Rational Marketing in Cybersecurity


An interesting piece by James Bone for which we are, as always grateful – James has an active mind and is constantly trying to satisfy his intellectual curiosity – the key takeaway for marketers from the dilemma of choice faced by their prospect personas from my point of view is an invitation to add true value.

The issues James cites around choice are very real and in particular how your product will impact workload, both up and downstream, enhance performance for the business and operations, affect technical debt, improve your overall security posture and impact your customers’ ability to maintain sustainable practices around it.

A focused brand story supported by a well-thought-out positioning and messaging platform will enable you as marketers to address these issues in ways that your prospect wants to hear and within a controllable context – as opposed to your sales force struggling with technical debt objections, for instance.

That brand story needs to validate your leadership position in the segment/category and cause your prospects to do a double-take on your headline. All of which you should do in advance of your go-to-market, so your qualifying teams can be optimally effective and as always, we are happy to help.

Here is James’s post:

Selecting Solutions

Recently, while shopping for groceries, I strolled down the aisles for a protein supplement to add to my diet. The grocery store that I visited had one aisle dedicated to supplements and over half of the aisle, on both sides, was an array of neatly stacked protein supplements from a variety of sources. Soy, whey, egg, hemp, pea, brown rice, almond and many more. Next, each product came in different flavors with varying amounts of protein. I easily became overwhelmed in my search and suddenly, out of nowhere a person stacking the shelves came over and said you look like you need help?

“Yes,” I said sheepishly, “which product is best?” The clerk looked at me and said, “well that depends on what your goals are and what problem are you trying to solve?” I simply wanted someone else to help me decide. The same dilemma describes the challenge in selecting cybersecurity solutions. With all of the available options, varieties and choices today the decision to buy a cyber solution has gotten harder because what was once simple has gotten harder due to the overwhelming number of choices available. Barry Schwarz described this problem in The Paradox of Choice.

To understand this problem, we must first explain why choice is not as straightforward as we think. If you are younger than 50 years old you don’t remember when there were only three major television networks or three major car manufacturers in the U.S. Over the last 40-50 years there has been an explosion of products and services in stores and virtually over the internet. Cars were simple enough that even I could change my own motor oil or rev up the carburetor if needed. Now I have trouble finding the latch to open the hood or gas cap in different rental cars at my airport!

Choosing among physical items is a little easier but intangible products and services are getting harder and harder to discern. Our brains are ill-equipped to emotionally connect with intangibles like cybersecurity, risk and threats without the experience of what works to solve specific events that may endanger the organization. Yet, when the threat is real and present emotions and stress takes over and impairs our decision-making leading to short-term solutions that are inadequate to the long-term goals of security and the direction the firm is headed.

What can be done to make more rational choices about cybersecurity and conversely, how does a cybersecurity solution provider develop more rational marketing to address the Paradox of Choice?

Addressing The Paradox

Marketers must overcome the obstacles of irrational decision-making. Procrastination, avoidance to change, scarcity mindset, too much information and overwhelming choices. According to Schwartz, “As a culture, we are enamored of freedom, self-determination, and variety, and we are reluctant to give up any of our options. But clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction—even to clinical depression.”

We can’t control the number of choices available to us, but we can control how we make choices more efficiently. Likewise, this may help inform marketers of how cyber solutions help alleviate the paradox of choice. First, let’s admit that making good choices is hard work. There is no way to get around the effort it takes to make an informed decision. But this process can be made simpler but establishing a few ground rules.

The Decision Curve

A decision curve may help illustrate the problem. Marketers have taught that options, features and benefits are better but in reality, the comparisons do little to improve decision-making. In reality, the features and benefits of one organization may not address the issues someone else is trying to solve. Small problems are often given very little thought or analysis in understanding the root cause while medium problems take up too much time with over-analysis. And lastly, overly complex problems may cause many to throw their hands and spend too little time attempting to the core of the issues.

Developing a formal process of segmenting problems into different categories and dissecting the solutions into systemic solutions may be more efficient than solving one challenge or a big hairy problem. Big complex challenges are the result of a series of small legacy decisions over time.

Secondly, when looking at risk in solving cybersecurity challenges, try to incorporate how the choices one makes impact human performance in maintaining sustainable practice. How will my choice impact others in cybersecurity? How will a product reduce workloads in more than one area of security? What are the downstream and upstream impacts? How does this product enhance performance for the business and operations as well as the security team? Conducting this analysis during non-stressful times is more efficient than waiting until an event happens.

Third, sunk costs, tech debt and legacy systems are a reality in many organizations. How does this decision reduce or add to tech debt? Finally, how does my choice improve my visibility or situational awareness of threats and risks in my security posture? By developing a discipline around how you choose and select cyber security solutions you improve rational decision-making in your security practice. Marketers who have the ability to position their products and services to address your specific needs as opposed to comparisons to others may be best suited to delivering the solutions that are a better fit for your organization.

Don’t become a victim of the Paradox of Choice! Instead, act proactively through a disciplined approach by selecting the solutions that fit how you want to achieve a more rational cybersecurity practice.

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