Serena Raymond, Marketing Director at DNS Filter, walks us through her career journey from social media content creation to Marketing Director at DNS Filter. Serena explains the recipe for virtual event strategy, including how to leverage social media and email marketing to gain speakers and attendees, as well as how your virtual event can translate directly to your sales pipeline. Serena also discusses her opinion on agency marketing company vs internal teams, and reveals her secrets for optimizing impact. Timecoded Guide: [01:53] Moving from social media content creation to Marketing Director
[05:12] Getting started with virtual event marketing strategy
[12:52] Understanding what makes your virtual event worthwhile for sales
[20:25] Taking advantage of being on the internal side of marketing
[25:23] Comparing and contrasting agency and internal marketing
How should you host a successful virtual event?
A strong, successful virtual event should include both your company’s internal SMEs, or subject matter experts, and industry experts from outside of your organization. Serena recommends deciding first on the top tracks you want to pursue, before tackling speaker research. Once relevant, experienced speakers have been found, Serena explains that choosing an event platform that meets both your and your audience’s needs is essential.
“Our platform was a huge obstacle for doing a virtual event. There's so much vetting you have to do. I was kind of thinking, ‘Oh, we'll choose a platform and we’ll run.’ There's so much work that goes into that, and that was pretty eye opening.”
What is one key way to entice your desired audience to your virtual event?
Enticing your desired audience should start with LinkedIn and Google ads, which are consistently effective. However, Serena believes the key to your target audience resides with your speakers. Find speakers who appeal directly to your target audience and give them a high quality social media kit. Make it very easy for your speakers to share to followers and potential customers about your event with personalized images, text, and messaging.
“What I think was most key, above all else, was we had a lot of speakers who appeal to that audience. We gave them a really cool social kit, with the links and custom images with their faces, and they were able to share it with their audience on social media.”
How do you know if your online event is justifiable in terms of sales pipelines?The
justifiability of your virtual event extends beyond the pipeline and merges into retention. Your goal is to host an event that provides value to both your attendees and speakers. Serena recommends having sales touchpoints at your event, like a happy hour, where folks can gather and connect. Then, once you build that relationship, your sales and marketing teams can remind the potential client about the happy hour and follow up with them.
“We had a little happy hour after the event, and we had some customers come and we actually got great feedback from that. Our sales team was there and we chatted with that customer and took it offline, and we wouldn’t have had that conversation without that event.” What’s the difference in effectiveness between internal marketing and agencies
With experience in both internal and agency marketing, Serena explains that a key difference between the two is that being at a marketing agency puts you on the “outside.” You’re not in the company’s Slack channels or taking part in staff meetings, and you don't have their customer service records. Marketers at agencies don’t have real buy-in or “skin in the game” when it comes to a specific company. The internal marketing teams, on the other hand, have crucial inside information that can help them perform better and boost employee engagement.
“One of the things I loved about being a marketer for a dedicated company, was I got to get really good at it. I got to go deep on the product and understand our audience. I got to listen in on demos, talk to customers, talk to people who aren't in marketing.”
Get tickets for our upcoming CyberMarketingCon2022.
Spend some time with our guest Serena Raymond on LinkedIn.
Follow Gianna on LinkedIn.
Catch up with Maria on LinkedIn.
Hey, before the show starts, we want to let you know that the Cybersecurity Marketing Society's annual conference, CyberMarketingCon2022 will be held this year, November 16th through 18th in Arlington, Virginia, and yes, there will also be a virtual option.
You really don't want to miss it. We'll have two days jam-packed with cybersecurity marketing
strategies, ideas, metrics, insights — it's going to be the place to be. Visit
cybersecuritymarketingsociety.com and click on “Conference” to grab your ticket. We'll see you there.
Welcome to the Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast…
… where we explore the hottest topics in cyber marketing, interview experts, and help you
become a better cybersecurity marketer.
Hello, hello, and welcome to another amazing, spectacular, stupendous episode of Breaking
Through in Cybersecurity Marketing. I'm one of your co-hosts, Gianna Whitver.
And I’m Maria.
And we are so excited today to have Serena Raymond. She is the Marketing Director at DNS
Filter. Prior to that she spent several years in the content production, copy editing, and social
media sphere. And she also has a passion for wildlife, which rings true with both of us, I think.
