The Security Evangelist: Stephen Gates Explores Catalysts for Change in Info Sec Marketing

by Jenna Sindle

This month, to mark National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), we’re featuring interviews with cybersecurity marketers. Last week we profiled Amy McCarthy, Senior Manager, Federal Marketing at FireEye. This week, we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Gates, Information Security Evangelist at Checkmarx.

Stephen is an experienced writer, blogger, and published author in the information security field. He is dedicated to conveying facts, figures, and information that brings awareness to the cybersecurity issues that all organizations and consumers face.

Read on to learn more about his career and his insights on working in marketing and the security industry.

Modern Marketing Today (MMT): How has security marketing changed since you’ve been working in the field?

Stephen GatesStephen Gates (SG): Security marketing has changed dramatically in the 25 years I’ve been in the field primarily because of the vast changes in information technology being driven by innovations like cloud, IoT, mobile devices, etc. One thing all of these components have in common is that software is the underlying catalyst, which has created a massive and rapidly-growing attack surface that needs securing.

An interesting shift I’ve seen take place, in particular, revolves around changing how we talk about the need for security. Everyone at this point knows it’s necessary, although whether they actually do something about it or not is a different story. Now, it’s more about helping organizations focus and prioritize their security efforts on what’s most important. From application security to training employees and developers to think more securely in their day-to-day operations, it’s about creating a culture of security from the top down.

MMT: How has 2020 changed your strategy and tactics?

SG: 2020 has been the year of a major marketing pivot in our industry. With no in-person tradeshows, CISO roundtables, lunch and learns, or other industry events going on in most parts of the world, nearly all marketing has gone online as a result of the pandemic. We’re seeing a big shift in how digital marketing is evolving, with companies, including Checkmarx, getting much more creative in how they’re reaching and engaging security buyers.

It’s critical to remain digitally innovative as there is much more ‘noise’ happening online now. At the end of the day, we want to connect with our customers in a manner that’s convenient and accessible regardless of the situation or environment they’re working in.

MMT: How do you cut through all the noise in the security space to connect with customers and prospects?

SG: When you’re working on market education to build awareness of a security challenge, backing claims up with facts is critical. For instance, if you’re claiming that IoT devices are vulnerable, show examples of this being the case rather than just speaking about it anecdotally. Research – whether in the form of tapping into surveys to get a temperature check on the market or having an internal security research team spread awareness on emerging risks – is essential and an important driver of marketing today.

Additionally, having a product or solution that’s proven to be effective is obviously key. Positioning the product to showcase its unique value is equally critical. When this is the case, marketing can be very successful as well.

MMT: What role does content marketing play in connecting with customers and prospects?

SG: The role of content marketing is critical to connecting with customers and prospects today. It’s the key to opening the door to many conversations. However, content marketing is changing dramatically due to shortened attention spans, new media platforms, heightened levels of competition, and a younger workforce. The content itself must be short and to the point, while be attractive, entertaining, and informative. However, if things are too short and provide little value, or too long and are somewhat exhaustive, neither will serve the intended purpose. A balance must be struck between shorter length and higher value.

MMT: Any final thoughts to share with our readers?

SG: Like anything else, security marketing will continue to evolve right along with the advances in technology and changes to our society. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.