Written by Savannah Schurig, SCV Marketing Lead
"Half my advertising spend is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half."
This quote is regularly attributed to either U.S. retail magnate John Wanamaker or to UK industrialist Lord Leverhulme, depending on which side of the pond you reside.
We all know marketing is more important than ever in cybersecurity.
Scaling and expanding your brand presence in the overcrowded security product market is an important component to business growth. But kicking off the process is daunting, where does a startup full of technical founders begin, especially when you are on a 2023 'slow the burn' diet prescribed by your board..!
Do you go for an extensive in-house marketing team, a lone marketer, opt for a complete outsourcing strategy, or do it yourself? These are pivotal questions.
To exclusively outsource or have in-house marketing for cybersecurity companies depends on various factors, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It is greatly dependent on the stage of the company and the maturity of the product. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice should be based on the specific needs and circumstances of your company. Here are some considerations for each approach:
Outsourcing all Marketing:
- Expertise: Marketing agencies often have a team that has specialized expertise in various aspects of marketing, including SEO, content creation, and social media. The more expensive agencies sometimes have more experience, while the cheaper options usually have a higher percentage of young post-grads. Our experience has been that it will be very difficult to fully vet the team that will ultimately be supporting you before signing on. Keep in mind that turnover is high at the agencies as well.
- Cost Savings (maybe): Outsourcing marketing can sometimes be more cost-effective, as it avoids the need to hire and maintain a full-time marketing team, saving on salaries, benefits, and training costs. But our experience has been that good full-service agencies that focus on cybersecurity can cost much more and be much less effective than one really good, hard working, in-house team member.
- Access to Tools and Resources: Marketing agencies often have access to advanced tools, analytics platforms, and industry insights that can be beneficial for your marketing campaigns. With an in-house team, this would be an extra cost, but you get more choice there of which analytics platforms you would find the most useful.
Fully In-House Marketing:
- Full Control: In-house marketing teams give you more control over your brand image and messaging. You can have a team that's dedicated to understanding your specific cybersecurity products and services fully without having to train multiple different account managers at a firm.
- Company Culture: In-house marketers may have a deeper understanding of your company culture, values, and long-term goals, allowing for more aligned marketing strategies. And remember, cybersecurity is probably foreign to marketers that haven't worked in the space whether in-house or at an agency unless they have had 1-2+ full years of experience in-house for a cybersecurity company. Also, most marketers are trained in school solely to market to DTC and not B2B so this can be something to consider when hiring.
- Quick Response: In-house teams can respond quickly to changing market conditions, emerging trends, or urgent marketing needs without relying on external parties. Having an in-house team member can swiftly address and resolve most issues in your marketing strategy, providing a nimble and personalized approach. In contrast, external agencies may encounter delays in response and remediation.
- Confidentiality: Cybersecurity companies sometimes deal with very sensitive information. Having at least one in-house marketing team member can enhance confidentiality, data security, and ensure good OPSEC.
- Long-Term Relationships: In-house teams can build long-term relationships with your customers and stakeholders, potentially leading to a stronger brand reputation and customer loyalty. This is important as well for co-marketing efforts, events, trade shows etc.
Ultimately, the choice between outsourcing, in-house, and do it yourself marketing depends on factors such as your stage, budget, the need for specialized skills, the desire for control, and the specific objectives of your company. Many series A and beyond cybersecurity companies opt for a combination of both approaches, using in-house marketing teams for core activities while outsourcing specialized tasks or projects to agencies as needed. This hybrid model can offer the best of both worlds, so here's my recommendation:
Consider hiring an in-house marketer with 1-2 years of experience in cybersecurity, preferably from a startup environment. This individual should know basic industry lingo, subcategories of cybersecurity, be adaptable, ready to tackle various roles, and adept at solving problems swiftly. An early-stage startup marketer will develop messaging and positioning documents, handle PR efforts, handle demand generation, support sales enablement, oversee SEO optimization, provide analytics reports, etc. This versatile marketing approach necessitates a marketer eager to take on a learning-oriented role and manage a team of external marketers as well.
Next, have your in-house marketer delegate tasks in your marketing strategy that require specialized expertise. While it's important to maintain control over your brand, outsourcing certain functions like blog writing, SEO, and PR can enhance efficiency and offer effective ways to manage your marketing strategy while retaining oversight of your brand. Try not to outsource important functions like messaging and positioning, important product launches, and core brand identity, as these aspects require a deep understanding of your company's values and vision. By selectively outsourcing specific tasks, your in-house marketer can focus on high-impact activities, ensuring that your brand's essence and strategic direction remain closely aligned with your overall goals. This strategic combination of in-house control and expert outsourcing can provide a well-balanced and effective approach to managing your marketing efforts.
A forth and often more prudent use of limited company resources.. Some of the best marketing we've seen for very early stage companies is guerilla, raw, and produced by savvy, well rounded, founders. In many cases, only industry experts can generate the content needed to create just enough buzz for a niche product in a highly technical industry.
We invite you to reach out to SCV here to set up a meeting to learn more about our experience with marketing early stage cybersecurity companies. We have seen it all!
ABOUT STRATEGIC CYBER VENTURES
Cybersecurity is national security, and we are a D.C.-based venture capital firm on a mission to find cutting-edge startups that help us make an impact. We go beyond the check to help our founders win by leveraging our industry connections and experience as cybersecurity veterans to fuel their companies from inception to exit.