Cisco Partner Velocity: Six things to look out for

W Hotel - BarcelonaThis morning finds your humble blogger sitting in a hotel room at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport, waiting for a second chance at making it to Europe for Cisco’s Partner Velocity conference at the W Hotel in Barcelona (pictured).

Originally, I was slated to be there by now, but the cloud kinda got in the way – specifically the type dumping Montreal with snow. Alas, due to the foibles of travel in a Canadian winter, won’t be there for the kickoff of the event Tuesday afternoon, but hopes run high that I’ll be there in time for Wednesday morning’s festivities.

Assuming the weather co-operates, here are some of the things I’m keeping an eye open for when I get to Barcelona.

Velocity is Cisco’s annual marketing-focused event for partners. Two years ago, it was in Miami, last year in Paris, and this year in Barcelona. Cisco promotes it a little differently than your average partner conference. Sure, worldwide channel marketing chief Luanne Tierney will be in attendance and be featured prominently. But this event, the networking giant says, is about sharing fresh marketing ideas and best practices with partners, and most of the content will be delivered by marketing gurus – and not necessarily Cisco’s own crew.

Here’s what I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for:

  1. The cloud – Naturally, this is a topic anywhere and everywhere in 2010. But aside from the clouds threatening air traffic on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s a major topic on the table at Velocity. Cisco’s Tierney is slated to lead a discussion with partners from around the world on how to effectively market new cloud offerings.
  2. Video – It’s no secret that video is big business for Cisco – CEO John Chambers is positively giddy about the potential impact of HD video on network bandwidth worldwide. And in terms of video, Tierney and her team have bean leaders – making sure all partners at the company’s 2009 Partner Summit in Boston got their very own Flip camcorder and training on how to use it to deliver marketing material. More recently, Cisco used a video promotion to invite some partners to Velocity. What’s next in using video for marketing? A look at the agenda suggests the topic of using streaming video to increase Webinar impact is on the table.
  3. Mobile marketing – Marketing via mobile-specific technologies like location-based services still seems a B2C idea that’s a little lost on solution providers focused on B2B. But it’s a hot button topic. Can Cisco (and mobile marketing guru Alex Dunsdon) make it real for business-focused partners?
  4. Social media – Some solution providers are doing great work in using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook et al as business tools with a great deal of value. But I still hear a lot of VARs either scoff at social media as more than a personal tool or express confusion over how to use it as a business driver. What comes next, what are some of Cisco’s most marketing-savvy partners, in attendance this week, doing, and what can other solution providers learn from it?
  5. Investing? – As we come out of worldwide economic doldrum that has lasted most of two years, it will be interesting to see where VARs are investing in marketing, and how their budgets for 2011 compare to 2010. I’m pretty sure I know what Tierney’s counsel will be on this regard, but where’s the budget actually being invested?
  6. Keith Goodwin – Cisco’s partner organization boss is slated to be on hand, and hopes to sit down with him for a while to discuss what he’s seeing from partners, what he’s expecting for 2011, and what this year’s radical shifts in the company’s partner organizations have meant for his role.

That’s what’s on my mind as I hope to make I hope to offer full coverage from Barcelona over the days to come. Assuming I can get out of Montreal this afternoon.