Why Marketing is The New Revenue Generator: Interview with Karen Walker

Interviewer: Today I am very pleased to announce Karen Walker, Senior Vice President of Marketing from CISCO will be joining us today. Karen leads the global Go-to-Market organization that manages the outbound marketing of CISCO products and solutions, while accelerating sales through CISCO’s sales force and partners. Her team takes an integrated marketing approach from brand to demand using digital and social media to engage customers and partners on their purchase journey. Now one of my favorite things about Karen is that she is responsible and accountable for global revenue; what she calls a global revenue marketing goal. Since joining CISCO she has championed marketing’s role as an accountable business function aligning closely with sales teams and a vital resource to partners. And not a lot of marketing people do that. So Karen it will be very interesting to speak with you.

Walker: That’s great. Looking forward to it Glenn.

Interviewer: So why don’t we start with this concept of revenue generating marketing, and tell us a little bit about the journey that you’ve been going through.

Walker: So, absolutely, so the thing that really got me started on this journey is as a marketing leader, you know when times get tough the marketing budget starts to get cut.

Interviewer: Absolutely.

Walker: And that really frankly frustrates me. And so, to your earlier point about really wanting to be an accountable and predictable business partner, and one that contributes to revenue, so that I wanted marketing to be viewed as a revenue center versus a cost center, because then it becomes a very, very different discussion about the value; the role of marketing; and the investment that a company is willing to make. So, that was the core premise, is really changing our profile, our position as a function inside of CISCO. And to really, then, be seen as an equal partner to sales. And frankly, in some cases, and I’m pushing this one hard now as we move through the rest of this calendar year, is that marketing should be seen as a cost to serve model in terms of where marketing can lead the generation of demand, particularly with customers in the mid-market and particularly with our partners. So it’s kind of opening up folk’s minds inside of CISCO about the role of marketing moving forward.

Interviewer: Well it’s interesting that I think a lot of marketing organizations can increase their visibility inside of companies by doing exactly what you’re talking about. Can you talk a little bit more about what revenue generating marketing really means?

Walker: So for us it really means setting a very clear goal. So, as I mentioned, for us it was in terms of repositioning marketing as a revenue center and being a really integral part of the go the market model, and eventually, really offering a different level of cost to serve for our company overall. What we actually did as we started on this journey is we set ourselves a little bit of a quota, and we actually do really try to use the same language as our sales teams . . .

Interviewer: Um hm.

Walker: . . . in terms of having a quota to retire. And so, what we actually did, and we had no idea whether this was the right number or not, but we put a stake in the ground and said that we are going to be accountable for creating a billion dollars of sales qualified pipeline. So what that means is that the sales teams have to agree and accept that opportunity as something that’s net new to their business and their pipeline. And so there isn’t a discussion around whether it’s incremental or not; whether it’s valuable or not; it’s actually very black and white, and it has to be an opportunity that’s accepted by sales. What we also did is we then figured out our focus, so, both in terms of the customer segment that we were going after. CISCO only has a market share of around 36% in the small/medium business space, and a much higher market share in the high-end enterprise.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: So we wanted to go where the gold was; to go for growth; for new opportunities for CISCO where there wasn’t a very expensive direct sales coverage model in place. So we went where the gold was, is how we describe it.

Interviewer: So, in order to create an SQL a (Sales Qualified Lead), you need someone on the sales side to declare that it’s an SQL.

Walker: Yes.

Interviewer: Now if you’re going after the mid-market, or SMB, I would imagine you’re working a lot with partners. Do you have a way for your partners to declare something an SQL?

Walker: Yes we do. What we’ve done is we’ve actually rolled out a new set of tools and technologies that’s connected backwards, Salesforce.com, which is what we use as our platform that basically has where the partner has to accept the leads, so it actually is closed loop. And also what we’re trying to do is put a little bit more rigor around how we actually compensate our partners through our incentive program dollars in terms of how they use their co-marketing funds; both in backend rebates, etcetera, in terms of just really trying to have them be incentivized to actually use either the programs that we’ve created for them to go execute themselves, or that they will actually accept a lead that CISCO has invested, an added cost into the system to actually create that opportunity for partners. So, we were very clear, it is net unique new business to CISCO, and net unique to the partner. And there has to be some accountability on the partner in terms of once an opportunity is accepted that we actually do follow it all the way through to revenue, and to make sure that it actually is something that’s really hitting the bottom line.

Interviewer: So Karen given that you’re carrying the quota, how do manage a situation where let’s say it’s a medium size company, and either a direct CISCO sales rep has already called on that company, or maybe the partner already has, but they haven’t really created an opportunity and you come in and create a marketing qualified lead and want to hand it over to them? How do you insure that marketing gets at least partial credit for that work?

