Cybersecurity Market Confusion: Does your Brand Positioning pass the test?

The cybersecurity industry is front and center in today’s corporate minds and budgets. With a dramatic rise in online hacking, virus deployment, and denial of service attacks, boardrooms and government agencies are finally taking threats seriously. There is a huge demand for a solution that provides a proactive rather than reactive approach to security, but each organization will have a unique set of requirements.

What piece of a $1 trillion pie will belong to you?

According to the research firm Cybersecurity Ventures, global spending on cybersecurity products and services to combat cybercrime will exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the next five years. Steve Morgan, founder and CEO of Cybersecurity Ventures projects that cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, doubled from 2015.

The inconvenient truth about our always-online digital world is that everyone is a target. As a result, customers are willing to pay almost anything to prevent a breach. Yet along with this huge opportunity for tech companies is a huge struggle: how to make your unique voice heard in an increasingly crowded market.

Why is it so hard to break through, get heard, and stand out?

1. Product solutions often cross two or more market segments. That overlap and redundancy blurs the lines for customers trying to find the best answer. At first, it looks straightforward, with three general cyber categories: Prevention, Detection, and Response. But as customers search further, those macro segments break down into a confusing array of sub categories including:

• risk and compliance management • identity and access management • data loss protection • firewall • IDS-intrusion detection systems • unified threat management • encryption • anti malware and antivirus • web filtering • security and vulnerability management • DDoS.

2. Products with the same nomenclature, claiming the same benefits, make it difficult for customers to understand what makes any two products different. In some market segments 10 or more vendors have the same product name, and hundreds claim the same benefits as yours.

3. Cybersecurity technologies are lost in their own words—many using virtually identical marketing and messaging, right down to the buzz words.

Game-changing technology is no longer enough. Standing out takes breakthrough brand positioning.

How can you differentiate your solution within a sea of look-alike promises? Is believing in the game-changing uniqueness of the product you’ve invented enough? Unfortunately, a graveyard of failed technology products says otherwise. Remember the Apple Newton? Or Microsoft's Zune? How about Amazon's Fire Phone? Tivo, Google Glass, MapQuest, Netscape, AOL, and Blackberry?

For customers, the clutter has become overwhelming. Research from Cybersecurity Ventures notes, "There were more than three dozen vendors and startups in the endpoint security market alone in 2016. For an evaluator or buyer of cyber security products, that’s too many options, too many disparate approaches, and too much confusion—clear signs of saturation in any market."

The technology marketing mountain you face is high: Fragmented brands. A plethora of media choices. Overlapping solutions. Competition with well-established tech leaders.

Crafting a brand position that rises above the noise requires pinpointing the primary reason your target market should choose you. Brands are either better, different or cheaper.  What key differentiating benefit makes you unique?

Is your left brain screaming, “Branding isn’t important?”

Think again. Every time you see the word “branding,” replace it with the word “reputation.” Then ask yourself if your reputation is important. Branding defines and manages that reputation and creates your most valuable corporate asset: Trust. Branding also defines the success of your sales team. After all, if your target market doesn’t know who you are and what you stand for, then how easy will it be for your team to get meetings and generate leads?

Does your current brand positioning have the right stuff? Ask these six questions.

1.     Does it differentiate? Can anybody else do what you do exactly the way you do it? Does your selling message specifically answer why customers should choose you? Defining your key point of difference will determine how many minds you seize and how much market you move.

The “Value Curve” lets you visualize how you stack up. Simply list the top 5 to 7 attributes customers use to buy your product. Then rate your product on each attribute on a 1 to 10 scale. Do the same for your key competitors. Are there gaps? Weaknesses? Opportunities?

2.     Is it relevant? Desirable? If your brand position doesn’t directly connect to your prospect’s business drivers, crucial needs, and strategic goals, then it isn’t compelling. If it isn’t compelling, then it isn’t an effective brand position.

The Harvard Business Review discussed a concept called the “9x effect.” Prospects overvalue what they already have by a factor of 3x and undervalue what your new solution brings to the table by a factor of 3x. So to break through, your solution must be perceived as 9x better than what they currently have. Does your brand position give them a compelling reason to change that’s 9x more powerful?

3.     Is it tailored, meaningful, and relevant to different stakeholders? Selling technology in a B2B world requires a brand position that reflects deep understanding of what matters most to each key stakeholder. Their needs are often not the same. Carefully consider what will compel CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, COOs, and ultimate users. Can your overarching positioning embrace and be customized to these different crucial players?

4.     Does it demand attention? Does your brand position take a 20-minute explanation? That won’t work. Give it the elevator test. Can you summarize the salient reasons your brand is better on a short ride with a key prospect? Your “reason why” must be straightforward, relevant, and easy to remember.

The more complex your brand explanation, the less likely your prospects will hang in there to hear you out, or remember what you told them. Here’s another great test. Try fitting your brand position on the front of a tee shirt. Remember, you will support your brand position with evidence later. But you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

5.     Is it believable? Defensible? Give stakeholders the ammunition they need to defend and sell your product all the way up through their company. Give them their talking points. Tell them how to face tough questions about how your solution will bring real value to their organization.

The more precisely you can articulate evidence of your success, the more motivating your brand will be.  The faster you can show how your product ties to their strategic initiatives and outcomes, the easier it will be for them to defend.

Remember, someone in a complex sales situation will be required to sell your product without you being present. Give them three compelling support points that prove your solution works, is unique, and brings your positioning to life in a meaningful, competitive way.

6.     Does it inspire action? Before anyone takes action, they must be motivated. Your brand position must reflect a visceral understanding that connects to the driving forces compelling your target market stakeholders to act. You must also tie your positioning to some measure of time—if they wait to act, why will they regret it? Let them know the cost of inaction.

Did your brand positioning pass these tests?

Of course, there are many other “tests” your technology solution must ultimately pass and articulate to close the deal:

•    Compatibility with current legacy systems

•    Ease of use and speed of deployment

•    Evidence of data accuracy and success rates

•    Customer support and training after implementation

•    Timeliness of how your product stops, corrects, augments cyber threats

•    Value for the money—is it relevant to their business unit and are the results actionable?

But first and foremost, getting in the door and being remembered takes a brand position that gets heard, stands out, and sells faster.

The Bottom Line

“If your brand position is always fighting head-to-head with your competition over who owns this attribute or that attribute, then you risk being mired in the mud, which leaves you covered in dirt and unable to get above the noise.  You may do very well engaging in those fights, but every day you’ve got to wake up and fight them again and again. But brands that understand the difference they make in the lives of the people they serve discover a competitive advantage that lifts you above the fray.” 

~Roy M. Spence, “It's Not What You Sell, It's What You Stand For.”