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With coronavirus dominating the headlines and our nation undergoing major social and economic upheaval, breaking through the noise and reaching your intended audience is more important, and simultaneously more challenging, than ever before. In-person events like RSA are a distant memory and there’s little hope of physically attending security conferences in the near future. Networking has gone virtual and the process of building relationships has been transformed entirely. With all this disruption, how can security vendors rethink and revitalize their marketing programs and support business. Our growth in this new environment?

In an effort to demystify the struggle that often comes with reaching and effectively communicating with Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), Merritt Group teamed up with T.E.N., an industry-leading technology and security executive marketing and networking organization. Together, we surveyed a select group of leading CISOs and uncovered their preferred engagement strategies, information consumption habits, evaluation methods during the buying process and more. 

What did we uncover? Read on for three key takeaways to inform your sales and marketing strategy.

Show, Don’t Tell

Forget sales slicks and data sheets! A paltry 3.7 percent of CISOs depend on marketing collateral to evaluate a solution. Rather than reviewing a checklist of features and capabilities, CISOs want to understand how your solution will solve a problem or address a pain point. That’s likely why a vast majority (89 percent) of CISOs regularly read vendor blogs to learn about new threats and attacks, evolving market trends, new products and services and more. 

So what does this mean for security marketers and PR professionals? Spend less time and energy on traditional marketing collateral and more time on thought leadership. Educate the market on industry pain points and offer a path forward to better security. Tell CISOs a compelling story rather than just reading from a sales script. When in doubt, provide a technical demo or proof of concept to empower CISOs to evaluate your solution and continue to educate themselves. 

Build Rapport

It should come as no surprise that relationship-building with CISOs is key. This important takeaway also rang true in the 2018 edition of our CISO report. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of surveyed CISOs say they rely on peer communications and word of mouth to learn about new security products and vendors, making networking and relationship management a prime tactic for successful marketing and sales. It makes sense then that roundtable events and dinners reign supreme as the top setting for evaluating cybersecurity vendor solutions, ranked as the top choice by 38 percent of respondents. 

Unfortunately, such in-person forums are largely unavailable in the wake of COVID-19, which means security marketers will need to get creative when it comes to building and nurturing relationships. Whether it’s Teams happy hours, peer lunch and learns or intimate Zoom influencer dinners, developing an event that will get the key decision makers in the same (virtual room) and providing CISOs with a specific solution to the problems they face on a daily basis is key to building a rapport and establishing trust. Instead of waiting for the world to “return to normal” and opportunities to arise, take the initiative and make your own opportunities.

Know Your Stuff

It should go without saying that if you don’t do your due diligence on understanding your prospect, you won’t succeed. Nearly half of all CISOs want vendors to do their homework before making a sales or marketing call, and rightly so. Just as there’s no silver bullet solution to security, there’s no single marketing approach that will work with all audiences. 

Successful marketing to the CISO requires a tailored, personalized approach that hones in on each individual’s pain points. The message is loud and clear and has been for years: blanket email blasts and scripted calls don’t work and never will. In fact, more than a quarter of CISOs surveyed noted that a phone call from an uninformed sales rep will ruin any chances that rep had of building a relationship. And if relationships are key – and they are – ruining one will hinder any chance you had of making a sale. Understand, or better yet, anticipate, the CISO’s problem and provide them with a straightforward solution. 

Looking for more strategies to effectively reach the CISO? Download our report, “Marketing & Selling to the CISO: The 2020 Edition” or schedule a call for personalized recommendations to help you meet your marketing and sales goals.

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