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The shift to digital marketing and purchasing has been a major challenge for the channel, accelerated by the experiences of the pandemic, and has left many reaching out to vendors for greater support.
One of those that were already taking steps to grasp the digital marketing nettle was Cisco, with its Lifecycle Advantage programme, which arms partners with tools to help them deliver high levels of customer experience.
Zarina Pasalic, director of digital experience at Cisco, holds the view that digital is growing in dominance as users change their researching and buying patterns.
“Digital is the experience our customers are having with us. That experience means everything in a subscription world, so if experience is the product that we’re all going to be selling, we have no choice but to unify around that endeavour,” she said.
Pasalic added that the pandemic had accelerated these trends and placed “a lot more focus and energy and urgency on digital transformation, and the need to deliver digital-first services”.
One of the other changes emerging as an issue for the channel to address is the changing expectations of customers.
“The last two years have dramatically changed the way customers engage with brands. The lines between B2C [business-to-consumer] and B2B [business-to-business] have become blurred. Customers, as well as partners, in B2B expect the same experience that you and I are having in B2C, and they want to communicate in digital-first channels that they prefer. They want speed and they crave empathy,” said Pasalic.
“We are in an age where digital conversations have become the default. Not just for customers, but for our partners as well, where fast isn’t fast enough anymore and where your competitors are not just those in your industry,” she added.
Cisco has enhanced Lifecycle Advantage to make sure it is responding to partner feedback and providing the tools that are required.
“We’ve got to make things easy for [partners] by providing that end-to-end experience. That is their path to value. It’s tied to their business outcomes,” said Pasalic.
“We really allow our partners to digitally engage with their customers to drive adoption through the lifecycle to upsell and cross-sell opportunities, based on data and analytics, and, of course, to secure renewals. Globally, we have got well over 7,000 partners in the programme, and more people are finally recognising just how innovative and valuable Lifecycle Advantage is,” she added.
In a climate of uncertainty, with economic challenges, the advice for all partners is to get closer to their customers and make sure they can be a true trusted advisor. For Cisco, that effort is also being supported by using more automated technology and tools to make it easier for partners to reach out to users.
“One way to get through the recession, or anything that we are going through right now, is to double down on the customer and the customer experience,” said Pasalic.
“Automation, scale, and the marriage of people, processes, data and technology, is not easy. This is something that Cisco took years to stand up, but now we’re going from strength to strength,” she said.
Cisco has been tracking the impact of its programme globally and latest stats reveal it makes a significant difference for partners:
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