What image springs to mind when you think of the cybersecurity profession? Something like a digital soccer goalie in a business suit, maybe? A large part of cybersecurity is indeed about defending against intruders, preempting attacks, and staying ahead of the ingenuity of bad actors. Yet, there’s more to it than that.
Cybersecurity businesses have a big job on their hands, developing tools to keep companies safe and raising awareness in a rapidly-changing industry. We spoke with some leading cybersecurity marketing professionals about key challenges they and their teams face in 2023.
Industry Challenges in 2023
We asked cybersecurity marketers:
What are the key challenges cybersecurity marketing teams face now and in the next 12 months, and what are you implementing to mitigate these challenges while helping the growth of your business?
Here’s what they had to say.
Andra Zaharia | Cybersecurity content specialist & creator of the Cyber Empathy podcast
“By far the biggest obstacle for marketers in cybersecurity is fatigue.”
Cybersecurity marketers often find themselves up against skepticism or resistance when designing and launching marketing campaigns. Industry professionals have been burned by pushy and impersonal marketing tactics and are prone to shutting out all messaging, missing valid and genuine approaches that could truly offer benefit.
Andra is focusing on a few key areas to rebuild trust and tune her messaging:
- spending time with product teams
- highlighting expertise and insights
- cultivating one-on-one community relationships
As a result, she’s seeing more longevity in her marketing efforts.
Michelle Schafer | Partner and Senior Vice President at Merritt Group
“It all comes down to giving [our customers] great client service and finding creative ways to reach their target audiences.”
Michelle notes that the recession is deeply impacting cyber marketers who are struggling to obtain budgets and hire staff while navigating the increasing demands of upper management. She and her team need to be creative either their spend and meet clients’ needs with fewer resources.
Their clients are in a similar boat as budgets tighten, so Michelle and her team aim to listen carefully to their needs and align to help them weather the economic storm. Showing up as an extension of client teams, Meritt Group takes the time to understand key objectives and client profiles to build creative and successful campaigns.
Wiebke Macrae | Head of DemOps, EMEA at Thales
“Marketing doesn’t stop once you’ve landed the customer; it goes much further.”
When asked, Wiebke says the biggest challenge for marketers today is saturation. Everyone is targeting a similar segment of the population, meaning there is a lot of noise that is clouding messaging. With so many companies vying for attention, it can be tough to stand out above the pack.
For Thales, what Wiebke calls the human factor is crucial to their approach. Account-based marketing enables her and her team to fine-tune their messaging, ensuring it captures the attention of the right people at relevant companies. The Thales marketing team uses a multi-faceted approach for demand gen, outreach, upsell, and cross-selling goals.
Kelsey Arhart | Marketing Director at Fortra
“Cybersecurity is complex, and no two organizations are the same.”
The modern cybersecurity business landscape has a multitude of vendors, Kelsey says, while the messaging and approach can look very similar from one company to the next. Yet, despite this abundance, most businesses only touch on a fragment of the challenges their prospects and customers face.
Forta not only brings a strong cybersecurity solutions portfolio to the market but continuously adapts to stay ahead of the curve. Partnering with their customers allows Kelsey and the Fortra team to find the best solutions that fit their business objectives.
Michelle Gunter | Director of Field and Channel Marketing – EMEA & NA at VIPRE Security Group
“Understanding who to market to, and which method to champion is critical, but this takes metrics, ROI statistics, and data points to add a layer of sophistication to our gut feeling built up over years of experience.”
The role of modern marketing teams has grown past classical definitions as marketers are asked to reach more people with more effective campaigns on tighter budgets. As the cybersecurity landscape is ever-changing, sifting through messages and opinions proves challenging for customers while marketers struggle for their voices to be heard.
Michelle says this stiff competition makes marketing much more interesting as she and her teams need to work harder to compete. Add the breadth of platforms – email, social, PPC, web, blogs, offers, and more – and getting the right balance takes finesse.
Stella Tsitsoula | Senior Communications Consultant, Founder & Managing Partner at RED Communications, Vice-President & Comms Lead at Women4Cyber Greece
“One way that we approach the challenge [of a saturated market] is through superior content creation.”
As the saying goes content is king and Stella and her team live by this tenet. It can be challenging to communicate about evolving threats and innovative solutions while still reaching a broad audience – and the right decision-makers. It’s not only C-levels or IT Managers who influence buying and implementation, so content has to speak many different languages to be successful.
