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5 Questions with GSP's Kelli Robertson on Positioning Cisco's "Internet of Everything"

Posted by Tara Lasker

Wed, Dec 03, 2014

800px Cisco logo.svgGS&P.logo.with.name.1Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Kelli Robertson talked with CMB’s Research Director, Tara Lasker, about a recent messaging study they partnered on for Cisco. This study aimed to determine the best way to communicate Cisco’s role in the “Internet of Everything.” 

TARA: There’s been a lot of buzz lately about using data to support strategic thinking. Can you talk a little bit about how you strike that balance between the two in your role?

kelli robertson, GSP, Cisco, CMB

KELLI: Well, I don’t think data just supports thinking—I think it also generates it. There’s nothing more exciting than a table full of data and going through that data to find ideas and the story. I think that’s one of the things we did with this study. I think you always have to start with hypotheses and use the data gathered to prove or disprove them, which is what we did. You also have to be open to the data giving you new ideas. For us, data isn’t just about validating—it’s about learning.

It’s also important to realize that data helps bring consensus. Marketing is hard today because everything is so uncertain, and I think it’s easy for clients to dismiss things you learn from eight or even thirty qualitative interviews. It’s a lot harder to dismiss data. So if you can combine the data with the new ideas, you’re more likely to create consensus and generate buy-in from the people you’re working with.

TARA:  That’s definitely true, and we see that throughout many of our client engagements. Moving on to our study, can you talk about how GSP and CMB partnered to help solve some of the challenges that Cisco faced?

KELLI: The first thing that CMB did really well was to quickly grasp the topic. This includes how technology influences business, the somewhat complicated concept of the “Internet of Everything,” and all of the product and technology solutions that create the “Internet of Everything.” There wasn’t a lot of explaining that I had to do because CMB just jumped in. I think that’s a testament to all of your experience with clients in the technology industry. You also recognized that the “Internet of Everything” might be a complicated concept for respondents to grasp, so you helped us craft a few different ways to talk about it in the survey, which allowed us to better measure true awareness and understanding.

Here’s another example. This was a global study, and CMB had a lot of recommendations including using max diff scaling to prioritize messages and alleviate any global scale bias. These recommendations allowed us to overcome a challenge that I wouldn’t have even known about if it hadn’t been for you. You also recommended that we test a few diagnostics within the top scoring messages. That helped us gain a better understanding of why messages were compelling instead of just showing us which ones were at the top of the list. Those diagnostics helped us feel confident in the messages that stood out.

TARA: We did a lot of secondary research on our end and asked colleagues at CMB with the most tech experience about the “Internet of Everything.” We tried to think from a respondent’s perspective when answering the questions to make sure that we were getting the most useful data we could possibly get and to ensure the respondents were reacting the way we wanted without misunderstanding.

KELLI: I think that background research you’re referring to was what allowed you to help us so much. I live in the “Internet of Everything” world. I have for the past two years. You allowed us to go deep into the “Internet of Everything,” but kept in mind the fact that people won’t view it with the same amount of understanding that we do. That helped us ask questions in a more broad sense and allowed us to have good juxtapositions regarding innovation, business, and technology.

TARA: Exactly. We also looked at the different roles within an organization and how they saw it. For example, the C-suite and technical decision makers understood and liked the more detailed messaging while business managers liked the broader, softer messaging. Speaking of, can you talk about what impact this research has had on Cisco’s brand messaging strategy? What’s happened since we’ve presented the results?

KELLI: Well, as you know, Cisco keeps coming back to get more data, and the study is really being adopted. It helped us form the messaging strategy for Cisco moving forward. For example, it helped us craft the right language to explain how Cisco is making the “Internet of Everything” possible. There’s been this question in the marketplace: what does Cisco do to make the “Internet of Everything” happen? The study helped us answer that question and address the skepticism our audience has had in the most compelling way.

