How Cisco Merges Martech with Creative Content

How Cisco Merges Martech with Creative Content

If you could create from scratch the ideal multi-sector global conglomerate to more than 700 product families, would you let each of these 700 product managers target the same customer separately?

Why then do so many corporate brands find themselves in a similar situation?

Three years ago, the Cisco marketing team became aware of this real situation. Cisco Marketing Director Bob Meindl and Cisco Marketing Manager Jenny Hooks describe the revelation of their Intelligent Content 2018 conference on beauty and the beast: balancing content innovation with Martech's capabilities.

we focused on product marketing and each business unit marketed its products to customers, "says Bob. "To be fair, they thought of the customer and understood the customer, but only from the very specific purpose of their product."

Many B2B marketers mistakenly focus on the product and not on the public, says @BobMeindl. ] Click to tweet

Unfortunately, the disconnect led Cisco to several marketing programs targeting an individual prospect from many angles, resulting in a fragmented, poorly coordinated, and sometimes even conflicting, experience.

We found that the "create content first, ask questions later" approach was too common at Cisco and many other companies. The latest content creation ultimately helped the team extend its processes and end confusing experiences from confused marketing silos.


  • How to demolish silos to create a culture of content
  • Silos help your content marketing team succeed

Restructuring customers, not products

All product managers consider their widget as customer-oriented because it solves the problem of a customer. Of course, they are right. But what often comes out of this mindset is the impulse to develop content about how the product helps the customer – and then determine who to talk to.

Although many content marketers B2B companies focused on product marketing are struggling to start their content planning in this perspective.

The Cisco Marketing Director tasked a team of 20 marketing and communications executives from across the company to reverse the structure and create a true audience model. . Today, the content process begins with a detailed analysis of the audience before creating any content.

The marketing function is focused on the customer-centric perspective, from the executive to the individual. National teams added writing capabilities and created digital marketing functions from scratch. "It has been a huge change for us, putting the customer at the center of everything," says Bob.

The first process adopted by the restructured organization includes:

  • Identification of personas
  • Identification of chains [19659012] Creation or discovery of travel and experiences
  • Creation of content

  customer- experience-audience-first-process

The framework seems simple, but in practice the many decisions and people involved complicate the process. If you implement it, expect obstacles and obstacles, say Bob and Jenny. But stay committed to the process for the benefit of your client. Here's how.

Agree Segmentation Criteria and Create Persona Categories

We all have misconceptions about who our audience really is and what they really want. Marketers project attributes, hotspots and desires on their ideal personality instead of discovering the real "worries" as Cisco describes them.

To learn more about its target audiences, Cisco collaborated with Buyer Persona Institute to interview clients operating in companies of different sizes, industries, and countries. These interviews allowed the team to understand the real needs of their audience. "We found what was important to them in their own language, not what we think is their concern, but what they really care about," says Bob. "

Customer interviews helped @Cisco's team understand the real needs of the audience," says @BobMeindl.
Click to Tweet [19659008] With this information, Jenny's team was equipped to create an intelligent channel strategy that meets customers with the right content, via the right channel, at the right time.


  • The Journey of the Buyer [New Research]
  • Public Strategist: The New Critical Role in Your Content Team

Building a Channel Strategy Based on Personalities and newly formed "worries"

Contacts where they are instead of creating something and hoping to draw eyes to it, says Jenny. This is the difference between a successful omnichannel strategy and a wasted activity.

Meet contacts where they are instead of creating something and hoping to catch your eye on it. @jenny_hooks
Click to Tweet

"Our muscle memory is to produce content, then ask," What should we do with it? "We are really trying to change that. Everything is now specially designed for the customer and for the channel and for the experience we are trying to fly.


RELATED CONTENT: Tea: how to make the personalities of buyers really satisfy

Plan the experiment according to personalities and social strategies Channels

This is why some strategies of personalities and priority channels must reach the right people on the right platform. Based on these characters and channels, you can design an effective individualized message.

By approaching your messaging via characters rather than products, you can find common points and develop content that corresponds to these common points. How? With intelligent content.

"We take the existing content that we think is the message and divide it into parts," says Jenny. "We usually take larger pieces or medium sized formats. We try to break it down into components so we can mark and reuse it, and we can rebuild it to get personalities and customize it for each person. We adapt it to the way the customer must see it based on our research.

