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Cisco SMB Partner Strategy: Don’t Call It Small

After a two-year journey back into the small business market, Cisco Systems doubled down on the strategy today — announcing a “renewed” commitment that includes branding, product, service and marketing initiatives to help partners capture the SMB market.

Cisco’s Marc Monday

chuck robbins

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins

The central rally cry is a new “Cisco Designed for Business” brand campaign. The word “small” is noticeably and perhaps wisely absent from the campaign. After all businesses have a common focus and pursue — i.e., profits. Moreover, small business owners don’t necessarily think small, the networking giant notes.

Some familiar names are leading the SMB partner effort, including SAP, Microsoft and VMware veteran Marc Monday, global head of small business at Cisco. Andrew Sage, VP of global distribution at Cisco, is also deeply involved.

Cisco Small Business: Goodbye and Hello

Cisco scaled back its small business focus about a decade ago under former CEO John Chambers. Fast forward to present day and current CEO Chuck Robbins, who’s driving a shift to managed, cloud and subscription services.

Amid that backdrop, MSPs and cloud services have combined to make technology far more accessible and consumable for small businesses. Roll up the total small business IT spend, and the opportunity is larger than the enterprise, some pundits assert.

Amid that reality, Cisco has built a range of offerings to help partners engage and retain small businesses that typically have 250 users or fewer.

Cisco Small Business: Partner Program Components

The new Cisco efforts include a new:

  • Virtual Demand Center (VDC) that allows Cisco to generate and then funnel sales opportunities to small business partners.
  • ‘Perform Plus’ incentive: A new global performance incentive that rewards partners who focus on SMBa, with a quarterly cash rebate. Cisco is also increasing the investment in partners who demonstrate targeted growth behaviors, but may not be able to capitalize on other incentives. This incentive launches in Cisco Q3 FY20, the company says.
  • CMSP Express Program : A redesigned Cloud and Managed Service Program to address Managed Services Providers (MSPs) selling to Small Business customers.
  • X-Sell: A sales community created via co-investment with partners that includes Cisco-led training and joint selling.
  • Streamlined Deal Registration: Including a four-hour SLA, Sage says.

New additions to the portfolio include Cisco Business Wireless Access Points, a new Meraki Go full stack and the new Catalyst 1K switch.

Cisco Small Business: Two Years in the Making

Jumping back into the small business market wasn’t an overnight decision. The journey has involved at least two years of planning and listening to partners — including SMB-focused MSPs.

Cisco’s Marc Inderhees

Much of the SMB-MSP strategy has involved Marc Inderhees, Cisco Systems Global Partner Organization – Partner Managed Services Leader. Inderhees quietly navigated dozens of MSP conferences over the past two years, listening to partners and educating them about current and future SaaS offerings in the SMB sector. His efforts also triggered or influenced key relationships with ConnectWise and Perch Security.

All the proof points suggest Cisco is serious about SMB partner success. But we’ll be listening closely to see just how much CEO Chuck Robbins discusses the effort during financial analyst check-ins and earnings calls.

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