The Marketing Strategist:

Exploring the Five Cs of Content Marketing at Cisco

July 25, 2012

By Sherri Liebo, Vice President, Services Marketing & Communications, Cisco Services

When I joined Cisco Services as Vice President, Services Marketing & Communications, I faced a bit of a marketing monster. Materials were confusing and unclear because there were too many hands in the editing. Content was created in a one-off manner for particular events, with no hope of being reused. My team was being reactive, trying to please multiple constituents, but the result was that no one was pleased. Given today’s need for multichannel integrated marketing, Cisco Services was in danger of falling behind.

I knew I needed to take a different approach, so I went back to basics.

First, I gave my employees back their “power ball,” encouraging them to have a point of view and not just respond to the requests of sales and business leaders. I allowed them the most precious of luxuries—time to think and develop marketing’s perspective on how to position and communicate the value of the Cisco Services portfolio.

Second, I gave my team a framework to use: the classic Five Cs Situation Analysis from Harvard Business School, which allowed them to develop a content marketing strategy based on a sound foundation of research and listening to customers.

This outside-in approach became essential to me and my team, because it provided the support we needed to say, “This is why we’re making decisions to resource the way we are; this is why we’re investing the way we are.” Salespeople and business-line leaders couldn’t argue with the information.

The Strategy

I was tasked with creating pragmatic content to sell Cisco Services. I wanted to create content once and market it multiple times, so we took a five-phase approach to content marketing:

  • Explore. Determine how the customers are using content (using the Five Cs, below).
  • Plan. Thoughtfully, strategically plan the content we’ll use.
  • Create. Create the content. Without this structure in place, this might have been the natural starting point, because marketers generally want to meet the needs of the business and be responsive. Within this larger strategy, though, exploring and planning come before creating.
  • Amplify. Use the content over and over again in different scenarios.
  • Measure. Show leadership what’s working and what isn’t, then adjust and move on.

I didn’t give my marketers a blank slate, though. Instead, I used the Five Cs to inform the entire marketing strategy.

The Five Cs

To better listen to customers, Cisco Services looks at:

  • Customers. What are customers looking for? Cisco Services created a new social media customer listening post while continuing to listen to salespeople, technical advisory boards, events, and communities, which amplify the voice of the customer. Our team embraces all of these listening posts and uses what they hear to inform the marketing strategy.
  • Competition. What is the competition doing? How does Cisco Services compare?
  • Company. What is the company’s perspective? The team found this the easiest one to write, since Cisco Services’ perspective is ingrained in the marketing department.
  • Collaborators. What is happening with our channel and strategic partners? Collaborators are a big part of the Cisco equation. The services model is to scale business predominantly through partners.
  • Context. What’s going on in the market? What are the things Cisco Services has no control over, yet affect our customers and the business environment?

I gave my team an entire quarter to analyze the Five Cs, segment by segment (enterprise, SMB, service provider, public sector, etc.). This data was then brought to the rest of marketing—the centers of excellence, the portfolio team, the channel team, the marketing communications team, and the field marketing teams—so they could determine the best ways to communicate Cisco Services’ value propositions to the audiences they want to reach.

It turns out that the listening exercise was not as daunting a task as we thought it would be and the results were better than anticipated. Field Marketing is “really pleased” with the “best work done in five years.”

The Five Cs approach has been so successful that our team has committed to refresh them every six months. This thorough, structured approach to listening to the customer will guide the future investments Cisco Services makes in its marketing department and content. What’s more, we are working with other marketing leaders within Cisco to adopt the approach.

Read War Stories, Wisdom, and Wine: A Recap of the 2012 Marketing Leadership Forum.

Want the latest news from ITSMA?

Subscribe to our newsletters and alerts for ITSMA blog posts, research publications, events, and more.

Further reading