MarTech Interview with Carrie Palin, SVP & CMO at Cisco

Carrie Palin was recently appointed Cisco’s CMO and SVP, we caught up with her to hear more about her marketing journey through the years and top marketing priorities as Cisco’s new CMO:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Carrie, tell us more about your journey and new role as CMO at Cisco…

First, let me thank you for this opportunity!

I’m thrilled to come on board Cisco as the new Chief Marketing Officer!  Cisco has an amazing brand, fantastic team, and the right strategy. My charter is to accelerate the brand, enhance the digital customer experience, and further align marketing and sales as the company transforms to SaaS and solution-based offerings.  I grew up in technology, beginning my career at Dell where I spent 16 years leading teams across global go-to-market for the data center portfolio.  I also led Marketing for IBM’s Cloud Data Services/Analytics Division before becoming the CMO for Box, SendGrid, and most recently, Splunk.

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What are some of the top best practices that you feel incoming CMOs of enterprise tech companies need to keep foremost in mind?

I believe CMOs must be a business leader first, and a marketing leader second. Its imperative for CMOs to understand the financial model and the meta-level business goals, so you can keep marketing 100% aligned to driving those goals first and foremost.

Stakeholder alignment is critical. I would argue marketing has more stakeholders to consider than any other function in a company, and driving alignment early and often with those stakeholders is crucially important.

CMOs need to provide clarity and prioritization. Given the large number of stakeholders marketing is accountable to, there are a ton of expectations and requests of marketing across all functions.

Often times that can feel like everything is a priority. In order to deliver maximum value to the company, the CMO has to drive intense clarity for the team regarding top priorities, and manage stakeholder expectations around non-priorities.  I believe prioritization is key to giving the team air cover to focus on the priorities that most impact the business, and protect the team from being pulled in a thousand different directions.

We’d love to hear a little bit about some of the marketing plans or highlights you have in mind for the near-future at Cisco?

We are going to invest in and modernize as our digital front door to the company, accelerate brand to demand activations with the best possible customer and partner experience, we will aim to become operationally elite leveraging technology, data, and rigorous operational hygiene…

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Can you throw light on what it takes for CMOs on today to align their marketing teams with sales; and how they should be using a well-thought out martech-salestech stack to achieve this?

At the end of the day, this isn’t just about marketing and sales, it’s about enabling a flawless customer experience.

To achieve this, marketing, sales, and customer success must act as one team at all customer and partner touch points. This implies a heavy dose of integrated digital engagement fueled through a cohesive and intuitive tech stack underpinning the customer journey.

What are some of the top challenges or top concerns that keep today’s CMO up at night?

Tradeoffs–There’s a never ending stream of tradeoffs, from the board, to the ELT, to the business units, everyone needs a piece of marketing.  CMOs need to practice ruthless prioritization and delivering on those commitments with a non-stop stream of stakeholder alignment and buy-in.

A go-to martech tool that you’ve often relied on that you’d like to highlight?

One of the technologies I’m really excited about is Bizible.  Bizible is extremely unique and allows you to see marketing impact by deal, across the entire customer journey, which helps us drive sales and marketing alignment.

Some last thoughts and takeaways for marketing leaders to keep in mind through 2021?

At the end of the day, it’s not about the CMO, it’s about the team.  Marketing is a team sport, and it’s been an insanely difficult year and half for our people.  If CMOs aren’t thinking about how to best support their people by allowing them to bring their whole selves to work, giving them the space to grow and innovate, and to effectively collaborate with the team, then we’ve missed the mark.

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Cisco enables people to make powerful connections–whether in business, education, philanthropy, or creativity. Cisco hardware, software, and service offerings are used to create the Internet solutions that make networks possible–providing easy access to information anywhere, at any time.

Carrie Palin is the SVP & CMO at Cisco

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