Opportunities for cybersecurity firms to succeed in 2023: Q&A with Matt Davies, CMO, SEON
Last year was another rollercoaster year for the cybersecurity industry and marketers. But what’s the direction of travel for 2023, and where are cybersecurity’s growth opportunities?
To get some answers, Shaped By business director Dave Corlett sat down with Matt Davies, a seasoned tech marketing leader who recently joined fraud prevention firm SEON as CMO following nine years at Splunk, most recently leading their newly formed Customer Marketing unit.
We find out where he thinks the opportunities are for cybersecurity firms to succeed in 2023, how his first year at SEON is going – and what his all-time number-one dad joke is. (It’s pretty good, to be fair!)
So you’ve been in the CMO role at SEON for eight months. What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Accepting that I’m one of the oldest people in the company has been a big challenge 🙂 I might have been working for IBM whilst doing my degree before SEON’s founders were born. That’s a challenge that I’m not sure I’ve dealt with yet…
More seriously, I think the first eight months have really been about remembering the speed a company moves at this size. It feels very similar to Splunk in the early days, but remembering that speed just took some time to re-learn.
The second challenge was integrating the different parts of marketing together. It would appear that I say “join the dots” a lot when making sure marketing teams and programs are working together as it’s become a bit of a catchphrase now. The different parts of marketing reported into different functions when I got here so we’ve spent some time making sure content is working with the customer lifecycle team, demand gen is working more closely with events, SEO and PR are now teaming up more and the brand team are making sure the new brand identity is consistent across all the channels.
The last challenge was really digging into all the data that sits across multiple teams, systems and sources to get a real understanding of where pipeline comes from, how channels are performing, effectiveness of our funnel and how people are choosing to book a demo vs a product trial. I’ve looked at more graphs than is healthy but we’ve got a good understanding now and the changes we’ve made are starting to make a difference.
There are hundreds of cybersecurity companies out there, and a lot look and sound very similar. But SEON’s approach includes emojis on the homepage and a ‘superhero’ narrative. The founders’ journey is even reimagined as an “origin story”. It doesn’t feel very ‘cyber’! How important is it to find your own voice and stand out?
Nobody has been bitten by a radioactive fraudster as far as I know but I think I’ve used the term “friendly neighbourhood fraud fighter” in the last 8 months. Our typical audience has traditionally been pretty practitioner-oriented and they really are the superheroes of their organisations. We’re really Alfred, giving them the right kit to go and fight crime and be the world’s greatest fraud detective (Batman analogy over).
We’ve intentionally tried to make the product incredibly easy to try, use for free, get started with and integrate very quickly. All our docs are online, our API references, our G2 and Capterra reviews really are the voice of our customer.
We talk about being product-led but it goes beyond just the product. Our Customer Success team are all ex-fraud analysts, you can access all of SEON’s capability through an API and the pricing model is incredibly fair – you only pay for what you use each month. It’s quite like a developer-centric tool in that sense, but it does touch on some areas of cyber and fincrime but also on parts of an organisation that deal with growth.
“I think that link to really helping the business stay in motion is a bit different from the classic cybersecurity “protect yourselves” approach.”
We’ve seen recently the start of an evolution where fraud prevention is seen as not just keeping customers and organisations safe but also helping them grow and keep revenue in motion – both blocking bad actors but importantly letting good customers conduct their business with the best possible experience. I think that link to really helping the business stay in motion is a bit different from the classic cybersecurity “protect yourselves” approach.
I don’t think it’s been a deliberate effort to not be “cyber”, I think it’s really just an attempt to be very honest and humble and talk to the right people in the right language. The SEON fist bump emoji would make a great superhero logo though…
The era of “growth at all costs” is all but over now, with the tech industry very much realigning itself around more pragmatic spending to accelerate profitability. Has this changed your perspective on marketing’s role in this “new world” we’re in now?
There’s a commentary now about 2023 being “the year of churn”, every buying decision being reviewed by the CFO and definite ROI and value from any investment. This means we’re going to need to move beyond just explaining “what” it can do but “how and when” is it going to do it and impact the bottom line.
I think this is going to mean marketing’s role has to evolve beyond not only building demand and telling the story of “why this technology and the promise of value”. Marketing is going to have to help explain and show what it’s going to be like “post-sale” and how a company will help with the first months and beyond. We’re going to need to show practical processes, content, stories and how-tos to show what it is like to be an owner and user of a software platform. The word is often overused but anyone making a spending decision will need to feel like the software provider really is a partner and is truly in the boat with them helping row it (not just on for the ride).
My last role at Splunk was looking after the newly formed Customer Marketing function that focused on advocacy, executive briefings, the community, and the idea of customer success marketing. All those functions were integrated together to try and help the “owning” part of the customer journey (onboarding, adoption, retention, expansion, advocate and then expand). This helped me a lot with the role at SEON as our monthly pricing model is a true “pay for what you use” which means a customer being successful (and quickly) directly impacts our revenue.
What will the most successful cybersecurity brands get right in 2023?
Five things, in my view:
- Helping companies quickly when they are in a difficult situation faced with a security incident, regulation, new threats etc.
- According to Gartner, only 20% of a buyer’s journey is spent with the vendor. The most successful cybersecurity brands will help prospects in the 80% of time they aren’t spending with them. That could be content, trials, communities, education, value proof points etc.
- Helping the person who makes the technology decision show the value and impact of the choice that was made
- Making it easy for companies to buy cybersecurity technology. There is a view that selling cybersecurity software is hard, we need to ensure we remember that it isn’t always easy for a prospect or company to buy it either.
- Show cybersecurity spend not just as a cost or defensive move but a chance for growth, increased revenue and a way to improve their customer’s experience
Your Splunk colleagues (well, maybe not all of them) loved you for your legendary dad joke status. So…what’s your all-time top dad joke?
I have to confess to establishing the dad jokes Slack channel at SEON – I hope it is at least part of my legacy here 🙂 I don’t know why I find this one so amusing – I’m not sure if it is because of it’s brevity, the imagery or something else. I think it came from someone at the Edinburgh Festival one year but it was just “Clowns divorce. It became a custardy battle.” Many apologies for that to everyone – it is more than a trifle bad.
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