Editor's note: See Roy and Luanne in person at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Driving Sales: What's New + What Works. Catch their session on "How to Become a Marketing Champion Inside Your Organization." Sign up for the event and use promo code ESPK08 to save $200 on the registration fee.

Luanne Tierney, Senior Director US and Canada Channels Marketing at Cisco, has had a 20-year career in technology marketing—the past 12 years at Cisco, and before that at Apple, HP, and 3Com.

She is what I call a "Marketing Champion," because she drives cash flow for Cisco by helping channel partners market more effectively. If you are attending the MarketingProfs conference in Boston on June 9 and 10, you will be able to hear first-hand of her successes.

While helping to coordinate our conference presentations, I learned about her philosophy of leadership in marketing. Excerpts from those discussions follow.

Roy Young: To what do you attribute your success in marketing?

Luanne Tierney: I spend a lot of time speaking with our internal sales teams, as well as our channel partners. Spending this time engaging directly with these two groups versus spending time sitting behind my desk answering email allows me to truly understand what our internal sales teams and our channel partners need from marketing. This understanding allows me to set a vision and develop marketing programs to most effectively address their needs.

Of course, understanding and vision are nothing without execution, and my ability to execute on my vision is also a big contributor to my success. I also realize that I don't know it all and get great ideas from everyone (my marketing team, our sales teams, our partners, etc.). I love having people call me on my cell with their ideas on how we can help them with marketing.

RY: How have you had to transform as a marketing professional to continue to be effective?

LT: The biggest transformation is certainly around embracing new media and social/viral marketing as important pieces that compliment traditional marketing approaches. These new avenues and tools are continuing to make larger and larger impacts on our sales, and partner and customer communities.

RY: In your career, what has been your most satisfying marketing achievement?

LT: I can't point to just one, because in marketing you constantly need to be delivering. What I gain the most satisfaction from is having our channel partner community understand how marketing can really compliment their business strategy and accelerate reaching their business goals.

We've begun to take a thought-leadership approach with our partners as it pertains to marketing. We're striving to introduce and educate our partners on the new marketing trends, and how they can embrace these trends in their businesses. We don't stuff Cisco initiatives down their throats; rather, we develop a true marketing forum dedicated to showing them how marketing can make an impact without having to invest huge chunks of money and resources. The positive feedback we're receiving around this through-leadership approach has been tremendous.

RY: Please describe one marketing initiative you are working on now that you find particularly exciting.

LT: I'm very excited at how our partner community has begun to embrace new ways of marketing that are utilizing video and the Web. We just completed a program with our partners that taught them how to make their Web sites more interactive and compelling. Part of the program introduced them to content syndication opportunities, as well as video production for the Web.

RY: Of the marketers you have respected most, what made them effective?

LT: Seth Godin. I love his approach and the ways he looks at marketing. His premise is that mass marketing—he calls it interruption marketing—is outdated. We've got to identify what's remarkable about our products and market that to the people who get most excited about those products. Everything else is activity without outcome. He's bold, he's innovative, and he reminds us that it's not about us, it's about the end user.

RY: Is there a corporate marketer you have most admired?

LT: I think that Sue Bostrom, who has been our Chief Marketing Officer at Cisco since 2006, has done an incredible job as we evolve from a routing and switching company to a transformational communications company. She's had to change the way our customers think about us, and as importantly, the way that we think about ourselves. You can see her impact not just in what we say but in how we to say it. She's a strong advocate of using the latest technologies.

RY: What is the greatest challenge you and your marketing colleagues face today?

LT: The greatest challenge by far is staying on top of all the latest trends, tools, and techniques, and then successfully marrying the latest approaches with traditional marketing methods.

RY: What do you think are the factors most influencing the short tenure of today's CMOs?

LT: Being a successful CMO is all about bringing new ideas and getting the company to rally behind them. Quite often, marketing budgets are the first to get cut during tough times; and that makes developing new ideas and executing them successfully a huge challenge.

RY: In your experience, what has made marketing influential and powerful in an organization? Please provide an example, if possible.

LT: Marketing is influential and powerful when the sales organization sees that marketing is positively impacting their world. One of the ways we have done this at Cisco is to create scalable, Amazon.com-like, marketing portals that offload the burden of taking on the marketing role with our partners from our sales managers.

RY: What changes do you expect to face in your work over the next three years?

LT: The plethora of new marketing approaches, the use of video is exploding both in using it as a marketing technique and as a way to have a meeting.

RY: What do you like most about your work now?

LT: Engaging with some of the most brilliant people I have ever met.

RY: What do you look for in people you hire and promote?

LT: Three things are at the top of the list: attitude, creativity, and leadership.

RY: What was the best professional advice you ever got and from whom did you get it?

LT: The best piece of advice I have received was that you need to create a brand for yourself and your team, and you need to constantly communicate that brand out to your colleague, peers, and executives.

My brand at Cisco has been an approachable marketing advisor to partners through the creation of "The Ultimate Channel Marketing Destination." We have focused on teaching our partners how to blend traditional marketing approaches with the new 2.0 marketing techniques, encouraging them to use marketing to drive demand for their business in a very cost-effective manner.

RY: What was the first hard lesson you learned in business?

LT: It was around effectively communicating your ideas. You need to have a vision and be able to communicate it concisely and confidently.

RY: How do you celebrate a job well done?

LT: Anyway and everyway possible... voicemail, email, in-person, over a glass of wine.

RY: If you weren't working in marketing, what would you be doing?

LT: I'd create an organization to help young women fresh out of college with their careers.

RY: When you are not in the office, where can you usually be found?

LT: At the gym, at my kids' numerous sporting events, or driving my kids to their outings.

RY: What are your final thoughts?

LT: I don't think there's been a more exciting time to be in marketing. We've never before had such an opportunity to speak personally to so many people—and it's just getting easier and easier through video and viral marketing.

RY: I look forward to presenting with you in Boston, Luanne.

Roy Young is presenting with Luanne Tierney on June 10 at the upcoming MarketingProfs BtoB Forum in Boston on how you can become a Marketing Champion.

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image of Roy Young
Roy Young is coauthor of Marketing Champions: Practical Strategies for Improving Marketing's Power, Influence and Business Impact.