“A lot of our competitors build technology, and some have a service component. Our differentiation and value proposition is specifically tied to the fact that we are the only cybersecurity company that responds to every breach that matters.”
Insightive.tv: What challenges do you face when attempting to reach your target audience?
Kara: Three years ago, FireEye was the ‘belle of the ball’ at any trade show. Now, every single booth looks identical to ours — same message, same diagram, same language. Venture Capital (V.C.) invested in about 265 startups last year alone — all within cyber.
Over the course of the last three years, we have significantly expanded our portfolio. Acquiring Mandiant — the first incident response company — was of particular importance. We also acquired a large cyber threat intelligence team, iSIGHT Partners. This operation involves forward deployed analysts in 36 countries around the world. These people actually live with the cyber actors, learning their tools and techniques and feeding that information back to us — allowing us to improve our technology.
In bringing this portfolio together, we have created a diverse range of products that sell to different buyers within any organisation. The challenge here is helping our teams understand how to navigate between the different personas for each sale and come to grips with the capabilities and nuances of our entire portfolio. This difficulty has been compounded by the speed at which we have expanded. Since going public in 2013, we have gone through periods of hiring thirty people a day. Your marketing dollars and marketing leads aren’t worth very much unless your sales reps can hit it out of the park in every single conversation.
A lot of our competitors build technology, and some have a service component. Our differentiation and value proposition is specifically tied to the fact that we are the only cybersecurity company that responds to every breach that matters. Whether it is Home Depot, Yahoo or Target, we are the first phone call, and the information we collect and feed back into our technology is unique, helping us build the best most comprehensive product on the market. The main challenge is that it just took me two and a half minutes to explain that differentiation to you and we normally have about fifteen seconds to get that point across.
Insightive.tv: On the topic of coordinating your sales efforts — how do you go about aligning your marketing efforts to help sales penetrate new accounts?
Kara: As a marketing and sales unit, we need to act in synchronisation to understand the portfolio and connect the dots within an organisation. It is often necessary for us to climb a ladder to get to the C-level decision makers. The key is to not just throw leads over the fence. It is a continuous process — not a handoff. We need feedback from the sales team about the quality of leads. We also need to continue to market to leads that have gone quiet. Alignment starts with trust, a commitment to collaboration throughout and an understanding of each other’s business processes. Our sales organisation is our largest customer.
From a marketing standpoint, targeting and adaptation are both important considerations. When targeting the C-suite, you have to be creative. They don’t attend big events, watch webinars or subscribe to HTML blasts. You have to make it worth their while because they don’t have a lot of time.
One advantage is that all public company Board information is public. We did a large Board initiative about six months ago and were able to bring some pretty senior speakers to an exclusive event that was targeted at the C-suite. This was not a product pitch but rather a conference on “the top five things you need to know to be prepared for a cyber attack.” Through catering to this group’s desire for useful and substantive information, we were able to bring decision makers together to discuss the issues our products can solve.
With more general leads, we are leveraging technology to provide better intelligence to our sales teams when leads first come into our system. We can use information about what a target has been researching to better focus on the problem that they are seeking to solve. This enables us to make the most out of that first call, which, in turn, improves the trajectory of the entire follow-up process. We then do further analysis on leads that do not progress. A whole section of what we do is simply field enablement — putting the sales playbook together to improve our organisational communication.
Insightive.tv: What kind of campaigns do you see yourself investing in, in the future?
Kara: In Europe, we are very focused on a personalised account based marketing approach. But there is always going to be the need for mass demand generation. A webinar may reach 3,000 people, and they aren’t all going to be qualified leads, but that kind of outreach is less about our product and more about the threat landscape. Our goal is to provide a wide number of people with the information they need to sell up through their organisation and increase the entire market’s level of education on the topic.
We are looking to create a thought leadership platform around some recent research we have done on Russia, North Korea and China. We regularly publish larger and comprehensive reports that anonymously pull together information from all the different incidents to which we have responded. This type of information engages a lot of our higher level customers and buyers. It will probably also include a broader based media campaign that will be pitched to the press and include a two-week process where we put people on television and do multiple media interviews.
Industry analysts are also a necessary part of any marketing campaign in IT. After Google, Gartner is still the number two place that people go to get information about IT. The burden is on us to show analysts that we are continuing to evolve our technology and make improvements to stay ahead of threats
A lot of how this industry will proceed, however, has more to do with broader changes in society and technology. Ten years ago, cyber wasn’t a Boardroom topic. Four years ago, when Target was breached, I think a lot of people woke up. The Sony hacks then made things quite real. There is a definite shift in focus and an increased dedication of resources for preparedness. Cybercrime isn’t about stealing credit card numbers anymore. It is about stealing healthcare information, social security numbers, internal emails, recently approved drug recipes that can be turned into a black market product or even attempts to shut down an electrical grid. This is why V.C. has invested so heavily in the last two years — these are sea change problems.
The conversation we need to facilitate is less about FireEye and more about making sure that people understand the available options to mitigate risk. The ultimate marketing truth is that people are sick of being sold to by vendors. In our industry, Chief Information Security Officers are the change agents, and that is why we need to equip them with the intelligence and information to go to the Board and create a case for budget. We don’t want to use fear tactics, we want to make sure people are smart and prepared. They will come to their own conclusion about how our product fits into that preparation.
Kara Wilson is Chief Marketing Officer at FireEye. With over a decade of experience in market-leader enterprise technology firms — CMO of Okta, CMO of SAP Cloud and VP of Collaborative solutions at Cisco — Kara has brought a collaborative and targeted marketing approach since joining FireEye in 2013. We spoke with Kara to gain her perspective on changes in cybersecurity and her use of targeted and informative marketing to connect with key stakeholders in an increasingly noisy and saturated market.
FireEye is the leader in intelligence-led security-as-a-service, becoming the first cybersecurity company awarded SAFETY Act Certifications by the US Department of Homeland Security in 2015. Expanding rapidly since its foundation is 2004, FireEye now serves over 5,000 customers across 67 countries — providing threat prevention platforms for network, email, mobile, endpoint, content analytics and forensics. With scalable products, FireEye offers comprehensive protection and breach response services within a single platform.