There’s good news and bad news for companies hoping to make their mark in the cyber security universe. First the good news: The market for these products is huge and growing exponentially. Security Analyst and researcher Richard Stiennon, in a column on Forbes.com and extrapolating from Gartner data, projects a ten-fold increase in IT security spending over the next 10 years- to $639 billion annually by 2023. That’s a number that would have any company executive working overtime to tap into.
But here’s the bad news: This is not exactly a secret. The competition is fierce and growing, as the growing number of solution providers races to meet this demand and take advantage of the opportunity.
It’s easy to have a marketing plan that pushes key messages out to prospective customers. At Bluetext, we think an influencer strategy is essential as part of that plan, and especially in such a crowed space as cyber security.
How any company—from established household names to challenger brands—can break through the noise and the clutter to attract the attention of this market requires an engaging and creative marketing approach that clearly sets it apart and above the competition. This demands a fine understanding of the value it brings to its customers and why it’s the best solution for any particular challenge.
Yet, simply having great creative is only half the battle. Getting that message out to the market is a whole new challenge, and needs both a direct approach and an in-direct strategy—the bank shot to reach the intended audience. Direct tactics are obvious—direct mail, email blasts, online and print advertising, a digital presence, trade shows and webinars; these are all direct appeals to potential customers.
The indirect approach is in many ways more difficult. It requires using industry influencers to reach their larger audiences with your content and messages. That is no small task, and it takes a dedicated investment in time and research. Here are some of the required elements to implement an effective influencer strategy:
1. Identify the best influencers for cyber security.
2. Recruit those influencers as allies and advocates for your thought leadership.
3. Engage those influencers through social media and direct outreach so that they will spread the word to their audiences.
Let’s take these one at a time.
Identify. Identifying the right influencers for any market, and in particular for cyber security, takes some research and digging. The key is finding the leaders who not only have the most followers on social media, but whose content—including tweets, blog posts and news articles—are shared the most frequently. When Bluetext executes an influencer campaign for its clients, we look first at the number of twitter followers and LinkedIn connections for each influencer candidate. But that’s only our starting point. More important is researching their history of shares among that audience. If a particular individual has a large number of followers yet few who share and rebroadcast that content, it could mean that his followers don’t find his content to be valuable, or that he doesn’t post content very often. If there are a lot of shares, retweets and comments, that’s a good indication that the person is read and taken seriously across the industry.
Recruit. Recruiting an influencer doesn’t mean offering them a job. It means building a relationship so that that person knows you are reading his content and pushing it out to your audience. The best way to do this takes work. The first step is to follow that person on Twitter, and to subscribe to his feed if he has a syndication service. The second step requires that the person’s content be reviewed on a daily basis. Any time there is a post that is relevant to your market, share it, follow it, retweet it, comment on it or call it out and add your own perspective. The idea is demonstrate that you are an active fan and follower who is paying attention to the expert.
Engage. Engaging with the influencer is a long-term project. After you have shown interest and built a credible track record of reading and sharing his content, he can be approached as an industry expert, a colleague and a reporter. That might include asking for his opinion on a new development, offering to share an announcement that he might find interesting, and even giving an advance look at a new piece of research or development. The goal is to be viewed the same way that a reporter would view a valuable source—with credibility and interest. When that engagement is solidified, the influencer is much more likely to pay attention to your content and to share it with his audience.
This may seem like a cumbersome process, and Bluetext dedicates a fair amount of energy to make this happen for our clients. But the payoff is significant. Using the bank shot to reach a much broader audience through sources that they trust can help rise above the competition in a crowded and growing market. A smart influencer strategy takes time and commitment, but it’s worth the effort.