The B2B technology giant had a perception problem, being thought of as a brand for big enterprises, so it took to Facebook Messenger to drive new consideration from SMEs.
How Cisco’s Messenger experience opened up new opportunities with small businesses
20 November 2020
By Sean Hargrave
As one of the world’s largest networking companies, Cisco is a very familiar name for IT managers working within enterprises.
However, the brand has found this success means smaller businesses often wrongly presume it is only relevant for larger organisations. Its figures suggest just 7% of SMEs are currently Cisco customers. Given that small companies account for around a fifth of Europe’s spending on internet switches and routers, Cisco realised there was a massive opportunity.
The challenge lay in reaching out to a type of business that approaches IT in a completely different way from an enterprise. When a large company buys equipment, it will usually involve a procurement team, led by IT, who know what they are purchasing and so can have a technically detailed discussion with Cisco and its partners. A small business is less likely to have an internal resource to lead these enquiries and so needs help in understanding which product range is most suited to its requirements.
In partnership with Facebook
Tips, tools and inspiration for effective campaigns
By Albert Abello Lozano, head of automation, Treatwell
Insight is part of Inspire, an ongoing partnership between Marketing Week, Econsultancy, Creative Review, Facebook and Instagram to showcase outstanding work across both platforms. Facebook and Instagram’s Creative Hub was launched to help the creative communities understand mobile marketing. The online tool allows creatives to experiment with content formats – from Instagram video to Facebook Canvas – and produce mock-ups to share with clients and stakeholders. It also showcases successful campaigns created for mobile. Try out the mock up tool at facebook.com/ads/creativehub and see the inspiration gallery at facebook.com/ads/creativehub/gallery
James Kirkham, Defected Records
Agnieszka Dabrowska-Griffin, Cisco’s paid media manager, explains this meant the company needed a new approach to reach small business owners and decision makers that did not involve immediately asking them to click through to its home page.
“We needed to counter the perception we are only relevant for large corporations,” says Dabrowska-Griffin. “So we strategised a campaign that lowered the barrier for small businesses, to discover more about our product ranges that are designed with them in mind. We didn’t want a traditional advertising campaign that took them to our home page because these customers might not know where to look, they needed help being pointed in the right direction.”
After rigorous strategising, planning and testing, Cisco’s ‘The Bridge’ campaign was launched in the UK, France and Germany in July, following a small-scale trial in April and May. It then rolled out across the EMEAR region in October.
of small business owners engaging with Cisco’s Messenger experience booked a sales call
Ad recall uplift in the UK
percentage points (69% over norm)
Familiarity uplift in Germany
“We needed to counter the perception
we are only relevant for large corporations. So we strategised a campaign that lowered the barrier for small businesses.”
Agnieszka Dabrowska-Griffin, Cisco
New approach for SMEs
The campaign was designed to get the small businesses owners, or senior decision makers, to engage with Cisco through a Facebook Messenger experience. A target audience of around 1.5 million Facebook users was reached over the summer via ads run on Facebook and Instagram Feed, and Instagram Stories as well, which encouraged users to click through to chat on Messenger.
Cisco worked with Facebook Creative Shop to design the campaign ad creative. Four animated pieces of mobile creative were used to display a series of questions in what looked like a Messenger window. The questions in the ad were based on the queries which led a small business audience to Cisco, pulled from a Google search keyword report and searches entered on the website itself through an enquiry widget. These included opening questions around networking, security, collaboration and more general IT requirements.
The aim was to entice a small business customer into tapping the advert to go through to the Messenger experience, where they would be asked five further simple questions. These would reveal the size of the business, the market it operated in and what it was hoping to achieve. The resulting link to relevant products was accompanied with the option of booking a phone call with a customer services representative to talk through their requirements.
Of those small business owners and senior executives who clicked through to start a conversation in Messenger, 30% took up the option of a telephone call with the company.