So Serena, we're so glad you're here today.
Serena Raymond 1:24
Thanks, Gianna, thanks, Maria. I'm super excited to be here as a fan of the podcast.
Awesome. Yeah, and let's dive right in. So first off, so you're gonna — you have an interesting
path, because we don't often see this path happening in a career. Not to say that it doesn't
happen, but you came from social media and content and now you are Marketing Director. Can
you talk a little bit about your journey from the more social copy content side of the house to
being in charge?
Serena Raymond 1:53
So, it's interesting at DNS Filter — which is obviously where I am now — they prioritized content above all else. I was the first marketing hire. So I think a lot of it has to do with what was prioritized by the company when I started and also continuing on. So as the first marketing hire, I was a content producer. I put together white papers, blogs, and emails, and I did all of the social media for a very long time. And in doing that, and being one of the only marketing people, I got to learn our product really well. I got to learn our business really well. And I think I joined at pretty much the perfect time. I think we were around 20 people when I started. We're now over 120. So I think a lot of it has to do with Right Place Right Time, I was at the right point in my career. And I was also allowed to grow a lot. I had a lot of skills with me from my agency background. And even prior to that, I worked actually for a company that sold cardiac devices and CPR services. And I did a lot of design and marketing materials for trade shows. So I just had a lot of varied experience that I could apply to my role at DNS Filter, and it just kind of grew from there.
I love that journey. Serena, I think we all should take a learning lesson from that in the sense
that no one should ever actually get comfortable in their little niche discipline of marketing and
diversifying is super important. Even if you don't see yourself doing it in 20 years. I love that.
I want to pivot just briefly because from our scoping call notes, you mentioned something about creating a successful virtual event strategy. Talk to us about that a little bit and what the journey was from idea all the way to completions and your learnings.
Serena Raymond 3:57
We hosted our first-ever virtual event late May of this year. And honestly it started out as a
brainstorming call around what webinars can we put on this year? Let's build our webinar
calendar. And as we were talking about it, it grew and all of these ideas kind of seemed
connected. We wanted it to be something that could reflect on the pandemic, where we are in a semi-post-pandemic world, for the most part. Where we are now that remote work culture and remote work in general is more of the standard, especially I think, in our industry. And what security learnings we've had in that time as obviously we're a remote-first company, and we have a product that is very useful for remote work environments. We realized it was kind of the perfect blend and we could put all of these things together and host a really interesting event and we relied on some of our own internal SMEs as moderators, but one of the things we wanted to do was really highlight subject matter experts from outside of DNS Filter, and I got to meet a bunch of great people. So what we did was first we put together what are the top tracks that we want, what are we most interested in? And then from there, I went and found speakers who I thought had great backgrounds who had things to say on these topics. And it was a really great experience. Some of them I'd known before, and I thought, “Oh, they're perfect.” They agreed to do it, which was awesome. And some people I reached out to for the first time, and they were incredibly receptive. And once we got our speakers together, and once we picked out our platform — which is a huge obstacle for doing a virtual event, there's so much vetting you have to do. I was kind of thinking, “Oh, we'll choose a platform and we’ll run.” There's so much work that goes into that. And that was pretty eye opening.
What platform did you choose, Serena?
Serena Raymond 6:02
So we went with Brand Live, and it really worked well for us. Their internal support was really
great. We ran into some hiccups, as with any platform you're going to get that, but I was
amazed. Jumping forward to the day of the event: there were no technical glitches, no one lost
connection. It was amazing, because it was a five plus hour event. I think it was 299 minutes
when I got the recording and realized that, I was like, “We have 299 minutes of content. What?
Who gets that in a day?”
That's amazing. That's like, reuse, recycle. That's our strategy for the next six months.
Serena Raymond 6:47
Precisely. We're still putting out content related to the event. So, from setting everything up, we had test sessions. We wanted to make sure all of the speakers were really comfortable with the materials that we were going to talk about with the platform itself, because that's a huge barrier. And it went really well. We smashed our goal for registrations and I think everyone had a lot of fun. We had a celebrity guest, which originally was not part of the plan, but we threw it in there, and I think that was really fun to kind of lead into a happy hour. And post-event, we've gotten some really great feedback. And we've been able, like you said Maria, to recycle all of that content. So we have blogs, we have short videos on our social,
Tweets with quotes, we have all of this and more. And it's just been really exciting. And I'm still
kind of amazed we pulled something like that off because it was so much work.
