Cisco CMO Reveals Her Pain Points

Cisco CMO Reveals Her Pain Points

7 minute read
Tom Murphy avatar

This week, amid the hullabaloo of the sprawling CiscoLive conference -- it takes up all three halls in San Francisco's MosconeCenter plus an adjacent high-rise hotel -- Christie said she's oh-so glad shefound the way to San Jose, where she now serves Cisco as chief marketingofficer.

Stepping aside from the hoopla from the conference, she shared aninside look at her marketing strategies with CMSWire. We were particularlyinterested in which tools the mammoth B2B tech vendor uses to market itselfglobally, but also asked her about her mobile and social strategies, and abouther 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'releveraging our website and our online presence has been significant, justlike everybody else. We use everything every else does. We're online. We'reusing 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 kickofftwo months ago. That's updating all of our content. It came at the same time wewere integrating a whole new sales enablement platform, so we're workingarm-in-arm with sales. In that, we're using Alfresco; we're also using our owntechnology. 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 ourcontent on And we're upgrading our systems so that we can drive areally clean focus to our sales force and our partners' sales teams as well asout through 

And then we're building content all over the place. We've been doingsome interesting things with Wired magazine to drive content. We've been doingsome 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 areyou doing in t he mobile arena for B2B marketing?

Christie: B2B or B2C, mobile is very important because that's whereyour customers are, right? I have stats galore showing a significant portion ofour customers are accessing our content over a mobile device, whether it's theirtablet or their smartphone. So we've been building for mobile for quite sometime and we've enabled all our content online to be available in any form orfashion,  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 comingto your site or coming to some content you're serving up, they're coming therewith a purpose. They're not just browsing. So they really need to be able to seeit, and they need to be able to engage with it, wherever they might be. So we'vebeen very focused on mobile and it's very important.

Murphy: The other thing that's important is social,  although I thinksome marketers are having a hard time seeing a return on investmenton social. What'syour take on that?

Christie:  Well, you know there's something there. I think this is wherethis B2B and B2C distinction does start to play a role. For us, the most successwe've had using some of our partners in the social networking world is whenthere'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-businessleader. And we've done several initiatives with them that are delivering ourcontent right to that exact target audience, and our click-through rates arethree, four, five times better than what we've seen in a traditional type ofdigital buy.

We use Twitter on a regular basis. That is an amplification for us. Our CTO[Padmasree Warrior]has well over a millionfollowers, I think, now. So she is almost as good as apress 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'retrending. We've reached over 24 million individuals just through getting justcustomers, partners and employees focused on Twitter. So those are two examplesthat are very powerful for us. The other ones we're still learning. We do a lotwith Google and a lot with Facebook, but those are the two I'll call out.

Murphy: At CMS Wire, when we look at social, we not only look at the part youspoke about but about internal social collaboration tools.  What tools are youusing at Cisco for your team?

Christie: We use two. We use one that comes through our WebEx systemsbecause we eat our own dog food. We use our own tools, Jabber, WebEx andsome unique social portals that we use through WebEx. 

Learning Opportunities

But we're also using Jive.We recently announced a partnership with Jive and they are present in a numberof areas. They're not completely across all Cisco right now, but we're beginningto use them as well.

Murphy: The other day, your chairman emeritus, John Morgridge, spoke and he musthave used the term "customer success"  five or six times in hisaddress. That's a soaring phenomenon right now in the world of marketing, but Ithink most people hadn't thought of the term until about two years ago and Johnwas talking about 25-30 years ago. How do you define customer success and whatare you doing a little differently in that area?

Christie: That's a great question mostly because customer advocacy, which isa term that I think he used as well, has been part of our DNA. For example,taking marketing aside, for every employee at Cisco, part of their bonus isbased on our customer satisfaction score  for the year. So we're allresponsible for it. I don't think I can point to any unique program i n marketingthat didn't already have that bent.

I will say that engagement and feedback has been an important part of howwe're driving an engagement strategy. So we're really paying attention to whatkind of content works and what doesn't. From that perspective, just the successof what we create for our customers and our sales team, just knowing that we'regiving them something that is useful has been helpful as a way to monitorcustomer success.

Customer success, more broadly for us -- across the board -- is that our customerscan see how our technology is reflected in their business results. We've shifteda big conversation with them and, even in our messaging and value propositionare not around the technology speeds and feeds. They're very much around drivingproductivity, decrease risk, drive growth and we're trying to create use casestoday that showcase customer success so that other customers can understand itin a much easier way.

Murphy: Every CMO has pain points. What are some of the biggest challengesthat you're facing right now?

Christie: Probably how to figure out the process and the systems with allthis data  coming in -- what we need in place in order to make the mostimpact. Delivering insight to our sales team to help grow their pipeline, withall this data coming in, especially from the inbound journey, that is one bighairy amazing goal that we're going after right now. It's a challenge, anobstacle.

I think another issue for us right now is getting some of the very besttalent because the skill sets are shifting. Right now, I'm on a bent to get thevery best storytellers, regardless of what piece of marketing or communicationsthey're in.  They're hard to find. We've kind of lost some of thatstorytelling.

And then frankly, my biggest challenge right now is prioritizing. There areso many things where marketing can play a significant role in driving yourcompany's strategy, but you can only do so much. We have a limited budget --that might be another pain point, my budget -- so we need to figure out how toprioritize on where we make the most impact. There are some brilliant innovativeideas out there, but you can't do all of them. Right now, we're going throughour planning process this summer. That's what we're facing right now.