Challenges in the World of Cybersecurity Marketing

In this episode of Cybersecurity (Marketing) Unplugged, Patil also discusses:

  • The importance of effective messaging in marketing: Defining and understanding your target audience,
  • Creativity with content and breaking away from the norm when it comes to engaging with your customers,
  • The human experience in MIT, examining the human challenges and turning thoughts into actions towards progress.

Ravi Patil is director of product management and strategy at Broadcom where he is responsible for the mainframe security and compliance software portfolio. Prior to that, he served as head of product marketing and held marketing leadership roles at CA Technologies and IBM. In the auto industry, Ravi designed fuel system components and streamlined manufacturing processes for worldwide vehicle platforms. He is the host and creator of a podcast called Institrve – True stories about MIT. Ravi earned his BS and MS in mechanical engineering from MIT and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

With cybersecurity marketing, Patil shows us how his efforts at Broadcom are making a difference toward the customer experience.

One thing that we do here at Broadcom is we execute what we call cybersecurity thinking workshops, where we spend over a couple of days, a few hours each day with the customer, both of us rolling up our sleeves and talking about the customer challenges and brainstorming different pathways. So it’s design thinking in the sense that we’re not wedded to a certain technology that we want to sell them at the end of the day, it’s really about surfacing a credible pathway to progress.

Full Transcript

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. 

Steve King  00:13

Good day everyone. I’m Steve King, the managing director of CyberTheory and today’s episode is going to focus on some of the challenges in today’s cybersecurity marketing. Joining me today is revenue Patil the founder of Insta true, a documentary style podcast that explores true stories about MIT and the world around us. He is also director of product management strategy for Broadcom software’s mainframe security portfolio. Prior to that, he served as the Head of Product Marketing, for of his background also includes 20 years in security and technology, marketing and product management. In addition to Broadcom, he’s held marketing leadership roles at CA Technologies in IBM. And as you may have guessed, Robbie earned his BS and MS. Engineering degrees from MIT. So welcome, Robbie. I’m glad you could join me today.

Ravi Patil  01:09

Thanks for having me on the show. I must say you’ve turned the tables on me I normally do the interviewing on my podcast. So I guess I’m in the hot seat now.

Steve King  01:17

Alright, that’s, that was intentional. So so we spend a lot of calories trying to get our clients to see the immense value in storytelling. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir here. But what is your view effective messaging in this crowded market.

Ravi Patil  01:35

So before gathering your dry erase markers, and post it notes and getting ready for battle with a day long messaging workshop, a critical prerequisite is defining and understanding your target audience. So let me take you through a sort of a fun example. Suppose you’re targeting famous and wealthy divorced males in their 70s from the UK, you might be marketing a luxury good or a high end vacation. So it turns out that Prince Charles fits that demographic. But if you were to analyze this a bit more, you might find another interesting character who fits that exact same description. And that’s Ozzy Osborne. He was born in 1948, just like Prince Charles raised in the UK, married twice, obviously, wealthy and famous. So who are you marketing to? Is it the Prince of Wales or the Prince of Darkness? They have completely different needs. So the lesson here is that when you define your target persona, you need to go beyond the demographics and get to the needs and challenges. And once you have that, then you’re finally ready to work on the messaging. And what I’ve observed in my career is that in the enterprise space, messaging from all the top players eventually sounds exactly the same. But you can escape that trap through storytelling, because security professionals are humans too. And no matter how busy they are, they enjoy being surprised, delighted or inspired, just like everyone else. But when it comes to security marketing, I’ve seen one issue, shall we say? And that it is typically fear based, you’ll hear things such as Did you know that the average cost of a breach is X million, or the average amount of time a hacker goes unnoticed in your network is why months CISOs have become numb to these stats. So they keenly know the risks. So I find it more effective to focus on the solution, and instilling hope and confidence. Yes, we can do this. Here’s

Steve King  03:32

how. Why do you think it is that so many cybersecurity vendors insist upon continuing along that that same line of monologue, then, you know, the, not necessarily, you know, the Fudd. path but, but telling Caesars what they already know,

Ravi Patil  03:53

there’s a certain situation that arises when you’re working on messaging, because you’re trying to weave a logical thread, through a complex topic, you’re trying to balance what your portfolio offers with what’s happening in the market. And as you go through that process, it can be grueling getting sign off from so many stakeholders. And by the time you emerge from that process, admittedly, you can be a little bit far away from what you were there to do in the first place just out of exhaustion from the process. And what comes out of it is sort of the same stats, and the same type of messaging. So Now admittedly, if you’re talking about website copy, or bullets for a booth at an event, you’re going to want to get to the point but when it comes to the other assets that you’re developing, you have more flexibility to get into the story. And I find that’s really where the action is. It’s the human element that will allow you to bridge the gap to what the CISOs thinking.