That’s awesome. So who was your audience for this event? And how did you go out there to get signups and registrations, like what are the channels that you used and the tactics?
Serena Raymond 8:10
Our main audience are IT specialists, cybersecurity professionals, and as well as MSP owners,
we have a lot of MSP customers, we do really well in the MSP space. So we did LinkedIn ads,
we did Google ads, and we also posted in the MSP community. And we had a lot of success
that way. We obviously marketed to our database. And what I think was most key above all else was: we had a lot of speakers who appeal to that audience. And we gave them a really cool social kit, with the links, with custom images with their faces, and they were able to share it with their audience. I think everyone shared it, we gave them some example Tweets and posts and some of them just kind of took it and posted it as-is. A lot of them customized their own. And everyone was really excited to do it, which is just the best thing.
That's amazing. You enabled your influencers, who you've invited to come and speak and
agreed to speak and you've enabled them further so that they could reach their audience
without your help — or with your help, but without you needing to handhold every single one of them because I assume there was some sort of customization on faces. But in general, you kind of handed out similar items for everybody. So that it wasn't like an incredibly heavy lift. Is that right?
Serena Raymond 9:39
Yeah, exactly. We were able to customize materials for each speaker, but also per segment per
session. So I think we had like 13 speakers so it wasn't an incredibly heavy lift — similar
graphics, but we gave that customized feel. And really, I think it made everyone feel really
welcome and kind of special, I think, you know, they get an image that they get to share, they're doing this. That's exciting because some of them were, I think, first-time panelists. Some of them were not, some of them were seasoned pros and I'm so grateful that they agreed to be part of our little experiment.
Was that part of your strategy to mix the seniority of speaking? And mixes in your audio
speakers? Did you guys plan that on purpose or did it just happen?
Serena Raymond 10:27
It just kind of happened. I was seeking speakers who I thought would basically crush the topic.
Who, based on what they had done in the past, what they'd spoken about, what they care
about, would be passionate about it and be able to speak at length among a range of topics
within that little topic cluster. So, the webinar experience or the speaking experience didn't come into it so much — obviously, our keynote speaker, he hosts his own podcast, we had another speaker on remote work, who'd been speaking at so many events. So some of those people stand out and maybe I think I found them partially because of that, but that wasn't really part of my strategy. I was just looking for good fits.
Awesome. I don't know if we asked this, what was the name of the event?
Serena Raymond 11:23
It was called “DNS Unfiltered: the Soundtrack to a Post-Pandemic Workplace.”
Oh, that is brilliant!
Serena Raymond 11:33
And yeah, so we had a rock star theme. We had Mark McGrath, the lead singer of Sugar Ray,
play us a song on the way out. And it was really fun, because we got to play with the theme and I think that was another aspect, actually, if we go back to the question of how we got people interested — we had fun with it. And I think our ads resonated, our emails resonated, because we were trying to do something outside of the box and just be a little fun.
Love that. That's how you stand out, right? That's how you stand out from the noise of the 1000s of other security vendors, and that's so cool.
Serena Raymond 12:12
Yes, concert puns. That's the key: concert puns.
One last question from me on this — and it's so brilliant how you and your team set this up —
has to be, with a content event, a content-producing event, it's valuable to everybody involved. It's valuable to marketing. It's valuable to your attendees, valuable to your speakers. Have you been able to track, measure, or justify the event so far in terms of pipeline?
I mean, maybe you can talk about the feedback that your sales team gave you on the leads
generated from the event, or if any of it overall generated some good conversations, maybe?
