Karen Walker is the senior vice president and CMO at Cisco Systems

Published: November 12th, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – Karen Walker, the CMO of Cisco Systems, said the San Jose, Calif.-based networking and telecommunications vendor is changing its thinking when it comes to lead generation for the channel.

Cisco wants to dramatically change the way they do channel marketing and are embarking on a digital first strategy that will see the company augment the way they do inbound demand generation.

In the last year, Cisco delivered approximately $6.6 billion in the pipeline for partners with the leads they have created. Cisco has been doing lead generation for partners in the commercial space and in the SMB.

But going forward, these leads need to step up their game and the more qualified lead is winning the day.

According to Walker, most business buyers are making their buying decisions online. At least 67 per cent of buyers are “digital” in their buying process.

“Customers are now a step ahead of the call centre. They are self-educated and are telling you what they want or are interested in,” she said.

Walker will be leading a team that will put in place more channel marketing programs based on behavior analytics in an attempt to provide more valuable leads such as BANT leads to the partner base. She believes this effort will help partners make faster and more accurate business decisions.

What are BANT leads?

BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline. With a BANT lead a potential customer has indicated they have Budget available, the Authority to make a decision or is the right decision maker in the sales process, Need (his or her company has an IT problem and are in need of a solution you are proposing) and the “T” is for time frame or the potential customer has a time frame in place for solving their problem and are ready to making a purchasing decision.

Cisco’s marketing push will work to provide the channel with customer insights in, as Walker describes it, a deep data drive. For example, Walker’s team wants to inform channel partners on customer share of wallet, propensity to buy and help them better target certain market segments. She believes with this data the channel can properly invest in the Cisco technology solutions necessary for success.

“We’ll have data around the individual with names, demographics and personal interests. As an example, we found out security buyers got a thing for Halloween and I think it’s that fine line between good and evil when it comes to security. Listen, we are not going to launch a zombie campaign, but all joking aside we plan on delivering a rich set of data about human beings inside the security spend and we are going to do it digitally,” Walker added.

Walker, who is responsible for Cisco’s global marketing and corporate communications, was specific in her strategy for channel partners. The focus is on security and her marketing drive will put a lot of emphasis that Cisco is serious about security. “Security is connected to networking so we are bringing security into Cisco’s main brand,” she said.

From day one channel partners should look for Cisco supplying solution providers with content and other marketing assets such as videos, banners and social media to enable them to tell their own story. And, for Walker this is a first for the networking giant.

Demand generation will be another part of Walker’s all-digital marketing strategy. Cisco will be doing demand generation in two ways: marketing assets will help to drive a solution provider’s own marketing campaigns and secondly Cisco is boosting investment in its demand generation engine by 25 per cent. Cisco is also going to provide the channel with access to Cisco digital marketing agencies for things such as paid search campaigns and Web design.

“We want to both educate and teach marketing to the channel. It’s like teaching them how to fish instead of just giving it to them,” Walker said.

Besides digital, the marketing push will also be highly mobile. Look for Cisco to build local versions of its Web site Cisco.com in bite size portions.

“We have to completely redesign our content for digital and mobile consumption.”

Work still needs to be done in Cisco’s new digital marketing journey. Walker told CDN the goal is to be completely digital in its go-to market strategy, but have that intertwined with sales. “We will play a much higher value role now because the customer will already know based on their online knowledge,” she said.