Terrie O’Hanlon met now-CEO of cybersecurity company DefenseStorm Sean Feeney during their regular commutes on cross-country Delta flights to San Francisco. At the time, O’Hanlon was a Chief Marketing Officer at a technology company, in charge of their Atlanta office.
Following news of acquisitions at both of their companies, O’Hanlon shared with Feeney that she was hoping for a future collaboration. “I said, Sean, you really need to get a CEO position somewhere in Atlanta,” she said, laughing. Shortly after, Feeney was approached to lead the banking cybersecurity startup and O’Hanlon was first on the list to bring on as CMO. Last November, the two rolled up their sleeves to scale the startup.
With a background in magazine journalism, health IT, and marketing, O’Hanlon finds herself coming back to storytelling and technology, time and time again. “I have a broad range of experience, but I’ve always loved the technology space because the products really matter. It’s innovation that can significantly improve economies and the way people live,” says O’Hanlon.
Here, O’Hanlon shares how she tackled DefenseStorm’s messaging problem and why you should humanize a complex product’s messaging to reach more customers.
What’s DefenseStorm’s product?
DefenseStorm is a cybersecurity and cybercompliance company, specifically for community and regional-focused banks and credit unions. As the risk of cyber attacks increase, smaller banks can’t tap into cybersecurity talent to keep safe. Our cloud-based platform, DefenseStorm Grid, unites security and compliance for banking clients and offers a co-management approach for our experts to monitor alerts and triage any issues. We provide a security operation center in the cloud, without the staff or the capital expenditure.
The client can then move forward with policies to stay secure and compliant with outside regulators through DefenseStorm’s platform.
Why is it important for a company with a complex product to have approachable messaging?
Often technology companies are started by technologists. There’s a phrase called ‘the curse of competence.” When you’re really good at something, you don’t realize that not everyone is as good at it as you are. They will explain the product and others will miss the point.
What you have to do is acknowledge that there’s a story in there — this company got started and someone invested in it. We just have to make it more relatable to other groups of people. How you get there is by asking questions to those who genuinely understand the technology, including who is going to benefit from this, why do they care, and how will it change their job.
Often in technology, especially in B2B, people forget that people buy solutions. It’s not always about the business ROI, there’s always a personal ROI. The acceleration of persona-based marketing, where people believe that it’s not one-size-fits-all, is how you get to a story that has a broader meaning.
What marketing initiatives did you put in place upon your arrival at DefenseStorm?
We talked about what the company does. It’s expensive, but it’s also esoteric since not everyone is a cybersecurity expert. The messaging needed to be more expansive to reflect the value that the company delivers and then it needed to be told consistently across the organization. In the cybersecurity space, there’s something called a SIEM (Security Event Management) tool. Those will log when potentially bad things happen and they are very inexpensive. Initially, DefenseStorm would say that they are like a SIEM tool, but much more. Consumers would then assume that it was an inexpensive tool. There were making one of the worst mistakes that you can make in marketing. You’re grounding in someone’s mind an inferior solution to a problem.
We had an outside firm interview our investors, employees, and customers to find the real value of DefenseStorm. You have to get the message right before you do anything else.
How does that new messaging reflect back on your organization?
The research doesn’t have to be months long. In a previous position when I was working on re-branding, I called customers and asked them, why did you do business with the company and what did you think you were going to get out of it before you bought it? What keeps that relationship going is really important.
Now, we are in the middle of propagating that message across all touch points. We refreshed the front page of the website to reflect our new messaging and are slowly working on the rest as well. The messaging is also reflected in our sales presentation and training. Once we get the website up, we’ll target thought leaders since it’s one thing to change the conversation within your company, but we also have to change the conversation in the market.