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Some Solutions Pages

I thought I’d point out some new page designs on Cisco.com that should make it easier to find and understand information about solutions from Cisco. First, there’s the new main Solutions page, which is a one-stop starting point:

Solutions-11-2015

(Note that we’re trying out different versions of this page, so the version you see may differ slightly.)

You’ll also start to see some rich pages with extensive details on specific solutions, tying together products, services and more. A great example of this is the Cisco Unified Access solution page:

Cisco-Unified-Access

(We’ve blurred some of the content at the bottom, because it’s just available to Partners and select others. But it shows how a good design can support specific personalized and entitled views. We’ve been following this entitled approach regularly in product and solution areas, because it means we can offer extra information to specific audiences, without going the old fashioned route of building and maintaining separate microsites.)

Nice work by our design, publishing, and content teams!

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7 Simple Best Practices for Digital A/B Tests

You might know that many companies run “tests” in their web and mobile experiences, where they’ll pit one design, layout, or content set against another. It’s a way to see quickly which one works best.  For instance, you might have one page with a slick graphic at the top, vs another one with text and a form at the top, to see which one gets the best interaction and form completion. At Cisco, we’ve been doing this at a component level for a while, and have begun to do these kinds of test with whole pages on Cisco.com. These tests help us understand which of two experiences is the easiest and most straightforward to use, and then we can apply that knowledge to our page designs in general.

But, it’s easy to over-complicate testing, which can lead sometimes to results that are hard to interpret or that generate too much data that can’t be readily analyzed.  So, I asked our team on the Digital Support Experience to give us their best practices for how to plan page vs page tests the right way. Here are some great tips from the teams:

  1. Identify your success metrics (“Overall Evaluation Criteria,” see below) at the beginning of your planning, so you can make clear the #1 thing your are optimizing for.
  2. Establish Baseline performance for the KPIs/success metrics before you start the test. (understand where you’re starting from — how were things performing before the test?)
  3. Before the experiment starts, state what will happen if the test a) succeeds, b) is inconclusive, c) fails.
  4. Don’t do two new competing designs for A and B. A better model is to use the current design as “A” and a new design as “B” so you have a good control group.
  5. Limit the number of variables that differ between the two versions.
  6. Let the experiment run long enough to get a volume of data on the key items that will yield statistical confidence in the result.
  7. Validate setup with an “A/A” test. The purpose of this is to check that your “system” for branching the users isn’t itself adding in a bias. (If you do a split of incoming users and you are directing them to pages that are exactly the same and you don’t get equal results, then your A/B branching system is adding bias itself.)

Overall Evaluation Criteria

“Overall Evaluation Criterion (OEC) forces you to ask the question: “what are you optimizing for?”

To do it right, only one OEC (think KPI) should be specified for your test. The reason for just one criterion is that multiple criteria can lead to muddy results. Version A improved KPI #1 but version B improved KPI #2 so which one was better? Therefore, it’s crucial to to specify one and only one KPI and optimize for that.

And, an Ultra-Tip

Perhaps the top tip of all is to improve your designs, content, and journeys based on the tests that you run. And, if you don’t understand why a particular experience is performing in a certain way, it’s probably time to supplement your A/B testing with some observational usability tests, so you can watch users interact with (and comment on) the experience they’re having. Test similar experiences on other sites, too, and you’ll a fuller picture.

What Do You Think?

Have you been running A/B and other kinds of tests on your digital experiences? What tips would you offer to your colleagues?

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Social Selling: 5 Myths Busted

“I’m a big fan of the misunderstood, the vilified, the underdog, the breaking of myths.” Dominic Monaghan

We all do it. We get a preconceived notion in our heads and it becomes the truth. Here at Cisco we believe deeply in omni-channel customer communication and social engagement, but sometimes we need to do a reality check – particularly when it comes to how our partners interact with their prospective and current customers.

