This past Spring, Cisco Systems named Luxy Thuraisingam as its new Head of Global Partner Marketing. Thuraisingam, who joined Cisco in 2019 as Vice President, Americas Industry & Canada Growth Marketing, brings nearly two decades of marketing experience to her new role.
Partners “are being challenged to engage with new and existing customers in new ways across the entire spectrum of social, virtual and digital marketing,” Oliver Tuszik, Cisco’s Channel Chief, told another business publication. Thuraisingam “not only has the proven skills across all of these, but she understands the partner landscape and what it takes to help them succeed.”
Thuraisingam recently took a break from her busy schedule to chat with Channel Marketer Report (CMR.) During the conversation, she discussed how the agility of Cisco’s channel team helped it manage pandemic-related challenges and opportunities. She also shared insights into how post-pandemic best practices might not be so different from those channel teams and partners used before the pandemic struck.
CMR asked Thuraisingam about how Cisco managed to maintain a viable channel marketing program through the pandemic.
LUXY THURAISINGAM — Cisco pivoted. Cisco didn’t just react, it led. We saw the pendulum swing to everything digital — I literally call it everything digital.
It was one thing for Cisco to pivot to digital, because we had resources, we had expertise, we had talent. But we also helped our partners. I’ll give you some practical examples. Everything became social. Social marketing is the new digital handshake. We were helping our sales teams with in-house training that was mostly intended for marketers.
But as I talked to partners, it became obvious that not all of them had that luxury. So I called my social marketing lead to see if they could train one of our partners with about 100 sales people. “Can you train them on all things social?”
It started with one partner and then, of course, our other partner channel sales leaders internally took notice. We trained hundreds in the end.
In the pivot to offering digital support, the social selling training was made available in a learning modules and related content was shared on Cisco’s Marketing Velocity platform. “We scaled it programmatically in different ways to reach many different partners,” Thuraisingam said. “We couldn’t do it in the high touch way that we would have loved to do.”
Thuraisingam commented that the roles of sellers and marketers are merging, especially at smaller partner companies. Acknowledging that many partners have very limited marketing staff, she said that “Sellers became marketers and marketers just became sellers.”
Partner sales team were trained on effectively social marketing practices and especially on engagement in LinkedIn, Thuraisingam continued. Cisco shifted to creating more digitally delivered content, including social campaigns. The company also provide training and support to help partners host digital events. In addition, the channel team amped up content creation related to specific industries.
LUXY THURAISINGAM – We had to quickly pivot to tell stories that were more relevant to companies addressing challenges related to the pandemic. In the healthcare industry, for example, we didn’t want to talk about product. Instead we offered information on how to set up a mobile clinic, how you can use Webex for patient care.
As Cisco continues to provide its channel with more marketing support, more partners may be leaning in. Partners understand that, like Cisco, they have to be agile and more relevant, said Thuraisingam. They know they should be upskilling their teams.
As one marketer commented to her, “Overnight, I had to move from having the best-in-class event production team to the best-in-class digital event team.”
As much as Thuraisingam embraces digital sales and marketing strategies – “I’m a geek, I love this stuff” – she is wary of walking away from the tactics that drove pre-pandemic business.
LUXY THURAISINGAM — The best practice of 2021 may not necessarily be the best practices of 2022. In 2021, yes, we had to go “digital everything” from events to connecting with our customers, connecting with our partners. We made huge investments in E-commerce, for instance, with certain partners that want to transact that way.
But the reason I say the best practice of today is not the best practice tomorrow is I can tell you people are craving a human touch. So to me, it’s hybrid — hybrid everything. We’ll be back in uncharted waters a little bit.
The best practices today may not even be the best tomorrow, but I do think we’ll end up with a happy medium — whether that’s investments in new marketing practices, or even sales practices.
How ever markets evolve, Thuraisingam intends to be ahead of the curve. With a new team member charged with exploring routes to market and another promoted to run programs and Marketing Velocity, Thuraisingam is striving to ensure that Cisco’s channel initiative remains a world-class program.
LUXY THURAISINGAM – I want to continue the momentum of our channel marketing program. But what we’re looking at carefully is that not everything that got us ‘here‘ may get us ‘there.’ So how do we get to the next level?
For a specific partner, what would be considered a world class program? How do we now elevate it to be more relevant? What is the right number of partners, who are the right roles?
And we must think about new routes. For example, what would an agent want from a marketing? I just hired a route to market director. It’s a newly created role that will help us understand how we continue to increase and optimize for our partners that still we need to continue to support but as we look at these emerging routes to marketing too.
I don’t fully know yet what we need because part of what I want to do is build it from the outside in. I’m asking partners to ‘Tell me more about what you are doing and how we can partner with you and support you and be part of the journey.’ In the conversations I’ve had, especially with the CMOs that I’ve spoken to at partners, they want to join us.