Aaron Barry, Cisco’s account manager at Facebook, explains the impact of the brand’s approach: “Ultimately, Cisco achieved strong cut-through because, to a small business buyer, the campaign was more relevant, and more useful, than other promotional content online.”
As the algorithm learned through a spring test and then a summer roll-out, Cisco put more budget into the campaign to ensure it was being most effectively spent. One take-out was that the topic of networking emerged as the most effective ad content, with small businesses showing a real appetite to find out more about Cisco’s switches and routers.
The campaign not only convinced almost one in three small business owners engaging with the Messenger experience to request a sales call with Cisco, it crucially raised the brand’s recall and perception metrics in the sector.
Dabrowska-Griffin reveals Cisco saw an ad recall uplift of 11 points in Germany and nearly 7 points in the UK, considerably above normal levels. There was also an above-normal lift for small companies associating Cisco with providing IT solutions that are suitable for them, 2 points in Germany and half a point in the UK. Similarly, the brand saw an uplift in familiarity with Cisco among its target market.
With these results, it’s no surprise that Cisco decided to continue the campaign in the UK, Germany and France, and extend it across the whole EMEAR region.■
Bridging social and messaging
Emily Birt, client director at Cisco’s agency, DWA, says the process of asking a handful of open questions was decided on as a way to help small businesses tell Cisco about their requirements in an engaging way. These customers may not be as familiar as enterprise IT managers, who know which questions to ask, so it was crucial to be helpful and listen to decision makers at smaller companies.
“With enterprises we have a quality scoring system online that will help the audience managers decide what the next steps should be,” she explains. “There will be hand-raising events where a company downloads a white paper or asks to speak to a sales person, for example. With small businesses, we understood that they don’t always have the same expertise as a larger company, so we had to be more helpful and personalised.”
Cisco’s Dabrowska-Griffin reveals this was a particularly important aspect of the campaign.
“We have run online display campaigns that target large business users and send them to Cisco’s home page but we wanted to avoid that approach with small businesses,” she explains.
“We wanted to decrease the barriers to them finding out what Cisco can do for them by being more engaging. As we were doing this on Facebook, where they feel comfortable, it was important not to try to take them away from the environment and that’s why we kept them inside that experience through Messenger.”
A listening approach
The campaign was a slight deviation from how a digital campaign might normally be planned. Cisco has a very good idea of who its target audiences are but with this campaign the brand had to trust Facebook’s algorithm to find the key market for each message.
The algorithm could look at the people each of the four animated creatives was shown to and then judge from their response if particular types of potential customer within different industries or at different job levels responded better to any of the messaging. This informed how the campaign progressed, learning incrementally which message would resonate best with which niche of Cisco’s small business target audience.
According to Phil Clayton, client partner at Facebook, who runs its B2B operation, the algorithm approach requires a brand to trust in the technology. “Cisco had to take a leap of faith with us on this one because we don’t concentrate up front on buying highly segmented audiences, as media planners might normally do,” he says.
“By using a product called Custom Audiences, we’re able to pinpoint people who are highly engaged with a brand, either as a customer or with their content, website, etc. This enables them to deliver relevant messaging to nurture high-value audiences, as well as find more people who are likely to find their messaging useful, through lookalikes of those Custom Audiences. By doing this, we can expand their appeal, increase effectiveness and reduce costs.”
Cisco's Messenger experience helped SMEs explore their IT needs
Insight is part of Inspire, an ongoing partnership between Marketing Week, Facebook and Instagram to showcase outstanding work across both platforms. Facebook and Instagram’s Creative Hub was launched to help the creative communities understand mobile marketing. The online tool allows creatives to experiment with content formats – from Instagram video to Facebook Canvas – and produce mock-ups to share with clients and stakeholders. It also showcases successful campaigns created for mobile. Try out the mock up tool at facebook.com/ads/creativehub and see the inspiration gallery at facebook.com/ads/creativehub/gallery
In partnership with Facebook
Tips, tools and inspiration for effective campaigns