Surviving a Flooded Cybersecurity Market With Product Anchoring

When I started marketing cybersecurity products there were 2,000 different vendors in the space. I was seated across from the CEO and general manager of the world’s largest cybersecurity intelligence and education company: Information Security Media Group (ISMG), the sister company of CyberTheory. I didn’t know it at the time, but this meeting would change my life.

“Many of these products appear similar on the surface. It’s a problem for them but an opportunity for us,” said the CEO, Sanjay Karla.

He was a former chief information security officer (CISO), one of the very first in the industry. Not only had he seen and done it all for several decades but was now in the unique position to help cybersecurity vendors differentiate themselves.

I would become employee # 2 of a new division of ISMG called CyberTheory. This was my first full time role in a decade and I would be providing advisory support for cybersecurity marketers.

In the past, my work took me coast to coast as I passed through an eclectic mix of startups and established enterprises, working on newsletters for Fortune 500 IT teams, producing podcasts for self-help finance gurus, to writing advertising copy for an AI pet Chihuahua robot. Creating a unique message and position wasn’t difficult because the product differentiation was obvious.

You Can’t Fake Cybersecurity Marketing Expertise

“Cybersecurity marketing is an anomaly,” said the general manager, Mike D’Agostino. “The marketing tactics you used before may not be effective anymore. What you think will work, often fails.”  

He told me about a recent encounter with one of the top advertising agencies on Madison Avenue, one of those elite firms from the Mad Men era with an iron-clad reputation. This agency, however, was struggling to show results for its cybersecurity client.

They had never heard of the RSA Conference or understood the complexity of the CISO organization. To them, hackers in hoodies and pictures of locks were enough to win the hearts and minds of their target audience.

“We need your help. What are we doing wrong?” the agency asked.

It was obvious. Their surface level knowledge revealed itself in cookie-cutter campaign activation, which lacked authority or the necessary authenticity to connect with the unique cybersecurity buyer persona.

They were serving rotten, low-hanging fruit, often to the chief information security officers they were targeting.

The reality is that CISOs have long been tired of low value information, clickbait, gimmicks, pestering and in essence, a poorly tasting meal.  They can smell inauthenticity a digital mile away. It’s even more obvious if you meet with them face to face and have nothing substantial to offer. When you are in cybersecurity long enough and reach a leadership position, you become very good at spotting deep fakes (no pun intended).

To paraphrase the French expression, “the conversation will be long forgotten, but the poorly tasting meal will be ingrained in memory—permanently.”

During my first 6 months in cybersecurity marketing, I had to learn how to cook for a completely different palate. It was a humbling experience. Nobody knows the cybersecurity market like ISMG and CyberTheory and I am forever grateful for having them as my journey captains in this space. Even though I now work on the vendor side, I still maintain a close relationship with CyberTheory leadership, sharing insights, data and marketing anecdotes with Steve King, truly a CISO’s CISO who leads CyberTheory’s marketing advisory practice. 

Working the Noisy and Crowded Cybersecurity Market of 2022

Today, the same room of cybersecurity targets is getting more crowded with more sellers trying to rub shoulders with decision makers. There are over 5,000 vendors in the cybersecurity space now. It’s harder to get the CISOs attention, but more importantly, hold it for an impactful and meaningful impression. Everyone is holding up their shiny object. Look at me! Look at me! I’m the best! It can be blinding…and exhausting for prospective buyers.

So how do you get the attention of cybersecurity product buyers and decision makers? And more importantly, how do you serve the right experience?

If You Must Copy, Use Anchoring Statements

Many cybersecurity marketers often decide to copy content topics and formats from their competition thinking it’s a sure-firing strategy.

Some validators include:

  • Increased Market Visibility: We need to stay relevant in our product category;
  • Improve Sales: Let’s ride this latest wave and jump on the trend;
  • Establish Comfort: If it’s working for them, it will work for us;
  • Obfuscate Inexperience: We don’t have any better ideas.

These justifications may seem valid (except the last one, which is just a blatant indicator the marketer lacks experience).

You can indeed carry many elements over from the competition to breed familiarity.

However, you need one powerful sentence. A strong anchoring statement to elevate your position.

How do you create an anchoring statement?

Here’s an example. Let’s say your solution puts out fires. And when I say fires, I mean stopping a malicious actor through deception technology.

  • The competitor: Offers a fire extinguisher that requires you to run to a disparate corner of the room, jump seven feet in the air to break the safety glass, remove the protective plastic cap from the spray nozzle with a special tool and apply 150 PSI of pressure to the lever- all while trying to avoid being burned.
  • You: A single button that activates a sprinkler system with temperature and smoke sensors.

Spot the difference? Both solutions solve the same problem, but the button removes complexity and accelerates results.

You can talk about the problem all you want and why it’s important to mitigate it and put it out, but the how is critical in your marketing content.

The anchor can be as simple as: “One finger, more powerful than an entire body.”

Structured, an anchor statement will have three critical elements

[The advantage] + [connecting qualifier] + [disadvantage]

Notice how this one sentence brings together your product, the competition, the problem and the solution. The statement is structured in a way to cause intrigue, to make one wonder, “what are they talking about, is this the finger of God or something?”  

Anchoring statements should be slightly mysterious. Do not spell everything out. You can use sub-copy or more detailed explanatory text for that.

Here’s an example of a bloated anchoring statement.

“The finger will put out fires more effectively than the entire body using a fire extinguisher.”

In general, an anchoring statement should not be longer than 7-10 words, like elements of a U.S. phone number (area code + number). Any more words and the statement will become less memorable and difficult to comprehend. 

Where to Place Anchoring Statements for Maximum Benefit

Anchoring statements help your content stay put in the minds of buyers. I’d recommend beginning by trying them in the following content formats:

  • Email subject lines;
  • Case study titles;
  • Gifts and swags.

The hardest part of cybersecurity marketing is getting noticed and not being drowned by the tsunamis and tidal waves of the competition. If you are struggling to be noticed, I’d recommend spending a few days working on developing an anchoring statement. The market may be crowded, but everyone wants a useful solution that can truly remove complexity, increase visibility or improve an existing experience.

Even if your product is immature and does not have the potential for a feature-specific anchoring statement now, think of the people in the organization and how their knowledge and experience can serve as an anchor.

Still stuck? You may benefit from an independent viewpoint. A marketing advisory firm like CyberTheory can help you build the necessary product anchor that your marketing team needs. After all, I’ve seen them in action and couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

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