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Cisco CMO Reveals Her Pain Points

2014 May 20 Blair Christie Cisco 320 centr tm.jpgAbout 15 years ago, Blair Christie made one of those life-changing decisions. She gave up her notion of seeking her fortune on Wall Street to become the investor relations director for Cisco, helping to guide Wall Street's expectations for the networking powerhouse.

This week, amid the hullabaloo of the sprawling Cisco Live conference — it takes up all three halls in San Francisco's Moscone Center plus an adjacent high-rise hotel — Christie said she's oh-so glad she found the way to San Jose, where she now serves Cisco as chief marketing officer.

Stepping aside from the hoopla from the conference, she shared an inside look at her marketing strategies with CMSWire. We were particularly interested in which tools the mammoth B2B tech vendor uses to market itself globally, but also asked her about her mobile and social strategies, and about her biggest "pain points" as a CMO. 

Data, Talent and a Digital Focus

Murphy: What are the primary technologies you're using as CMO of Cisco?

Christie: We've moved a significant amount of our budget and focus to digital. We're leveraging our website and our online presence has been significant, just like everybody else. We use everything every else does. We're online. We're using banner ads. We're leveraging all the video that we possibly can.

Adobe CQ5 is our latest update. We installed that and had a nice kickoff two months ago. That's updating all of our content. It came at the same time we were integrating a whole new sales enablement platform, so we're working arm-in-arm with sales. In that, we're using Alfresco; we're also using our own technology. We've been working for a year now on this big push.  We've revamped all our content internally. We've done a huge, clean-sweep of our content on And we're upgrading our systems so that we can drive a really clean focus to our sales force and our partners' sales teams as well as out through 

And then we're building content all over the place. We've been doing some interesting things with Wired magazine to drive content. We've been doing some interesting things with CNN, the NBA and a full 360-sponsorship mode, too.

Murphy: Mobile is a big question mark for a lot of CMOs right now. What are you doing in t he mobile arena for B2B marketing?

Christie: B2B or B2C, mobile is very important because that's where your customers are, right? I have stats galore showing a significant portion of our customers are accessing our content over a mobile device, whether it's their tablet or their smartphone. So we've been building for mobile for quite some time and we've enabled all our content online to be available in any form or fashion,  so we've had very focused mobile strategy for a few years now.

I think it's really important because, in the B2B space, if someone is coming to your site or coming to some content you're serving up, they're coming there with a purpose. They're not just browsing. So they really need to be able to see it, and they need to be able to engage with it, wherever they might be. So we've been very focused on mobile and it's very important.

Murphy: The other thing that's important is social,  although I think some marketers are having a hard time seeing a return on investment on social. What's your take on that?

Christie:  Well, you know there's something there. I think this is where this B2B and B2C distinction does start to play a role. For us, the most success we've had using some of our partners in the social networking world is when there's a very targeted effort. We've had tremendously successful results with LinkedIn. We can get very targeted. We're reaching a CXO or line-of-business leader. And we've done several initiatives with them that are delivering our content right to that exact target audience, and our click-through rates are three, four, five times better than what we've seen in a traditional type of digital buy.

We use Twitter on a regular basis. That is an amplification for us. Our CTO [Padmasree Warrior] has well over a million followers, I think, now. So she is almost as good as a press release distribution service. [Editor's note: @Padmasree has 1.46 million  followers compared to 370,000 for Cisco itself and 5,429 for Christie.]  If you're at Cisco Live right now, we're trending. We've reached over 24 million individuals just through getting just customers, partners and employees focused on Twitter. So those are two examples that are very powerful for us. The other ones we're still learning. We do a lot with Google and a lot with Facebook, but those are the two I'll call out.


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