, according to Lai.
The enhancements to Marketing Velocity Learning are already earning industry accolades, including a gold Stevie award for best training site.
The Marketing Velocity conference has been expanded to include three easier-to-access regional events, reflecting partner demand for local content and greater regional access. “We are able to increase the attendees by three-fold, but more importantly, meet our audience within the regions to present localized content that is relevant for them and their customers,” Lai explained.
Cisco Funding for Marketing Velocity has been adjusted to promote usage of Cisco Joint Marketing Funds. Easier access to information about available funds is intended to encourage authorized channel partners to use them to market their companies, the Cisco products and services they sell and to drive bookings through co-marketing initiatives.
Cisco Marketing Velocity Central, formerly known as Partner Marketing Central, is a full-service portal that assists partners in performing and transforming their marketing activities. It is the partners’ go-to location for free customizable campaigns, featuring automated email journeys, both social media and website syndication and an enhanced marketing content library. It also offers advanced campaign analysis capabilities such as campaign tracking and customer contact engagement scoring.
With the agency marketplace, partners can browse and connect with specially chosen demand generation agencies and order services ranging from paid search, social media activation and digital event promotion to traditional telemarketing. Partners can seamlessly apply their funding for Marketing Velocity in this portal, as well.
Orchestrating Co-Marketing Programs
Cisco Marketing Velocity Activate, is a new co-marketing service that supports jointly orchestrated marketing programs. In limited release with a select number of partners, it combines business data and insight-driven planning between Cisco and its partners to optimize customer engagement.
“It’s essentially a consultative practice that leverages Cisco’s data to align our customer opportunity with partners,” explained Lai. In one pilot of the program, Cisco and a partner launched a co-branded program that delivered personalized messages to installed-base customers. The client-specific messages, which would be presented to customers on either Cisco’s or the partner’s website, suggested upgrades offered by the partner.
“The results we saw were fantastic,” said Lai. “We saw that there’s a 20% conversion rate on their landing page. With no other advertising support, the organic traffic visits created $10 million in pipeline.”
Marketing Velocity Activate will be piloted with about two dozen partners this year and expanded to 100 partners through 2020. Analysts at Canalys commented that Activate is an “example of how Cisco will prioritize their activities with partners with proven digital capabilities and skill sets in particular technologies. This should act as an incentive for other partners to start investing in higher levels of digital skills.”
More broadly, the overall investments that Cisco has made in channel marketing support will continue to give it a competitive advantage, Canalys noted. “Channel partners will play an ever-greater role in amplifying a vendor’s marketing voice, both in digital and physical arenas.”
And as partners strive to enhance their own brand around their solutions and services, “co-branding programs will become even more important.”