The study also helped us define a sweet spot within our target audience. Prior to this, we talked broadly about C-suite executives, business decision-makers, and technical decision-makers. We summarize our audience as C-suite executives, but the study uncovered a very clear mindset that matched Cisco’s aspirations. Now we’re able to use that data to talk about our audience psychographically. We’ve found an attitudinal sweet spot because of the confidence in the data. Without the study, we could guess that C-suite executives and business decision-makers felt a certain way, but the data is invaluable in changing the way we think about who we reach out to, how we influence them, and the attitude Cisco needs to have. That’s been really invaluable, and it influences a lot of our decisions in tone and placement media.

The study also helped validate some of the Cisco product solutions that we should prioritize in our messaging. In the past, Cisco was primarily a networking company. Now, Cisco is offering a suite of product solutions way beyond networking. This study helped us uncover which of those product solutions triggered the most thoughts of innovation in our audience’s mind, which helped us prioritize where we should focus our product efforts.

TARA: Let’s talk a little more about the buy-in. This is the second time we’ve worked together on a project like this, and we’ve always had a great partnership. You understand your client and the questions they need answered, and we work through the research design and analysis. Ultimately, the goal is to get buy-in and adoption. So, can you talk about the adoption throughout Cisco?

KELLI: We’ve presented this countless times at Cisco, and we’re still getting requests to present it. We also just presented all of the work to the global regions in Cisco to help inform their work. They use a lot of the work we do, but they also do a lot of work on their own, so I’m sharing it with them so that they can use it to help inform what they do. Certain people within the organization are even using the data in their day-to-day work, which is amazing.

One of the things I’ve been most excited about is that we’re working with the thought leadership team at Cisco, who help set the agenda and public relations initiatives around key themes and topics. They’ve spent a lot of time pouring through the results, and they ended up coming back with a huge list of questions that are going to drive their thinking for the next year. So it’s helping set thought leadership, which is great.

One of the biggest things we tested is Cisco’s mission statement—“Changing the way we work, live, play, learn.” That is a statement that has always been on paper, and it has always been referred to as Cisco’s mission statement. The data we got back showed how compelling this statement was to our audience. It came back as one of the top messages if not the top message. I think that’s been giving Cisco a lot of confidence that they need to do more with their mission statement and that it needs to become not just words on paper, but something that drives all action within Cisco. I think this study is going to breathe new life into this big, bold mission statement and give them the courage to use it more overtly to make bolder decisions. There’s a difference between having a mission statement and being on a mission, and I feel like this data gave them the confidence to be a company on a mission—on a mission to change the way we work, live, play, learn.

TARA: Over the years, you’ve been one of my favorite clients for several reasons—one of them being that you really approach the relationship like a true partnership. We really work together. We get to a place where you know the client, challenges, political environment, and research questions that need to be answered. CMB brings research expertise, which allows us to design the study in a way that is going to answer your questions, so you don’t have to worry about the technicalities. I feel like both times we’ve partnered, we’ve ended up in a good, clear place at the end because of the way we work together throughout the process.

KELLI: I agree, and I will say that who we chose wasn’t necessarily my decision. I worked with the head of our research group. When we were going through RFPs, it became clear that few research companies are so thorough. There’s just this reality that not a lot of other research companies are as strategic, bring the breadth of experience, dive in, and ask questions of other experts in the organization the way you do….and these were things we noticed from the first RFP. There’s just something special you have bottled over there.

TARA: Thanks, Kelli! Hopefully we’ll get the chance to work together again in the future.

Tara Lasker is a Research Director at CMB and Kelli is a Group Brand Strategy Director at GSP. They both enjoy good beer, good music, commiserating over the trials and tribulations of motherhood, and telling a great story with primary research data.  

