Cisco Speaks is a new blog series where we share how our very own people are addressing the same challenges you tell us you’re experiencing. If you have a specific question or if there’s a topic you’d like to see us respond to in a future Cisco Speaks post, please contact us.
A part of the digital marketing professional experience is sifting through, digesting and understanding an unrelenting amount of information about all the possibilities to improve, maximize, and optimize our marketing. From the changes and advancements in technology, to the increasing scope of the marketing function, to the debates over which channels are most effective and why, digital marketing news and trends information is like a constant 12-foot ocean wave crashing on the shore. Actually, it’s more accurate to call it a tsunami.
To help us understand how to maintain focus in a rapidly, ever-evolving landscape, we spoke with Devin Hood, Cisco’s Director of Digital Marketing. Learn how she and her team fluctuate between an openness to new ideas and approaches while maintaining the strength of their existing digital program.
Cisco Speaks: There is so much chatter about what works and what doesn’t work in digital marketing. How do you decide which strategies matter most?
Devin Hood: Our team operates within a rigorous performance measurement framework in marketing and specifically in digital. This rigor provides us the tools, KPIs, and insights we need to change content, turn dials on our paid strategy, and optimize where we need to provide the best possible experience to our customers.
Our team is also free to try new things. We put ourselves out there and experiment. We take smart chances, but we’re constantly testing different ideas. When you’re doing this, you’re going to have a lot of failures, and that can weigh on you as a team. But when we look back at some of our tests, we see that what was — at the time — considered unsuccessful is now successful. Not only do we encourage our team to try new things, but we also encourage one another to look in the rear-view mirror and re-evaluate the value of those ideas.
Cisco Speaks: Experimentation is important to grow and expand capabilities and reach customers in new ways. At the same time, relying on tried and true marketing practices is helpful to reach goals. How do you strike a balance between the two?
Devin Hood: This is so true, and — like all marketing professionals experience — it’s always a give and take to ensure we stabilize some of our best digital assets (like our website) and innovate at the same time to see what works and what doesn’t.
We’ve created a separate team called the Rapid Digital Office where we use our research and insights to drive new experiences and utilities. This team uses design thinking and agile methodologies to prototype, test, and fail a lot. We made an investment to ensure we’re testing the limits, constantly learning, and leapfrogging the competition in the process.
In addition, we host internal hackathons where we all come in and objectively look at our work. Sometimes we review a specific registration process or we’ll even call our customer service line to understand the experience. We all evaluate what’s working and what’s not. When you take an approach like this, there are a lot of things you can uncover and learn.
Cisco Speaks: How do you evaluate whether or not the ‘next big thing’ is going to truly be something important or something that will fade quickly?
Devin Hood: We do a lot of A/B testing, but we also listen and watch our customers. A lot of times, we try things through our CXLab and New Experiences team where we’re able to test new ideas, fail fast, and regroup.
And, I want to add, that we didn’t always have a New Experiences team. We started out doing this type of work with three people on our team. We would cold call our customers and ask if they’d be willing to review some of our ideas. Our customers overwhelmingly told us, “Absolutely. When, where, and how can I be part of this?” It doesn’t have to be formal. The first step is to simply ask for customer feedback.
Cisco Speaks: In your role, what are the digital strategies you’ve come to rely upon because of their effectiveness?
Devin Hood: SEO has become extremely important in our digital strategy as our customers become reliant on search as their starting point to research. This hasn’t come as a surprise. What has come as a surprise is the fact that our content wasn’t as SEO-ready as we thought. Because we have a large portfolio, it takes us more time to get things updated and to use phrases that people are searching with today. This is a continuous job. It’s not like you make something SEO-friendly one day and then it’s good to go. A week after you’ve updated your content, people could shift the language they use, and you have to go through the process again.
Video has also emerged as a content type we need to stay focused on because of its effectiveness to get messaging, education, and understanding of complex ideas across in a very unique way. Not only has video become the content type people consume the most, but I have a theory we’re going to see SEO play a part in video very quickly, and we’re going to have to be ready for that.
Cisco Speaks: Tell us about one remarkable marketing approach or idea you’ve seen executed at Cisco that you believe others could learn from.
Devin Hood: The post purchase portion of the journey is becoming increasingly important for more and more customers of all kinds. The ability to track usage, understand deployment, access educational documents, and have support throughout is becoming a differentiator for customers’ brand affinity and future purchasing.
If you have a specific question or if there’s a topic you’d like to see us respond to in a future Cisco Speaks post, please contact us.
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