Cybersecurity Marketing in the Time of COVID: 3 Leaders Speak

Over the summer I hosted Atri Chatterjee, CMO of ForgeRock; Dean Niccols, vice president of Global Marketing at Jumio; and Ryan Bunker, senior business development executive at on how the global pandemic was impacting their markets, their marketing tactics and their teams. Here are some of the highlights from the three chats, which you can hear in their entirety at

On the impact on their target markets and segments:

Dean Niccols

Dean – We see both ends of the curve, customers that are struggling, those that are booming and everything in-between. For example, for financial services, there have been a lot of banks whom have been trying to figure out how do we quickly digitally transform ourselves. If we require people to come into a branch office to create an account, how can we make that happen online? Obviously, many of the bigger banks were already doing that. But not all of their processes were geared for online and now they are accelerating. But obviously other industries like travel and entertainment, kind of the sharing economy have been hit very, very hard. And we’ve seen their transaction volumes come way down.

Atri – We didn’t have a big segment problem, but we did have some. Firstly, identity and access management is a reasonably horizontal business in the sense that everyone needs it if you’re doing business with your customers, and you have an online a portion of your business as well, you need to make sure that you can manage access and give them the ability to manage access etc. With that said, there were certain industries that were hit really hard—examples being travel, hospitality cruises, for example, we have a cruise line who’s a big customer of ours, so obviously, they were not thinking of, you know, doing anything new with identity and access management, they had to worry about all the ships that are out there and bringing all those passengers back. But on the other hand, we also had a sort of a demand, increasing demand, because every one of our customers were going through the same type of analysis that we had, that we had to go through, which is what do we do next? And how do we do more stuff online? How do they make that pivot? And what are the technologies do they need in order to be able to pivot effectively? And so remote access became, of course, very important for their business to employee situations. And, and of course, you know, increasing their capabilities and, and, and throughput to be able to do online commerce and online, customer interactions became more important. So that was actually an opportunity for us.

On changing tactics:

Ryan – I think that content is king in this type of scenario. You know, we really tried to focus on creating our message and positioning ourselves. So we were differentiated from the rest, but also telling it in a narrative format. So you know, always making sure that you’re telling a story that’s crisp, relatable, and that people can understand why you’re different because I think everyone in security on the vendor side has some sort of remote work solution. Everyone is vying for the limited attention that the security practitioners have. So creating content that is differentiated for us, and educational primarily, given that we are a new category within the remote workspace, I think that’s been our focus.

Atri Chatterjee

Atri – We typically sell our solution to larger companies and larger organizations. So our go-to-market approach is very much of account-based. We obviously do a lot have different types of lead generation. It’s very focused. The price point of the solution is such that we employ either a direct sales force in conjunction with partners to do our selling for us. So in that context, you can imagine the go-to market involves a lot of physical activity, you’re selling a high priced product. People want to interact with a salesperson, they want to do a pilot, they want to work with a sales engineer. They want to go through that whole process before they basically make a decision on infrastructure design decision about their identity and access management. So when COVID-19 happened, we had to quickly pivot to make sure that we went 100% Digital. And so the good news with that was we were always digital. We never did any physical activities without some sort of a digital counterpart. We always had digital activities that were part of our campaigns. They typically were hybrid campaigns, so then we had to pivot to 100% digital.

Dean – We used to go to a number of larger shows, and events and conferences. Those are obviously taken off the books. So we’ve gotten all virtual with everything that we’re doing. A lot more on webinars and platforms like BrightTALK. I think some of the other things where we’ve invested is also in online marketing. Now, online means a lot of things to a lot of different people. We’ve always been pretty heavy when it came to, things like pay per click, Google ads, etc. But now what we’ve done is ramped up a lot more advertising on third party websites. Business sites, and technology sites that can be tracked the trade press that customers follow. And it’s not just banner ads, but it’s negotiating placements for editorial. It’s doing webinars with those same publications. So we’ve really ramped up our presence on online media in those outlets.

Also, content has always been a pretty important part of the overall marketing mix for us. But so many people now are researching online. And so many people, and this was obviously happening before COVID, where they want to be educated, they don’t want to be sold. And so putting out more thought leadership pieces, helping them understand these are some of the nuances, in terms of the space that we serve, what you should look for, in terms of trying to find the right solution provider, I think is becoming even more important.

