Close this search box.


Awards case study: Learn how Cisco hit an ROI of $5.4 million through 196,933 acts of customer advocacy

See what you can learn from Cisco’s The Gateway, a formal advocate marketing programme which centralises its advocacy requests and creates a unified experience for customers. It lets Cisco leverage customer voices to fuel sales and marketing initiatives… not to mention delivering an ROI of over $5 million.


Cisco did not have an organised way to leverage customer advocates and generate referrals and references. As a result, it was finding it hard to accelerate and increase revenue. So, it launched its first advocate marketing programme and named it “The Gateway.” The Gateway allows Cisco customers to have a direct ‘gateway’ into Cisco, building powerful connections with other customers and their personal brand.

In return, advocates can help Cisco by sharing content, providing referrals, and writing online reviews. By offering advocates a fun and engaging way to grow their professional knowledge and networks, Cisco is able to inspire more customer advocacy.

The Gateway helps Cisco centralise disparate engagement programmes and internal advocacy requests via a single digital portal. Giving customers an integrated experience helps them to learn about the many ways they can connect with Cisco.

In the three years since The Gateway’s launch, advocates have become an invaluable part of Cisco’s marketing and sales teams. To date, they’ve provided 196,933 acts of advocacy for Cisco and the company is getting to know customers on a personal level, building a tribe of advocates who feel a strong sense of belonging to the Cisco community.

“We’ve revolutionised the way we go to market with The Gateway. By mobilising our customers as advocates, we’re now able to leverage the authentic voice of our customers, which is far more engaging and relevant to our prospects than our traditional marketing. We’re also evolving to produce customer-generated videos at scale, streamlining peer references and product reviews and bringing valuable customer insights back to our sales teams. This is true innovation and makes an outstanding contribution to our organisation.”

Jeremy Bevan, Vice President, Global Segment & Industries Marketing, Cisco

About Cisco

Cisco Systems is the worldwide leader in networking, founded in 1984 by two computer scientists from Stanford University seeking an easier way to connect different types of computer systems. Cisco connects people, computing devices and networks, allowing people to securely access or transfer information. Today, 85% of Internet traffic travels across Cisco’s networks. 


Cisco had a traditional reference programme with 100 customers that sales and marketing could leverage for references, speaking opportunities and case studies. As the pool was so small, customers often felt over-used and under-appreciated.  Furthermore, 71% of Cisco employees didn’t know where to find or nominate a reference, and its reference list was often out-of-date. It was disorganised and wasn’t providing advocates with a great experience. 


Cisco launched The Gateway, a formal advocate marketing programme to centralise its advocacy requests internally and create a unified, valuable experience for customers. It lets Cisco leverage customer voices to fuel sales and marketing initiatives. 

Programme goals:

  • Grow its pool of advocates
  • Accelerate revenue through referral leads and reference calls
  • Save time and resources by getting our customers to create content
  • Increase customer social shares
  • Receive high-quality product feedback
  • Boost NPS scores
  • Build deeper relationships with customers and recognise their advocacy 

“The Gateway helped me get both internal and external visibility. It was so nice to be stopped and congratulated by peers for my ‘Day in the Life” video with Cisco.” 

Alex Makarov, IT Leader, Cargill

A Day in the Life of a Cisco Advocate: Alexander Makarov

The target audience

Cisco wanted to connect with technology buyers and executive leaders at enterprise and mid-market organisations who were already customers. However, engaging busy IT decision-makers is hard. They are inherently distrustful of commercial messaging and often ignore sales and marketing pitches – even if they’re already customers! 

The Gateway is powered by Influitive’s AdvocateHub platform: a central online community for advocates to engage with Cisco and with one another. It also integrates with Salesforce and Eloqua, so the impact of advocate activity on sales and marketing goals is immediate and measurable. 

Sales intelligence helped identify potential advocates (customers who had written five-star online reviews, current reference programme members, etc.). 

Cisco emailed them personalised video invites featuring Richard Ayoade of The IT Crowd, and signed up advocates at Cisco Live (our annual global conference). Since then, it’s been growing advocate numbers through internal referrals, onsite event recruitment and personalised emails. 

Advocates can participate in three key activities: 

  1. Engage and learn through user groups, communities and customer advisory boards.
  2. Endorse Cisco through media interviews, reviews, analyst briefings, references, referrals and product surveys. 
  3. Earn personal and professional recognition by being featured in Cisco content and earning VIP rewards. 

Gamification makes the Gateway experience fun. When advocates complete tasks, they receive points related to the value of effort required. Points can then be redeemed for rewards like tickets to Cisco Live, gift cards or Cisco merchandise. 

A running leaderboard recognises top advocates. Advocates can choose the activities that appeal to them most. Those wanting to engage can join a user group, while those striving to raise their professional profile can blog for the company. Each advocate contributes with a different mix of activities tailored to their interests.

“I like the constant interaction and the personal brand growth in The Gateway.” 

Antonio Dota, Network and Unified Collaboration Leader


Phase I – Research/planning

  • Influitive vendor selection –

    August 2016
  • AdvocateHub testing & configuration –

    November 2016
  • Launch to select group of customers with > 8 NPS score –

    January 2017

Phase II – EMEAR launch

  • Launch at Cisco Live Berlin 2017 –

    February 2017
  • Post-event analysis and engagement planning –

    March 2017 
  • Regional programme promotion –

    March 2017 – December 2018

Phase III – Global rollout and optimisation

  • Internal endorsement and programme scaling –

    March 2017 – present
  • Americas hub launch – Cisco Live Orlando –

    June 2018
  • APJC hub launch at Cisco Live Melbourne –

    March 2019
  • Ongoing programme optimisation and scale –

    March 2018 – June 2018


  • Influitive hub licenses (3 communities) –

  • Influitive event support for Cisco Live –


    (5 events) 
  • Upshot platform and customer story package –

  • Chime social media support –

  • Customer advocate rewards –

  • Customer story video production

  • Third-party review strategy –


Total –


(est. spend to date) 


To date, The Gateway programme has generated:

  • $5,421,760

    ROI value (advocate influence on revenue, calculated by Influitive analytics dashboard) 

  • 11,482

    Cisco customer advocates

  • 60%

    avg. advocate engagement rate (industry benchmark – 30%)

  • 196,933

    acts of advocacy

  • 147,656

    hub challenges completed

  • 27,481

    social shares, generating 147,963 clicks on Cisco content

  • 657


  • 969

    product reviews on third-party review sites

  • 70

    NPS score among advocates ( >60 industry average)

  • 28

    speakers sourced for Cisco Live Barcelona (January 2019) 

Employees can now have a mechanism to easily ask advocates for quotes, testimonials, and feedback for marketing content. They’re also recruiting advocate speakers for future events and are testing content ahead of product launches with advocates to optimise engagement.

The B2B Marketing Awards 2020 Submissions are now open!

Every year, the Giants of B2B gather to compete.

Which one of you has work of gigantic proportions worthy of being award-winning?

Will you be one of the Giants of B2B in 2020?

Find out more

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on your website. Read more about cookies policy.