Walker: Oh great question, and one frankly that I’m used to answering by our sales teams and others. So, you know, in Salesforce, this is a factoid I like to use, there are 12 different ways that you can either accept or deny a marketing qualified lead; and 11 out of the 12 are always to reject it. Then I keep one way, there’s only one button that they push to accept it, so if they, and for those of us who have been in the revenue marketing space for a while, we know that there’s a curve that you go through in terms of the volume of leads; the quality of the lead; the size of the lead. So there’s a learning curve that both marketing and sales go through together. But we were very clear that if the sales teams, either our sales team or the partner sales team is actually already aware of this opportunity, reject it. If they then qualify it and find that it’s not as qualified as it needs to be, reject it, but basically we have a way to come back and to re-nurture that opportunity. So there’s very clear guidelines in terms of what we’ve actually – the big part is the change in behavior between the sales and marketing teams in terms of how –

Interviewer: Tell me a little bit more about that, because I know that’s huge in integrating both sales and marketing.

Walker: Yes, it really is, and so what we didn’t want to do is we didn’t want to add a lot of additional administrational overhead to the sales organization, again, whether it’s ours or our partners. And so we didn’t want to make this a very laborious process in terms of bringing in net new opportunities, but frankly, if we are doing that our sales teams should love us right? They should be kissing our feet because there’s something that’s net new and it’s helping them with their pipeline. You know, we went through the normal stages where they’d accept the lead, but then maybe turn the lead value to zero right, because one thing that a sales team doesn’t particularly like to do is forecast too many opportunities until it’s a little bit further down the pipeline.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: Or, they’d accept the lead and just really want it because of the contact information. So we kind of worked through those different changes in behavior. We actually chose seven countries across the world where we actually did deep pilots with the sales teams, and with partners that were particularly interested in working with us. So, when I say you go where the gold is it’s not just the market segment or the portfolio. It’s also where there is a pull; where they want to work with you. And honestly, now success breeds success.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: And so what we’re actually finding is now that sales teams are starting to talk about the marketing opportunity, marketing is actually on the forecast calls. And when a marketing person will say to a sales director, hey do you know that we have these amount of opportunities in your pipeline and you haven’t followed up on it then the behavior starts to really change.

Interviewer: Excellent thank you. I wanted to shift a little bit and talk about B2B buyers.

Walker: Um hm.

Interviewer: Because that’s who you’re selling to, and what you’re doing to help enable them to enter the sales funnel?

Walker: So I have a premise that I’d be interested in your perspective on this, and there has been some good research done by IDC and HubSpot and others on this, but I truly believe that the business buyer is really starting to behave a lot more like a consumer.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Walker: And so how they do their research; how they get references is no longer via vendor providing the standard case study and reference set. They’re looking into communities, their peers, they’re looking online, they’re looking to see whether your product and solution is liked and your Facebook, what people are saying on Twitter about you. And so, they are really doing a lot more of the heavy lifting themselves, which means that marketing needs to play a very, very different role; back to that being much more of a bigger part of their buying journey and therefore offering a different way to serve customers. I think IDC, HubSpot said that 43% of business buyers, not the technical buyer, but the business buyer, has already made a decision about what they’re going to buy before they’ve talked to any vendor.

Interviewer: Amazing, amazing.

Walker: So, we better do a better job of the early part of that journey, because that early part of the journey is going to be all the journey pretty quickly.

Interviewer: Well there is another aspect to this Karen, which we have found is really critical. It’s not just marketing that needs to change, but it’s the sales organization that needs to change. But frankly, we believe it’s marketing’s job to help them do that, so if the business buyer is gathering all this information prior to having a conversation then we believe that the marketing organization should be responsible for helping that sales rep understand exactly where the buyer is . . .

Walker: Yes.

Interviewer: . . . when they begin the conversation. Understand what kind of research they’ve gone through. Understand how your products and solutions are positioned in the mind of the buyer. And it’s only by enabling that sales rep to be as educated as the buyer that they can meet them where they are and help them move forward in the sales journey. How do you guys deal with that?

Walker: So I think that’s a great question. I will tell you we are not done on our journey yet on that. I think it offers a huge potential in terms of how marketing can really accelerate the sales process and accelerate the time to revenue for your company. If you think about – I know it’s an oft used terms right now, but big data, but if you are able to see exactly what your customer has already purchased from you, so having a good insight into your CRM systems, if you are able to see how they’ve traversed your social and digital communities in terms of where they’ve been; what they’ve looked at; who they’re talking to, you are really able to give your sales teams a really good sense about what they’re interested in; where they’ve been; where they are on their journey, and therefore, what you can help them in terms of give them something compelling for their customer to be able to take that next step.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: We still find that you know a sales person will go out and say I’d love to leave this white paper behind as a way to follow-up, and the customer said I already read it. I downloaded it from your website.

Interviewer: (Chuckles).

Walker: Right, so I think our sales teams are learning that they are going to have to be you know, a lot more ahead in the game. It’s back to that process where customers are really being much more self-educated. And so the quality of our content; the quality of our offers and assets has to really dramatically improve. And as you say, we have to let our sales teams know this. So, we actually did a great pilot in Europe where what we did is we actually, a game using a little bit of old technology as our delivery mechanism to our sales teams. But we said, you know customer X has done A, B and C on the website. You know, here’s maybe what you should be sharing with them next. And what we did Glenn is we actually prototyped the – when we did that, work with our sales teams in that way, what was the size of the deal and what was the acceleration time to revenue? And the results were pretty dramatic. And so, I think this is another way that the role of marketing is going to change, both in terms of accelerating sales, but also driving demand. I think on the demand side our biggest challenge Glenn is when a country manager says I’ve got a certain amount of marketing, or a certain amount of [00:15:44 – Inaudible] investment. If I invest in a sales person I can guarantee you a return a certain quota. We have to offer that same predictability on a marketing standpoint so that it’s an easier decision for them to make to invest more in marketing.

