A Cybersecurity Marketing Leader with Emotional Authenticity

Now is the time to spend on marketing to build emotional connections

It’s a challenging time for cybersecurity marketers. As recession fears loom, I’ve seen a multitude of announced layoffs and hiring slowdowns. Marketing departments at large cybersecurity vendors have been downsized and deprioritized. I consider these actions as errors in judgment.

 Now is the time to double down on marketing spend!

Why should you care about marketing now when all we hear on the news is impending doom and gloom? Because marketing is your most powerful revenue-generating business function. When a recession happens, buyers don’t disappear. Instead, they refocus their limited energy and attention on a smaller group of priorities that provide more meaningful emotional connections.

The world’s most innovative cybersecurity companies take advantage of this shift in buyer priorities to capture new market share from competitors who decide to hide in the shadows.

Effective leadership is critical when time is of the essence.  With the right CMO in place, your marketing organization can be positioned to thrive.

An Abundance of Emotional Authenticity

So, how’s your CMO doing? Can they build an emotional connection with your buyers that leads to revenue during a recession? You need a competent CMO who has real world experience leading marketing teams for a cybersecurity vendor during both boom-and-bust cycles, understands how buyers adapt their behavior to align with current events, can motivate their team to work at full capacity, have fun and produce high quality work.

There are a lot of people who position themselves as CMO change agents. They may look and act the part but deep down, they lack the necessary emotional authenticity. Inauthentic CMOs will hypnotize executive leadership with beautiful PowerPoints, set up complex marketing automation systems, focus on vanity metrics or insist on spending heavily on smooth-talking consultants who lack experience in cybersecurity marketing.

Red Flag Indicators of an Inauthentic Cybersecurity CMO

When assessing the competence of a current cybersecurity CMO, here are some red flags you may have the wrong person leading your marketing team. This type of behavior often ends in a mass exodus of employees, increased customer complaints and immense marketing spend without any return.

  • They refuse to update their LinkedIn profile to reflect their most current position.
  • They are unwilling to represent the organization at conferences and webinars.
  • They hire their “trusted friends and colleagues,” not the absolute best candidates for the role.
  • They surround themselves in a trust bubble and do not collaborate with existing marketing employees.
  • They lead the marketing organization by first criticizing existing marketing employees without even attempting to assess their capabilities.
  • They refuse to document plans and assess results over time and do not own up to KPIs.
  • They insist they need more budget to produce results.

Positive Indicators of Emotional Authenticity       

Even though I have listed more negatives than positives, it’s important to note it only takes one positive to significantly move the marketing organization as a revenue driver as opposed to a cost center. A cybersecurity CMO who can deliver any of these bullets is a superstar in my book.

  • Prioritize marketing efforts which lead to an increase in the quantity and quality of customer conversations.
  • Position their leadership style to enable better employee collaboration both inside the marketing department as well as related business units such as product, development and sales.
  • Select marketing initiatives which lead to positive customer feedback.

Battle Scars Make all the Difference

If you are currently looking for a cybersecurity CMO, I’d recommend identifying and assessing the candidate’s battle scars to measure their competency.

Quantifying the number of years someone has held a marketing leadership position provides very little value in determining their true capability. Instead, it serves as only a filter when you are trying to select a group of candidates to interview. It’s important to not favor candidates with 10-15 years of experience as opposed to some with 5-10. Experience is only a number if you don’t dig deeper.

Sometimes a CMO candidate worked for a company with a unique product that is so beneficial and special it can market itself without a great deal of effort. Other times, the product is complex, serves a niche group of buyers, is ahead of its time and requires a great deal of message testing and experimentation to ensure it resonates with a particular buyer group. This type of product requires immense marketing muscle.  

You want a cybersecurity leader who has had to exercise their creative muscle every day.

If your candidate led a sheltered life marketing a product that was very well positioned for a buyer problem—they’d struggle in difficult times such as the ones the world economists predict for us ahead.

Evidence of battle scars means the candidate is open to talking about failure. Measuring levels of failure is a very sensitive gauge to measure how one’s years of experience align with their actual competency.

Here are some starter questions to see if a cybersecurity CMO has battle scars:

  • Walk me through some unsuccessful campaigns you did—the kind that did not resonate or achieve the results you intended.
  • Tell me what went wrong in these unsuccessful campaigns and what you would do differently now if you were given a second chance.
  • Describe some employee relationships that needed work.
  • What kind of problems did you have to navigate with employees and what approach did you take to rectify them?

Candidates who refuse to talk about failure or discuss how they overcame problems probably never had to face any significant marketing challenges. This usually means that they don’t have enough experience to lead a marketing team during difficult times. You want a leader with resilience who is open enough to talk about what went wrong and lived to tell the tale.

There are many more things to look for in a cybersecurity CMO, but emotional authenticity is critical and the foundation of what all other qualities can be built upon.

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