August 14, 2019

Don’t Sound The Alarm: Revise Your Cybersecurity Marketing Messaging to The Language of The C-Suite

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A few weeks ago, I was in the customs line at JFK airport in New York when the fire alarm went off. My husband, my 9 month old son, and I were returning from a week in Spain, and we were worn down from flying with a lap baby.

We tensed up, covered the baby’s ears, and grabbed our luggage, ready to head toward the exits.

But no one around us moved. The sirens wailed and emergency lights flashed, but the customs officers stayed in their booths, the same stony looks on their faces as they checked passports and moved travelers through customs.

When we got to the counter, we asked our agent whether we should be worried about the alarm. “I don’t know,” he said, looking up like he was just noticing the alarm for the first time. “The lights flickered before it started, so I guess it has to do with that. They’ve been doing a lot of construction.”

After getting safely through customs, we found ourselves laughing at how no one else in the room registered any concern for the fire alarm. The travelers wanted to get through customs with as few problems as possible. The officers focused on the travelers in front of them. The fire alarm had no effect. We all were assured—through the inaction of those in charge—that there was no threat, and the constant sound of the bells became just another noise in an already noisy room.

Avoid making your audience immune to your alarms

In today’s world of near-daily cybersecurity breaches, security software marketers have to carefully balance how often they try to sell by sounding the alarm of cybersecurity threats. While cybersecurity practitioners want and need to stay up to date on the latest threats to understand whether they should respond or—like the customs agents—continue to work as usual, those same threats all start to sound the same to executives.

Fear sells, but only if you think that fear is a credible threat, if you understand the threat enough to know its severity, and if you feel like you can actually do something about the threat. So many small and medium sized business executives think that they’re beyond or below the reach of hackers and malicious actors, so they deprioritize security software initiatives. It’s the job of marketers and the cybersecurity professionals to influence decision makers and promote cybersecurity as a credible and urgent software need.

Breaking through the constant hum of cybersecurity threat news to activate a sense of urgency in your target audience requires a healthy amount of education, attention to credible threats, and proving ROI.

Speak the language of the C-suite

Threat, vulnerability, encryption, and SSL may be common vocabulary for cybersecurity pros, but those words don’t mean much to the decision makers, who you and the cybersecurity professionals need to convince. While fear is a motivating factor for many, C-levels may not understand enough about the threat for it to spur them to action.

If you market to executives, you need to speak their language. The C-suite is focused on ROI, revenue, and growth. If you can learn to market to those objectives, you’re more likely to close deals with companies where executives control the budget.

How does your tool provide ROI, a financial safety net, or access to growth? C-levels tend to hold an optimistic growth mindset: they want to know the best way to move forward. When harping on lawsuits, GDPR fines, or loss of trust starts to feel negative and you see the CEO’s eyes glaze over, think about how you can reframe your security initiative into more positive outcomes.

Educate the decision makers

You probably don’t have to spend much of your marketing budget convincing cybersecurity professionals of the reality of security threats. If they’re pros, they’ll seek out information on the latest threats, evaluate how those threats affect the company, advocate to decision makers about security priorities, and if that doesn’t work, find workarounds to best protect the company.

Marketing to the cybersecurity pros will come naturally. What may not come naturally for you is educating the C-suite on how security software can pay off in the long run. Work on creating the content that speaks to the people you need to sell on the idea. Think of the cybersecurity experts at the company as a partner in your sales process, and give them the tools to help convince their executives of the severity and ROI of the software.

Write, publish, and promote educational content in the form of webinars, videos, blog posts, and white papers. Try planning a “bring your C-level to work day” event that focuses on the value for the pursestrings and the latest software innovations for the pros.

Don’t fall into the trap of fear

Fear sells, but only to a point. Warnings are only scary the first thousand times you hear them. At some point, you’ll have to talk about something other than the latest security threat. While we understand that data breaches, internal leaks, passwords stored in plain text are preventable through policy changes, executives that don’t have the time to understand the deep nuances and implications of these security breaches may tune out the message.

For example, while most cybersecurity pros could tell you the difference between the recent Equifax, Quest Diagnostics, and Capital One security breaches, their executive bosses probably can’t, or don’t care.

It’s our jobs as marketers to use education as a precision tool, not a blunt object. Bypassing the fear of security threats and focusing on revenue growth, ROI, the power of brand trust, and customer advocacy will help break through the noise.

At TechnologyAdvice, we’re experts at finding the right audience for your marketing. Whether you’re looking for C-suite decision makers or cybersecurity professionals, we can help you fill your pipeline with the right kinds of leads. Let’s talk.

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