How to Engage with Cybersecurity Buyers to Scale GrowthJul 10, 2022
Thank you for joining me on this journey to becoming a more ethical and moral marketer.
I want to stress that I am learning just like many of you.
Constant learning, failing and small, consistent, and incremental successes are what drive me forward.
My hope is to share my findings, learnings, and successes with all of you, those phasing into tech or cybersecurity or already a veteran in the space.
I'm doing this so that we, as marketers, salespeople, and vendors, can all become better at our profession while arming those who are on the front lines battling the latest threats or solving complex challenges as things change in this digital world.
I’ve spent the last decade running digital marketing for various B2B technology companies.
Today, I’m currently the director of demand gen at Cybersixgill, the threat intelligence company.
Back in 2011, I hopped straight into the startup marketing world.
That’s when I fell in love with the importance of user experience as it ties back to technology and the way we do things as a marketer.
Ironically, though, I continued for a good five or six years continuing to chase after leads and all these vanity metrics at the expense of what I was so passionate about achieving - creating meaningful experiences for audiences through digital marketing campaigns and websites.
I have spent years wasting time focusing on trivial tasks based on assumptions, superficial data, and inaccurate dashboards, tasks that had absolutely no impact on what was most important to my business.
I suffered from a severe case of bikeshedding.
"Marketers tend to bikeshed when they feel overwhelmed because they like the remote control way of dealing with the world.” - Louis Genier, Everyone Hates Marketers
What does that mean?
Hide in the marketing cave and press buttons of tools vs. step out into the light and build with the audience.
Do surveys vs. pick up the phone and talk to the audience
Deal with lists, segments, and demographics vs. empathize with humans and understand audience emotions.
I felt 'wow, this sucks' because I knew how to do all this great and creative stuff.
But, when I went to level up my marketing career and share my wins and impact on growth and revenue, I had nothing to show for it.
I was working for companies expecting exponential growth.
20% increase in pipeline year over year just did not cut it.
I felt overwhelmed and anxious.
I felt like I was not making an impact fast enough.
I wanted to make a good impression and feared I would be viewed as incompetent at my job.
I used that as an excuse not to do things the right way.
Eventually, I burnt out.
While I have mastered so many skills as a marketer…
That one skill that was missing for me or I wish developed more was:
Learning to get closer to the audience, the customer, and the buyer
Learning how to listen to them and ask the right questions to extract important insights that would diagnose the situation and focus my efforts to create customer-centric experiences that would then create REAL exponential growth.
The pivotal moment that propelled my professional growth
When I moved into the cybersecurity space, changed the core of my marketing values.
Learning about my audience became my obsession.
Creating great experiences for my audience and my team turned into my passion.
Empathy - Trust - Loyalty was and still is my north star.
I try to carve out time each day to:
- Spend my time reading about my market.
- Talk to customer-facing stakeholders internally, regularly.
- Listen to customer calls.
- Conduct 1:1 interviews with buyers to identify their “bleeding-neck” challenges and motivations.
The time spent diagnosing my audience’s situation defines the way I work.
Talking to my audience, listening to them, trying to understand them, and becoming more empathic to their situation not only allows me to begin to improve the way I do things, but it positively affects my team, our culture, and the experiences it builds beyond the end goal of the company.
Really, it’s re-energized my entire professional career and personal life.
It’s allowed me to think differently and to advance my knowledge as a human being (not just a marketer) trying to spearhead some important change here.
When you have that in your hand, who wouldn’t want you to have a seat at the table?
You owe it to the world to unmute your mic.
It’s easy to say, just ask to talk to customers.
But in my experience and I know the experience of others - access to customers is often denied.
It’s not enough to ask your customer success team for an opportunity to talk to customers.
Those who ask, have not sold the idea of customer research or customer interviews well enough to the right person...and in most cases with the right team behind them. You are not alone.
You have to sell them your strategy to educate them on:
What are you trying to accomplish by talking to a customer?
How are you going to approach the customer?
How long will your conversation last?
What questions are you going to ask them?
How will you be treating those valuable yet very confidential insights?
Your goals are different than customer success goals.
Articulate that to them with a thought-out strategy.
You will likely get buy-in. And will be more prepared for your next customer interview.
80% of the rich customer insights can be extracted from the next best thing - talking to potential buyers
This is where I’ve thrived mostly, because like I said, I still see those barriers in the companies I’ve worked for - which I’m trying to break with some great people behind me.
Where can you find people to talk to?
Listening to what security practitioners are saying on social media, especially LinkedIn.
Ask your network for an introduction from people they really know.
The best option is to take the plunge and start building authentic relationships.
Etiquette 101 of engaging with cybersecurity buyers
It starts from a place of genuine curiosity.
That pivotal moment in my career was pinpointing the passion to genuinely want to know and learn from others.
Then move to a place of empathy - trying to identify and share the feelings of your audience. That’s the action to curiosity.
It wasn’t until halfway through my career and when I phased into the cybersecurity space, that I paired my failures (ouch) with listening to the frustrations of others online (double ouch).
To then take action to stop all the nonsense I’ve done and truly diagnose the situation.
Hold on to this handy dandy flow:
Genuine Curiosity → Empathy → Meet → Know → Trust → Transaction
There are 3 (+ 1 bonus) questions you should ask your customers
Everything I am telling you - I did not make up.
It already exists out there - you just need to apply it!
I learned of this framework from Adele Revella, Founder and CEO of Buyer Persona Institute and author of the book “Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business”.
She says there is only 1 scripted question that we need to be asking our buyers to capture the whole story:
”Take me back to the day when you first decided to evaluate a new [whatever your solution or product fits into] and tell me what happened.”
This first question encourages the buyer to tell you about the 1st time they thought about using a solution like yours
THEN - she recommends taking the conversation forward by probing for more insight:
“Okay why didn’t you do it sooner? What changed that had you decide that NOW is the time to [do whatever the audience’s goal is]?”
- This question identifies what caused them to make the change to actively looks, what were the barriers and goals they had
THEN - dig deeper and ask them to:
“Take me through what you did and thought about during that journey.”
- Who influenced them to buy? Where do they spend time - channels to make a buying decision?
To recap - you are trying to extract:
The Trigger - what made them say I want to make progress in my life and why now?
Constraints and Goal - what are constraints from stopping them from making the decision? what is the progress you want to make in your life?
Buyer Journey - Who influenced them to buy? Where do they spend time - channels to make a buying decision
One bonus and probably the most important question she recommends asking:
“Are there any differences in the market out there that we can learn and take advantage of?”
- This is a critical question to understand what you can pinpoint as your key differentiation.
The foundation that builds your strategy is your audience.
Let their insights be your guiding light.
Break out of the echo chamber and talk to your audience.
It doesn’t have to be expensive.
It doesn’t have to take months.
It doesn’t have to be hard.
It does take practice.