We wanted to know what matters to partners when it comes to using social media for sales and marketing. So we used a tried-and-tested approach: we asked them. In partnership with Leader Networks, we conducted a mixed-method study (which included interviews and a survey) with 240 Cisco partners in our EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia) region. Our goal was to understand:

  • The opportunities, barriers, and challenges Cisco partners experience when engaging prospective and current customers
  • The areas where social engagement could enhance or accelerate sales and marketing efforts
  • The tools and support Cisco partners need to be successful on the social channels

Of course, we entered the process with a set of assumptions – including a theory that, because our partners engage with customers in highly localised, highly personalised ways, they would tell us that social engagement was a ‘nice to have’ instead of a strategic need. Guess what? We were wrong! Here’s what we learned:

Myth: Social selling is a good idea but it doesn’t really work for the partner community.

Fact: Social engagement is becoming critical to partners’ sales and marketing initiatives.

According to our study, 91% of Cisco EMEAR partners believe social engagement will become important or very important to their organisation in the next 12-18 months. That’s almost all of them. This indicates that social selling is not just a market trend swirling outside the partner community. It’s very real and very relevant to partners right now.

Myth: Most partners aren’t active on social channels.

Fact: Partners are smart about social – and they’re getting smarter.

Our survey showed that the majority of EMEAR partners use LinkedIn and more than half use Twitter and Facebook.

What’s more, 60% report that they use social channels in their sales practices. Although some partners are in the experimental stages, many are on their way up the social selling maturity curve – and they’re developing stronger strategies and programs by the day.

Myth: Partners only use social selling techniques for lead generation.

Fact: Social selling is delivering a host of meaningful benefits.

Some organisations use social channels to shout: to digitally broadcast and amplify their ideas. Our partners are using social selling techniques to listen and engage – and that is paying dividends. According to our study, socially engaged partners report meaningful benefits such as an increase in their visibility among prospective customers (84%), closer relationships with customers (71%), and greater awareness of customer needs (70%).  Taken one step further, our partners are not only using social engagement to sell products and services – they’re gaining invaluable insight that can be used to drive new products and services.

Myth: Partners want pre-packaged content that they can “push” over social channels.

Fact: Partners want to become thought leaders who craft their own content.

To advance their social selling strategies, EMEAR partners desire more information and insight. They want to create and share content about industry trends and new perspectives to make valuable contributions to their customers. They also want the training and support they need to do so. Said another way: they don’t want fish; they want to become fishermen.

Myth: Only millennials use social selling techniques.

Fact: Social selling is universal.

In our study, we spoke with partners in a wide range of ages across multiple countries and organizations of varying sizes. There were no significant differences in their responses – whether they were digital natives or a seasoned salespeople, working in Austria or Algeria, employed by a large or small firm. The bottom line? Social selling has the potential to yield benefits for all partners. Full stop.

Our partners are incredibly important to Cisco. They’re on the front lines with our customers – working hand-in-hand to help them get the business outcomes they’re looking for. By continuing to use social media as a two-way communications channel, our partners are in a unique position to gain the deep insight that will inform new products and solutions, drive business transformation for customers, and ultimately shape the future of Cisco. That’s a fact.

Click here for our Infographic.

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Cisco.com phasing out support of some old browsers

All good things come to an end, and on Cisco.com we’re planning to retire our active support of some old desktop browsers in the new year. Specifically, we’ll be stopping active support of Internet Explorer versions 8 and 9.  These browsers almost qualify and Internet antiques, having been launched in 2009 and 2011 respectively. They both have excellent alternatives now, including newer versions of IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.

The majority of pages will continue to work fine into the foreseeable future, but we won’t be diligently debugging against IE 8 and 9 has we have done in the past.

Use the comments below to let the Cisco.com team know of any questions, compliments, or concerns you have on this update.

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Top 3 Reasons for Integrating Video Now

ball-563972_640Just about everyone today knows the power of social video; however, some do not know how to articulate the top reasons why marketers should incorporate video into our marketing campaigns. I have combined my 15 years of experience in marketing, communications, e-commerce and social media management with degrees in Videography and Public relations to compose the top 3 reasons for integrating video. These top three reasons will help you modernize your marketing efforts by giving you best practices in video that will not only enhance your marketing budget/efforts but will also extend your ROI by way of greater adoption through engagement and reach.

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