Cisco aims to extend marketing community beyond Velocity events

Amanda Jobbins, vice president of partner marketing at Cisco

Amanda Jobbins, vice president of partner marketing at Cisco

LAS VEGAS – Amanda Jobbins paints a picture of the average marketing professional at a Cisco channel partner. It is a lonely picture.

Jobbins, vice president of partner marketing for Cisco, describes a person who is alone, or at best on a very small team, surrounded by much larger sales and technical teams, and reporting into management that often at best dismisses the value of marketing and at worst equates it with something roughly akin to sorcery.

The picture is made all the more poignant by the fact that I know from conversations with partner marketing leaders that it is all too often an accurate one.

But Jobbins has some ideas that, just maybe, will make that marketing professional a little less lonely.

The company has already extended beyond its yearly Partner Velocity marketing-focused events to hold monthly Velocity-themed marketing sessions online, but Jobins said she wants to take the extension of the partner marketing education program beyond those kinds of monthly Webinars. She wants to build an ongoing community of likeminded partner marketing leaders, a birds-of-a-feather environment where members won’t feel quite so isolated.

“We want to create a community and really build camaraderie,” Jobbins said.

From the community, Jobbins envisions moving to a certification program – a Cisco-vetted marketing badge that will place marketing professionals in the channel in the same kind of club as certified technical people. It’s another way for partner marketing executives to connect, and beyond that, it’s a way to ease solution provider management who are wary of hiring people for marketing roles with which they themselves are unfamiliar. “It creates a benchmark on how trained your people are,” Jobbins said.

The community and the badge are just a few of the many ideas that Jobbins shared in a meeting with the North American channel press community at Velocity this week. So what else has Jobbins been thinking about for the nearly six months since she took over worldwide partner marketing at Cisco?

Not surprisingly, she kicked off the role by spending as much time as possible with partners to learn their wants and needs.

Her biggest surprise: solution providers told her they wanted to see Cisco market its partners’ capabilities more internally, making sure that everyone throughout Cisco understands what partners are specialized in what areas, and what they each bring o the table. But of course, partners also want to be featured more prominently in Cisco’s marketing effort towards customers. Not necessarily by name or specifics, just a nice call-to-action to get in touch with their local Master Cloud Architecture partner for solutions that involve cloud solutions, for example.

Coming off the listening tour, she said her biggest challenge is finding ways to simplify the company’s marketing funding model, while still making sure it meets the needs of all parties involved. Expect to hear more on that later.

Another hint at the future: the company’s hare recently launched its MConcierge outsourced marketing service which aims to connect interested solution providers with a “virtual marketing director” to work on specific campaigns. It’s working with 500 partners in the U.S. and Canada today, and will soon expand into Europe and Asia-Pacific. But can the company scale that up into partners who have need for higher-touch services and a more strategic approach than MConcierge provides? Stay tuned there as well.

Here are some other priorities that Jobbins described:

  • As it is in any gathering of marketers, social media was a big topic. Jobbins pushed on partners to use more video in their marketing to customers, and many of the keynote speakers addressed ways to build or grow social media strategies.
  • Partners want to see marketing materials specific to their business type. Managed service providers have a different message and approach than a VAR, which has an entirely different need than an ISV-type partner.
  • The company also needs to do a better job of marketing its work with not just reseller-type partners, but also with strategic and technology partners. Jobbins envisions building out integrated campaigns on topics like its VCE alliance with VMWare and EMC, or presenting the benefits of SAP’s HANA in-memory database on Cisco UCS equipment.

As it has in the past, Cisco extended some exclusive offers to solution providers in attendance at this week’s event. Partners could choose to get a Cisco-funded demand generation campaign, a social media audit, or a full marketing plan. Based on the topics highlighted at the event, as well as partner scuttlebutt in the halls, expect the social media audit to be the big hit.

“We want to both rewards partners for coming and give them a chance to apply what they learned while they were here,” Jobbins said. “The goal is to inspire.”