Some commonalities between people can be surprising. For example, you would not expect an IOC, a data center manager, and a network buyer to exhibit the same numerical behavior, but even if they have different motivations, they do not have the same behavior. sometimes attack the most complex tasks

. In each career level and level of loyalty, and in all sociogeographic groups, the demand for security content is high. Until recently (and it's still common in many companies), this knowledge would have prompted Cisco marketers to create and distribute the security content.

RELATED CONTENT: Smart Content Demystified: Practical, Easy to Understand Explanation

Determining Business Rules and Customer Attributes

Finding commonalities also allows the team to not customize in a meaningful way excessive content. Although one leader has already described the arrival experience on as "first 50 dates" (because visitors are treated as new acquaintances even if they are already customers), the team also understands that "personalizing the concern for personalization is only extra work for everyone.

Personalization for personalization is only an extra job for everyone. @BobMeindl. #contentstrategy
Click to tweet

The central point is the clever intersection between the visitor's value and the brand's value. When receives one of the 14 million unique visitors per month on the site, it is an ideal opportunity to customize its domain and its dynamic content.

Although 95% of visitors get the same result on today, the team is working hard to change that, starting by recognizing the visitor's country and directing that user to the site. site appropriate to the country. "At the very least, if we recognize you coming from Japan," says Jenny, "we can at least give you the opportunity to go to this site in Japanese to see a context more relevant to you."

The sheer volume of traffic (millions of visitors and local language content and deals for 84 countries) makes it virtually impossible to offer a truly personalized customization. Country targeting is the first step; finally, the team hopes to be able to target by sector and other attributes, and by behaviors.

To understand the behavior of visitors (most of them are not registered or registered on the site), the team draws information from several sources:

  • Deep for an inverted IP search
  • BlueKai to manage Cisco and third-party data to create audience groups
  • Eloqua for marketing automation
  • Cookies from the Cisco website
  • Adobe Analytics

  -attributes-of visitor

The team also implements a set of omnichannel IDs for content management and fractional allocation:

  • A campaign identifier linked to the global message.
  • An offer identifier contains the metadata for the specific content (industry, theme, products and persona).

IDs help the team understand the content with which visitors interact they come from when they discovered that one of their people was 800% more likely to engage in Cisco content on social media than other buyers, the team has developed social content to serve this segment.

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  • Characters in Practice

    Bob and Jenny shared an example of Cisco personalities to show how the new process articulates around the customer rather than products.

    Meet Nigel, a network buyer whose perspective and needs come from the personal research of the buyer. Nigel's main concerns include simplification, sustainability and safety.
      Understanding-the-customer-persona example

    With this knowledge, Cisco creates themes for each stage of Nigel's buying and messaging process. for each theme operating in business units, sales, services, etc.

    When Cisco had already established product-based marketing plans, it now introduced customer concerns and asked product teams what they could. This information leads to the prioritization of messages and offers based on revenue opportunities or alignment to items the customer is concerned about.


    . "In the end, we want Nigel to buy a Cisco product. At some point you have to work on it, "says Bob. "But starting Nigel's story, simplifying his operations or simplifying his network, really changes the tone of the conversations we have in marketing: how many switches can we sell to Nigel? simplification? That's what Nigel cares about. Addressing the business results, Nigel and his company need a product that is more efficient for the customer and more powerful for us.


    • How to adopt a customer-focused strategy for your content
    • : Create the content of your audience's dreams

    The customer first, the content last

    ] Many marketers think that customization tricks are so effective that there is no wrong way to use them. Too often, we create content, then personalize it for personalization, to the detriment of the public and businesses. To rescue a team that has fallen into this unproductive trend or to avoid the trap in the first place, remove a page from the Cisco manual. Put the customer first – even above content – and your audience and benefit will benefit.

    RELATED CONTENT: 5 brands share their content marketing process

    Here is an excerpt from Bob and Jenny's speech:

    Reinforcing new technological tools and innovative processes is clearly distilled and explained by specialists and content strategy technologists at CMI's next ContentTECH Summit. Sign up here to be notified when registration is open for this inspiring event.

    Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski / Content Marketing Institute


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