Topics: technology research, strategy consulting, big data, B2B marketing, internet of things, B2B research, Researchers in Residence, brand health and positioning

IT Myth-Busters: A Review of the Current Hype Cycle

Posted by Chris Neal

Wed, Jun 19, 2013

TrueFalseOne of the things I love most about my job is that I get to see what’s really going on in the minds of the people who do (or would) actually pay for B2B technology solutions, while at the same time observing industry trade press hype cycles and B2B marketing trends from solution providers. Sometimes these sync; sometimes they don’t. So let’s take a look at a few things currently waxing in the hype cycle that are “real,” and some other current conventional wisdom that doesn’t jive with what I’ve been seeing on the ground.  TREND #1: EVOLUTION OF IT BUYING AUTHORITY AWAY FROM CENTRAL IT DEPARTMENTS

Fact: It is indeed true that decision-making authority at many companies is moving away from central IT and towards non-IT executives or within business units. This is more commonly happening with functionally-specific applications and/or mobile devices. It is not happening in areas like data center infrastructure, networking and IT security. 

Myth: IT departments are actively trying to control all aspects of the IT buying process at companies.

  • The truth is, IT Pros I survey or interview are focused on aligning IT with business needs, actively listening and reacting to requests from senior management, LoB managers and end-user employees. They follow up with these requests to do more detailed research of specific solutions and alternatives to present different options with informed recommendations, and the vet any potential new application or device for security and network performance requirements.

 Myth: IT departments think they have total control over all IT buying when in fact much of it happens without their knowledge. 

  • IT Pros I survey still think they have more involvement/authority than non-IT executives, LoB managers and end-users say they do, but that “reality perception” gap has been shrinking over the years. Now, many IT Departments acknowledge that identifying the need for new technology solutions and even a lot of the researching and recommendation of specific tools and brands comes from non-IT departments.


Fact: The consumerization of IT is accelerating and more employees want to use personal devices, apps and software for work purposes. 

Myth:  IT departments are always fighting the consumerization of IT trend.

  • Most IT Departments I investigate now acknowledge (and many actively support) consumerization of IT trends, most commonly helping employees link personal mobile devices to things like corporate email and calendaring accounts. IT is focused on making employees more productive, and this is an easy way to enable this.


Fact: Tablet penetration is increasing at companies, although it is still relatively rare for most employees to have a company-issued tablet at this point. It is more common for employees to bring in personal tablets and use them for work purposes (see “Trend #2” above 

Myth: Tablets are replacing computers at companies.

  • “Hard cannibalization” of company laptops by tablets simply isn’t happening much. It is extremely rare for employees at this point to get rid of their good ‘ol fashioned laptop altogether and go all-tablet, all-the-time. Any employee who needs to produce stuff (e.g., worker-bees) as opposed to consuming things (e.g., senior management reviewing the things that worker-bees produce) still needs and used laptops with larger screens and a quaint QWERTY keyboard.

 Fact: Tablets are extending the refresh cycles of laptops at companies.

  • “Soft cannibalization” of company laptops by tablets does indeed happen quite frequently once tablets are in the mix. Employees who use tablets for work tend to use their laptop less for certain tasks, and with less wear-and-tear IT departments are pushing out the refresh cycles of their laptop fleet.

 Myth: Tablets will negate the need for printing at the office.

  • Certain tasks and certain documents need to be printed at work. Whenever tablets are used to do these tasks…employees still want to print for them, and IT departments are generally happy to deploy mobile printing solutions if that’s what a critical mass of employees (or even a single, vocal senior executive) want. More computing devices in play generally leads to more printing, not less.  


Fact: Cloud computing is growing by leaps and bounds in corporate America. This trend is indeed real now, after several years where the industry marketing hype did not sync with the volume of deals actually being signed or the proclivity of IT departments to switch to cloud-based app delivery models.

Myth: IT departments are threatened by cloud computing and resisting this trend.

  • Initially, IT departments were very skeptical about the security of cloud apps, and distrustful of complex, pay-as-you-go pricing models that could be potential budget-busters. These days, IT departments are more often than not the champions of the shift to the cloud, and executive management sometime puts the kibosh on initiatives because they can involve extra near-term budget (and staffing resources) to make the initial switch.

