Why Are We Reinventing Our Marketing Function?


  Reena Tiwari


Our customers’ expectations and buying behaviors are changing, and more brands compete for their attention. We either need to reinvent our approach to marketing or risk losing business to our competitors.

The big change in buying behavior is that most of us now research a product online before we ever meet with a salesperson. This is true whether we’re looking to buy a washing machine or IT infrastructure.

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new TV. Not so long ago you’d probably make your decision by visiting a few stores and listening to the salespeople. Today, you’re more likely to read articles and reviews online. By the time you visit the store, you’ll have already narrowed down your choices. In fact, 67 percent of product research is now done online! (Source: Sirius Decisions, The Marketing Organization). This new behavior means that the interaction with the salesperson is shorter, and you ask more specific questions.

We’ve seen this same change at Cisco. Our customers do more of their research online. This new buying behavior requires a new way of marketing. After all, when you visit cisco.com to research solutions for your business needs, it’s our marketing team that decides what content you see.

Marketing has a more direct role in revenue
Therefore, the primary responsibility for the Cisco marketing organization has shifted from brand awareness to revenue generation.

To make sure that the right content is served up to the right customer at the right time, our marketing team has begun working closely with Cisco IT. The goal:  help customers find relevant information faster than if they had to search for it themselves.

Here’s an analogy. If you like reading biographies, you’re most likely to be interested in special offers from online booksellers about biographies, not romance novels. The same applies to our customers.  If they’re interested in the Internet of Everything in manufacturing, that’s the content they want to see front and center—not cloud solutions for service providers.

Big data meets marketing: a quick overview
Cisco IT is using big-data analytics to predict which solutions each online visitor is likely to be interested in. Cisco IT plans to collect, store, and analyze this customer data from various sources to identify clusters of interest, such as Cloud, Data Center, Switches, and Social.  Our data sources include search history, webinar registrations, company demographics, and the solutions that other people in the same company are also researching.

Based on the analysis, customers will see hyper-relevant information when they visit cisco.com and social media sites. The content will differ depending on whether they are a CEO in a 500-bed hospital, an IT director in a convention center, or a storage admin in federal government. Even two people from the same company might see different content on the home page based on their needs and recent activities.

How will we measure success?
You might be thinking, “This sounds great, but how will you measure success?” One measure will be the dollar value of opportunities we deliver to the sales team. The other will be the cost of lead generation. Web-based marketing is less costly than prime-time television advertising, for example.

The sweeping digital transformation continues to disrupt business. One sign is that customers want a hyper-relevant experience on cisco.com. Reinventing marketing isn’t a question of “if’,” it’s a matter of survival.

In our next blog, we’ll dive deeper into the technology driving data-driven marketing.

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  1. Great post Reena and Pascal. I agree with the facts that marketing needs to be disruptive . Even it should be at the extend where customer buying/selling patterns are governed by Marketing Strategies. Waiting for your next post!!

  2. This is a very good description of the shift to digital marketing. And your suggested approaches will move us further into the realm of effective digital marketing.

    One of the digital challenges is understanding the context of the visitor, and the intent of their current visit to cisco.com. Using the TV example, are we talking to the father (decision-maker), or the son (key influencer)? This messaging will be different.

    Re intent – are we at the store for TVs because we have time to kill, or because we are ready to buy?

    These distinctions become important in sales to medium/large companies where the final buy is determined by multiple people with different needs (performance, security, cost, etc). So understanding what is “right” about the “right person” becomes important.

    Marketing IT has already made great progress in this realm, and vendors often cite Cisco’s advanced progress (independently confirmed in discussion with our peer enterprise partners).

    The success in this journey requires close teamwork between Marketing (knowledge of what “right” means) and IT (how to technically cull out “right” for targeting) to win.

    Your post highlights the teamwork is underway!

    • You hit the nail, Stoddard, and thanks for your feedback esp on the teamwork needed between the different functions of a company. I am a strong believer now it’s time for a true partnership to reach the next level of customer experience as the complexity is increasing.
      Hope you have better things to do than to “kill time” 😉

    • Thanks Stoddard. +1 for your comment.

      By using our various listening mechanisms & our evolving content strategy and by using data to take action, the buyer personas will change continuously and dramatically, getting us closer to link to the intent and the right person.

      It will be and has to be a continuous feedback loop.

      But as you mentioned, we are already on the right path.

  3. Hi Mohammed

    thanks for your positive feedback. Highly appreciated. This motivates us for our next one. Await it for September!

  4. Nice post Reena and Pascal. I like the examples and analogies provided in the post. Helps to understand it better. Great Job. Waiting on the next post related to this.