29th May 2014

Cisco marketing achieves 20,000% productivity increase

Customer: Cisco

As one of the world’s best known communications technology companies, Cisco supports customer success using networking, data centre, cloud, and security technologies. Cisco shaped the Internet, and has become the worldwide leader in transforming how people connect, communicate and collaborate.

When one person comes up with a way to make the process better, we can implement that across the organisation consistently so everybody takes advantage of all efficiencies. [The system gave us] results, proven results. This is the Secret Sauce of our operation.”

Lincoln “Linc” Havens
Senior Global Marketing Manager, Cisco

The Situation

Prior to working with us, Cisco’s marketing people and processes were successfully managing 80 partners, or roughly 1% of their top-tier partner community, by giving them high-touch, one-on-one marketing support.  

However, 1,200 mid-tier partners were critical to Cisco’s ambition to increase its share of the fast-growing Small & Medium Business market segment. Because Cisco’s Channel Marketing Managers spent 95% of their time helping top-tier partners, mid-tier partners were served only by portals and tools, leaving them vulnerable to competitive attack. 

The challenges

Cisco’s experience with mid-tier partners proved that simply providing collateral such as website templates, incentives and marketing funding did not generate sufficient engagement.  To encourage partners to market Cisco products more actively and more often, they needed to be shown how to utilise the available tools, be reassured about the results they could expect, and be supported throughout the process. 

This ‘high touch’ approach worked well for top-tier partners, but even Cisco did not have enough resources to provide this support to mid-tier partners, especially as they typically needed more help in order to be successful.

Cisco was stuck; its growth objectives seemed unattainable because it couldn’t find a cost-effective solution. The company needed a marketing process management tool which would enable it to cost-effectively scale its successful top-tier partner approach to gain a competitive advantage with mid-tier partners. 

Discover how to harness automation and process management to power your marketing productivity

The goals

Cisco needed a solution which would enable it to:

  • Optimise its existing people, processes, funding and collateral to maximise productivity. 

  • Win the hearts and minds of its mid-tier partner base, where historical levels of engagement were relatively low.  

  • Implement a cost-effective marketing programme to bridge the gap between what ‘should be done’, and what was ‘actually being done’. 

  • Achieve unprecedented scalability to ensure marketing success with mid-tier partners that was both effective and affordable. 

Cisco scoured the market for a platform which could standardise and scale its marketing plays, and selected the Demeter Work OS platform as the best solution to meet its needs.  

The solution

The Demeter platform is an infinitely scalable process management tool that can uniquely streamline all marketing activities using Lean process automation. 

After piloting the approach in North America, Cisco implemented a solution using three modules: 

  1. A Storefront module to make it simple for partners and in-country marketing managers to find and order marketing campaigns. 

  2. A Work Management module (WMS) to make the process slick and efficient. 

  3. A Lead Tracking and Management module (LMS) to track and measure Return on Investment. 

The Storefront module enables partners and internal marketing staff to quickly and easily find and order marketing campaigns from an online ‘shop’.  Users can then track progress visually so that they feel involved and in control throughout the process. 

The Work Management module lets vendors visually map their marketing processes and then make them “come alive” by digitally publishing them to Storefront.  Once campaigns are ordered, they are executed, monitored and managed using the Demeter system, which seamlessly integrates disparate processes.

Traditional marketing bottlenecks were eliminated. Flow was established. Scale was achieved. Campaigns were executed effectively and on-budget – every time.  

The Demeter platform features built-in continuous improvement tools, which enables process performance to be constantly measured and improved.  Cisco used this to great effect – improving its marketing efficiency by 20,000% over time. 

Discover how our process management tool can take your marketing efficiency to new heights. 

The Lead Tracking and Management system ensures leads are followed up effectively and provides a mechanism to measure Return on Marketing Investment. Lead information was also integrated into Cisco’s Salesforce (SFDC) system, and onward into Cisco’s financial reporting system. In return, SFDC passed information back into the lead tracking and management system, delivering a truly measurable ROI – partners could link revenue from specific leads back to a specific marketing campaign. Cisco sales teams and partners could collaborate and see results, without compromising security or confidentiality.


Cisco’s Marketing Services Organisation not only achieved their original goals, but also realised many additional benefits over time – as did other company divisions which adopted the tool. Cisco expanded by creating a Global Demand Centre (GDC) to manage all direct [field] marketing The platform benefits  which drove this expansion were: 

Best-in-Class: Statistical analysis showed Demeter’s marketing process management platform to be more than twice as effective as other solutions1, and orders of magnitude more efficient2.  Consequently, Cisco standardised the solution worldwide3 as the platform for its Global Demand Centre (GDC). 

Consistency: Initially, the solution serviced only SMB partners in the USA, but then grew to be the primary support for Cisco’s Demand Generation (DG) marketing world-wide. Eventually, all Cisco’s internal DG marketing was managed through the platform not only for partners, but also for in-country marketing managers, thus providing a consistent service across the globe. 

Automation: Over time, the platform was used to automate more and more of the marketing workflow, so that as demand for marketing campaigns grew, the platform simply worked faster and more smoothly, giving channel marketing managers greater leverage with their partners without having to spend more money.

Industry Recognition: The system achieved the twin virtues of delivering marketing campaigns at reduced cost to Cisco, but with massively increased support for its partners, in a genuine win-win. In an independent survey, partners voted the service the best in the industry, with 60% rating Cisco as the ‘Gold Standard’ for channel marketing, far outshining its competitors on most measures4.

Increased Share of Partner Wallet: Partners increasingly preferred working with Cisco over other vendors, because they were rewarded with a greater ROI. This drove a cycle where partners spent more time with Cisco, and less with Cisco’s competitors. 

