Why Do You Hate Me, CISO? 

Stereotypical marketing and security audiences are like oil and water. As the cybersecurity space becomes increasingly crowded, security leaders are inundated with marketing noise as security products and services companies barrage them with information that all sounds the same.

Understanding your audience and communicating your unique value proposition is the foundation for effective marketing, regardless of industry.

So why is it so hard to get it right in cybersecurity?

To bring some clarity to this issue, we reviewed three trends that those of us in the cybersecurity space are well aware of and asked friends and experts to share how they’re impacting the way vendors market effectively.

Trend 1: The cybersecurity vendor market is rapidly expanding, so it’s crowded and noisy.

Global spending on cybersecurity products and services is predicted to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the next five years. Cybersecurity vendors galore are jumping on this bandwagon, and more companies = more competitors. Even the most innovative companies can get lost in the mix.

Easing the marketing burden with a “talking head”

According to Tyler Shields, an advisor, board member and investor in the B2B security space, and VP of Strategy at Sonatype Inc., “There’s a gap in the way that younger companies differentiate from their competitors and it can be a fatal one. Everyone believes they do something no one else does, and while they may be right, the specifics are too in the weeds for the CISO. To them, you’re just the next 10-person cybersecurity startup—that is, until someone with brand visibility vouches for you.

“My advice for cybersecurity vendors: Find your talking head. That person may be a founder, a board member, an advisor, a client, or a friend of the firm who will leverage their notoriety, evangelize your company and give it instant credibility. It’s one thing when you say you’re better than your competitors, but it’s something else entirely, for example, when someone with 30 years in the industry or the ‘Head of Something Fancy at Apple’ says it for you,” says Tyler Shields.

Trend 2: Capital is flowing into cybersecurity, fueling the battle to be noticed.

According to Momentum Cyber, cybersecurity funding is on the rise—in fact, it rose 14% last year. In June of 2018, investors had already closed 200 deals for cybersecurity companies for a total of more than $2.3 billion. This influx of cash into cybersecurity firms means that all eyes are on business growth and valuation, and of course, the exit.

In our experience, cybersecurity vendors that have had successful exits to larger companies have two things in common:

  1. Clear articulation of their value proposition to the market and potential acquirers
  2. A plan for acquisition with a timeline and achievable milestones

Marketing is a critical part of both. Many executives see marketing’s responsibility as lead generation, but it can be critical for driving business growth as well, especially when that growth is an acquisition.

Attracting customers and investors

Rob Scott, former CEO of Bradford Networks (which was acquired by Fortinet in 2018), says, “Investors want to know exactly how you fit into the cybersecurity world and how what you do relates to market trends — IoT and BYOD, for example. At the same time, larger companies may want to augment their portfolio in certain areas and your solution may be the perfect complement. Make sure your messaging and positioning is crystal clear in relation to your competitors and to what’s happening in the market.

“Whatever you do, don’t use FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to capture a CISO’s attention. They are risk experts and are usually three steps ahead of the most recent ransomware attack. Instead, be positive and meet them where they are, not on the perfect, future state of cybersecurity — there are always holes to be plugged,” says Rob Scott.

Trend 3: Companies are consolidating the number of cybersecurity vendors they use.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the explosion of the vendor landscape, companies can’t possibly adopt all the technology out there; therefore, they are consolidating the number of cybersecurity vendors they use and getting selective about who they add to their portfolio. Vendors that partner or integrate with leading companies are seeing real traction.

Multiple firms are better than one

As companies struggle to figure out how all of these vendors work together, Datashield, an ADT Company, is coupling elite expertise in cybersecurity with an integrated platform to provide cyber resilience with Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services.

“Aligning our services with other best-in-class products — and taking the integration burden off of the customer — has been a win-win for all involved. It strengthens our position in an emerging market and establishes trust with the customer right off the bat,” said Jimmy Treuting, SVP at Datashield, an ADT company.

Consolidation is making it harder for emerging cybersecurity vendors to sell their solutions to enterprises. For some, channel-focused strategies can be the way in. Partnerships are appealing from a marketing standpoint — smaller vendors can go to market with a shared (and hence more powerful) message and they can leverage those relationships to get greater reach.

CISOs don’t hate you, they hate your marketing

As the number of cybersecurity companies continues to grow, so, too, does weariness for sales and marketing. Having a powerful product or service has become the ticket to the game. What drives growth, revenue, and acquisition success is differentiation through go-to-market strategy, targeting the right niches, having clear, compelling messaging and running the right programs. All signs point to this ecosystem getting more competitive, so the importance of getting it right out of the gate is critical.

Natalie Nathanson is the Founder and President of Magnetude Consulting, a marketing firm that specializes in working with entrepreneurial companies looking to market the right way in today’s increasingly complex environment by providing fractional marketing department services spanning marketing strategy, messaging & content development, demand generation, and sales enablement.