Serena Raymond 12:52
Yeah, I think it was justifiable in terms of pipeline. I definitely saw deals come through and our
sales team got to talk about them and they were people who went to the event. Actually, we had one major prospect who closed the deal around that time, and it was a very big deal for us. And they had signed up for the event and they actually attended. And it was really exciting for the salesperson to come back and say, “Oh, that big deal, like right before they closed, this was a touch point.” So, that was really exciting. And in general, our sales team was super excited about the event. They were sharing it on their social platforms in their emails, and we also had a little happy hour after the event. And we had some customers come and we actually got great feedback from that. And our sales team was there and we chatted with that customer and kind of took it offline, and we don't have that conversation without that event. And now when we see that customer on our webinars and other things, we could say, “Oh, hey, we had a happy hour with you, how's it going?” And there were a few others. But there was one person in particular who is really, really vocal and cool to hang out with.
That's awesome. So it's beyond pipeline generation. This is retention. This is touching on every side of the business. Love that. Yeah.
I think what's interesting about DNS Unfiltered, is that based on what you were saying earlier
about the social and about running social ads, you got Garner attendance and things like that, is that social may have had a strong impact on the success of the event. Would you say that?
Serena Raymond 14:41
Yeah, LinkedIn in particular. I am a strong believer in LinkedIn as a social platform, especially for
our audience. And obviously having our speakers share things there, us being able to connect
with our speakers, tag them. It really helped us amplify our message and get people to that
And now, we'd like to take a moment to thank our sponsors and producers Hacker Valley Media. Chris Cochran and Ron Eddings run an amazing studio here, which produces not only the Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast, but a bunch of other shows that you're gonna want to listen to as well. So all these shows plus more, and then on top of that, probably even more coming soon, are available to look at, listen to, and sponsor at hackervalley.com. Make sure you go over there and say, “Hey, Gianna, and Maria said I should come check out your website, listen to your shows, and sponsor a podcast or two.”
Okay, and I ask this, because in our pre-call, we have a bullet here, we took a note. It's just the three words: I hate social.
Serena Raymond 16:05
So I think that comes from, “I hate doing social.” Social as a marketing tactic is, I think, great. I'm just terrible at it, personally, I'm terrible at it in my personal life, terrible at it in my professional life. I hate it for that reason. It's just not something I'm good at. And I did it for many years, somehow, and I think it kind of worked. I got some good reactions. But I also think there is a problem with certain social channels. So LinkedIn, I think, is great for our audience. Twitter as well. I don't care about Facebook. I don't know if that's a controversial statement at this point. But if our posts on Facebook don't blow up or they don't get a ton of attention, it's hard for me to care, I guess.
Yeah, there's only so many channels you can focus on and you have to go where your audience is. I don't know anyone — there's still humongous audiences on Facebook. But the younger generations are migrating to more of this like TikTok, Instagram…
Serena Raymond 17:14
It's funny that you say that because we are actually testing TikTok, but we're doing it mostly from a culture perspective. It's kind of like people have DNS Filter, because something that we found is TikTok is a great hiring platform. We have two employees who learned about us through TikTok, through like other people’s TikTok. So, we thought, let's create our own.
Serena Raymond 17:39
Yeah, no, seriously, two hires off of TikTok. This is not a joke.
I have this opinion on TikTok — and anyone who's listening, feel free to send us an email or
send us a message if you disagree or agree or what — so TikTok, everybody's concerned about the security of TikTok, but anyone who's under like 20 doesn't care about that yet, even if they're going to get into security. So there is a huge amount of people who are going to be on TikTok, who are going to be buyers, who are going to be future employees, who are maybe not in security yet, so they don't really care. Plus, I think a lot of security folks actually don't care whether or not TikTok is a security issue or not, you know, with the whole thing with China. I actually think that TikTok is probably a good social channel for a lot of us.
Oooh, she said it — she called it a marketing channel. You heard it here for the first time ever!
And I have heard that because TikTok is dipping its toes into, even the billions of people on
there, I hear that because it's a less mature ads platform that maybe it's a little cheaper. I don't
know if that's your experience, Serena in terms of like —
Serena Raymond 18:45
Yes, so we haven't done ads yet but I do know, looking at the ad rates, it's cheap right now. It's
not going to be that way forever. So I think like get in on it while you can because it's going to go the way of Instagram, Facebook, all the others. But we have yet to test TikTok ads, we're doing it organically now. And I mean, I agree. I think there are definitely some security practitioners who care a lot about TikTok security. I think a lot of it though, it's less security and more privacy. Because I know I've seen this before, that TikTok is spyware. I have definitely seen that statement before. I've heard it from internal coworkers at DNS Filter. So I guess less concerned about security, more about privacy and what's happening to your data. But I also see a lot of TikToks do well on LinkedIn. And that's another benefit. So we've done some fun security-based TikToks and then we get to go and test them on LinkedIn. So we get to create content for two platforms and see which one does better.
