Last week I attended Cisco’s Partner Velocity marketing conference in Las Vegas and what an incredible conference it was!
This year’s conference was very different from the typical events I’ve attended in the past, which are usually full of exciting messaging about partner program launches, new platforms and sales strategies. Instead, the event focused on the attendees, their needs and their interests with one common theme – excellence in digital marketing. Primarily attended by women in IT, this was a very collaborative event with marketing professionals looking for opportunities to share their innovative practices, ideas and experiences with one another.
There were two obvious themes that emerged early – the importance of customer listening and the impact of social media on our customers and their expectations. Peter Hinssen, my favourite keynote speaker of the show, highlighted the need for speed in this digital revolution, saying “speed trumps perfection.”
Another key message that hit home was about how customers are becoming less tolerant of digital failure. “Customer listening is the new black” according to Chris Brogan, one of our seven keynote speakers. He stressed the importance of listening to our customers and including them in the discussion as well. Inclusion is crucial as customers want to feel like they are a part of something significant when they engage, “business is about belonging,” he said.
In this digital age, your customers are your ambassadors; they control your brand – not you. Gone are the days where ads push messages that are created and controlled by the brand. Now it is our customers who are (or are not) our brand ambassadors, through social media. One supporting stat shared by Sally Hogshead found that 50 per cent of buying decisions are being made based on the unsolicited feedback of strangers online. People are reliant on opinions and the vehicles for these are Twitter and blog posts. Social sharing buttons increase perceived content value by 70 per cent!
Peter Hinssen told the audience that “e-mail is for losers and old people.” How you communicate with your customers may be out of style, however, relationship building is still very much in style. One message that resonated was that “contact” rather than “content” is now king. Sally Hogshead said customers are a scarce resource and she is absolutely right. After absorbing and filtering all the valued messaging over the last four days, I gleaned that success lies in the strategies of honest and transparent companies who can captivate, fascinate and, most important, put customer needs first.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what Edwin Jansen, director of marketing for Softchoice, had to say about the show and why you should attend next year’s event if you missed your opportunity last week:
“Behind all the great content and learning at Velocity it was very clear just how committed Cisco is to supporting their partners and pushing the entire technology marketing profession forward. You’d think that after spending so much time and money on the conference, Cisco would want to take a few opportunities to promote their own work – but they didn’t do that at all. Cisco took a ‘content marketing’ approach and made the entire week about their partners, not themselves. It’s this enlightened attitude that has won the hearts and minds of Cisco’s partners across the channel.”
Philip Stone from Boardwalk Communications in British Columbia also shared this experiences from this year’s show:
“With the exception of perhaps someone like Google, I would say that Cisco has the best feel for how people are now using the internet. Several of the breakout sessions provided incredible information, all backed up by data that Cisco has gathered, about how customers are navigating and make choices online.”