Cisco Systems is an established name in the networking solutions industry.
As with any B2B Company, they're always on the lookout for opportunities to achieve deeper market penetration with small businesses.
One of the ways they achieve this is through high-value, small business competitions. Cisco's recent "Heroes of the Human Network" contest awarded $10,000 Cisco products to the business that best described how technology has helped them advance their business or how the right technology could help them advance their business on a go-forward basis.
Not surprisingly, this contest coincided with Cisco's "Welcome to the Human Network" marketing campaign–an initiative to humanize an otherwise technologically-focused company. While Cisco's participation in this contest is a great example of a successful PR strategy, it also demonstrates the kinds of things Cisco and other tech-oriented companies are looking for from small business contest winners.
- Connection to marketing efforts. The "Heroes of the Human Network" contest was clearly connected to Cisco's "Welcome to the Human Network" campaign. The contest drew attention to their marketing efforts and solidified its messaging in the minds of their business clients. Since it's not uncommon for companies to pair a contest with a marketing message, it pays to do some research about current messaging before you enter a contest.
- Product value education. Cisco wisely tailored their contest to shine a light on the practical value of their products. Every small business owner who applied for the contest was forced to consider their business technology and how Cisco products could advance their company goals. The result was a bevy of entrepreneurs who had drawn mental lines between Cisco products and the growth of their companies. If you enter a contest like this, it's helpful to familiarize yourself with the company's products and orient your entry toward the features they want to highlight.
- Collaboration showcase. The "Heroes of the Human Network" highlighted Cisco's collaboration with Brickfish, a social media marketing solution. The connection between these two companies positioned Cisco as a forward-thinking, social media savvy, B2B tech supplier. If you were a contestant, you could have used that information to talk about how both networking and social media were critical to your company's growth.