Myth: Companies are going “all-cloud” and converting their old internal data centers into gyms or rec rooms. 

  • It is very rare for companies to have all their apps and storage on the cloud…I’m typically seeing a patchwork of internally-hosted apps, use of some public cloud services, other apps going onto private cloud infrastructures, and hybrid models. Certain apps are difficult to move to cloud provisioning for a variety of reasons (e.g., performance requirements, compliance with regulations, certain app vendors not yet supporting cloud delivery options or the ones they are offering aren’t fully baked yet, app customization needs). What IT departments really need now and for the foreseeable future is better management and security solutions that help them deal with this mixed environment, because it is likely here to stay for quite some time.

IT is changing dramatically and will no doubt look very different 2-5 years from now. The way these trends actually pan out always produce a few surprises, however. So stay tuned to this channel for future episodes of “IT Myth-busters.”

Chris leads CMB’s Tech Practice. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and rock climbing.

Topics: technology research, B2B marketing, B2B research

Where is the B2B Black Friday?

Posted by Jeff McKenna

Tue, Nov 29, 2011

What can B2B companies learn from Black Friday and the Holiday Shopping frenzy?

presentThe Holiday 2011 Shopping season got off to a strong start over the weekend.  Black Friday was the biggest ever for brick-and-mortar retailers; and there was an even bigger increase for online retailers.  Overall, the weekend was a huge success when compared to the start of the 2010 holiday shopping season.

The fact that Black Friday saw an increase in retail sales this year should not come as a surprise.  Much research (including our own) foretold strong buying intentions, with a continued shift to online shopping. The sheer size of the increase, however, is quite a surprise.  Many analysts predicted a 2-3% rise in holiday shopping activity, so the big jump this weekend has brightened the prospects for American consumers and retailers.

So, does this mean all of the Black Friday deals and hype worked?  The midnight store openings?  The door-buster deals?  The incessant advertising and promotions?  Is there any way we can do something like this in the B2B space? 

Let’s put the holiday shopping activity into perspective.  We are at the end of the year and consumers are looking at their bank accounts and budgets, and assessing how much is left to spend, and looking at the bare walls where the flat screen TV should be hanging.  We find a great deal of pent-up demand in the US market, as US consumers have been through another difficult year and pulled back on spending.  This cutting back has left people with more money to spend (whether from their bank accounts or credits cards).  

So, it looks like we are finding a strong convergence of:

  • The Supply (retailers going out of their way to make it easy for consumers to shop and buy with longer hours and lower prices)

  • The Demand (a rather strong need to refresh the cupboards), and

  • The Financial Support (to make it all come together)

b2bMuch of the same can be said for business.  Budgets have been trimmed for several years, resulting in the need for investments and purchases to lead and support growth in the future.  As on the consumer side, cutting back has created strong profits for many companies, which means they have money to spend. 

What is the supply in this B2B equation?  Are companies making the necessary effort to match pent-up demand and the ability to spend?

First of all, B2B can’t replicate door-buster deals and midnight store openings.  But, B2B firms can:

  • Make it easy for companies to spend:  Look at the holiday deals for shoppers, and you will see promotions for items priced from $25 to $2,500 (and even higher).  If for no other reason than “spend-it-or-lose it,” companies approach the end of their budgetary year with the need to purchase – when selling to other businesses, you need to be prepared with products and services in a range of prices to meet their budgets.

  • Address the need to invest, and communicate it repeatedly:  The theme of Holiday Shopping 2011 has been the consumers’ need to purchase many of the new technologies and new fashions that they’ve been unable to buy over the past year.  The same can be said for business, but instead of the latest tablet or gaming console bringing joy to the consumer and her/his family, the product or service will bring opportunity to grow and advance the business.