That’s why Stella and her teams avoid technical jargon and instead create thoughtful, uncomplicated content that adds value without confusing their audience. Through testimonials, case studies, and educational content, the message is heard – and understood – by a broad audience, ensuring effective marketing messages.
Joe Pettit | Director at Bora Cybersecurity Marketing
“Marketing teams will have to get creative in their messaging to ensure that when they attract visitors to their site, it’s clear how they would add value.”
Joe acknowledges several challenges on the horizon for cybersecurity marketers and while the recession looms, cybersecurity is a pivotal aspect of business for prospective and current customers. As budgets are cut, marketers will need to work harder – and smarter – to be effective with their messaging.
Social media platforms can’t be ignored as arenas to generate new leads. SEO remains a valuable approach despite the increasingly competitive nature of driving organic traffic. Joe and Bora recognize the importance of not only reaching the audience but capturing data as well. As such, he and his team leverage various tactics including eBooks, blogs, newsletters, and content voiced by industry leaders and peers.
Hannah Tufts | Owner at Exhale Global
“I think now’s a great time to be bold. Dramatic shifts in the way we operate due to massive global events should inspire courage to hang up the rule book and design one that’s much truer to what you originally hoped your brand would be.”
Hannah and the Exhale Global team see a collective, industry-wide challenge in innovating and sustaining momentum in a crowded marketplace. For Hannah, though, this is an exciting time. She sees this saturated market, not as a threat but as an opportunity: a moment to be bold and create in new ways.
Hannah says that time has become a luxury in a market demanding niche marketing and expertly-crafted content. Her team sees the power in storytelling and sharing insights that others can learn from. The spectrum of experience on her team – including tech, cybersecurity, finance, journalism, hospitality, and well-being – means they can break the mold of cybersecurity marketing, and have fun while they’re doing it.
Mike Devine | Chief Marketing Officer at Fortra
“We need to get pragmatic and work with cybersecurity aces to help them systematically become more secure and lighten their load.”
In the current cybersecurity landscape, security professionals are in a heightened state of awareness. Not only are breaches increasing in frequency but in value, leaving security pros burdened with the pressure to lessen risk and choose the right solutions for their business.
Marketers in 2023 are challenged with ensuring that they don’t add to the pressure and concerns for those in crucial security roles and instead lend a helping hand. Mike shares that marketers will provide the most value with simple and actionable information like step-by-step guides, and offering security services to make their customers’ lives easier.
Margaret Pacheco | Global Chief Marketing Officer at OA Group
“This industry values credibility and privacy above all, so you have to get super-creative with your design thinking.”
Margaret sees a clear challenge in the cybersecurity marketing arena: cybersecurity professionals are discerning, wary, and often hard to reach. This is a group that thrives on allowlists and denylists, and marketers have to tow a fine line to stay on the right side of the fence.
For Margaret and OA Group, experience shows that end-user-driven marketing is most effective. They devote time to truly understanding their clients’ user profiles to ensure they speak their language. A common message from security pros is that messaging is redundant or fear-based. They know there are security threats and they don’t need companies constantly reminding them of them. For Margaret and her team, the most effective approach is meeting people where they spend time, including trade shows, association meetings, and cybersecurity channels.
Stefanie Scott | Senior Director of Product Marketing
“Earn the client’s trust by cutting through the buying process and artifices to help them get the spend approved.”
A key challenge this year will be tightening budgets, and that includes marketing and promotions as well as solution purchases. With a reduction in budgets and resources, marketers will need to be sharper than ever – CISOs don’t have the time or interest in lengthy or complex pitches.
Stefanie says cybersecurity companies and their marketers will need to simplify processes and the messaging that goes along with them. Campaigns should be pointed: how will this protect, save time, save money, and make life easier for the CISO and their team?
Kassia Clifford | Owner at Kassia Clifford Consulting
“My mission is to make cybersecurity digestible, accessible, and fun.”
The weight of a looming recession, tightened budgets, lay-offs, and post-pandemic challenges are weighing on people globally. With this existing pressure in mind, Kassia takes a consultative approach to creating digestible, accessible content for her clients. She uses simple language and personality in her approach and avoids the doom-and-gloom sales messaging that shows up in the cybersecurity lexicon.
To see the full range of answers from our contributors in our eBook click here.
About the Author:
Having spent her career in various capacities and industries under the “high tech” umbrella, Stefanie Shank is passionate about the trends, challenges, solutions, and stories of existing and emerging technologies. A storyteller at heart, she considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who gets to make a living doing what she loves.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Bora.