Steve King  04:54

Yeah, you characterize the seaso as a human being even that’s it remarkable all by itself. Most vendors never connect the dots between the what it is that they do and the why that they do it. Yet I think the numbers like 67 68% of today’s buyers are millennials. And they frequently make decisions based upon a company’s values, not not upon fees and speeds and features and functions. Why is there such resistance? Do you think on behalf of the vendors to actually reach the direct to human we’ll call it by signals that are going to resonate with these people who are making these million dollar decisions?

Ravi Patil  05:39

That’s a fascinating question. I think it varies by industry. But in general, I’d say, I think the resistance come from comes from simply not taking the time to connect those dots, rather than business leaders rejecting attempts to connect those dots. So let me give you an example. It’s easier in some industries than others. You may have a company like Patagonia, for example, that makes clothing and gear for outdoor adventures. I heard recently that their entire supply chain will be carbon neutral by 2025. And that environmental commitment is directly aligned with the values of their customer. So that’s a win, for those of us in it, whose product is generally software which is shipped as bits through an Ethernet cable, there can be a degree of separation between what we offer, and the big topics that are on the minds of millennials. But there are ways to break through and do this in a genuine way. So when you think about the millennial, they want to be developed and nurtured and treated with care like an individual, the good old marketing to a segment of one concept, and here at Broadcom, we have a wonderful proof point around this. It’s called our Vitality program. And I’m really proud of the investments that we’ve been making in the next generation of mainframe talent. Basically, the way it works is we recruit candidates and rigorously trained them on the fundamentals of the mainframe, and then deploy them on customer site for four to six months. And what’s interesting about this as that during those four to six months, their salary, their benefits are fully paid for by Broadcom. And we even housed them free of charge in corporate apartments near the customer site. And during that residency program, they’re doing the customer work, not broad comms work. And at the end of the residency, the customer can then hire that employee full time in their organization. Or for some reason, if they choose not to, we bring them back on site at Broadcom. And so this is a great way in terms of the millennial audience showing that we care that we’re investing and we’re looking out for their future, not just trying to make the next dollar of profit.

Steve King  07:48

Yes, yeah. I mean, that’s a great message, the customer benefits tremendously from that. And I, particularly in this era, when we have this huge gap and probably magnified gap in mainframe computing, because no one very few folks are skilled in that regard. So that’s terrific that you guys do that. And it makes a great story. Surprised, I never see leading with it, but that might be my own. My own inability to see the forest for the trees here.

Ravi Patil  08:20

I’ll share some blogs with you afterwards, really heartfelt, essentially, letters from these young employees talking about how wonderful they felt that company was thinking about them in the swing willing to invest in them. And, and of course, when you see what they do, drink COVID. You know, we’ve had 60 folks go through this program, and they’re at major companies. Just some wonderful stories, and they’re so happy to share with you.

Steve King  08:46

Yeah, yeah, it’s no surprise that I’m willing to pay 265 bucks for for outdoor parka from Patagonia, then over 150 bucks from North Face, because I believe in because I want to become part of the Patagonia journey or mission, or however you want to describe that. So and I think, you know, these buyers are very much attuned to the value proposition underneath the why statement for these companies and more folks to try to figure out what that is for them, and then create stories around it and you know, look at, and it’s not a b2c thing, right? I mean, me, Microsoft, Cisco, Salesforce, a lot of technology companies have gone that route with incredible success. So in the world of it, what is it that makes Broadcom software? Different?

Ravi Patil  09:43

Share? I think there are two dimensions on this. I’d say first and foremost, we partner with our customers and and invest alongside them. This offers a markedly superior customer experience than a traditional vendor that might just sell the software and walk away until the contract is up. It turns out that the number one issue our customers are facing are not technology issues. There’s related to skills shortages. So I described earlier the Vitality program that was one example of investment. But we’ve really thought about the customer experience, and deployed our investments in a variety of areas. For example, we’ve opened up our entire online education portfolio at no cost to customers, we realize that in the world of CISOs, and C suite executives, not many of them are trained in the mainframe, even though they have responsibility for mainframe, so we created an on demand custom mainframe education program targeted to C suite, we even have something called the expert change planning program. So before a software upgrade, at no cost, we work with customers to establish a comprehensive plan for the upgrade. And then we’ll be there on standby, for example, over the weekend as they go through those steps. So when you think about what customers need, it’s technology for sure. But then there’s everything else involved in that customer experience. And so that’s where I think we’re really differentiating. Now, of course, we have great technology. If you look at our security portfolio, the combination of mainframe software, and Symantec allows us to essentially secure the enterprise across every platform, no matter where the data and apps lives. So we’re talking about endpoints email, cloud distributed mainframe, so I think that’s another area where we bring really heavy duty security expertise to the market. And don’t forget our semiconductor business, plenty of software that’s baked right in at the chip level.