Amazing. The two employees who joined your company, what role were they? Were they
marketers or were they salespeople or were they security folks?
Serena Raymond 20:03
One is definitely sales. The other might be HR? I don't know for sure, but no security folks.
Okay, I was gonna test the hypothesis and I was like, had my fingers crossed that you'd be like, “Yeah, it's our whole security team is now coming from TikTok” but I'm wrong, I'm wrong about that.
Hopes and dreams shattered.
Serena Raymond 20:23
Right? One day.
So, this is something we definitely were excited to dive into with you. You obviously have that
unique experience of coming from the agency side, and then into the dark side of a full time
within a security vendor or company. So walk us through it, what has it been like the pros, the
cons, the mitts, the ugly, the great?
Serena Raymond 20:50
Yeah, so, my main cybersecurity experience came from the agency side, that's where I was
really introduced to the tech industry, the cybersecurity industry. And I got to work with a lot of different clients, I got to see the inside of a lot of different organizations, different CEOs, differentmarketing teams. So I picked up on some things, which was kind of fun, I got to try different things. But one of the things that I loved about moving to DNS Filter and being a marketer for a dedicated company, was I got to get really good at it. I got to go deep on the product, I got to understand our audience, I got to listen in on demos and talk to customers, talk to other employees. people who aren't in marketing. You don't really get that on the agency side. You can get it a little bit, but so much of it comes down to the trust of the client and that's going to be different every single time. Some clients will treat you as an extension of their marketing team. Some clients will shut you out, because they see the agency that was hired as a competitor of the marketing team. I would say those are the main differences between being on the inside and being on the outside. Being on the outside, there's less attachment, too, so it's not just that you don't know the product as well, you care a little bit less. You can move on at the end of the day, whereas your internal marketers of that client, they're dealing with it, they're doing things and there's also communication breakdowns. When you are internal to a marketing team, you know what's happening across the organization, you see things that are coming in, you see the conversations your coworkers are having, you just have the pulse, basically. When you are on the agency side, and you have a call, even if it's once a week, there are things that you are not privy to that you are missing, that could probably help you do your job better. But you don't see it because you're not in their Slack channel, you're not in their random channel where somebody posted something about a customer and it turned into a thread about how they can do something better. You don't see that. So you can only be so good as an agency marketer, in my opinion, because it's really about what the client gives you. I mean, it all comes down to that. And it's different every time. I've never had an experience as an agency marketer, where we got a new client and I thought, “Oh, okay, this is exactly the same as client A. And it's just a clone.” No, every single one, they can be similar but they're all unique in their own way. Just like any job when you go from one organization to another, everyone does things a little
That's so insane to hear that certain companies will think of the agency as a competition to their marketing team. Like, what? That makes no sense at all. That's crazy.
I desperately wish that some of the agencies I've worked with were any competition to my
Serena Raymond 24:25
Well that's the other thing too, is they often are not. But I think that sometimes internal
marketers will see their boss go out and hire an agency and think, “Well, I could have done that. Why didn't they talk to me?” And then you're asking for resources, you're asking for things, and you just get the runaround or you get a little bit of pushback. And also, the other thing that we haven't talked about yet is the expectations of the client versus the expectations of me as that agency marketer. What I set out to do might not match those expectations and that also can cause conflict. And a lot of that comes from how services in the agency world are sold, which I have a lot of opinions on.
That's awesome. Let's get into those opinions, if you can list one or two real quick.
