September 28, 2022

Build Brand Awareness via Demand Gen with Elliot Volkman

by Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing

Show Notes

Elliot Volkman, Director of Brand, Content, and Community at Drata, joins us in this episode to talk about demand generation strategies, also known more casually as demand gen. Demand gen consists of targeted marketing programs to drive brand awareness and build interest for qualified leads in products, services, and more. Tune in to our discussion with Elliot to learn how demand gen intersects with sales enablement, brand, content, and even community. 

Timecoded Guide: [03:52] Demand gen vs. brand message

[07:40] The goal of demand gen in an organization

[14:48] How demand gen ties into content and community members

[22:45] Key metrics and KPIs to track brand awareness

[31:04] Experimentation and demand gen  

How does demand gen differ from and bring focus to brand awareness?

Elliot believes that a lot of C-level executives mistake brand awareness for traditional marketing or product marketing. Brand awareness is more about what customers see when they encounter your company via search engine. Product marketing is instead about targeting specific personas. Demand generation fits into brand awareness because it’s designed to drive customer’s awareness of your company and build interest in your products, rather than directly marketing those products to them through product marketing strategies.

“The most important and critical aspect that organizations fail to pay attention to is building your brand, especially building voice and messaging around it that resonates.”

What is the goal of demand generation if not to drive sales?

A lot of organizations have an executioner and a product marketing lead, with various jobs for each role. Demand gen’s job is to take the webinars the executioner makes and the messaging the product marketer makes, and then guide those towards business alignment and increased brand awareness. Elliot emphasizes that demand generation drives sales, but does not drive lead generation. Demand gen is not supposed to chase leads the way a product marketing manager might, it’s instead supposed to build awareness.

“I think there's two aspects of demand gen, depending on the organizational size and what they do, but at the end of the day, the demand generation strategy does have to drive pipeline.” How does demand gen tie into content and community?

Oftentimes, in Elliot’s opinion, marketing can rely too much on technology. While technology is critical, you don’t have to educate anyone on why it’s important. Demand gen focuses more on humanizing the brand and building something fully centered around the customer. You rely on internal experts to build a community that ties everything together from marketing to security to visuals, and beyond. And in the end, the customer should be the hero and should feel like one in your demand generation strategy.

“It’s about focusing on people, focusing on processes, and embracing technology, of course. At the end of the day, having our customers be a voice is absolutely critical to the success of our future.” What are the KPIs to track brand awareness?

There may be numerous ways to track brand awareness, but Elliot explains that the main KPI is organic traffic to the website. The byproducts of increased organic website traffic include organic increases in demo requests, nurturing people through the buying process, and acting as fuel for the engine of marketing campaigns. There’s no direct selling in a demand generation strategy. You can avoid those most-hated marketing tactics, like when you cold call or appear in their already crowded email inboxes. Demand gen is all organic and based on nurturing the customer.

“We're not trying to brainwash people by any means, we're actually able to help educate them along the way. We build a relationship through that education and through those materials, and then, maybe they'll check out what our product does, or they've decided to download something, and we can continue to nurture them.” 



Get tickets for our upcoming Cyber Marketing Con 2022

Spend some time with our guest Elliot Volkman on LinkedIn, Twitter, and his podcast, Adopting Zero Trust.

Follow Gianna on LinkedIn.

Catch up with Maria on LinkedIn.

Join the Cybersecurity Marketing Society on our website, and keep up with us on Twitter.

Keep up with Hacker Valley on our website, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.


