Marketing, at its core, has always been about people. ‘Digital Marketing’ is something of a misnomer because Marketing is still about people. The digital piece just gives us exciting opportunities to connect with audiences and scale in new ways. Powered, of course, by data.

I recently joined Josh James, CEO of Domo, on stage at Domopalooza 2018. I was there to share a glimpse into Cisco’s Digital Marketing transformation and how we are putting our data to work.  As I prepared for this event, I took the time to slow down, never easy for me, and reflect on our journey to understand our customers and the challenges we faced together.

"If you can forecast the weather, you can forecast digital behavior." JP Puthussery, VP of Digital Marketing for Cisco Systems Inc.

Attaining customer insight is the first step to creating the kind of customer intimacy that keeps audiences returning to your brand. Creating true insight demands the ability to build a single, holistic view of the customer, which is part art and part science. It requires a continual, delicate balance between understanding what customers have, what they want, how they buy and more. It also requires capturing that insight and finding ways to visualize it for useful, actionable insights.

The intersection of customer behaviors, preferences and desired experiences is often where the path for transformation begins. Gaining visibility to that intersection, with the right context, is crucial to launching the right transformation.

Our approach to transforming our Digital Marketing was grounded in a few basic tenents: capture customer data, organize it, provide visualization and nurture a culture focused on extracting and using insights to take action.

Four steps to promote data-driven decision making in your organization

1. Build the right tech stack

When building a structure, one of the most important steps is to lay a solid foundation. The same is true for technology. We strengthened and extended a world-class tech stack allowing us to capture and organize an unprecedented amount of data, new blended with historical data and legacy systems. As we gained momentum, we increasingly digitized marketing processes across all disciplines to be able to capture and synthesize even more data points. Where possible, we aim for the tech stack to deliver in real time.

Cisco Digital Engagement Tech Stack
Cisco won back-to-back MarTech Stackie Awards in 2017 and 2018

2. Visualize for a single source of truth

So how do you put overwhelming amounts of structure and unstructured data to work for action?  The key is visualization. You need tools that allow you to see how your customers want to interact, understand where they are going for information and provide the right experience to engage for action. As close to real time as possible.

Our visualizations needed to be easy to consume to help teams optimize spend based on what could see was working. Success depended on buy-in from the global Marketing community. We needed their perspectives to help define what to visualize and we needed them to use the tools.

3. Organize teams for action

We approached the rollout of our visualization tool as bringing a like-minded community together. We identified key users in every global team to represent different parts of the organization. We wanted our teams to know this was being built with them in mind, and that their regional perspective was crucial. Early adopters and sponsors around the world shared needs and triggered initial buzz. We created Domo pages and cards offering a standard way for our teams to consume and tell stories with the data.

With the foundation built and trained editors in place, we opened Domo to the global marketing community. We nurtured top-down support from executive leadership. We began every marketing leadership meeting with progress updates. This helped us anticipate challenges and smooth cultural adoption. As an executive team, we spoke the same language around data. We also coached our teams through a nuanced cultural shift to move from relying on gut instinct to using insights from data to take actions.

4. Embed accountability into the business

We have a long culture of accountability within Cisco Marketing. With the flood of new digital insights of the last few years, we quickly realized that visualizing accountability was just as important as defining and measuring it. Today, visualizations allow us to hold Marketing accountable against universal KPIs and a globally accepted single source of truth. As a leadership team, we have clear insight today into what’s happening around the world and business, allowing us to create the investment case to do even more.

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Karen Walker, set the tone on the usability of our visualizations and adoption for insight to Marketing performance and business impact. She started reviewing Domo data in her weekly Staff meetings and word quickly spread. At launch, we had 900 users. Today it’s a community of 1,500 users, and Domo is the native language.

Cisco’s marketing teams have made a lot of progress, but our journey with data will likely never be over. The more we learn, the more we realize that we can, and need, to use data in very different ways. Data sourced back to AI, voice and video are now providing us with new frontiers.

I tell my teams often that transformation and change are messy. It can also be expensive if you don’t have, or can’t use, data to make informed decisions. Can any of us really afford not to unearth the stories hiding in our data?

JP Puthussery and Domo’s Josh James chat center stage at Domopalooza ’18.



Joseph Puthussery

Vice President, Marketing

Digital Marketing