CMO Spotlight: Blair Christie, SVP and CMO, Cisco


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Blair Christie, CMO CiscoNext up in our series on inspiring CMOs from around the world is Blair Christie, SVP and CMO of Cisco. What caught my interest and attention is Blair’s perspective on the intelligent connection of people, processes, data and things”. Christie leads Cisco’s rebranding campaign on the “Internet of Everything” (IoE).

In a recent interview, Blair reminds marketers that technology has made it amazingly simple to ‘contact’ people but it is even more challenging now than ever before to truly ‘connect’ with people and build relationships. This is the crux of why B2B organizations all over the world are overwhelmed by the daunting task of how to create value in the connections they make. The way to take advantage of IoE, says Blair, is to increase efficiencies and create better customer experiences.

Interestingly, according to Cisco’s  “Internet of Everything Value Index Tool”, the price tag on the opportunities of connecting the 99.9 percent of the people who aren’t online globally is 14.4 trillion. Take a look at the Top Ten Insights from Cisco’s IoE Survey.

10 Ways to Improve B2B Marketing and Create Greater Value  

I have been observing Blair Christie’s handling of Cisco’s unique global marketing and communications campaign as well as following her writing and interviews online. Here are the top 10 tips from this dynamic CMO for the B2B marketing community on ways to create more value for our customers and our organizations.

  1. Depth of connection is as important as breadth. It’s easy to get carried away with communication tools and technology that allow us to reach billions of people instantly—one Tweet can do it—but while this broad expanse and reach is useful, organizations must make a sincere effort to go deep and really get to understand their customers, employees, investors and stakeholders.
  2. Be patient and wait until the rewards outweigh the risks. This is true of most new or next generation technologies. Christie gives the example of how people were vary of sharing credit card information online until the reward of fast and easy online shopping outweighed the risk. Now almost anyone who has a credit card is comfortable using it online. As marketers, we must learn to be patient and not try to rush buyers into that comfort zone. If we continue to add value to our offering, ultimately, buyers will slip into that comfort zone, buy more and even help us sell more through referrals and word of mouth.
  3. Bring analytics out of the data centres and closer to the edge. Too much of the Big Data and the supporting analytics reports, says Blair, sit far back in the data centres. This information needs to get closer to the edge and shared across the organization, especially with your sales teams and channel partners in order to enhance value for the customer. That’s how you will be able to share goals across the selling community and leverage the entire ecosystem of your sales organization. Even a powerful sales team like the one at Cisco needs the support of marketing insights and analytical data because 70% of the buyer’s journey today is completed online. To help the buyer traverse the remaining 30% in the direction and favour of your company, you need to really understand the pain points and deliver a solution before your competition can.
  4. Make the buyer a ‘hero’. People like to feel important. B2B selling involves a buying decision made collectively as an entity, but it is an individual or a group of individuals who steer the sale and lead it to completion. As marketers, we need to make this individual or group the ‘hero’ to their organization. They need to be seen as the ‘saviours’ who succeeded in bringing the best ‘solution’ to their company. If you can help them be perceived in this positive light, you will win their trust, respect and loyalty.
  5. Experiment, but do it quickly. Marketing today is uber exciting; so many channels, so many tools, so many new technologies to experiment with. What is not exciting, and this is across the board, is the marketing budget. Even a large global corporation like Cisco, says CMO, Christie, has a budget that is only a third of what some of its biggest competitors have. Her advice, therefore, is to try and bridge the gap between the art and science of marketing and to run marketing experiments fast and smart.
  6. Learn to fail fast and recover even faster. In continuation of the earlier point, Blair says that organizations today have to learn to “fail fast”. Trying a new marketing method or process is good but you can’t wait too long before you realize it is headed towards failure. There must be checks and processes in place to signal early warning signs that allow you to stop, change tactic and move on without losing any more money, time or customers.
  7. Prioritize which new opportunities to pursue. New vehicles of engagement throw up a plethora of new opportunities but one has to be careful to prioritize and choose wisely. You can’t have too many heads running in too many directions trying to grab at every possible opportunity only to find that everyone comes back to square one empty handed.
  8. Support innovation and disruption. It is time, says Christie to strike a balance between time-tested processes and disruptive innovation. We are indeed experiencing the next wave of the Internet with social and mobile making way for exciting stuff like augmented reality. Unless organizations wholeheartedly support innovation and provide the tools necessary to bring about disruption in the marketplace, many big players in developed nations will start to feel the heat as the smaller players from emerging nations leapfrog ahead.
  9. Be resilient and tenacious. It is not easy, admits Christie. But there is no other way. Companies have no choice but to maintain resilience and have a great tenacity to scale up, scale down, centralize and decentralize, but through it all, focus on customer experience management, growth and profitability.
  10. Embrace social collaboration. Cisco has been a forerunner of leveraging social media both externally and internally. By bringing employees closer through video conferencing and internal collaboration portals, the company has made great strides in connecting with their global workforce. Today, when any marketing needs to be amplified through social channels, the company only has to turn to its empowered and engaged employees to carry the baton and accomplish the task—cost-effectively, quickly and seamlessly.

I hope you are enjoying this series spotlighting CMOs and the valuable lessons they share with B2B marketers. I look forward to your comments. Feel free to leave me a comment. You can also email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.    


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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