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Putting Partners at the Center of Cisco’s Cloud Strategy: New Specializations, Marketing Tools

The worldwide cloud services market will likely surpass US$109 billion in 2012. What’s more, the cloud services market is a high-growth sector within the overall IT marketplace, a recent Gartner report says. No shock there!

So what are you doing to take advantage of this shift? Cisco is here to help you create demand for your services and market them, too.

Last year, Cisco introduced the Cloud Partner Program. Today, the program has 133 approved Cloud Builders and 46 approved Cloud Providers. Collectively, the 46 Cloud Providers are offering more than 50 Cisco Powered Cloud Services to the market.

Today we’re taking the next step along that path and introducing a Master Cloud Builder Specialization that rewards channel partners who have proven capabilities to build and deploy cloud-ready integrated infrastructures using Cisco solutions and our partner cloud offerings across storage, virtualization, cloud management, and virtual desktop.

Essentially, Cisco is elevating the Cloud Builder role from a designation to a full-blown Master Cloud specialization. (After September 19, 2012, Cisco will no longer accept new enrollments or applications for the Cloud Builder or Cloud Infrastructure designations.)

The new Master Cloud Specialization comes with differentiated branding and incremental financial incentives, too. With this new specialization partners can create competitive differentiation and facilitate a new generation of IT and cloud services. We talked to Susheel Chitre who is the Director of Cloud and OEM Business Development at Cisco, and he told us some more ways that Cisco is helping partners help themselves and customers.

“We help partners differentiate services and offer support to help you build and sell unique solutions to customers so they can select the right cloud model and solution for their networks,” he said.

We’re not only helping you differentiate and build new services, we’re giving you new tools to help you market your solutions directly from Cisco’s web site. How’s that? Keep reading.  Read More »

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Employee Challenges? Leverage ‘Cisco Partner Talent’ to Develop a Winning Plan

While the economy may be causing some headaches around the world, finding the right talent when you have a job opening is also tough. And this isn’t because there aren’t people out there looking. It’s finding the right person that can be difficult.

Part of the reason is that the workforce culture of IT is changing. KPMG recently reported that 80 percent of CIOs are having extreme difficulty hiring skilled talent to support future business goals. And the annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report concurs. There’s a skills shortage out there.

For partners, there’s no time to waste. It’s critical to have the right people on board at the right time. That’s why Cisco is offering Cisco Fit4Talent, a website rich with free information that addresses a wide variety of human resources and talent management topics. It includes tools, whitepapers, videos, best practices, and more—it’s your one-stop shop to help you succeed at every stage of the entire talent management lifecycle.

Get started today with this free partner talent resource. Read More »

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Are Your Customers (and Prospects) Talking About You? (Part 2)

Yesterday, I shared information on how to get started with social media listening, what to listen for, and the types of information you can gain from listening. Now that you have an idea of what your customers and prospects are saying, what are you going to do with all of that information?

Well, that’s when the good stuff happens! The insights you’ll get from social listening will help you:

  • Build your social media marketing strategy – you’ll have more insights about your audience, who exactly is participating in social media, in which social channels the conversations are happening, how frequently and actively are they posting, and what they are talking about.
  • Have a dialogue with customers and prospects –  you want to do this carefully, thoughtfully, person-to-person, and with a customer-service mentality, but participating in social media conversations gives you the chance to thank fans, find prospects, help those with problems or questions, discover problem areas you might otherwise have missed, and build better relationships with your community.
  • Share what you learn with the rest of your organization – product feedback will be useful to your support and development teams, lead opportunities will get sales excited, your executives will want to hear about emerging trends and what kinds of business problems customers are looking for technology to solve, and marketing can see the traction that offers and marketing campaigns are getting.

As an example, here’s a situation where we were getting feedback via social listening from customers about challenges with firmware downloads. We responded to this disgruntled person (who clearly was appreciative of our efforts), but it also led us to put a temporary fix in place to make the experience easier while we worked on the longer-term solution.

Here at Cisco, we have a central Social Media Listening Center where we are continually tracking mentions of the company, key technology areas and events. It functions as a command center to route questions, issues or even potential leads to various teams across Cisco (many of whom are also doing their own ‘deep-live’ listening work for their specific area of expertise). We also can launch listening centers for special events, including our recent listening center in London for the 2012 Olympics.

We’re also eager to share some of our social listening highlights with you, our partners! Read More »

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Are Your Customers (and Prospects) Talking About You?

I’m sure you know what your customers want – you talk to them all the time, right? But what do they say about you – or your products, employees, website – when you aren’t involved in the conversation?

Hopefully, what they say when they don’t know you are listening isn’t much different than what they’d say to your face. Well, the truth is, people are talking about you, whether you are listening or not. So if you COULD listen, wouldn’t you want to?

Forget the things you’d rather not hear – “What did she do to her hair? Does he really think that joke is funny?” – when it comes to your business, hearing more can only be a good thing.

Enter social media listening – a fancy phrase for reading relevant things that people post on social sites – and voila, your long-distance hearing just improved! And by hearing better, you can make significant improvements to how your business runs, deciding what to market and sell, focusing your resources, and strengthening your relationships with customers, prospects, and your entire business community.

How do I get started?
You can use sophisticated monitoring applications like Salesforce Radian6, Cymphony/Visible, and Cisco Social Miner, but you can also get started with free tools like Google Alerts, Technorati, TweetDeck or SocialMention. Before you invest in a paid application, it’s a good idea to play around with putting keywords into one of the free tools to get a sense of the type and volume of results you’ll get back.

What do I listen for?  Read More »

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7 Questions to Ask Before Launching a Social Media Program

Success can come in many forms. Three very different success stories. Listen to the replay for details.

This week, Partner Velocity (Cisco’s program to help partners’ marketing efforts) held a one-hour webcast to help you get started with social media.

It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, so I led the webcast and provided some guidance for beginners and more advanced practitioners, tips, and tricks to help launch a social media presence.

If you couldn’t make it, don’t worry as there’s a replay available. Be sure to listen to this replay and attend the next two webinars in the series: you’ll be entered to win a US$2500 marketing consultation.

Head to the Partner Velocity site for details, and to register for the next two sessions (Social Media for Events and Creating an Integrated Campaign).

Here’s a quick recap of the topics covered in this week’s session “Building a Successful Social Media Program”:

  • How to develop a listening strategy
  • How to define and segment your audience (and create content for each persona)
  • Tips and tricks for engaging with your audience
  • Ways to design a measurement/metrics plan
  • And finally, some key takeaways and next steps

Keep reading for my seven questions to ask before launching your own social media program.

Read More »

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