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11/10/2017
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Joshua Goldfarb
Joshua Goldfarb
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Why Common Sense Is Not so Common in Security: 20 Answers

Or, questions vendors need to ask themselves before they write a single word of marketing material.

I believe it was Voltaire who noted that "common sense is not so common." Most of us can relate to this sentiment quite well, just based on the various scenarios we encounter day to day. But I think that this quote is particularly apt for the security field.

For example, how many times have you seen breaches or intrusions that could have been prevented with simple industry best practices? Or, how many times have you encountered people who are fixated on a particular type of product or service, even though it may not fit well with their security architecture or where they are maturity-wise as an organization?

I find this is particularly true within the security market. Amid all the confusion and noise, I would expect security vendors to try and rise above the madness in an attempt to articulate their true value. Instead, it just looks like everyone is trying to shout the same message a bit louder than the next person. So in the spirit of trying to be helpful, let me present: 20 questions security vendors need to ask themselves before they write a single word of marketing material.

Image Credit: DuMont Television/Rosen Studios. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Image Credit: DuMont Television/Rosen Studios. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Do you know your buyers? Ramming hype and buzz down people's throats may win you some meetings and get you some attention. But it generally won't get you the attention of those who would seriously evaluate your solution. The real decision makers have been around the block a few times and are not as easily fooled as you might think.  It pays to understand them, and then to tailor your marketing material to your intended audience.
  2. Do you understand the value of your solution? If you don't understand the value that your solution provides to a security team, you can't begin to explain why they should buy it.
  3. Do you understand where your solution fits within a security program? If you don't know how your solution fits within my security program, how can you position it to me in a sales meeting?
  4. Does your solution add value to the security program? I have too many tools as it is. If I am going to acquire another one, it really needs to add some value.
  5. Do you know what life is like day to day in a security program? If you don't understand the challenges I face, don't be surprised if I roll my eyes when you tell me you have the solution I've been waiting for.
  6. Does your solution help to ease the pain or merely create more? If you've ever worked in an operational security position, you know the pain I'm talking about.  If I think a solution is going to add to that pain, I'm not going to buy it.
  7. Is your solution an alert cannon/false-positive generation system? I have plenty of alerts and false positives already.  If your plan is to deluge me with even more, count me out.
  8. Do you understand the problems your buyers face? How can you proffer a solution if you don't grasp what the real problems are in the first place?
  9. Does your solution solve one of those problems? It is far easier to get my attention and make a sale when your solution solves a problem I am actually looking to solve.
  10. Do your buyers understand what problem you solve? This is perhaps one of the most important points when it comes to marketing materials. Try communicating the value of your solution in the language of the buyer. If I can't understand what you're selling me, it's going to be hard for you to pitch it to me.
  11. Are buyers in the market for solutions that solve the problem you solve? Some security products are solutions looking for a problem. A solution has to be both good and relevant in order to sell.
  12. Does your solution really do what you say it does? It is possible to keep up appearances for some amount of time, but sooner or later, the truth comes out.
  13. How many markets do you really cover? Don't tell me you span 10 different security markets. There is no way that is true, so save your breath.
  14. Are you anchoring your product marketing around the buzzword of the day? Be careful — once this buzzword passes, so might the value of your messaging!
  15. Are you practicing ambulance chasing? Tempted to say that your solution would have prevented the latest big breach to hit the news? Don't. No one wants to hear it.
  16. Are you running after the latest shiny object du jour? Big data? Security analytics?  Artificial intelligence? Next-generation endpoint? Do you really know what those words you're throwing around mean, and how they are internalized by your potential buyers?
  17. Is that really a white paper, or is it a sales pitch in ink form? I enjoy reading white papers that provide me some insight and value and pique my interest in a solution. Not marketing fluff disguised as a white paper.
  18. Does your marketing material feature studies from institutes that are known to find whatever results you want them to, for the right price? Yeah … just keep moving right along.
  19. Are you prepared to give meaningful content at your events or in your webinars? What goes a long way when I'm making a buying decision is whether I actually learn something.
  20. After an interaction with you, do prospective buyers leave you with something you can take home and apply? For example, do they offer analytical techniques you can apply to identify suspicious or malicious traffic?

What questions do you want vendors to ask before they make their sales pitch? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Josh is an experienced information security leader with broad experience building and running Security Operations Centers (SOCs). Josh is currently co-founder and chief product officer at IDRRA. Prior to joining IDRRA, Josh served as vice president, chief technology officer, ... View Full Bio
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