Debating the impact of marketing on the security industry

Jennifer Leggio winds up for the launch of the new Security Slapshot series with some bold statements on the impact of marketing on the security industry

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In this new Security Slap Shots series, I ask leaders in our industry to make a bold statement about their areas of expertise. Like a hockey slapshot, the idea is to wind up, take aim, and blast the puck forward with tremendous energy. It forces lightning reactions on the defense and often changes the course of the game.

It’s a good time for some bold action in security. After each leader takes their slapshot, I’ll offer my thoughts and turn it over to you for your reaction (in the comments below and on twitter).

It seems fitting that we start the series with Jennifer Leggio, Chief Marketing Officer of Flashpoint. You might know her as a security community leader and the workhorse behind the annual Security Bloggers Meetup at RSA Conference in San Francisco. And we’re not even scratching the surface of her contributions to our industry. But she’s also a fan of hockey. No one better to wind us up…

Did you know that marketing is destroying the security industry?

I hear about that all the time. I joked once that I should wear a “Scarlet M” at times in the way that marketing is sometimes portrayed by the tech community, or more often than not, told I’m not a “woman in tech” because I don’t code. Yet we have the power to destroy? It’s a lot of misunderstanding of what (good) marketing actually does in our industry, and how it’s feeding the growth of companies, and ultimately in the industry, versus just feeding from it.

A quick anecdote which is a favorite of mine to tell: The Flashpoint executive team, other than sales and marketing, is pretty rich with people who have long careers in true intelligence operations, not on the vendor side. When I was interviewing, one executive said to me, “I hate that we even have to have marketing. I wish you had an intel background,” to which I said, “Well, then I’d be a ‘redacted’ marketer!” He laughed, and I laughed. And then we had a discussion about how every business needs marketing, but protection of sources and methods is paramount. Beyond that, marketing isn’t just about business growth but also about finding ways to educate the community at large, helping with recruitment efforts of women and men coming out of school and wanting to get into cyber intelligence roles, and making sure that the roadmap and the technology and offerings are accurately (no FUD!) represented to the market, customers and partners.

More to the business growth side: When I first left Cisco after arriving there following Sourcefire’s acquisition, I did one of Dennis Fisher’s popular “How I Got Here” podcasts, and we talked about how there are two fatal flaws that security and intelligence vendors commit -- investing in marketing too early and investing in marketing too late. Too early comes from folks who envision the sales growth but may not measure the way they should, and then they burn through cash or pay too much for an executive when they really only need a mid-level manager. Too late comes from being too protective of your company and thinking that technology or talent sells itself and then wondering why you are churning customers versus acquiring them. Knowing that “just right” time is something that a startup's board and advisors should help the company with, but, when ready, they need to let marketing fire on all cylinders. Maybe I’ll call this the Goldilocks model.

Is anyone else craving porridge?

My reaction

You can be the smartest person in the room. You can have the best technology. Success comes when people both know and understand how what you do creates value for them. For that, we need marketing. I’ve long thought that successful security leaders need to intern with marketing and sales for a while. Look for ways to translate what we do into value for others. But Jennifer also points out that timing is everything, too … fitting for our first slap shot.

Over to you

What do you think of marketing? Ruining our industry or misunderstood? Comment below or take it to twitter with me @catalyst and Jennifer @mediaphyter. Ready… ready… REACT.

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