Tell me a little be about your current role as Partner Content Manager at Cisco.
I’ve been at Cisco for a little over two years. Until a few weeks ago I was focused primarily on the data center and cloud part of our portfolio and really go-to-market with our partners. Partners are over 90% of Cisco’s business, so, when it comes to very successful digital marketing we will not be successful without partners. There’s really a bit of a need for a role that can look across a lot different personas and a lot of different topics and solutions to kind of understand what the partner lense would be. So a few weeks ago I moved into this role as the Partner Content Manager for the Americas. A big part of what I’m doing now is looking across the portfolio but really through a content marketing view, with and through partners to understand; what are their needs, how do they tell those stories, and how do they tell those stories with Cisco and are we delivering what we need to, to them for them to be successful. They tell their own stories, they create their own content but so much of what they do is with Cisco at the core that we’re trying to inject more relevance there to broader audiences than we have in the past.
What does that partner make-up really look like for you?
It is what we call the ecosystem. And I actually was in RTP for a few days giving foundational level training to the region, and in the old days in the industry you had a select set of resellers that are very, very important, still critical to Cisco business that it grew up over 20 years selling boxes, and that’s a really important business and we still need that. Now what we’ve found is the ecosystem has emerged, and the ecosystem is really this very diverse set of partners that have a lot of different skills. You have; resellers, integrators, consulting firms, partners who build their own technology on top of Cisco, development firms that are writing apps on our platforms; it’s just this really diverse and fascinating ecosystem of partners. And what we have found through a lot of primary research with customers that were also duplicating as partners, is customers actually working with a collection of partners in different intervals. They may start with one partner type, say a consulting firm to develop a roadmap for transformation, and once they’ve done that they will migrate to other partners, and eventually they’ll work with a partner that can actually design something, they’ll deploy it and operate it, so it’s really fascinating because where it used to be that IT did a lot of the work and had the buying relationship – and there’s still a lot of that going on – but now we are getting into a world where line of businesses are getting involved, and developers are getting involved, so what we see is this kind of explosion of partner types. So, what we’ve had to do is really scale out, and think about those different partner needs. How we support say a consulting firm varies drastically from how we would support a reseller or an innovator. To answer your question, it’s really up to a dozen categories now that we are looking at how do we develop better digital marketing and content and campaigns for a wider variety of partners.
I want to dive into that content piece. Before we do, in this ecosystem, do you have partners that are collaborating with each other? Or is most of the relationship between the customer, the partner, and Cisco?
Actually, what we are seeing a lot of are well-established partners, multi-billion dollar partners who have been doing it for 20 years, some of our oldest closest friends saying “you know what I need new skills, I need new partnerships of my own.” Software is a big part of this, you have partnerships who historically focused on hardware who are now understanding this shift to a software world, not just in Cisco but in the industry, and now they’re looking to their peers saying “where should I be partnering up and collaborating?” One example comes to mind, I was at a Red Hat conference and one of the largest producers and manufacturers of carpeting in the United States was on the main stage, and they used the example of treating each of their 6 partners in that example as a board of directors that all reported to the chairman – the chairman being the VP of infrastructure who’s responsible for the project – and they managed it like a team. So, you have examples with customers where they’re forcing partners to work together, you’ve got partners looking next to each other, there’s M and A activity there, it’s really fascinating because we try to drive a lot of that. We do a lot of events throughout the year, Cisco Live and others, where we actually introduce partners to other partner types to understand where can they fit. There are some that play in specific industries where other partners don’t, so it’s actually really interesting to watch because you’ve got just completely different partner types coming to the table saying “hey, we can really solve some of these challenges in unique ways.” The big opportunity for us as a marketing organization is how do we tell those stories in new and creative ways where this outcome was driven by an entire committee.
To learn more about how Jarrod and the Cisco team measure channel success, use their program called the “Edge”, and what he has to say about personalized content, tune in to episode 9 of The Allbound Podcast.