Steve King  11:44

Yeah, sure. You know, we’ve talked in the past about video and how effective it is. And it seems to us as the direct result of this pandemic, the popularity of longer form video has has increased what production elements do you think make sure that a longer form video can be effective for folks that are, you know, working remotely and have some private time that they can actually take 20 or 30 minutes out to, to look at a story on video?

Ravi Patil  12:20

Sure, and you’re absolutely right, we’ve also observed the same and frankly, we were shocked by that, thinking, in some instances, aspects of digital events, we see virtual fatigue, but when it comes to this longer form video, there’s definitely been an appetite for that. So you know, The Art of War states that every battle is won before it is ever fought. And so I find the way to winning here in the long form content is to have is to frame a story. But you need to plan ahead for that, you need to have a journey that leads you somewhere with rising and falling action, you might incorporate a protagonist dreaming impossible dreams or a hero confronting their demons. I know it’s a tall order to ask, but your audience will let you know immediately. If you crack that nut. For long form video, you need to have a subject matter expert, someone with credibility that can sustain that deeper level discussion, because you need to make it worth the audience’s time. Now, from a production perspective, there are a number of things you can do in the edit. That’s often where the magic happens. And we’ve done a bunch of this successfully since COVID began. One thing would be to add interstitial content in the logical breaks in the discussion to provide interest and motion. Another idea is instead of having a typical zoom style, talking head format, vary the camera angle. So think of it like a movie or even a documentary. And in some cases, in our long form content, We’ve even added brief blooper reels, for our pre recorded keynotes. And that’s been a fun way to engage with customers, because when a pre recorded keynote is played at an event, you know, where they’re in the chat session, getting feedback, and so, when that blooper reel comes up, it’s surprising what kind of feedback and follow on you get from that. So, you know, providing moments of levity in serious topics as well.

Steve King  14:17

Yeah, sure. And I mean, like any movie, which is what it should be, as you know, there’s a there’s a plot, there’s a beginning middle end, there’s friction, there’s mystery, there’s heroes and anti heroes and protagonists, so forth. And, and unless you create a narrative that it’s from our point of view, anyway, create a narrative that’s both cinematic and entertaining in nature, that it’s very difficult to get it in audience engagement, regardless of whether it’s a five minute video or a 30 minute video, but if you do the inverse of that, and as you say, build a story that grabs people the same way that whatever their favorite binge series is on Netflix You’re going to have the same effect because as you point out, you know, CISOs and your target audience are indeed human beings. The final questions I have for you, Robbie are related to your own podcast, and MIT maybe. And in part one, I’d like to understand our listeners, I think we’d like to understand how you put that together what it is that’s compelling about it, and what your what your goals were.

Ravi Patil  15:28

Sure, the purpose of this podcast is to provoke inquiry by examining the human experience, all wrapped in an engaging story, what I found in technology, and in so many topics, there’s so much focus on the tech itself. But really what is important, if we’re going to solve the problems facing humanity is dealing with the human challenges. So as I cover topics like climate change, artificial intelligence, security, the focus is on the human element. And I’m, in fact working on an episode right now related to privacy and security. It’s about an MIT student who won the college Jeopardy championship a few years ago, only to realize to her horror that her well being was in jeopardy. And that’s because on the game show, Jeopardy on national TV reveals your name, where you grew up your year in school, there’s a lots of personal info, getting divulged exactly the info needed to Doc, someone. And when you combine that with social media, you have a deadly mix. So this episode, explains one woman’s attempt to confront the dark side of the internet and how she is handling internet fame.

Steve King  16:43

Yeah, and you can hardly take a step anymore without without those kinds of ramifications either on social media or elsewhere. The second part of that question would be you know, you’re an MIT grad? Why can you use your smart guy? Can you explain why cybersecurity marketers keep reverting to legacy? Lead Gen and promotional campaigns that haven’t performed well, even in the past? And why there’s a huge reluctance to step outside the box, I know that you undoubtedly run into the same sort of resistance at Broadcom in your current

