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RSA Conference Insights from the Lens of a CISO, Seller, and Marketer | Andres Andreu and Maria Graham

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Now that I’m semi-recovered from RSAC, which included:

  • 2 x 6-hour drives
  • 20K steps/day
  • Non-stop networking
  • Incredible dinners that I got invited to last minute
  • CISO Validation Panels with clients
  • Vendor booth and messaging analyses, and more... 

I've gathered the mental and physical strength to put together my immediate insights and takeaways from the lens of a customer-first cybersecurity marketer:

New networking and feedback opportunities were OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD.:

  • The in-person experience and time spent with clients, security pros, and friends (old and new) only strengthened my relationship with them and allowed me to get brutally honest feedback in intimate settings.

  • MORE IMPORTANTLY, it allowed my network to meet each other, which gave birth to something special I’m going to build with some of the folks who are strong Audience 1st advocates.

  • Happy hour parties were very helpful because everyone is hungry and thirsty from non-stop walking (or drinking).

  • Casual settings like lobby bars and restaurants are a great way to catch up with old and new folks.

  • The CISO validation panel roadshow we launched at RSAC provided a top-tier, rare opportunity for vendors and high intent buyers to advise each other on pain points, product <> customer matching, business outcomes, and more - I quote: "WOW! This [post-panel insights and actions report] alone is worth the investment. This validated so much for me personally, and I cannot thank you enough."

Inefficient program investment is still high even with budget cuts and layoffs in organizations of all sizes:

  • When asked about big tradeshow ROI, I was told by CROs, CMOs, and Heads of Field Marketing they “have no ROI whatsoever” (followed by shoulder shrugs).

  • Layoffs in organizations are burning out buyers who are “in the safe zone” leading them to search for new career paths and opportunities.

  • Vendors that had booths on the expo floor this year locked down price and booth specs years ago - what will happen next year?

  • Vendors are jacking up renewal costs for buyers up to 30% (maybe even more).

  • Competitors of vendors that are increasing renewal costs at a very high rate are buying out contracts for net new revenue.

There is a huge disconnect between what security buyers expect vs. what vendors are consistently investing in, saying, and executing offline and online:

  • Most buyers with decision-making power are not visiting the expo floor.
  • There were less (but new) buzzwords and jargon phrases used in vendor booth messaging vs. Black Hat last year.
  • BUT there were more concrete examples of vendors using jargon that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
  • Issues with technology integration came up frequently in discussion with security buyers; lack of integration between "competing" products and siloes among internal tech divisions and product lines causes buyer complexity, wasted resources, and risk.
  • When asking reps staffing booths what they do, how they do it, and why they do it, few were able to articulate that in simple terms or at all.
  • When approaching booth staff, there was no acknowledgement of me as human; rather, a badge scan.
  • What’s more, when stating who I was, WHAT I do and that I am NOT A QUALIFIED BUYER - I was interrupted with a pitch. After asking them, “do you remember my name and what I do?” - blank stares.

Lastly, slider hamburgers showed up way too frequently. But the tastiest ones were at the Thirsty Bear.

That’s all for now. But more to come. Because George Kamide, from Safeguard Cyber, and I are in the middle of an RSAC vendor messaging gap analysis to help security vendors and service providers evolve away from buzzwords and ineffective hype.

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