Interviewer: Well I think you should go beyond that and you should find a way to get credit, not just for quota but for, as you said, either increasing the size of an opportunity that’s already been registered by a sales rep, or accelerating the close process. That’s probably the next phase for you.

Walker: It is, we actually have set some productivity objectives in terms of for our sales teams. We set some objectives around time to revenue, about the size of the opportunities. So we are, that is definitely where our line of sight is at in terms of where we want to go next. Where we are on our journey today is we’ve really sort of – it’s taken time frankly to put in place some pretty basic fundamentals, both in terms of technology tools, processes, and as I said before the biggest shift is in the change of behavior and engagement between the sales and marketing teams.

Interviewer: Can you tell us just a little bit more about how you gather the information, not just social, but social is a big part of it, but all the information that might be of value to the sales organization? And how do you package it in a way that makes it useful for those sales reps?

Walker: So we are right in the middle of exactly what you’ve just described. We have just undergone a major content transformation exercise. So, we actually did take a look at – we marketers like to write, and like to create. And so we have gone through with our sellers a really deep analysis about what assets they really use and how . . .

Interviewer: Um hm.

Walker: . . . to tie that to the purchase journey, so when to use what. And we have done a massive clean-up. We have removed millions of pieces of content. So that was not really a fun process I have to say, but we had to kind of clear the decks.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: The next thing that we did is figure out especially our assumption is that the content that we have to deliver has to be ready for mobile, so we have now built-out a new content platform. We actually are launching it in March to our sellers, both CISCO and partners, where it’s much more like a consumer type of experience right. They know they’re about to – there is a voice type of capability; you know where your customer is on the journey; you want to talk to other sales people who’ve maybe gone through this process; which asset did they use: did they like it or not; if content is not used and liked by our sales team it’s automatically taken down and removed. So we’re really rethinking how we actually develop our content; what platforms we use and how we serve it to the right time and the right person. We’re right in the heart of that right now.

Interviewer: Excellent, excellent. Can you tell us – and we’re going to have only a few more minutes left –

Walker: Sure.

Interviewer: But you talked a little bit about leveraging social for selling.

Walker: Um hm.

Interviewer: Can you talk about what you’re doing as it relates to social selling?

Walker: So absolutely. So again, all this stuff is coming together and it’s all leaving together isn’t it, where you know if a customer is really behaving more like a consumer and which is great, it means you can market it to them 24 by 7 it becomes global without boundaries.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Walker: What we also have learned is that – and actually this actually started in our services business and our customer support business, is that – and actually CISCO has been doing this for almost 25 years, where we’ve actually built out communities where the community, actually what we found is that our customers love to get help from each other, and they love to help each other.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Walker: Also, they are an amazing source if you listen in and listen carefully that they can give you tremendous insight about how they feel about your experience; about your pricing. It’s a tremendous source of insight to provide a better experience, provide a better product, etcetera. What we also have found is that customers, instead of complaining about you and talking to your response center or your tech, they’ll actually tweet about a problem.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Walker: So what we actually did, and this is where mad men and math men, the art and the science really comes together. So we actually have a pretty sophisticated social listening platform. And just to give you an example, we were really actively listening about our Webex portfolio, and what we actually have done is we’ve actually created a rules engine where we listen to all the digital and social forums. Also to your point, not just digital and social, but customer advisory boards, any feedback that sales people give us about a customer and what they’re hearing. And we actually fed it into a rules engine. And depending on the keywords that are actually included we can route that tweet or whatever it is, in this case it was a tweet, to either the customer support team, or if it had things like price there were some keywords that would lead it to our inside sales team or to our engineering team. We’re actually able to feed this content back into CISCO incredibly quickly, and then what we do is we start to engage with that customer to find out more. So, we actually think that again, not just your digital and social presence, but it actually become an active part of actually how you do business and the type of experience that you’re giving your customer because you have been incredibly responsive. And you’re getting a lot of real time feedback about your product and about your offer. It just enables you to innovate and to move much more quickly from a business standpoint. So, we really are trying to digitize our whole business processes using digital and social, so it’s not just social selling Glenn; it’s social support.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: It’s social development.

Interviewer: Right.

Walker: And so we have really sort of focused on that over the last 18 months I would say.

Interviewer: Well I’m actually very impressed. A lot of your buyers want you to hear them.

Walker: Yes.

Interviewer: They want you to understand what their issues are, and the first step is listening. And it sounds like you’re doing an outstanding job of that.

Walker: Well thank you. We’re trying anyway. I’m sure there is certainly a lot of work still to do, but I think that is the primary role of marketing, is to make sure you’re listening and to make sure you’re –