Expert Insights: How Cyber Leaders Are Overcoming Marketing Challenges During COVID-19
We've heard from numerous cyber vendors that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how they conduct business. We wanted to hear specifically how marketing has changed during this time, and how companies were overcoming the networking, collaboration and communications limitations that COVID presents to get in front of their key audiences and have critical conversations about data security. Cyber marketing leaders from across the industry shared their expert insights on the challenges they're overcoming and how they're continuing to reach their customers to make sure their data is secure during this unprecedented time.
Chris Smith, CMO, Thycotic
"Our 3 biggest challenges during COVID-19 have been:
1: Elimination of in-person events forcing a complete shift to digital marketing. Even though the majority of our marketing activities are digital, around one third of our lead volume was from in-person events like trade conferences (Black Hat, VMworld, etc.), forcing us to shift completely to digital programs.
2: Elimination of physical mail items that are key parts of some of our integrated campaigns. Some of our highly focused campaigns utilize “swag” items at key steps in the process. With people working remotely we had to cease all physical mail activity and recalibrate those campaigns.
3: 100% remote work force. Only one third of the marketing team offices daily in our HQ office (Washington DC), so we’re already a highly virtual team. But we’re also accustomed to meeting on a monthly or quarterly basis for planning sessions and ops reviews. Not having that in-person interaction as a team has really been missed.
We’re reaching our target buyer through our traditional digital channels, and because the majority of our marketing has always been digital we haven’t needed to leverage new methods to reach our buyers.
I’ve been surprised by how strong the demand for our products has stayed throughout the pandemic. Our website traffic, lead volume, pipeline, and new customer logos all stayed consistent or grew during Q2."
Alex Bender, SVP of Global Marketing, Mimecast
"Brand safety, reputation and copyrights have always been paramount for marketing teams, even before COVID-19. But the pandemic has forced marketers to re-think their protection policies, with brands now hard-pressed to maintain trust and protect customers online as I wrote in a recent blog post on brand safety. The forced shift online has expanded organizations’ digital footprints, and in turn, widened their risk surface – all while cybercriminals have advanced their tactics.
Throughout the pandemic, cybercriminals have been increasingly targeting consumers and suppliers online, utilizing social impersonation and phishing attacks, domain spoofing and cybersquatting to exploit and hijack unsuspecting brands and steal trusting consumer’s information. In fact, in the first 100 days of COVID-19 alone, impersonation attacks rose more than 30%. Research shows that consumers are largely willing to share personal information online to earn rewards, driving cybercriminals to take advantage of said trust by impersonating brands and damaging their equity.
Knowing this, across sectors and specifically in the retail industry, which has been hit hard by brand spoofing during COVID-19, it’s essential that marketers treat online brand exploitation with the same seriousness as brand impersonation in the physical world.
Digital technology is actually enabling brands to engage with customers at a deeper level. Virtually, brands are able to avoid bad content, deliver the right message at the right time and maintain effective reach. But, in order for brands, especially retailers who have moved from physical to virtual storefronts, to continue to reach customers, they need to stay well-informed of the evolving digital landscape. Brand impersonators are constantly working to unknowingly pirate content and copyrights. It’s important for brands to put safety shields in place to thwart potential risks.
Given the constantly evolving threat landscape and the strengthened attack methods we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, I’m not overly surprised by the challenges marketers and brands are facing from cybercriminals right now. It’s inevitable that attack methods will continue to become increasingly complex and brand’s digital footprints will become even wider. As a result, brands must continue to adapt their defensive digital marketing strategies in order to maintain customer trust and brand reputation."
Brandon Garcin, Head of Brand and Content at Huntress Labs
"The Shift to Remote—Most SaaS vendors have tools that enable remote work (Slack, Zoom, O365, etc.)—but that doesn’t mean they were ready to make the jump to fully distributed environments (particularly on such short notice). In the scramble to virtualize certain processes, workflows, etc., many teams have faced a dual challenge of being slowed down internally while simultaneously needing to cancel or rebuild marketing efforts that would no longer resonate with audiences against the backdrop of COVID-19.
PR Availability is Limited—Until recently, you could barely get a callback or a conversation with media if you didn’t have a COVID angle of some kind. We’re starting to see that pendulum swing back a bit, but many of the “normal” activities that would otherwise be newsworthy (product announcements, award wins, case studies, etc.) have struggled to break through and make it into a mainstream news cycle.