Elliot Volkman 0:00
I love it especially because I sort of started in content marketing, and then I spent most
of my time in demand gen, and I have fortunately stumbled back outside of demand
gen. I have nothing but endless respect for what they do. So that's why I can talk the
most shit about them.
Maria 0:18
Thank you. Thank you.
Gianna 0:20
I think me and Maria technically both count as demand gen people.
Elliot Volkman 0:23
Don't you ever question everything?
Maria 0:26
Yes, it's why I drink.
Elliot Volkman 0:29
I mean, I'm not laughing at that, I'm laughing with you.
Gianna 0:35
Hey, before the show starts, we want to let you know that the Cybersecurity Marketing
Society's annual conference, Cyber Marketing Con 2022 will be held this year,
November 16th through 18th in Arlington, Virginia, and yes, there will also be a virtual
Maria 0:51
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 and click on “Conference” to grab your ticket. We'll
see you there.
Gianna 1:07
Welcome to the Breaking Through and Cybersecurity Marketing podcast
Maria 1:11
Where we explore the hottest topics in cyber marketing, interview experts, and help you
become a better cybersecurity marketer.
Gianna 1:27
Welcome to another great, amazing episode of Breaking Through in Cybersecurity
Marketing. I'm one of your hosts, Gianna Whitver.
Maria 01:36
And Maria, as usual.
Gianna 01:37
And we're so excited because today we have one of our favorite most dynamic,
interesting people, friends and marketers. We have Elliot Volkman here. He is the
Director of Brand, Content, and Community at Drata. And Elliot, we're so excited to
have you here.
Elliot Volkman 1:53
Oh I’m absolutely thrilled to be here as well. I've listened to y'all from your first episode.
Y'all do a fantastic job. Even beyond this, when I first stumbled upon what y'all built, the
community and the society, in the back of my mind, for years, I was like, “We need to vote like this.” Especially for startups who are like, “How the hell do I communicate with other people in our space? There's like two of us here, and this person has never been in cybersecurity.” They just don't understand the pain or you can't chat with salespeople about marketing-related concepts. So I just love everything about what y'all have put together. And I'm very excited to be here.
Maria 2:30
Thank you. Thank you. I'm so surprised that you listened since the beginning and you
still agreed to come on the show. And you don't think it's just putting on a shit show
every time. So thank you, we're humbled.
Elliot Volkman 2:42
Well, I mean, it's only 5pm here, so it's not tequila hour where I'm messing everything
up yet.
Maria 2:49
So let's come back when that actually happens, that's gonna be a fun episode.
Gianna 2:54
I just wanted to take this moment — and Elliot, you mentioned it first, it's not me — to plug the Cybersecurity Marketing Society, which is of course, the best, number one, fastest-growing group over 1,300 cybersecurity marketers congregated together on the internet plus on virtual events, at our physical live conference, which will be held in Virginia in November. And we have a great safe space for cybersecurity marketers to come together, talk strategies, talk about the industry trends they’re seeing. If you want to join us at Alright, so let's get into this, actually. So Elliot, you are at this really interesting intersection of brand content and community, which is easy to say, because it's in your title, so I just read it off the screen. We were hypothesizing that the title of this podcast episode would be called, “Talking Shit About Demand Gen” in the scoping call. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between demand gen, and then the brand, content, and community side of the house and why you're gravitating towards this brand side?
Elliot Volkman 3:52
Yeah, absolutely. So I think it comes down to an inherent misunderstanding at the C-suite level, usually, as far as what role marketing plays in an organization. Especially for startups, because everyone in this room here has been part of InfoSec startup at some level. And usually, their idea of marketing is you: bring in leads, you drive pipeline, and that's it. I escaped a company recently that essentially thought we were sales driven as a marketing organization. They thought marketing should be at events, shaking hands, basically playing the role of an SDR. And an SDR might be part of the marketing team, sure, but there's just an inherent misunderstanding. And I feel like after so much uphill babbling from a demand gen team, as soon as I saw that this role even existed — and it is a unicorn for me, it doesn't exist in most cases — I immediately stopped my search started having conversation with Drata and I was just very fortunate that everyone's awesome. It led me to escape demand and at least for
now to be able to pursue this, because at the end of the day, it is the most important and critical aspect that organizations fail to pay attention to: which is building your brand, building voice and messaging around it, especially that resonates. And I'm not talking about product marketing, which, obviously, is very critical to making sure that you're aligning with personas and whatnot. But the level above that: what did people see when they first see Drata?
For us, we want them to understand trust. And that's what we're being able to build through our messaging, visually, how we're capturing all of that. And then of course, we have some of the other benefits: being able to power the demand gen team and power the product marketing team with content and copy and visuals. And then obviously, we have the third aspect, which is community. So that's a little bit outside of the scope of probably any cybersecurity organization. I'd say probably maybe one out of 100 is open to the concept, but most of them, “I have no idea what this is,” they won't invest in it. They don't have time for it. So very split. But that's kind of the rambling approach to it, and why I think it's just executives are not fully understanding and why it's so important.