By winning hearts and minds, Cisco ultimately achieved its objective of increasing market share at a lower unit cost, thus enabling it to grow faster than the market. 

Accelerated growth: Partners on this programme grew at twice the rate of comparable non-participants (18% vs. 9%). 

More Marketing Leverage: Before the implementation of the Demeter platform, Cisco’s SMB partners made little or no investment in joint marketing, and Cisco had to fund most co-marketing 100% to get traction.  However, Cisco’s partners were so impressed with the new system that they willingly poured their own money into additional marketing campaigns once Cisco’s funds ran out.  Partner investment has increased to match Cisco’s, doubling Cisco’s marketing muscle as a result. 

Measurability and Visibility: All marketing activity is visible and trackable in real-time.  The system shows the process visually, using animations and quantitative reports on progress, performance and status. Cisco is able to attribute co-marketing activities to specific leads, identifying which marketing campaigns are most effective in terms of ROI.  Cisco then advises partners on future marketing spend for best results. 


Scalabilitya 20,000% increase in productivity6: The original Marketing Services Organisation team of eight people went from managing 40, to 1,800, to over 4,000 plays before needing to hire more people.  For Cisco staff managing the process, the programme increased productivity 20-30,000% in terms of marketing plays per FTE. Part of this gain was because Cisco was able to encourage marketing sub-contractors to take work away from the MSO team using a Vendor Integration Program (VIP). However, this wasn’t simply a case of pushing work from one desk to another.

One challenge of working with many vendors is that each vendor wants to run the process differently, from campaign briefing through execution to results reporting. But Cisco’s vendors quickly realised that standardised processes delivered reliable briefs, with almost no effort from them.  This massively reduced vendors’ cost of sale and increased their ability to scale. Standardised processes also made it easier for Cisco to manage vendors, as well as to attract and retain the best, which in turn allowed them to scale campaigns more cost-effectively and create a cycle of continuous improvement. 

Utilising the Demeter platform enabled Cisco to monitor and manage more marketing activity than they previously thought possible. The platform manages multiple processes, from implementing marketing activities to measuring results, which optimises productivity for both Cisco and their vendors, making significant budget savings. 

Cisco went from delivering 30 to 40 marketing campaigns per year to more than 16,000 campaigns annually over 10 years. While the team responsible expanded from eight marketing managers to 65 marketing heads, Cisco is adamant this efficiency is only possible through the use of the Demeter system.


This productivity increase was the critical success factor that enabled Cisco to achieve its objective of cost-effectively scaling marketing campaigns, and so increase market share in its target segments. 

This level of standardisation and scalability enabled the organisation to streamline processes and fine-tune messaging to deliver better conversion rates. 

Value: The platform enabled Cisco to track all leads generated by marketing campaigns and so measure Return on Marketing Investment more accurately than before. For example, in Year 3, the program executed 4,500 campaigns5, generated over $170m of pipeline, and closed over $70m of confirmed revenue, giving an Expense-to-Pipeline ratio of 1:54, and an Expense-to-Revenue ratio of 1:23 – a truly exceptional Return on Investment. 

Visibility: The entire marketing process is visible to Cisco, its partners and their respective marketing managers, thus encouraging collaboration and cooperation, and reducing finger-pointing and blame. Users can see precisely how easy or complex each campaign is to execute, which engenders trust between participants, because they can all see what’s being done, and when. This level of visibility also allows Cisco to spot bugs in processes earlier and fix them quicker.  The runtime visual systems allows Cisco to easily see if plays don’t work as well in practice as expected in theory. 

Results Summary

  • Demeter enabled Cisco to improve process efficiency by more than 20,000% over time, enabling  the company to run more marketing campaigns than they previously thought possible whilst dramatically reducing unit costs, particularly campaign management costs. 

  • The platform delivered the scalability Cisco needed to achieve its goals, scaling from 40 to over 16,000 campaigns per year, and generating billions of dollars in revenue. 

  • Increased engagement and faster partner growth gave Cisco an increased share of partner wallet and enabled the organisation to take market share from competitors and grow faster than the market. 


  • Using Demeter as the back-end enabled Cisco to create standard, scalable processes. 

  • The key benefits are that it easy to use for clients, and what they get out of it in terms of ROI.

Garrett Brennan
Global Marketing Automation Manager, Cisco


  • Demeter execution makes it easy to look at workflow and see what happened, and what’s next. It also makes it easy for a client who is not a power user, using it once a month, or once a quarter. 

  • Everyone loves the visual (over)view; it really makes it easy to visualise, especially as you get into more complex things.

Melissa Rempfer
Marketing Operations Manager, Cisco Contractor (Mason Zimbler / Harte-Hanks)

If you need to boost the efficiency and ROI of your marketing campaigns, get in touch.

If you need to boost the efficiency and ROI of your marketing campaigns, get in touch.

  1. Some areas developed their own front-end ’Storefront’ but still use the Demeter back-end.
  2. Average unit cost to manage one marketing campaign dropped from $20k to $50 = 40,000% productivity hike in terms of overhead cost per campaign. Average campaigns per Cisco head increased from 5 to 1,000 p.a. = 20,000% increase in productivity. However, after a change in execution model, Cisco did more work internally so plays per Cisco head went down to 250 pa, but this is still a 5,000% productivity increase, ignoring all the extra work these people did under the new model. These improvements were achieved by standardising processes to de-skill work, increasing self-service over time, and increasing campaigns per manager.
  3. Some areas developed their own front-end ’Storefront’, but still use the Demeter back-end.
  4. Research International, and Greenfield Consulting Group, 2008. Subsequent to this the original MAP tool was upgraded.
  5. For under $3m Total programme costs
  6. Average revenue from participating partners grew twice as fast as revenue from statistically similar non-participating partners.