Ravi Patil  17:18

role. Ooh, that’s a juicy question. So

Steve King  17:21

I figured as much but once you give it your best shot, yes,

Ravi Patil  17:25

I certainly will. So for me, it all begins with having critical insights from your lead gen campaigns, because if you don’t, human nature is going to drive to the path of least resistance. You know, as a marketer, you know, the process, the agencies you’re working with, you’ve already cranked out content for the buyers journey, that you know, you can tweak slightly, your metrics dashboard is showing the open rates and conversions, it’s already set up. And all of this is begging you to repeat exactly what you’ve done before. And don’t forget that folks in marketing are optimists, there’s the hope that the next time around, you’ll have a better set of contacts, or that something will go viral, you know, which never happens, by the way. And you know, and if you look at what marketing teams are faced with, they’re already overloaded, and they feel the pressure to move on to the next tactic. So my challenge to myself as well as those listening is, how often do you actually do a post mortem with real humans after you execute a campaign, not just looking at the stats from your marketing automation tool, but actually speaking to customers about what they’ve experienced. So stepping outside that box that you mentioned, requires understanding the customer relationship and utilizing the connections you already have. Because unless you’re a startup, looking for your first customers, you already have customers you can speak with to get that feedback. So you know, in general, whether it’s lead gen campaigns or storytelling, long form content, or even connecting with millennials, it all boils down to that human element. So don’t forget that amidst all your your databases, and tech that you’re dealing with.

Steve King  19:06

Yeah, another I guess another part of the question, as long as I have you got a couple of minutes left here is the metrics themselves, it seems to me and others that I know in the space that we’re very heavily weighed or tilted toward the you know, the click through rates and the dwell time on pages and organic impressions, yada yada yada that we use to try to determine some sort of efficacy around from our, from our tactical marketing exercises. And, and I’m not sure that this emphasis on those metrics actually relate anywhere near to an ROI on on a marketing campaign. Do you have any your own insight into and to kind of where we’re headed direction and what we might want to do differently.

Ravi Patil  20:03

Yes, and you’re spot on with that, I think what has happened is, online commerce and SAS has created a market where you can take a customer through the entire chain start to finish digitally. And it works marvelously marvelously for for those spaces, you can offer online promotions, do a variety of things, banner ads, and measure that and drive to a conclusion. Now, when we talk about complex sales that we find here in cybersecurity or, or the IT industry at large, I found that everything that you’re measuring from a marketing perspective is just the top of the funnel. And what you need to do is drive to a human interaction, because you need to present a proof of concept or something that will allow the person to take this big, scary thought and distill it down into something that you can action. So one thing that we do here at Broadcom is we execute what we call cybersecurity thinking workshops, where we spend over a couple of days, a few hours each day with the customer, both of us rolling up our sleeves and talking about the customer challenges and brainstorming different pathways. So it’s a design thinking in the sense that we’re not wedded to a certain technology that we want to sell them at the end of the day, it’s really about surfacing a credible pathway to progress. And those are the most meaningful. So I’ve changed my view on what I’m looking for from from marketing, I’m not looking for a huge volume of folks that are ready to take the next step. It’s really a smaller number of folks that want to sit down with you, and have a deeper discussion. Yeah, and

Steve King  21:49

as long as we’re on the director, human subject, what do you think of what appears to be a movement in the industry toward television commercials in the sort of streaming context with specific geographical AND, and OR audience demographic coverage? For example, a lot of NFL coverage in the Ohio Valley is featured the cyber theories, our commercials, for example, and we see a lot of this from CrowdStrike. And now from, you know, other leaders in their space. Do you think that there’s a, there’s an acceptance finally that you may blow off 150? You know, consumers who have no interest at all, but that board member that you’re actually targeting somewhere in there? And then we’ll have a takeaway and or do you think the drivers behind that sort of logic or reasoning is,

Ravi Patil  22:48

my mind is really scrambled on that question, I recently listened to a fantastic episode of Freakonomics. It’s a podcast where they analyze the efficacy of online advertising and TV advertising. And essentially, the net from all of that was, it wasn’t conclusive at all, whether TV advertising was meaningful, or not. Yet, you know, on the other side of the coin, you’ll be watching the Superbowl or your favorite TV show, and you’ll find something that will make you laugh or smile that, you know, makes you think of a brand in a different way. So I personally, really, when it comes to the type of tech marketing I’ve worked with, haven’t ventured into TV ads so far, but I think the jury is out on that still.

Steve King  23:35

Maybe some of those in your future? Yes. Alright, great. Thank you again, I, we could probably talk, undoubtedly, for hours on the subject, subject. And if you’re up for it, I’d love to have you back in kind of first quarter sometime and talk some more. We’ll learn a lot more over what’s going to happen in the next few months here and in the world of cyber security. So I want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to join me what I think was a thought provoking or hope was a thought provoking exchange.

Ravi Patil  24:07

Yeah, thanks again to you, Steve. meaningful discussion is one that stays with you. And you’ve challenged me a bit with your question about millennials. So I’m going to go back and think about how I can connect those dots more.

Steve King  24:19

Sounds good to me. That sounds good to me. Thank you to our listeners also for joining us and another one of our unplugged reviews of the complex and freaky world of cyber security technology in our new digital reality. Until next time, I’m your host Steve King, signing out.