Maria 6:10
So, on that, are you saying that this particular issue is mostly prominent in early stage
startups? Or would you say that this is probably a common problem in later stage, too?
Particularly the confusion of what is demand gen and what should actually, what should
marketing actually do while working with sales towards one goal, essentially?
Elliot Volkman 6:32
Yeah, I mean, it can absolutely be a more frequent issue in startups, because usually, you don't have a serial successful entrepreneur. You might have a serial entrepreneur who has failed through many businesses, which is fine. But if you are able to jump onto a startup that has founders and executives that have been through the ropes, and that all functions, you're not going to come through and spend most of your time battling through what the hell brand awareness is, and what the goal of marketing is. So, yeah, you might be able to avoid that in some startups. But you're probably going to find fresh CEOs and technical co-founders who, they have an idea of what marketing is, but they probably think it's more sales than not. For more mature organizations? Yeah, you'll definitely still run into that. But they don't get to where they are, usually, without better alignment on what marketing and brand awareness does for our company.
Maria 7:30
Yeah, seriously, I was holding my head in bitter agreement, because Elliot is literally
speaking the truth right now.
Gianna 7:40
Actually, I want to ask you a question, which is, okay, so if they're not, what should demand gen’s goal be, then, if it's not to be a sale, like a subset of sales?
Elliot Volkman 7:49
I think it probably depends on the structure of an organization. So I'm very fortunate where there's like 15+ people on this marketing team, it's not a 19-month-old company. So if you have a chance to go working for a unicorn, absolutely do that, because that's what you get to run into. That said, if you're in a startup, or you have a very small marketing function, usually,
you're probably going to get a demand gen leader, maybe someone that executes, and that executioner probably builds events to and webinars. They probably do way more than they have the capacity for. And then maybe you have a product marketing person that helps with messaging, product marketing fit, that kind of stuff. That's kind of where my brain is usually at, as far as how that functions. But when that happens, that means demand gen has to be able to — more than anything — map it to business alignment. So the best way that I can describe this is like, if you look at, in our industry, what a CISO does, there's probably two different
kinds of CISOs. There's the person who sort of stumbled into it, and it's their first or second CISO role. They're highly technical, they were really successful in what they did, they understand the space in cybersecurity, but they might not have the full grasp on how to communicate and go through the politics and be able to speak to it and convert it into business terms. So, the CISOs of the future, the ones that you're going to see and run into the most frequently, those the people who understand the business side of it, and they sit or
should be at the board level, they’re C-suite. For demand gen, if you're on a small team, same concept. You're either going to run into a scenario where you're just doing everything and you're executing and you're hopefully able to prove results. Or, you have to come in there and just know how to wrangle everything, play politics, and explain and educate along the way. It obviously slows all momentum, which is not fun, but it's an absolutely necessary component.
So that's the roundabout way of saying, I think there's two aspects of demand gen depending on the organizational size than what they do, but at the end of the day, they do have to drive pipeline. I feel like it's one of the most stressful aspects of marketing in general. But at the end of the day, if they don't have that backing from leadership and education and understanding, they're just kind of setting themselves up for failure.
Maria 10:14
Yeah. And you are always trying to scream at the top of the mountain that demand gen is not lead gen, people. It's not lead gen!
Elliot Volkman 10:23
Yes, yes. Yes. Preach it.
Gianna 10:25
So you escaped that, Elliot, your demand gen experiences recently behind you, and you have now this amazing gig where you're like, running a creative team, which is astounding, like, tell us a little bit about that. We don't see creative teams, like creative as a department, hardly any cyber startups, from small to even medium. When you're starting to hire more of a team, you don't see a creative team, or creative being a unit. Usually people outsource, tell us about that. What's it like running a creative team? How did — why? Why does Drata invest in this?
Elliot Volkman 11:03
Absolutely, I'm more than happy to walk through that. And I think you're spot on, I think it
depends on the organizational size and how mature you are, you're lucky to even have a designer on staff. Most of that is outsourced, which means to be able to have the same look and feel you have to have essentially one person that came in who sort of dictates the color palette and typography and your logo. And then nothing really changes after that. But if you're going to be able to adapt to this space, and differentiate yourselves, I mean, you need to have that capacity for in-house to build the shift, do that entire consulate. So what I basically walked into was, they initially hired out the demand gen team, because obviously, that's a big component of getting everything up and running. Then they had built out a role for product marketing, and then this weird creative role, which again, I just have not seen before. And walking into it, I was like, “Oh, there's no way that they fully appreciate what this is, they're going to just more fit into something tied to lead gen” or something to that extent. But having conversations with everyone, it was very clear that it came from a history of success with that component. So what I mean by that is down from the CEO, to our co-founders, so brothers and our CTO, they knew that community out the gate was going to be important for what they
