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Vice President of Marketing- Asia-Pacific and Japan, Cisco
Mark Phibbs is the Vice President of Marketing at Cisco for Asia-Pacific and Japan. Cisco’s hardware, software and service offerings are used to create internet solutions that make networks possible by providing easy access to information anywhere and anytime. Founded in 1984 by a small group of computer scientists from Stanford University, the company today employs more than 71,000 people worldwide. In addition to its advanced technology products for home networking, security, storage and wireless, Cisco provides a broad range of service offerings, including technical support and advanced services.
Mark Phibbs holds extensive international experience and a record of leadership and marketing and sales success at blue chip companies. Prior to joining Cisco, he was a key global player in helping Adobe become a leader in digital marketing and in Adobe's shift to the cloud. He also spent ten years at Microsoft, where he advanced in several roles with new challenges and responsibilities, culminating in CEO of the company’s business in Hong Kong after holding leadership roles across Asia, Eastern Europe and Australia. And before that, he held the position of Sales and Marketing Director at IBM for seven years. Despite a distinguished career in the world’s leading technology companies, he says when it comes to marketing, the technology should never come first, rather, the customer should always come before the technology. He says the power of digital marketing is in its ability to reach customers in a personalized way at a global scale.
“It is not about digital marketing; it is about marketing in a digital world,” he says. “Everyone in marketing today needs to be a digital marketer and deliver on the promise of digital marketing, which is to provide a more personalized, real-time and relevant experience to the customer.”
While Cisco operates mainly in a B2B environment, he says that should not impact the level of personalization and superior customer experience that Cisco’s customers are provided. He aims to create incredible B2C-type experiences online that inform them as consumers.
“The challenge for marketers in B2B companies like Cisco is that our customers—whether they be CIOs, line-of-business leaders or CEOs—expect the same level of incredible customer experience that they get in a B2C environment,” he says. “In order to achieve a truly personalized experience, the guiding principles of marketing success come down to being people-inspired and data-driven. It needs to be a mix of art and science.”
He says that while marketers will always be storytellers, it still falls on the shoulders of marketers to build creative content that emotionally connects with customers. The difference is that today, marketers need to use science and technology to deliver always-on marketing and messages that are relevant to the core target audience.
Digital enables marketers to deliver on the promise of a superior customer experience by providing data that helps marketers identify their core target audience, size that audience and analyze what they care about down to an individual level. It also provides key data around how customers respond to marketing messages, thereby making it much easier to target them with personalized outreach.
“My goal is to drive more inbound traffic so that we can follow up with targeted messages based on what the customer has already done,” he says.
With the rapid rate of digital disruption, businesses are increasingly looking to marketers to optimize the customer experience across functions.
“Marketers are now being asked to think about customer experience not only in marketing, but across operations, sales, support and other functions,” he says. “This is because marketers are in the best position to fully understand the customer. When this happens, the effect is cross-functional alignment and a cohesive customer engagement strategy across every touchpoint.”
In a digital world, responsiveness must be immediate and done in a cost-effective manner. For this reason, part of Phibbs’ mandate at Cisco was to build a mini-brand organization wherein a small team with expertise in the creative suite can adjust web banners, edit videos and write basic copy, thereby enabling the team to adjust content and visuals and update the website within a few hours.
“I will still use agencies for strategic campaigns, breakthrough ideas and creative thinking, but for basic day-to-day edits and adjustments, it is more cost-effective and timely to do those in-house,” he says.
He adds that new technologies like AI will be instrumental for marketers operating in this fast-paced environment.
“Decisions and moments of truth for customers occur in milliseconds,” he says. “When they come to our website, we need to ensure they have a customized, personalized experience. That is where the promise of artificial intelligence comes in. AI will add even more intelligence to marketing tech stacks and also provide more accurate data around how we are performing.”
He says he is often shocked by how little marketers spend on digital, especially given its ability to effectively measure return on investment. He increased digital spend at Cisco from 20 percent to 40 percent this year, and he says spend will increase to 50 percent next year.
“I never get extra marketing budget, so investing in digital means pulling back money in areas that have questionable ROI, like events and partner marketing,” he says. “ROI is very important to the credibility of marketing, and digital technology allows us to demonstrate that return to our finance and business units.”
One example of how digital has improved marketing’s ability to quantify value is in demand generation for the sales organization. In the past, marketing would send leads to sales, and sales would take over from there.
“Now, we have combined forces with sales to set up campaign codes that create a funnel, and we use predictive analytics to demonstrate how additional spend will create revenue,” he says. “This gets the CFO on board and opens the door for more spend.”
Cisco has one of the most sophisticated tech stacks in the marketplace, but with the proliferation of sophisticated marketing technologies comes a new hurdle: training the marketing organization to become confident with these new tools. Cisco helped to build this confidence through centers of excellence where every quarter, employees are trained on new technologies.
When it comes to hiring new people, he says he prioritizes data scientists and analysts over traditional marketing communications roles.
“You can have the best technology in the world, but you need people that can analyze that data to highlight key insights,” he says. “I believe in marketing by the numbers and letting the data speak. Data will help marketing win any argument by demonstrating why we want to ignite a new campaign.”
Digital has also enabled the growth of marketers as strategy leaders as they understand both the business and technology. With data helping to provide a 360-degree view of the customer, marketers are equipped to make informed, strategic business decisions that lead to a great customer experience.
“Brands must realize the power they have and make sure that the messaging and retargeting that happen are done in a way that provides an excellent digital experience for the end user,” he says.