I just returned from the 2016 RSA Security show, where five of our clients were in attendance, and two things stood out (or in another sense, didn’t — but read on to see what that means).
The first was the crowds, both for vendors and for attendees. RSA has clearly grabbed the crown for “leading security show” and if there is a slowdown in the security market it certainly isn’t apparent here. Moscone Center was packed the whole time I was in attendance, and company after company commented on the quantity and quality of the booth traffic. I’ve heard some speculation that we’re seeing “peak RSA”, but things would have to take a dramatic turn for the worse in the next 12 months to have it be noticeable.
The other thing that did/didn’t stand out was the horrible messaging for many of the companies in attendance. It was as though they took all of the buzzwords (intelligence, analytics, threat, cyber, defense, protect, etc.), ran them through a blender and used whatever came out. The result was either unclear (I had no idea what some of these companies did), or often downright confusing. Here’s a thought: if one company makes hardware appliances, and another has a cloud-based data feed, THEY SHOULDN’T SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME.
3 recommendations for your security product messaging
1. What do you do, and why I should care?
First, if your messaging is clear and compelling it should provide some sense of what you do and why I should care. Is this going to save me time? Money? Solve a problem I’ve been wrestling with? If so, what’s that problem? In Marketing 101, this is called The Value Proposition, and it’s amazing how many people seem to forget it. I don’t necessarily need your value proposition in the company tagline, but if I can’t find it anywhere on your booth, then you’ve got a problem. Do NOT make people stop and have a 10 minute conversation with a salesperson just to understand how you help them. Trust me, they won’t stop.
2. I don’t have ESP, what is your USP?
Moreover, what you say shouldn’t sound like your competitor. There is something unique about your offering – if there isn’t, I suggest you quit now – and if that uniqueness isn’t coming through loud and clear then you’re not trying hard enough. Again, in Marketing 101 this is your USP, or unique selling proposition. And if that USP isn’t right in your top-line messaging it sure as hell better be right under it.
3. What makes you different than the next guy?
Finally, we get to the buzzwords. If I look from your booth to the one right next to it, I SHOULD BE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO. If I can’t, you’ve sunk into the buzzword trap. And it’s insidious, but simple: buzzwords are power words that don’t really tell me anything. Buzzword messaging usually happens when you’re trying to elevate your message and you go about 13 steps too far. This often happens because someone in your organization wants it to sound like you solve a big, important problem. In the process you fail to solve the big, important problem of giving me a clue about what your company does.
Example: ACME Corp Security
Let me give you a (hopefully) made up example: ACME Corp Security, Providing the Insight Needed for Network Protection. I lost track of how many times I saw some iteration of this phrase around the show. What does this even mean? I have no idea.
I’m glad you protect my network, since, you know, we’re at a security show. Protection is good, but it doesn’t really tell me anything. What part of the network? From what? How do you do it?
But wait, there’s Insight. Okay, so I must be lacking insight. Where? Into what? How do you fix it? How does this help me? Oh I get it, this gives me network protection…
I will grant you that a phrase like “providing insight for network protection” for a tagline can be a valid approach – but only if it’s quickly followed up with some indication of the value proposition and USP. And way, way too many companies just follow it up with more buzzwords.
I’ve worked with dozens of security companies across many different market sectors and product categories. In general I’m going to pick up pretty quickly on what it is you do. And when I’m three sentences into your booth signage (yes, sentences – don’t even get me started) and I still can’t figure it out, the problem is you, not me.