Budgets are Tight—this goes for both vendors and customers. Whether it’s hiring freezes/workforce reductions, or simply businesses spending conservatively as they continue to figure out what their future of work looks like, both marketers and buyers are having to justify every single dollar that they spend—and as a result lead flow and pipeline have struggled.
Inboxes are Flooded—without physical events and conferences to attend, there’s been a huge uptick in webinars, nurture campaigns and anything else that can be promoted or delivered via email. Marketing is as noisy today as it's ever been, and even with high-quality content it’s difficult to cut through the clutter and reach your buyers."
Patrick Hunt, Director of Digital Marketing, Automox
“What a year. It’s hard to fathom that a global pandemic like COVID is simply one tragedy amidst so many in 2020. Normalcy seems so foreign, especially when it comes to how we market Automox and our cloud-native endpoint management and security platform. Because normally, our biggest competitive threat isn’t our direct competition. It’s all the other noise in the marketplace; the ordinary clamor of life that makes it difficult for every marketer to be heard. Now, that noise is deafening and changing by the day. So at Automox, our marketing team has been forced to rely on creativity, innovation and agility as our new way of life. It’s up to us to deliver some stability and solutions for our buyers in spite of all the uncertainty.
Today’s security buyers continue to look for answers that make sense of ongoing unknowns created by their overnight digital transformations to support their new remote workforce. Now more than ever, we’re seeing that customer journeys start with search. Very direct searches for how they can simplify things like securing their remote teams, find easier-to-use alternatives to their current endpoint security products, and generally make their IT more efficient without adding more infrastructure. Simple, straightforward marketing strategies are therefore more engaging than trying to be funny, alarmist, or overly dramatic, which all come across as insensitive and insincere. We’ve focused on creating content that addresses our buyers’ real, urgent needs – based on data from search volumes for key terms, customer feedback trends, and even analytics from within our product console. We’ve grown our organic traffic by earning featured snippets on mission-critical search results pages. And we help our buyers once they enter our web site with technical content that helps them see positive outcomes. We also deliver that content at virtual trade shows and panel discussions. And we target buyers with clear, outcome-focused online advertising that is dramatically outperforming industry standards for conversions.
In terms of what’s surprising throughout all this, it’s how resilient our buyers have been. They’re more open than ever to modern, cloud-native solutions like ours, and there’s a strong sense that we’re all in this together, supporting one another as best we can with new solutions to today’s never-before-seen challenges.”
Chris Gaebler,CMO, Guardicore
"Guardicore sells segmentation solutions that challenge the legacy firewall market to large enterprises globally, and our target buyer is a security or network architect. These people are insanely busy - global pandemic or not - and are constantly hounded by vendors and internal stakeholders. Now more than ever, the best way to “reach” them is through people whose advice they trust - their colleagues, former colleagues, industry experts and partners who help them do their jobs effectively. Guardicore’s marketing focuses on creating opportunities for those who know our products technically to reach out and educate their peers who aren’t already familiar with Guardicore. Before Covid, this was done via a mix of in-person and virtually, but today it’s almost exclusively virtual. Overall, being recommended by your target buyer’s own network is the key.
Some of the ways we’re achieving this is through:
Creating a LinkedIn community or group with two of our customers where practitioners can talk shop and share resources like “segmentation best practices.” https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12439323/
Establishing an online discussion forum for large financial entities where they meet quarterly to talk about the unique challenges of segmenting firewalls and the regulations that impact their industry. We simply host it and the conversation is theirs.
Hosting regular, fun new virtual meeting formats with lunches and wine (not at the same time, except in Europe!).
Doubling down on sharing research that impacts our customers and target buyers the most. One great example is the FritzFrog campaign: https://www.guardicore.com/2020/08/fritzfrog-p2p-botnet-infects-ssh-servers/
We have actually succeeded in reaching more of our target buyer now than we did before the pandemic. The pressure that the new economy is putting on secure environments has created myriad opportunities for companies like Guardicore. Because COVID-19 is putting pressure on IT budgets, our cost effective solution has played extremely well with those companies looking to remain in compliance or reduce their attack surface, for less money and time."