On virtual shows:

Dean  – We recently did the Okta Virtual show and it was really interesting because people would come by our virtual booth, just like they would come by an actual booth, and then they would be congregating there. And from our virtual booth, you could download content, right from our booth, right videos. And so we’d have people coming to our booth and maybe you 1 out of 10 people that visited our virtual booth would engage us in a conversation because I think there’s just again, they’re self-learning. They’re consuming all the resources you have at your virtual booth. And I think in many cases, they prefer to do that than to actually have an actual conversation. And here because the visitor to your virtual booth has complete control, like, no thanks, I don’t want to talk with you. Let me just kind of consume the information as I want to. It’s interesting.

I think we had some very good conversations. But you really need to put a lot more focus on your post-show follow-up. You better make sure you got a good plan in place to follow up with all those virtual visitors that never gave you the kind of the time to talk that they would at an actual physical booth.

Atri – One of the things that we typically do in the company is a program called ID Live. It’s our user conference. We typically do it in June and in the Americas, it’s a two-day event. In March, we had to make a decision on what are we going to do with that? We can’t do that anymore. In June, we were supposed to do it in Chicago, right? That was out of the question. And so we have pivoted that into an ID live virtual events globally and it is working out great.  It’s not the same as meeting people in person. But you can actually get higher volume. So, you know, because people are more efficient, they come in quickly, they want to see something so you have more interactions. You may not have the same level of engagement, but you have higher amounts of engagements and greater frequency of engagement.

On taking care of their teams:

Ryan Bunker

Ryan –  We do a virtual happy hour on Friday afternoons, where everyone sits down, grabs a beer and every week we rotate through a different team member and they get to show pictures in a slideshow of their hometown or wherever they’re from. Yeah, we have quite a small but diverse team. We have people from Canada, Argentina, the U.S., India, Bangladesh, Israel. So each time we have people share some cool images. You know, last time we had one of our team members show us pictures of a destination wedding she went to in India and it was awesome.

Atri – We’ve done these three things. First one was to facilitate frequent communication. You’re not in the office anymore there. You don’t have that concept of being able to interact with people when you walk to the water cooler or whatever. So we try to increase the amount of communication that we have with our employees. We do all-hands meetings. All the employees almost every month, maybe sometimes even more frequently, short ones half an hour, a quick update so that people know what’s going on. For my team, the marketing team, which is worldwide, we have virtual water cooler events every week, so one on Tuesdays and the other ones on Thursdays spread into the different time zones. There’s no agenda. People just get on. They can see each other if they have questions. They’re trying to fix something this that they can ask it, they can chat. They can chat about the weather, they can chat about what’s happening in each of the different territories. So it’s really a fun thing. It’s exactly what you would do in a water cooler and everyone doesn’t have to attend. And then the last thing is we have to cut down the number of meetings. Because when everyone’s remote Guess what, other than the need for meetings has gone up, people want to interact with people they’ve got. And so we’ve tried to like, streamline the number of meetings we can have and insisting on people to basically put aside time so that they can actually work and not be interrupted by having to do constant online meetings.

Dean – There’s a few things that we’re doing. I mean, we’re all stuck in a Zoom world now. So one is we do a weekly stand-up meeting with the marketing team, and it’s pretty light. And we try to laugh a lot during our weekly meetings, I’m meeting with my own team in one on ones, they’re a lot more frequent than they used to be. If nothing else, to maintain the rapport, to make sure we’re staying on track of on top of all of our projects, you know, and we’re doing the same thing. I think even at the executive level and across the company it is hard working from home and keeping the rapport going and keeping the momentum going. When you’re not sitting next to your peers is tough. So I think having the regular cadence of meetings and not always just focusing on the numbers and on the executables, but, you know, let’s start the meeting by talking about what you guys do. Last weekend, let’s talk about, you know, three of your favorite must-watch, bingeable series that you’re not watching. Doing more of that kind of make sure the rapport is established and maintained, I think becomes even more critical now than before.

Many thanks to Dean, Atri and Ryan for this great insight.  You can hear these complete interviews as well as many more insights from Cybersecurity Marketing Leaders at

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Ken Rutsky

Consultant, Strategist & Author; Helping Leaders Tell Their Story, Position Their Offerings, and Dominate Their Markets

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