October 6, 2022

Beers, Tears, & Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing with Gianna Whitver & Maria Velasquez

by Hacker Valley Studio

Show Notes

In this special episode, Hacker Valley community members and hosts of the Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast, Gianna Whitver and Maria Velasquez, tell all about the ups and downs of cyber marketing. As podcast hosts and founders of the Cybersecurity Marketing Society, Gianna and Maria eat, sleep, and breathe cybersecurity marketing. This week, Gianna and Maria share the history behind the Society and explain why they decided to host their CyberMarketingCon2022 conference in person.


Timecoded Guide:

[02:41] Creating the Cybersecurity Marketing Society

[06:29] Transitioning CyberMarketingCon2022 from virtual to in-person

[10:50] Combating the difficulty of growth marketing to cybersecurity practitioners

[18:34] Examining ROIs for attendees of conferences like Black Hat and RSA

[28:15] Finding the one thing they would instantly change about cyber marketing


Sponsor Links:

Thank you to our sponsors Axonius and Uptycs for bringing this episode to life!

The Axonius solution correlates asset data from existing solutions to provide an always up-to-date inventory, uncover gaps, and automate action — giving IT and security teams the confidence to control complexity. Learn more at axonius.com/hackervalley

Uptycs, analytics for the modern attack surface, observability for the modern defender. Check out Uptycs by visiting them at uptycs.com

How did the Cybersecurity Marketing Society come to exist?

Gianna and Maria initially met and bonded over how the cybersecurity marketing world is constantly changing and evolving, for better or worse. They would get together to chat, as well as share strategies and insights. They quickly realized, through their friendship, that there was potential for a solid community in cybersecurity marketing. They started a Slack channel, just to put something out there. The channel grew from 10 participants into a bustling community of over 1500 people. Now, the Society is growing every day and hosting online events.

“It's always really nice to look back at the start, and it humbles you, right? As you continue this hustle of just growth and ongoing things happening, it's nice to take a step back and say, ‘Wow, look at where it all started.’ It seemed like just a crazy idea then.” –Maria Velasquez What inspired the leap to host an in-person conference for CyberMarketingCon?

Back in 2020, while everyone was experiencing the height of the pandemic, members of the Cybersecurity Marketing Society were still interested in making connections with other professionals in the industry. Gianna and Maria decided the best option available was hosting virtual conferences in 2020 and 2021. Later, they branched into in-person chapter meetups in cities around the world. An in-person CyberMarketingCon2022 seemed like the next natural step in the process to cement those community connections.

“We started planning on a spreadsheet, basically. What's the theme? What do we want to cover in terms of topics? We looked to our members within the Society to hear what they'd like to learn at the conference and the speakers they'd like to see.” –Maria Velasquez


What makes it so difficult to market to cybersecurity practitioners?

Cybersecurity practitioners are notoriously skeptical. Their purview is full of phishing links and threat actors, and their guards are always up. Practitioners also often have a revolving door of folks wanting them to try demos, which makes it harder for someone to stand out. Maria and Gianna explain that you have to create a different kind of connection to build a relationship with practitioners, and advise marketers to avoid the cringeworthy commercial buzzwords.

“We're here to make sure that together, as an industry, cybersecurity marketers default to the best practices in marketing to practitioners, and that we're not bothering our target audience. We're doing great marketing, so that we can help everyone be more safe.” –Gianna Whitver


What did the ROIs look like for attendees of Black Hat and RSA?

In general, according to Gianna and Maria, the return on investment seemed higher for attendees at Black Hat, rather than at RSA. For marketers, RSA is less about selling and more about brand awareness and meeting with investors. In contrast, those who attended Black Hat reported that, even though the quantity of traffic at their booths was lower, the quality of the connections was higher, and there is a lot of optimism about opportunities to connect next year becoming more frequent.

“We're going to keep doing this every year. We're going to keep expanding the survey, we're going to have better data. I'm really looking forward to next year's debrief on Black Hat and RSA, seeing how things changed and how companies perceive their ROI.” –Gianna Whitver



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