Cisco: Partner Led puts focus on partner marketing

Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco’s worldwide partner group

Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco’s worldwide partner group

LAS VEGAS – As Cisco Systems kicks off its annual Partner Velocity marketing-focused event here, the company’s partner leader said the shift in its business strategy towards a Partner-Led model has made this event all the more critical.

For the last five years, the company has brought together a group of its worldwide partner base to focus on building marketing strategies. It’s an event that’s different in tone from the more familiar partner conference model. Yes, there’s no doubt this is a Cisco-hosted event. But the majority of the main-stage time is devoted to subject matter experts from the marketing world.

The event is focused on education, and it’s an education that Cisco needs to rely on more heavily as its Partner-Led strategy puts more onus on its channel partners to market to their SMB and midmarket customers.

“Marketing has always been important, but with Partner Led and the stronger focus on midmarket and small business, marketing goes from being a nice-to-have, to a requirement,” said Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco’s worldwide partner group in a meeting with North American channel press Wednesday morning.

While Velocity has taken a more critical role over the last two years, Goodwin described the event as “an experiment” when the company first rolled it out five years ago. Does it get mind share from the partner base? Yes. Is it a differentiator for Cisco? Yes. But Edison Peres, worldwide channel chief at Cisco, said there’s also a strong return on investment story on developing Partner Velocity. The company has long focused on giving partners flexibility in their marketing spend by allotting marketing dollars through its Value Incentive Program. With Partner Velocity, the company allows tries to educate its partners on marketing trends and best practices. The result, Peres said, is “a bigger bang for the buck” the company invests in VIP marketing funding.

While it may have started as an experiment, Goodwin said Velocity is now “fundamental” to how the company works with its partners – and indeed, new Cisco partner marketing chief Amanda Jobbins is full of ideas for how to extend Velocity from a few days a year to a more ongoing event. But more on that in another blog post.

Has the event made a difference? Based on the number attending, and the role attending, Peres certainly believes it has.

He paints a picture of the early Velocity events, a smaller ground than the nearly 250 partners in Las Vegas this week, and a group that was predominantly filled with partner’s business – as opposed to marketing – leaders. CEOs and presidents weren’t attending because they were taking the place of their marketing heads. Instead they were attending because they were the marketing chief, among their many hats.

Today, the Partner Velocity crowd is much more one of marketing executives, and that movement shows “a great indication of the progress we’re making.”

The solution provider market as a whole may still struggle with marketing, but Peres said there’s “a new investment” on the part of solution providers in marketing, particularly in the face of a marketing world that’s been transformed by social media.