LONDON: Cisco, the networking hardware supplier, has abandoned a product-led marketing approach in favour of a customer-centric strategy that has devolved authority to a more local level and embraced customer advocacy.

The journey has involved some difficult lessons, Emma Roffey, Cisco's Marketing Director for EMEA, admitted to the recent Newscred ThinkContent conference in London.

As the first- or second-placed supplier in most markets, “we liked to shout about it”, she said. (For more details, read WARC’s report: ‘It’s not about the pen’: Cisco’s shift to customer-centricity.)

“We didn't do storytelling, there was very little emotional connection, but all of this had to change.”

In a bid to improve its content marketing, it started hiring journalists at country level rather than pumping out material from the centre – and that was the first mistake.

“We got the order of the recruitment wrong,” Roffey explained. Hiring the storytellers first rather than the customer experience managers had resulted in more product-led content rather than the consumer-centric content they had envisaged.

The CXMs came later, “building the customer journeys, building the touchpoint strategy” and Cisco is still working to get the balance right.

A second mistake had been not to develop stricter rules for countries to stick to in their devolved marketing campaigns, which resulted in some off-brand advertising and several tense meetings before the air was cleared.

“Don’t underestimate the need for clarity, the real need for process,” Roffey advised.

Cisco has also developed a digital customer community – Cisco Gateway – built on gamification where participants, who range across the management spectrum, complete challenges to earn points and get rewards.

Roffey reported that this community has thrown up a number of people keen to tell their own stories, which have proved far more engaging than the previous corporate case studies which had often formed part of a sales close.

Maybe 5% of viewers would reach the end of the latter, but 50% watched to the end of the first UGC story, which was also far more widely shared than anything else the company had done.

“It’s about the needs of the buyer and what motivates the buyer to take action,” Roffey stressed.

Sourced from WARC