Cisco has a strong focus on partner marketing. Indeed, all its sales are billed through partners, rather than directly. We caught up with Faith Wheller Cisco’s Global Small Business Marketing Director, to talk about Cisco’s approach to this sector

Faith, tell us about Cisco’s approach to the small business segment and your Marketplace

Cisco is enormous with a wide-span marketing map. We have multiple routes to market requiring multiple types of sales and marketing content.  The scale of Cisco’s remit, range, markets and partner types guarantees that one size doesn’t fit all. Our Cisco Marketplace supports small customers and enables them the ability to buy Cisco products from selected partners provides them with access to a range of in-country partners who can offer services, support and Cisco products.  

How long have you hosted a Marketplace and what issues have you encountered?

Our first Marketplace was launched in Asia followed by a pilot project “click to buy” on our Cisco small business experience. Those two ventures gave us many lessons. and it now operates across nine countries from the USA to EMEA. We’ve also established a presence on Amazon in EMEAR, US, Japan & India 

There were also a couple of lessons we learned from partner marketing in general. First, the process is quite onerous for partners. For example, GDPR means that they have to upload data manually. Second, the complexity of our offering can affect the customer experience.

What impact has the Marketplace had on traditional sales?

It’s still early days, but we hope that it will make the process simpler and shorter. We expect the Marketplace will enable us to make additional sales to much smaller customers we have never reached before.  Our Marketplaces are relatively new, but the more mature markets seem very receptive. In the US and Germany, it’s working really well, although there have been a few teething problems in other markets.

How has the Marketplace enabled you to make any changes with your sales force?

We’re still evaluating how best to incentivize and compensate sales and partner teams on eCommerce sales. There is a dilemma with a marketing-centric model where sales teams do not touch the account. This may be a good time to revisit the concept of marketing-led goals and acknowledge marketing’s contribution to the achievement of sales goals. We also need to think about how we integrate the Marketplace with our partner programs and benefits.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your Marketplace?

We are working to devise a measurement framework that can incorporate the Marketplace, but it’s a challenge. The primary issues are around reporting, because the burden is often placed on the partner, and they are reluctant to take it on. It isn’t always feasible to request partner alignment on Martech systems because of data protection issues and the relative size of partners. The different legal constraints around personal data in different countries also complicate things. 

How does the Marketplace co-exist with existing channels?

With small and medium-sized businesses, there are definitely opportunities to improve alignment and goal-setting with partners. Our view is that this should be driven by partners. With large partners like BT and Vodafone, we can sometimes find ourselves competing with our own products, which can appear re-badged and ‘white labeled’ by large global partners. The other issue is that sometimes it’s hard to get a full picture.

How are you improving user experience for the Marketplace?

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

We’re investing in improving the buying experience for small businesses. We’re energizing Click to Buy 2.0 to get this working more effectively in this new additional context. Small business buyers want to be able to find products easily, click, buy, and get them delivered. Now we’re selling via Amazon, we’re aware that online routes to market are increasingly important, and we need to be where our customers are and offer them the choice. We’re working to simplify the whole experience. Ultimately, it should be as easy as ordering pizza, in that you can buy a pizza in so many different ways eg app, online, phone. We need to be where our customers prefer to be at that time. 

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What are your plans for the Marketplace? 

We have just appointed a global e-commerce agency, and that will play a very significant role here. They have the skills and expertise that we need. We want them to work alongside the traditional paid media agencies to help deliver traffic.  We need to sell more integrated and bundled offers to customers showcasing additional products and services as part of a ‘pick and mix’ set of products and options—and of course we have to keep things simple! 

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