were doing. And they already had absolutely very successful relationships with our customers. It is some of the chattiest, happiest group of people. So it just made perfect sense to me. I was like, “Oh, okay, I can build a community around this” and the GRC space, which is sort of like this little chunk, sort of akin to cybersecurity, like how many GRC people are within even the most robust and mature organizations? It's sort of the Society for us, what I was talking about earlier, they have people to chat with and bounce ideas off? It's not like they have a CISO network. Is there a GR network? Yeah, sure, they have backdoor channels and conversations. But if we can help facilitate conversations, build that, they already internally understood that, they already knew that their customers have that capability. So like, okay, yeah, that sounds great. And then everything else just fell into place. They already knew brand awareness was absolutely critical. They wanted to build something that basically said, “If you see Drata, you see trust and establishing trust.” And I understand in our space, obviously, if we're looking at RSA and Gartner, if you look at everyone's booth, you see trust everywhere, you see zero trust everywhere. So you can't really differentiate about that. Internally, obviously, we're going through a brand refresh ourselves. So we're trying to determine what level of implementation of using zero and zero trust or trust in any capacity makes sense for us. So that is our big project that happens out of the gate. And obviously, it makes sense to have someone that can come in with that experience, to copy visual design brand ownership. And I guess they just kind of threw community in there as well.
Gianna 14:06
How does it all tie together? How does community tie into the brand and to content? Drata has the community which you run and you guys have that, like, what else are you doing in terms of melding all of this together?
Elliot Volkman 14:19
Yeah, that is a fantastic question. So we only officially launched the community on Friday, so it's been only live for a little while. It wasn't —
Gianna 14:27
Happy birthday!
Elliot Volkman 14:29
Exactly. And I guess I'll just give a shout out if you're in compliance or GRC or anything, come join us. I've got a really cool shirt that we had just designed. So if you comment and engage in there, we're going to be handing out some pretty cool stuff.
Maria 14:40
We want a shirt. We're not coming into the community but we want a shirt.
Gianna 14:44
I am in GRC, I am a risk and compliance officer. Give me a shirt.
Elliot Volkman 14:48
Sold, join in. But how it all really ties together is it's super obvious that in our space, people — and when it comes to marketing — they rely too much on the technology aspect. Yes, technology is very critical to help people get their job done, especially if you have automation and some of these more fancy buzzword-related items, because it's supposed to help people get their stuff done, help allow you to prioritize more critical aspects of cybersecurity. For us, we feel like that's like a second or third line? It's already known, you don't have to educate people around that. So us, it's about humanizing the brand, focusing on people, focusing on processes, and embracing technology, of course, but at the end of the day, having our customers be a voice is absolutely critical to the success of our future. So what we're building is fully centered around our customers, people around our space in general, and how we're doing that is through our internal experts. So obviously, we have a CISO ourselves, who we rely on for security-related expertise. We have an entire team of compliance experts, there's even a copywriter that you all are very familiar with, who used to be an auditor herself, who's helping support some of our brand refresh. Being able to have the experience and the people that are knowledgeable in this space is absolutely critical to build into everything that we're doing. So having a community, having it all tie in together, having the visuals connect to that, it just makes sense to house it into one center point. Because if you shop it out into different pieces, everyone seems to just kind of fall back on, “Oh, it's technology. Oh, it's automation. Yeah, it's cool.” But does it make your customer or your user a hero at the end of the day? Eh,
maybe. That's my goal is to add some humanity and empathy to the process.
Maria 16:42
Elliot, within the group, how much selling are you doing, or are you not doing? Or is selling completely off the table, and it's a pure educational, bringing value type thing?
Elliot Volkman 16:53
Right out the gate: selling is forbidden. There's intent data that of course we can get out
of it, but for the most part, it is content-driven community. So what we're doing, I launched with one of our compliance experts, Troy, he's been dealing with SOC 2 reports for I don't know, 15, 20 years, I don't know how long that's been even around. But he knows that inside out. So instead — and no offense to our competitors, because I like the idea, but I don't like the delivery — a lot of them are building similar stuff, but they'll use an LMS. And at the end of it, you get a certification saying that, “Oh, yeah. Now you're ready to start the SOC 2 journey.” Alright, no one needs that piece of paper. I like the content idea. So fortunately, we already were doing the same thing in the back end, we just needed to launch the community. So instead, we just built snippets, short videos that kind of educate you, and will walk you through the journey. And none of it is tied to our platform. Like there's no mention. Even the community itself is called Secured. So it is not Drata’s community, it's supposed to be the GRC community. It's for everyone, for the people to connect and share best practices and educate.
