Influencer Series: The Future of B2B Content Is Personal
A content conversation with Oren Singer, Head of Global Distribution Marketing at Cisco
This is the third in our series of interviews with leading technology marketers—who also happen to be Tendo clients—where we ask them about the most pressing challenges they face when it comes to content, and how they’re overcoming these obstacles.
This time, our interviewee is Oren Singer, who heads up Cisco’s Global Distribution Marketing team. Oren has worked in the tech industry for 22 years, 17 of those with Cisco.
Q: Top-of-funnel content can be a challenge for distributors because they’re selling both the actual products and their distribution service. How can distributors address this communications dichotomy?
Taking a step back, distributors need three different types of content from us. First, there’s the content Cisco creates specifically for distributors. That’s Cisco talking about the value of our products and services, why distributors should work with us, what’s the benefit to them, etc.
The second type of content focuses on how distributors can communicate with their partners and create demand for Cisco products. This type of content deals with the value proposition to the partners—not to the distributors themselves—and how the partners can grow their businesses and practices by selling Cisco solutions.
The third type of content is customer content. Our partners also need to market our solutions and services to their customers. That’s three sets of content, Cisco to distributors, Cisco through distributors—which goes to the partner through our distributors—and then Cisco to customer.
To answer your question about the challenges of distribution content, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a challenge. But each of our distributors has a specific set of unique services they want to communicate about to their partners. Sometimes that ties into services Cisco provides, but often distributors create this content themselves because it’s about their unique IT and value proposition to the partner.
For us at Cisco, the key to getting this amalgamation of content right is to understand the three audiences I mentioned and tailor communication accordingly.
Q: That’s a real balancing act. What do you think makes for the best top-of-funnel content for distributors?
If you look at the complex role of distributors today—especially technology distribution, which may be different from traditional distribution—these companies don’t just do the logistics and push products. Their role is to grow the partner base for both of us and also provide new services to their partners to help them grow their business. Distributors help us to acquire new partners, as well as grow the partners they work with today.
So top-of-funnel marketing content for distributors serves multiple purposes: One is demand generation, yes, but they also invest in sales and marketing enablement to educate partners on how to market, sell, and close the deal. So we’re talking about a mix of content types.
Cisco supports those efforts in a number of ways, the key one being Marketing Velocity – a holistic program to enable our distributors and partners. It has four pillars:
- Educate and train our partners to understand the value of digital marketing
- Automate the entire marketing process
- Provide them with best of class third party marketing tools
- Provide direct engagement with marketing experts to support them.
As part of that effort, we have a platform called Partner Marketing Central, which provides campaign assets that partners can use and marketing services that partners and distributors can get either for free or for a fee depending on the type of service they’re interested in.
The distribution part of the program originated in Europe with our EMEAR team. They came up with a program called Market Yourself Awesome, a marketing enablement program specifically focused on distributors. It goes in-depth on content marketing and other elements distributors can use to market Cisco products through their partners. We’re going to roll it out globally early in our next fiscal year, so starting in August.
Q: Cisco has a high level of content marketing maturity. It creates a lot of successful content and mainly struggles with issues like findability and accurate measurement. What is the company doing to continue to raise the bar further?
I think it’s all about personalization—our ability to personalize marketing messages for our partners through the distribution channel.
Right now, everyone talks about digitization. We’re seeing this in marketing where the use of technology is on the rise, for example in marketing automation and marketing personalization. What you’re going to see coming from us probably later next year is the capability to understand the requirements of our partners, what’s really interesting to them, and where they need to expand in order to bring in more business. And the starting point is our distributors.
That’s one thing: Moving toward greater personalization.
Secondly, you’ll see us start to develop new methodologies of demand generation together with our distributors, so we’ll be able to provide more targeted capabilities to our partners. By better understanding our customers through the process of digitization, we’ll be able to serve up specific content to our distributors and partners to better create demand generation campaigns to their customers.
Q: And what tells you that a program is successful? What kind of metrics do you look for?
We’re moving away from a traditional model where we measured success based on number of downloads, number of people who sign up for our webinars, etc. Not that this isn’t important, but we want to track further than that, we want to measure types of engagement all the way to business closed.
We’re working to develop a deeper understanding of how our partners, distributors, and customers engage with our content. As in, have they found it so useful that they forward it or talk about it to their colleagues? Have they spent time interacting with this content, reading this content? Measuring engagement tells us the quality of the content we have put out there.
Our holy grail, especially for demand generation, is to track the entire funnel from initial content to a closed deal. The whole system is going to get a lot more sophisticated.
Q: Do you look to any non-tech industries for inspiration on distributor marketing or content?
I think Tesco, a supermarket chain in the UK, is an example of a company that’s doing a great job in terms of personalization. Tesco is now the UK market leader, but its two main competitors, which used to be far ahead of Tesco, are always trying to break through and eat into its market share.
Tesco has a ton of customer data and they analyze it for buying behavior and product preferences, and cross-reference that with gaps in the competitor’s product line-up. That way, they can create targeted campaigns offering customers incentives to come and buy favorite products of theirs—often things they couldn’t have bought at the competitors’ stores.
This strategy has been extremely successful and I think this shows several things: First, the importance of Big Data in any industry. Second, it shows the importance of personalization and the ability to create tailored content to the individuals we serve, whether that’s partners, distributors, or customers.
Q: On the topic of personal communication: You have recently starting blogging and I’m curious why that is and what you want to accomplish with it.
Initially it was a business decision because we didn’t have a voice on the Cisco blog platform talking directly to our distributors. The content to our channels was more focused on our larger channels, and so was the messaging. We needed a different voice for distributors to articulate the value we see for them, which again is around scaling in each market and commercial space. This was what first mobilized me to write the blog.
It also gave us a window into our audiences’ engagement with content. For example, we can better understand those audiences on Twitter because we use Twitter to publish this content, and the same on LinkedIn. It’s helpful to see who reads the blog posts, who shares them, who are influencers that we can team up with for other communications initiatives.
For me personally, well… If you have seen our latest brand campaign you know it’s about technology enthusiasts. That’s who I am. I joined Cisco because I believe in technology and the power of technology to change people’s lives. Everything we do now with technology, I see how it affects our lives and that was important for me to communicate.
That’s what motivates me. And again, through measurement we know that people find it useful. They learn about our technology, yes, but also are invited to consider it in the context of how it can help all of us, help society. And to loop back to the topic of engagement: I believe that when you tell a story and you add a little bit of your personality, you know, people tend to relate more to what you write.
To check out Oren’s personality, visit his blog here: http://blogs.cisco.com/author/orensinger