Serena Raymond 25:23
Sure. The old adage is “undersell/over-deliver,” it's what you want to do. I think a lot of agencies will do the inverse, they will promise the moon. And a lot of times, it's people in positions where they don't really know what it takes to do the work. They don't know how long it takes to put a content plan together, a marketing ops plan, how long it takes to set up Google ads, have them running, and then see results. So they promise results in 30 days, they promise things within timelines that don't make sense. I've seen this a lot. And then it's on the marketing practitioners to deliver that and kill themselves doing it or to fail. And I think that there's a lot that needs to go into building that strategy around your marketing services when you are going to sell them. And I think a lot of it comes down to communication
around, “Hey, what are we good at as an agency marketing team? What are our strengths?
Let's build services around those strengths. And then let's go out and sell them and build
products around that.” And I think that those agencies would be better for it. And I'm sure there
are agencies out there who do that. But I have definitely seen instances where what is being
sold — and I've seen this on both sides, mind you on the side of the agency marketer and an
internal marketer, I've seen it both ways — where you're sold on something, or your company
sells something that does not match what you can actually achieve. And that, I think, is the
biggest problem. And I also have a problem with retainer hours. I don't love that method of managing work. Because if you sell 10 hours a week to a client, and you have a weekly meeting with that client, and you have three people on that call, three hours are down, and the client doesn't really understand that. And it's something that those expectations need to be set early on. But it impedes the work. And I just find it really stifles creativity because people have a seven-hour window now in that week where they have to produce work that gets results, and you have multiple people on the account. So maybe there is a good way to do retainer hours and just 10 hours is a terrible minimum. But I find that it's not that successful on the marketing side, because some projects take longer than others.
Yeah, that's so true. I didn't know that, and now, it makes sense because each person, each
head, is a billable hour, right? Each person costs money to the agency. And so they have to
transfer that cost somehow. So, like, a one-hour meeting transfers into — wow, that's crazy.
I think it's time to play our game. Maria, are you ready?
Yeah, let's do it.
Serena, this conversation has been awesome. And now, we're going to do something incredibly silly. We're going to play a game where we guess, if you were not a content marketer, or head of marketing, or director of marketing, or marketer in cyber, like, what would you be doing?
Serena Raymond 28:59
I've thought about this a lot, because I've listened to the podcast. And it would be easy for me to say “writer,” because that's so close to what I've been doing for so long. But I think if I had to choose something completely new, I would go with “threat researcher.” I obviously am really
passionate about cybersecurity and when I get to talk to our DSDI team and look at threats and I always tell them, “I'm playing threat researcher!” I love it. I think it's so fun. I get to go down weird rabbit holes. I always do it, it's for PR purposes but I always think, “Oh, this would be fun. If this was my day, and I could just trace all these threats.”
I love that! I was gonna go a whole different route.
Serena Raymond 29:44
Yeah, I was gonna take advantage of the fact that I dug into what you have been doing, maybe
like, your college days and I was gonna say, probably wildlife photographer or something that
has to do with animals and wildlife? But no, I am totally off.
Serena Raymond 30:03
Oh no, I'm a terrible photographer, terrible at social, terrible at photography.
So, travel Instagrammer is off the list.
Serena Raymond 30:11
Yeah, no one would follow that though. My pictures would be terrible. I'll go camping among the wildlife and all that. But yeah, leave the social media behind.
Well, thank you so much, Serena, for coming and sharing everything about what you hate about agencies and your content strategy for big, awesome events. How can people reach out to you if they want to?
Serena Raymond 30:36
You can definitely find me on LinkedIn, Serena Raymond. That's pretty much it. Like I said, I'm
not on social media besides that, but that's the best place and I would love to connect.
Awesome. Thank you for being on again. We'd love to have you. If you, listener, want to be on
Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing, send us an email at podcast with an S at hacker
valleymedia.com and we will talk with you about whatever amazing marketing stuff you're doing.
Alright, thank you, Serena. Thank you, awesome listeners. If you don't know this, a new episode drops every Wednesday. Make sure that you check in. And of course, give us five stars. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbors about this awesome cybersecurity marketing podcast, and thanks for tuning in. See you next week!
Tell the wild animals.
And the red pandas.
Yeah. I was gonna say “the moose” but I like red pandas better.
Serena Raymond 31:27
Oh! Tell the cheetahs and then run!
Serena Raymond 31:35
You won't outrun them.
No, but they'll have a good podcast to listen to while they eat you. Oh god, I'm ending this.