So that is how much I do not want selling to be a component of it. Is it possible that we'll get signals that we'll be able to use for that? Sure. But at the end of the day, if you're going to build a community, no one wants to be sold to, they don't want to be spammed. I mean, even in general, people don't want to get spam in their inbox or cold calls or anything like that. So if you want to see success in the community, you absolutely can't have that in there.
Maria 18:27
Love that. Build those electric fences ASAP.
Gianna 18:32
And that is why in the Cybersecurity Marketing Society, we are only for in-house cybersecurity marketers — you're laughing, Elliot, but I have to, I have to, when it's so relevant, I have to do the little plug. Also, you were saying a copywriter that we know whose focus, who was an auditor, I don't feel like she'll be offended if we name drop her. So that I believe is Karen?
Elliot Volkman 18:53
Oh, of course, it's Karen.
Gianna 18:54
That has to be Karen Walsh of Allegro. And then when you were saying you don't want to like outsource pieces, people — a lot of early stage startups — they outsource the graphic design and everything because you have to because you have a budget and you can't hire, you usually have more money for programs and headcount at the earlier stages, at least in my experience. So in terms of how you're positioning this creative team, internally at Drata, how are you doing that? Is it an agency to the company? And also what are the KPIs that are set upon a creative org or creative team?
Elliot Volkman 19:26
Yeah, that is a fantastic question, because we've actually just redone our strategy and how the team itself functions. So when I joined, the three components of what I do were very separate in nature. And they were driven by “let's just produce produce produce.” So that's totally fine. But independently, it doesn't work that well. Even as a marketing team, you can't really have those kind of silos, even if you have 15 people, especially if you're a remote-first organization, which we are, so the new strategy is: what I'm really focusing on is essentially a support engine. So it's very aligned with what our demand gen team has to do and what our product marketing has to do. It even correlates to what our people in HR team wants to do as far as culture and drawing it the best. Because in our space, it's very difficult to get the best talent. If our creative team essentially acts as an agency for these different aspects of the
company, it's very easy to be fully embedded and ingrained in the company. And it shows the value. We obviously have very specific KPIs and OKRs. A lot of them are around trying to make sure I don't get myself in trouble with competitors and whatnot, as far as what I mentioned, but a lot of it aligns with top-level business strategy. And being able to support that through how we build campaigns, the kinds of content that we're producing, that kind of stuff. At the end of the day, there are a lot of people in our space, it's very content, like word heavy. But for us, we're trying to build more creative stuff, more visual stuff, more audio and video. So just being able to reach people in different mediums. And I don't thin you're going to be able to get that, again, in an organization who just kind of understands the concept. What we're being able to do is a full creative suite, everything from webinars, to videos, to podcasts, to interview series. Yeah, so it's just across the board. But I would never say “no” to outsourcing aspects, I think there just needs to still be an owner of being able to capture everything under the same look and feel being able to have a unified voice. And then if you can find freelancers who can still map to that — which is very difficult when you're kind of chopping things out — then you're golden. But it is very challenging to find freelancers in general. But it is even more challenging to find ones that map up to the vision of what you're trying to do.
Maria 21:57
Right. That's so true. And I think a lot of us have that challenge.
Gianna 22:03
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 Make sure you go over there and say, “Hey, Gianna, and Maria said I should come check out your website to listen to your shows and sponsor a podcast or two.”
Maria 22:45
You mentioned KPIs and of course, without telling us, what are your go to metrics that
you track for brand awareness?
Elliot Volkman 22:51
Yeah, so that's very simple, increasing organic traffic to our site. So we have a very strong SEO-driven person internally, which is essentially our editor. So with her skill set and our internal writers, we’re able to drive traffic to our site. But the byproduct of that is obviously organic increase in demo requests, being able to nurture people through that process as well. So we're able to fully support demand gens, KPIs, and OKRs through what we are able to produce for them. So they create the ideas and the structures, some of the campaigns, we obviously advise them or support them through that. And then we supply them the actual fuel for the engine for those campaigns.
Maria 23:34
And then just a follow up to that, and I don't know if you know this, and that's okay if you don't have to top your head, but do you see a difference in opportunity creation in demo requests coming from organic channels versus paid channels?
