Post-pandemic, as small businesses look ahead to focus on getting back to growth, Cisco has identified the small business segment as a key priority and one of its most significant opportunities. Cisco is committing more resources than ever before to energize and activate Cisco partners' prospects in this space. Cisco identifies its addressable opportunity to be US$30 billion. It is no doubt less than Techaisle's global IT spend forecast of US$230 billion in 2021. But then, Cisco's product portfolio is not all-encompassing, and its definition of small business is on wallet share, any company that spends US$200K or less on Cisco products and services. However, Cisco's is sharpening its focus on the sub-$50K wallet-size small business segment, where Cisco's market share is minimal.

Let us analyze how Cisco is planning to address the small market.

To grab a more significant share of the market segment, Cisco is rolling out a plan and partner training program to increase engagement with the line of business buyer, typically, the business owner, and introducing new subscription-based consumption models as small businesses move to OPEX-based technology acquisition. For continued engagement with the small business customer, Cisco is implementing its Customer Experience Express Specialization for partners to support customers of all sizes regardless of their digital maturity stage.

Agility and resiliency are hallmarks of small businesses. Post-pandemic SMBs are narrowing the banks of uncertainty by integrative thinking and skillfully maneuvering to transform their businesses digitally. Irrespective of their well-intentioned digital transformation strategy, depleted financial capacity, lack of in-house expertise, and security concerns make rapid investments seem impossible. Techaisle research shows that 32% of small businesses lack sufficient IT budgets, and 39% are worried about implementation costs.

Techaisle small business survey research also reveals that cloud, collaboration, and security are among the top five technology priorities for over 60% of small businesses: post-crisis, nearly 50% plan to increase investments in these areas and that price, ease of implementation, support, and security are the top four buyer care-abouts for 54% to 67% of small businesses.

The Cisco Designed portfolio of small business-focused solutions directly addresses collaboration, connectivity, and cloud security needs for remote work and return to office by enabling secure workplaces, better collaboration, and simplified manageability at an affordable price.

Affordable, easy to buy and deploy small business product portfolio

Cisco methodically segmented its products/services to curate a subset for small businesses that are easy for partners to sell and small businesses to procure and deploy. Cisco makes it easy for small businesses to move safely to a secure remote workforce and have their workers work from anywhere. When small business employees eventually get back to the workplace, Cisco ensures that they can trust the security and socially distanced norms with proper monitoring. Cisco Designed portfolio consists of:

At the partner summit in end-October 2020, Cisco launched a bundled solution that brings together Webex, Duo suite cloud security, Umbrella, and Cloud Mailbox Defense at one low price of US$29.95 per user. Cloud Mailbox Defense is an enhanced email security solution designed for M365 and can be operational within 5 minutes. The SaaS bundle is an ideal solution to deliver business resiliency that supports small businesses for the remote workforce and when the employees start to come back to work. The bundle includes messaging and meetings from Webex, as well as multifactor authentication for password protection. "Cloud usage puts us at a higher risk of a data breach" is the security-related statement that resonates most with small businesses. However, they often lack the skills required to work with software-based security solutions. Small businesses consider security improvements and IT cost control to be substantial reasons for embracing managed services. 64% of small businesses report a security breach, which opens up opportunities for small-business focused partners to offer affordable Cisco SaaS solutions to their customers. Partners can augment the bundled solution with telepresence endpoints or potentially with secure remote devices.

Webex is ideal for smaller organizations looking for a complete collaboration suite with the Webex Work bundle. It is a cloud collaboration solution that combines Webex meeting, calling, and messaging services in a single subscription, with attractive, flexible monthly pricing starting at $19.95 per user/per month. Continuing on the theme of affordability and support, Meraki Go is subscription-free at a US$149 list price with lifetime support.

New go-to-market strategy, routes to market

Cisco has focused on and reimagined how it goes to market and supports the small business customer. Techaisle data shows that three-quarters of small businesses rely on a trusted party to advise technology strategy. Over 60% of small businesses trust advisors who are unbiased and experienced and can provide the "right guidance." While the 'unbiased' observation would seem to rule out product vendors, small businesses exhibit a clear preference for advisors who can move seamlessly from advice to procurement and deployment. On the contrary, Cisco is doubling down and investing in its partners who can advise and architect, deploy, manage, and support Cisco Designed for Business portfolio solutions. Cisco has trained upwards of 175 small business partner specialists to work with partners (usually served by distributors) to help grow their small business customer base. Besides, a similar number of territory managers worldwide are the field reps directly working with the partners for training and enablement. Over the last eight quarters, Cisco has signed up over 5000 partners into its SMB specialization, revamped to focus on the Cisco Designed portfolio for small businesses. The specialization provides training and enablement, as well as partner benefits like deal registration. Besides, Cisco has welcomed over 1000 partners into it's new Cisco Managed Service Provider Express (CMSP Express) program and enrolled over 7000 partners in the Small/Mid market-focused incentive program called PerformPlus. 

It is clear from Techaisle data that good marketing activity requires marketing-mix management. Every IT supplier targeting the small business segment is systematically moving along the trajectory of single-channel -> multi-channel -> cross-channel -> omnichannel. This transition is not trivial as it requires sophisticated channel integration strategies and organization around customer behavior to create personalized experiences. This evolution has given birth to new approaches like So-Lo-Mo-Me (social + local + mobile + personalized) interactions and marketing. Cisco has built a digital marketing experience based on customer insights and preference to acquire new small business customers. This fully digital online experience in 19 countries is fueled by paid media, social and engaging content to enable small business customers to experience demos, trials, and transact online with "Click to Buy" eCommerce solutions (including Amazon). Cisco has also re-designed its virtual demand center (VDC) for inbound leads and route them to partners.

Final Techaisle Take

Cisco Designed portfolio of small business-focused solutions is an essential cog to drive progress across the pillars of accelerated digital transformation: cost efficiency, innovation, operational excellence, business growth, and organizational empowerment.