  • Know your customer’s budgetary cycle:  Retailers have it easy in this area – personal budgets follow the calendar years, so December represents the rush for consumers to spend within their annual budget.  However, companies have unique fiscal years, often tied to industry business cycles.  If you sell to businesses, it is smart to know when your customers may be looking to spend leftover cash.

  • Clearly understand customer needs and wants:  This should go without saying, but retailers greatly prepare for this time of year by deeply analyzing what consumers need and want.  They tailor product offers, pricing and communication to meet them and remain focused on the key aspects driving purchases.   

Posted by Jeff McKenna, Jeff is a Senior Consultant at CMB, and the creator and host of our Tools and Techniques Webinar Series.

Topics: B2B marketing, Consumer Pulse, retail research

Who said B2B marketing isn't fun?

Posted by Kristen Garvey

Thu, Oct 28, 2010

Social Media Marketing

There was great energy and excitement among both the panelists and attendees at the MarkeitngSherpa B2B Marketing Summit in Boston this week. To a large extent, this whole new world of social media has really invigorated B2B marketing. In a world where it always seemed like B2C marketers got to do the “fun” stuff, B2B marketers seem to be as engaged as ever and having a blast doing their job.

The event was excellent and while there were a lot of great take-a-ways here are a few that stuck out in my mind:

Size Doesn’t Matter– It’s not about how many Fans or Followers you have, it matters who they are. With so many brands having thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of Fans the numbers have lost their WOW factor. As marketers we need to dig deeper and take a more deliberate approach to finding the “right” people to engage with. It’s the engagement that matters.

Measurement Remains a Challenge- There was a lot of discussion around what people are measuring and what tools they are using to measure their success. There were many suggestions from free options like Social Mention to more robust enterprise solutions like Radian6. It was interesting to hear the various metrics, but it is clear there is not yet a true standard and the metrics will (and should) differ depending on the objectives. It all goes back to what you want to achieve.

Start With a Plan and Re-evaluate- Just like any other marketing initiative, it is important to look at where you are now and where you want to go. Make tangible goals, and those will be the measurement of your success. I thought Vanessa Dimauro (@vdimauro) said it best when she said: Patience, persistence and being proactive are key to your strategy. Along with having fun and enjoying the ride!

Vanessa reminded everyone as marketers we are part of a new generation of marketing. We get the benefit of being able to forge a new path, experiment, learn and enjoy! Check out some of the conversation on Twitter (#b2bsummit) and feel free to download our social media reports to learn more about Why Social Media Matters and Social Sharing.

Social Media marketing

 Social Media Marketing


Posted by Kristen Garvey. Kristen is CMB's Director of Communications, a mother of two, and B2B marketer enjoying the ride. Follow her on Twitter @KristenGarvey

Topics: B2B marketing, marketing strategy

Finding the B2B Social Media Opportunities

Posted by Josh Mendelsohn

Thu, May 27, 2010

Today's eMarketer email features an article about the relatively slow adoption of social media by B2B marketers.  While some companies have jumped in quickly - and often without a plan - those that are slow to engage may lack executive support or have concerns about privacy, legal issues, or staffing.

And even for those who are ready to engage, while the venue selection is obvious for many consumer focused companies, B2B marketers often need to look beyond the mainstream social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn to find the best opportunities to make an impact.


social media strategies

Our clients at AMD faced a similar situation.   They knew they wanted to be active, but weren't sure how to prioritize.   So after jumping into social media they took a step back to examine who their key audiences were and where they were active, which venues they needed to engage in, and what people were willing to accept from their brand. 


social media strategy case studyWant to learn more about social media research?  Watch our webinar featuring Georgeanna Liu and Chris James from AMD as they present a case study of how CMB conducted market research to support key social media strategy decisions and how AMD is using it today.  Watch here.


Posted by Josh Mendelsohn. Josh is our VP of Marketing and loves live music, tv, great food, market research, New Orleans, marketing, Boston and sports. You can follow him on Twitter @mendelj2. 

Topics: B2B marketing, social media, B2B research