We are pleased to have Chad Reese, Director of Partner Digital Marketing for Cisco Systems, as a Channel Chatter guest blogger.

chad-reese As Director of Partner Digital Marketing for Cisco, I’m fortunate to get to work with many of our channel and ecosystem partners on joint marketing programs. With 60K+ channel partners and 300K+ partner sellers worldwide, channel partners are absolutely essential to Cisco’s DNA and they drive more than 80 percent of our revenue. We also do a lot of demand generation with our partners.

During the past decade, we’ve definitely seen a shift within our customers and prospects’ behavior. They are moving heavily toward the Internet to educate themselves, making digital and social marketing much more important than ever before. Our own sales organizations have recognized these changes and are asking for new tools and materials to support them in reaching out to customers across the web, mobile, social media, video and digital platforms. The old division between traditional and digital marketing has essentially disappeared. Today, Digital Marketing is Marketing – and we must deliver the vehicles, tactics and content to our channel partners to build a strong digital relationship with prospects and customers.

Building a Digital Relationship

To establish digital relationships that deliver value and build trust, we’re delivering several types of integrated marketing tools and tactics to help partners reach prospects at different phases of the buyer’s journey. We encourage all of our channel partners to weave a consistent experience through integrated marketing. That means using a mix of both in-bound and out-bound tactics, like syndicated social media, landing experiences with content offers, video and banner plug-ins and paid search with network buyer and security banner ads, for example, to capture attention. Prospects that aren’t ready to buy are put into a nurture campaign and treated differently than those further along in their journey. Research and our experience shows that using a mix of four or more tactics together elicits a much better response and results than relying on just one or two digital marketing methods.

Data as Differentiator

At Cisco, we’re leveraging data to become more effective with our channel partners. In fact, we see data as a true differentiator from a marketing perspective. We use data in many ways, from leveraging predictive analytics to find customers that are ready to buy and passing those leads to partners, to personalizing data and targeting entities that are showing purchase intent online. Currently, we use data in three primary ways: To drive personalization, define and target audiences online, and measure campaign performance. However, I believe our data usage, machine learning and applications will continue to expand. We’re sharing analytics with our partners to make both of our models even stronger. For example, we share data so our partners know how their prospects and customers are engaging on Cisco.com.

Meeting the Content Challenge

Cisco is really focused on helping partners connect with buyers through content and digital transformation. We’re working to capture our customers’ attention via relevant engagement content and transforming content so that it’s digital first. That entails more than just delivering a PDF online. Digital-first content takes into account the channel, platform and context through which content will be consumed by customers.

Balancing Marketing Investment

A great way to balance and even double your marketing budget is keying in on optimization. This can include optimization of your marketing budget as well as digital execution itself. When you’re talking about digital, you can’t just focus on delivering the demand generation service itself. If you’re just focused on delivery, you simply won’t get the ROI you desire.

Cisco recently saw this play out with paid search. In the beginning, we focused solely on delivering a paid search offering to partners. But when we looked closely, we weren’t getting the ROI we had hoped for. So, we started to focus on optimizing that service and dedicated resources to helping partners get the most from paid search. Soon, we were getting a greater than 40 to 1 SQL return rate on our investment. Now, we’re working with Zift Solutions to automate paid search for partners in real-time and expect to see an even bigger jump in ROI through automated and programmatic optimization.

Shifting the Mix

To help our partners embrace and truly benefit from digital, Cisco has delivered an initiative we call Partner Engage, which is an end-to-end program designed to drive digital marketing adoption and engagement within our extended partner community. The goal is to engage our mutual customers and drive pipeline revenue. It all starts with education to train partners regarding the importance of digital in today’s marketing landscape.

We also worked with Zift Solutions to launch Cisco Partner Marketing Center, which is an enterprise-grade Channel Marketing and Management platform that ties our marketing funds and programs together – and creates a highly personalized experience for our channel partners. Partners can use their MDF to “purchase” pre-approved campaigns and digital tactics. Partners gain direct access to customizable, platform-delivered demand services along with real-time campaign syndication via partner digital channels. Automated campaign performance reporting keeps everyone informed of what’s working, what’s not, and how we can tweak campaigns and digital tactics for better results. Moving forward, we hope to incorporate and leverage shared analytics to mutually orchestrate the customer experience with our partners depending upon where customers are in their journey.

To learn more and see more explicit examples of how Cisco is empowering partner engagement and success in the digital space, watch this on-demand webinar Adapting to Channel Change, featuring Chad and Laz Gonzalez, Zift’s Chief Strategy Officer. Watch the Webinar.

About the Author: Chad Reese is responsible for enabling digital marketing execution and orchestrating the customers experience with and through Cisco’s partner ecosystem.