Elliot Volkman 23:48
Yeah, without a doubt, I think, speaking strictly from our industry, because our industry does not like to be sold to — someone prove me wrong — but every single CISO security person, IT person, they loathe it. If you jump into their inbox, they will, it's just not a fun conversation. So I'm sorry, SDRs and sales folks, I do not understand how you do what you do. Yes, 100%. If they're coming to you, it's because they've done the research. They've had the resources available to understand exactly what you offer. And depending on the size of the organization, this where I kind of break it down a little bit is, right now we have a lot of, this huge amount of success with SMBs. Small businesses, when it comes to compliance, usually what triggers them to start, is one of their customers or prospects says, “Hey, fill out this 100 set of questionnaires” or “Give me a SOC 2 report and answer like five questions.” And that's usually what triggers it. For an SMB, they don't necessarily know what that is, they don't know what the process is. So that's why it's so important for us to be able to have educational resources and materials that are completely agnostic of what we do, because they don't want to be sold as they're trying to consume content. We're not trying to brainwash people by any means. That's how we're able to help educate them along the way. So we build a relationship through that education and through those materials. And then maybe they'll check out what our product does, or they've decided to download something, and we can kind of nurture them. And then at that point, we can start to bring them over to our side of the house, and explain how we're able to remove the manual processes, which is what everyone does in compliance, and we are now able to do continuous automated compliance or whatever that looks like. And then for mid-market, it's even more challenging, because these are highly technologically adept people. And being able to adapt that to them is a little bit of a different story, because they already have security people in IT, people on staff, you don't need to walk them through baby-step style, you can't talk to them like they're stupid. So being able to identify their specific-use cases, provide the resources that they need, and then just being able to go through that entire journey again.
Gianna 26:05
They will be mad at you if you send them an article called, “What is SOC 2?” They
would be very mad.
Elliot Volkman 26:12
Yes, I would imagine so.
Gianna 26:14
You know what’s so cool too, about SOC 2? And I'm gonna go on a SOC 2 little diatribe. You know, what SOC 2 is for SMBs? Its growth, because it's the point at which the bigger customers which do actually have those security compliance requirements and need to have a SOC 2, when you need a SOC 2, it's because you're growing. And because you're actually, you're entering the arena with the bigger dogs, maybe not the biggest dogs, but with the bigger dogs.
Elliot Volkman 26:40
Yeah, that is absolutely correct. I think the larger the organization, the more they're going to care about your security infrastructure. And if you're able to validate that through third-party means, you've gone through pentesting, you had an auditor actually review your infrastructure? Yeah, that makes sense. In the past four years, would I have cared if Grammarly had a SOC 2 report or that they sort of maybe act as like a keylogger, when I have a plugin? No, but having been in this space now for like six, seven years, I've got more and more exposure and definitely more paranoia, where all of those aspects are critical. So the larger the organization, the more stringent requirements are. So yeah, I totally agree.
Maria 27:25
So Elliot, let's bring it back to creative real quick, I think we have a little bit of time, you
mentioned you're going through a rebrand. Us marketers, especially in the Society, Slack, we’re always trying to figure out, and we're always talking about how it's so hard to look different and sound different, that we look the same, essentially cybersecurity vendors, I mean. How are you making sure that you don't look the same within this brand refresh? And I don't think you need shields in your logo on your T-shirt right now, so you’re good to go there.
Elliot Volkman 27:53
So yeah, I will say the only thing that we probably are doing as part of the brand refresh,
which aligns with every other cybersecurity or tech-adjacent company, is the damn cyber blue. It's going in there. But that's where I've drawn the line. I think what my designer has built looks so clean, and yes, it has, it has that blue in there. But it's not like everything is blue.
That said, I think the differentiators are still what we're literally going through. Even today, we're chatting through what our vision for a brand refresh video is going to look like. So if we look at our competitors, they had a completely mixed bag of how they're approaching it. So one has like a video with like a SWAT team busting in a room. And it was just all action. They paid a known celebrity to be an aspect of it. Another one was more down to earth and they focused on a handshape. And we're just trying to figure out like, “Where do we live in our space compared to our competitors? What our customers in particular, and what do people expect in the future?” Look towards a brand. So obviously, I can't share exactly what that looks like today, because we're having those conversations. And I think over the coming months, you'll definitely start seeing a lot of that. But for us, what we're trying to do is, again, just focus on the human empathy aspect of the brand. And that's the most critical thing that we show in our brand refresh. So when we make the big splash, you're gonna see people front and center, you're gonna see our customers, which are absolutely critical to what we do. Their feedback is what allows us to move forward so quickly, and then our internal experts as well. But the other fun aspect is we don't want to also be completely serious. Compliance is absolutely boring. People treat it either as a checkbox or as a jumping point towards something bigger for cybersecurity. So for us, internally, what I keep referring it to is the bullet approach where it's business in front, party in the back. So on the homepage and on our key product pages, you probably won't see a lot of super fun stuff. But as you kind of dig deeper into our site and get more into where our brand lives, you'll see more fun aspects, more personality.
