“Sales and marketing always have to work hand in hand. Marketing teams that ignore sales often become fixated on volume and that is where the cooperation starts to fall apart. It is arguable that marketing should spend no money and no time on almost anything unless it is a priority for the sales team.”
Insightive.tv: What challenges do you face in your current role reaching out to your target audience?
Nigel: As EMEA Marketing Director for a California-based firm, I am often confronted with the necessity of taking a message that is originally designed for a US audience and making it applicable to the different verticals, roles and geographies that I deal with. In North America, everyone speaks the same language and often business drivers and concerns are similar. In Europe, we are a series of villages with different ways of looking at things. The difficulty is that there are lots of nuances ranging from laws, regulations and the degree of technological adoption, to the way in which sales are executed and the expectations of your customers. To look at just Germany and the UK — in Germany you are much more likely to get asked how your technology works, in addition to what it does. In the UK, there is often an expectation that the supplier provide the business ROI for superiors within the firm. Neither of these things are particularly common practice in the US, and, very broadly, I think much more is taken on trust by customers in the American market than here in EMEA.
It is a very noisy marketplace. As a supplier, you have to prioritise, focus, and identify exactly who your audience is. I think a lot of marketers judge themselves on how many leads they generate, or how many white papers have been downloaded — but I think the key to cutting through the noise is to make sure that you are not doing too much. Of course, I would rather contact a dozen people who I know have the budget and need for our product than a thousand that don’t. The fact that we can talk to billions of people all around the world all at once is not necessarily the positive that it might initially appear to be, it can be distracting. One new piece of technology we have implemented in this regard is Account-based Behavioural targeting — the ability to focus tracking ads to hit only specific people or companies rather than broad web adverts that are displayed indiscriminately. The immediate goal has to be identifying the customers that align with your proposition and then move backwards from that point.
An underlying challenge to this, however, is a common issue affecting sales in IT generally — the buyer is not always the direct beneficiary. With us, for example, you could argue that the specific beneficiary of our product is often the Risk, Audit, or Compliance Departments and the employee end users. But we are selling to IT Departments. Articulating to the IT Department the benefits of our product to other areas of their business and creating awareness and demand for our product across an entire organisation is a subtle but complex challenge that often involves identifying and speaking with multiple people within the target organisation to build momentum throughout the sales cycle.
Insightive.tv: How closely do your sales and marketing teams align?
Nigel: Sales and marketing always have to work hand in hand. Marketing teams that ignore sales often become fixated on volume and that is where the cooperation starts to fall apart. It is arguable that marketing should spend no money and no time on almost anything unless it is a priority for the sales team.
I think that this is particularly important for organisations like ours. Our market is rapidly growing, and if we do not take advantage of that, we could easily be overtaken without losing any customers. This is why we focus on companies that need our product. Marketing is all about budgeting and timing. Instead of looking to pull in hundreds of leads online, it is often more productive to spend significantly more money on a targeted individual from a company that fits our specific criteria and invite him or her to a dinner or other relatively expensive activity. Our sales team would rather have one great contact than fifty who may or may not even be able to buy our product. That sales orientated focus guarantees that our marketing efforts translate into positive sales outcomes.
Insightive.tv: Which channel would you say is currently the most productive from a marketing point of view?
Nigel: The simple answer to that is organic, inbound traffic to our website. I pause here, however, because, particularly in regards to a large company, there is never just one way in which we are in contact with that organisation. Inbound traffic doesn’t just happen by accident — you have to create content worth reading and reach out to create interest in a variety of ways. I think that marketers can sometimes get fixated on trying to identify a primary source for customer generation, however, doing so often misses the larger picture.
For example, when I started at Skyhigh in 2014 I knew that the GDPR was going to be a big deal in the near future. I am also aware that there is often a large disconnect in language and thinking between the IT people and the compliance department — they often do not understand each other, even when in the same meeting. Given that we are marketing security solutions to the IT department that are really aimed to meet compliance concerns, I decided that, from a marketing perspective, it could be invaluable to write a book specifically aimed at bridging that gap — introducing fairly long and complex regulation to the IT department. The result was The European Union GDPR an Action Guide for IT. Last year, it was our most downloaded asset in Europe.
This book is actually a good example of a lot of what I have been talking about. In putting it together, I travelled around different European countries to make sure it was tailored to concerns applicable to a wide range of markets. And it is certainly worth noting that because of the disparity in existing regulations between European countries, there is widespread variation is what changes will be required to meet GDPR compliance. It depends on the organisation, but from a marketing perspective, it is important to talk about security as an enabler of change. If you feel that allowing your users to use cloud computing is safe because you have all the measures in place, then you can allow them to be free and use the technology that they feel is best for them. If you come at it from an attitude of needing to stop things — that is an old school model that prevents innovation.
The book has also allowed us to get roundtables with potential customers, and include people from multiple departments. As I said earlier, this is particularly valuable because it allows us to get both the purchasing departments and the departments that directly benefit from our products, in the same room. We also look to get C-suite people from several organisations together. This, again, is not a hard-sell environment. We just encourage people to talk about security issues with their peers and see what sales opportunities fall out in the end.
Ultimately, it is very hard to talk about any of this as a single channel. Many of these conversations begin with inbound enquiries from our website, but everything from the content that drew them there, to the follow-up conversation, are essential to close any deal.
Nigel Hawthorn is EMEA Marketing Director at Skyhigh Networks. When Nigel took this role in 2014 he had already accrued almost two decades of experience as a marketing director. Between 1998 and 2011, Nigel led EMEA marketing for Blue Coat Systems and grew their annual regional sales from scratch to over $200 million. Nigel is a hands-on marketer and products expert with a focus on lead generation within targeted sectors and businesses. We spoke with Nigel to gain his perspective on marketing and channel saturation — how he cuts through the noise to access key stakeholders and advance Skyhigh’s market position in a competitive and growing industry.
Skyhigh Networks is the world’s leading Cloud Access Security Broker [CASB]. Their security systems enable companies to adopt cloud technology while retaining the security of traditional network systems. This is accomplished by enabling threat visibility and security protocols that ensure compliance and data protection across shadow and sanctioned cloud services. Founded in 2011, Skyhigh now services over 600 firms, including DIRECTV, General Mills, HP and Western Union.