Setting out your marketing stall as a cyber security start-up

This is the first in a series of blogs to guide the growing number of UK cyber security start-ups as they build their brand and sales pipeline of new business opportunities. 

Whilst the midst of a pandemic may not seem to be the obvious time to kick-start the marketing engine of your cyber security start-up, that isn’t necessarily true. A number of US head-quartered vendors have tightened their belts and refocused on their home markets. This has left a void that bold cyber security entrepreneurs can step in and fill. 

However, for many founders of innovative cyber security companies, getting their marketing right lies way outside of their comfort zone. As any successful entrepreneur knows, the technology landscape is littered with the bodies of amazingly innovative technology companies that failed to communicate their message effectively to their target market. 

In most start-ups, once the R&D teams have completed their quality assurance and turned their technological vision into a reality, they are faced with the task of how to market, sell and position their solution. 

Unfortunately, the age-old adage of ‘build it and they will come’ has been proven to be completely untrue. So, how do you acquire the marketing expertise and talent to build awareness and demand for your new-born product or service? 

There are several immediate challenges which we’ll aim to address in the course of this blog series:

  • What sort of marketing expertise do I need?
  • How can I attract someone with the kind of experience to give me a head-start?
  • How long will it take me to find the right person?
  • How much money should I allocate to marketing?

Thinker or Doer?

Your first marketing recruit is a hugely important decision. Do you choose an industry veteran with a proven track-record and understanding of the big picture, or someone with less experience who will be more tactical (and cheaper) to implement marketing activities? 

Ideally, the answer would be both. The reality, unless your pockets are very deep, is that you usually need to make choice between the two.  A lot of companies elect the cheaper option of a tactician or maybe even a digital marketing graduate. 

This is partly due to cost, but also due to the difficulty of attracting an experienced marketeer to join a start-up firm rather a more established company with a generous remuneration package and a large marketing budget at their disposal. 

Whichever way you want to cut it, building an inhouse team on a tight budget will always mean ending up with only some of the skills that you need. So what are the other options open to you?

In-house or Outsourced?

The concept of managed outsourced service providers is a well-accepted norm in the cyber security industry due to the shortage of cyber security talent. Getting the right marketing services works in the same way – and when it comes to marketing cyber security, for the same reasons.

There is a vast choice of marketing agencies available but very few will specialise in the cybersecurity sector. Marketing agencies are in the business of marketing, but unless this is set in the context of cyber security – understanding the buying journey, where your customers are and how they think – any marketing activity will be a lot less successful.

Marketing specialists who understand the language of cyber security and have worked with similar innovative companies over a number of years inevitably have an advantage.

As start-ups successfully grow, available budgets increase and you may want to develop your own in-house marketing team. Yet it’s likely that you’ll still want to outsource some areas of your marketing such as PR or website design services and it will simply be a question of transitioning the nature of the outsourced services as your business evolves over time. 

In our next blog, we will look at the question of developing our marketing strategic plan. 

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