Gianna 30:15
Are you building easter eggs into the site?
Elliot Volkman 30:17
Oh, yeah, of course.
Maria 30:18
Elliot is on a mission to make compliance sexy again.
Elliot Volkman 30:22
Oh my god. Internally, they literally were like, “How do we make compliance cool?” I was like, “I don't have words for that. But we'll give it a try.”
Maria 30:31
All right, to close it off. Gianna, do you want to cover the experiment? And then we'll play our really, really fun game?
Gianna 30:40
Absolutely. So I think you know, you have this like, key tenant that we're talking about in the scoping call. And that's of experimentation: trying stuff that's new, doing things that are out of the box, knowing that things might fail. Can you talk a little bit about how you're experimenting at Drata? I think even your community came out of experimentation. Is that true?
Elliot Volkman 31:04
Yeah, without a doubt. So the community itself came from the success that our co-founders have had with their previous company, which did well, and they had a community. And they basically realized the words that they gave me, as they realized too late, that community was a critical aspect towards their success. And once they had built it, and they had people engaging, and all that, there was success, they didn't want to make that mistake again. So again, I'm just very fortunate to have walked into a position where all of that was sort of bought in, there was no uphill battle. There's obviously challenges with getting things up and running, and to experiment and identify what the best way works. So for us internally, there is no fear to be able to try new things. We had a request, I don't know if it was from investors or what direction it came from, but they were like, “Hey, we want to have billboards around San Francisco and some of these key cities, we want to see Drata, up and out there.” So our poor demand gen team — and I think product marketing was involved with this, and obviously my team as well — we had to identify what we can do that was not like this absolutely boring thing. At the end of it, we identified a customer quote that just says… I think you, you know
what, I gotta look this up.
Gianna 32:18
Pull it up!
Maria 32:19
Was it the one that was like, “Doesn't talk too much” or something like that?
Elliot Volkman 32:22
“Y'all make boring shit easy.” I was like, “Oh, there you go. That's our billboard.” And everyone internally absolutely loved it. And as soon as we launched it, we started getting people sending us photos like, “Oh, this is just… we love it,” which is true. Compliance is pretty boring.
Being able to put something out like that, any company that I've worked with in the past that they would never have gone for that, they would just be like, “That is too crude, it's a little too brash,” they are not willing to see what that looks like. But obviously, our team, in agreement, was able to put this out there and do that. Rxperiment can be as simple as getting messaging out there, being a little bit fun and creative. Or it could be as extensive as trying to launch community. Now, I wouldn't necessarily say, “Spend a ridiculous amount of money on an enterprise solution” — which we didn't do by any means — but there are definitely stepping stones to be able to experiment and identify if things will make sense. But if you're going to do it, go all in, definitely push the needle to see if things are going to be successful, can't half-ass it. Like a good example is at a previous organization, they were like, “Oh yeah, we need to be at events, we want to have a good presence there.” But they didn't actually provide the budget or the resources to do it. So right out the gate, you're not going to see success, because you just have a couple of fliers and you hope for the best. So if you're going to do something, do it well. And if it doesn't work, just cut it and move on.
Gianna 33:49
That is a case of prioritization. You can only spend so much money, you have to do what you can with what you got as best as you can and like you just said, if you're gonna go to a bunch of events, you better have a booth kit and not just a tablecloth you picked up from Walmart the night before, you took a Sharpie marker and you wrote the company name on it.
Elliot Volkman 34:08
Yes, that is so spot on. So in a more standard startup environment, usually I would say, stick to the bread and butter, but leave room for like 10% of experimentation. So you have to be able to push the needle, but at the end of the day, you're still having to get your KPIs, OKRs, goals, whatever your three-letter abbreviation is, you have to get that out the door, but you still need to leave room to be able to play around with things.
Maria 34:34
Amazing. Most of the time it’s “WTF” at an early stage startup. Most common abbreviation.
Gianna 34:41
That's 100% of my budget. It’s a line item. Alright. We're so happy you came, Elliot, and you're such an — also we didn't get to go into any of your personal stuff but you’re very interesting, too, as a person. So we're so excited to play our game now. So we're gonna ask you, if you're not in marketing — and I also know you're a reporter — so if you're not in marketing or doing reporting, what would you be doing? So me and Maria are going to go and then you get to pick the winner. Maria, do you want to go first this time since you made such a big brouhaha
about it last time?
Maria 35:16
Yes. Anytime she goes first, she steals my choice, and then she wins. So I put my foot down. Like, I said, “I go first.” So you give me the vibes of an elementary school math teacher.
Elliot Volkman 35:33
Oh, my God.
Maria 35:35
Or teacher, not just math. I don't know.
Elliot Volkman 35:36
Okay, leave the math part out. I can't count to 10, I’m just kidding. Don't tell my boss.
Gianna 35:43
You know… that offer we gave you?
Maria 35:47
You said you can do deep pipeline velocity analytics.
Gianna 35:53
You said you could do 3 x 4 and you lied! I'm gonna go, and Maria you can call me out if this is cheating, because I feel like it is, but I'm gonna be bold and say it anyway. I'm going to try to cheat. Elliott, I think you would be a chicken farmer.
Elliot Volkman 36:09
Oh my god. Why can't it be both?
Maria 36:13
That is so cheating! Tell us why that's cheating, Elliot, please elaborate.
Elliot Volkman 36:17
It's cheating to the sense that there's literally a box of baby chickens sitting outside my door. So yeah, I'm already, I guess a chicken tender, if you will.
Gianna 36:27
You’re a chicken tender!
Elliot Volkman 36:29
I am a chicken tender. I'm not a chicken farmer, I'm definitely a chicken tender. But you both were actually right. So I think my retirement plan, or whatever that looks like, I don't know when it'll be. Eventually I will go for a PhD and I want to teach some sort of college. But! I'm also hoping to cash out eventually for, you know, what we do with these startups, and then have my own very large plot of land, just get endless senior dogs and chickens and whatnot. So both of you are unfortunately right. You can duke that out later.
Maria 37:01
That is so cool. Yes, we both won! Is this the first time that we both actually win?
Gianna 37:05
I think you won because I do think I cheated, I think that was very egregious and dastardly. Elliot, are you crispy or grilled chicken tender?
Maria 37:14
Please don't answer that. Gianna, I’m turning off your mike!
Elliot Volkman 37:19
I mean, I don’t eat chicken. I don't eat them. They are pets and egg layers, I don't eat them. They are bougie chickens and they don't, they don't have that kind of meat on them. But, yeah, no. Because of my ultra running and triathlons and all that, it's definitely the healthier side of food.
Gianna 37:36
Nice. And they’re selkies right, you breed selkies?
Elliot Volkman 37:39
Well, I did have, until today, so what you saw earlier was an Easter egger? I can't
remember what the actual term for them are, but they lay like blue and green colored eggs. They are also a little bit more friendly towards the heat here in Charleston because it becomes like 110 degrees. Fortunately not today. But yeah, so I've expanded as of today.
Gianna 38:01
So thank you, Elliot for joining us. This has been lots of fun. It's always fun to talk to you. Where can people find you if they want to find you on the internet?
Elliot Volkman 38:09
I totally forgot to give a shout out to my podcasts that I also do completely outside of work and everything else which is Adopting Zero Trust. So if you go to, my co-host and I produce this every two weeks. We have a very, we've shunned all marketing vendors, which is hilarious because they always slide into my LinkedIn and I get to tell them “no” now. Anyways, our podcast is very much on the practitioner side, CISOs, IT leaders, executives, founders, and all that. We just have really cool conversations, so, I also have social media all over, you can probably find me at The Journalizer, because I used to be a reporter. But yeah, that's where you can find me, so feel free to connect on LinkedIn or wherever else.
Gianna 38:53
That’s awesome. We'll make sure to link to all of that in the Show Notes. And we'll also include a picture of your chickens I think in a blog post? That makes sense to me.
Maria 39:04
Yes, and the brand refresh, once it's live, because once this episode is out, I'm pretty sure you'll have your new brand launched and nice and shiny.
Elliot Volkman 39:11
Yeah, hopefully, I mean it is a very lengthy project. So we'll see.
Gianna 39:14
Thanks again everybody. I hear the dogs calling you, Elliot, so this has been really fun. And if you want to be on Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing, make sure to send an email to podcasts with an S at Also we are going to be — and I think we mentioned it, this is the third time I'm mentioning it on this episode — we're gonna be at Cyber Marketing Con 2022 in Arlington, Virginia in November 16th through 18th. Get your ticket now, get your tickets before the early bird prices go up. Get your tickets before the middle bird prices go up, get those tickets, because we're gonna have amazing conversations about media content, brand, demand gen, from experts in the field just like Elliot and also have workshops. And also a new feature we're launching — speed consulting, where you'll get a dedicated allotment of time with an expert in a specific category and you can talk to them about your problem without getting sold to.
Elliot Volkman 40:14
Sounds like therapy.
Gianna 40:15
It is therapy, actually, that's what we'll do: we'll quash the speed consulting and we'll just
do one eight-hour block of therapy for everyone.
Maria 40:22
We should call it marketing therapy. That's actually a really, really cool name.
Gianna 40:27
I love it. All right, see you next time on Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing and make sure you leave us a 70-star review so that we can rank in the podcast world and we'll see you next time.
Maria 40:38
Thanks for joining, Elliot.
Elliot Volkman 40:39
Thank you. Appreciate it.

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