June 25, 2020

How to Transform Marketing Challenges into Opportunities

by Sam Beck

When workers moved home and systems migrated to the cloud as a result of the COVID pandemic, two challenges emerged: how to keep data safe, and how to redeploy event-focused salespeople. For Holly Rollo, the chief marketing officer at RSA Security, these problems were silver lining opportunities to bring their services to the next level.

The first issue, data safety, was a no-brainer for RSA as demand for its services grew in the weeks following the lockdown. While business surged, Rollo focused her efforts on existing customers, helping them to sort through the “urgent” and the “this can wait.” To do this, Rollo accelerated the development of RSA Link, a community portal where customers can share and resolve challenges together.

Rollo took the second challenge, replacing event-generated leads, as an opportunity to align salespeople with digital marketing efforts. The sudden absence of physical events wasn’t ideal, but with a lemons-into-lemonade mindset, they accelerated a planned transition to an account-based approach, which will undoubtedly boost business and generate demand down the line. You can read some of the highlights from Holly’s interview on Renegade Thinkers Unite, or listen to the full episode, here.

When did you first see the impact of the pandemic on business?

I think we started to see a surge for us just at the beginning of March. Everything was current course through February is what I’m remembering. But at the beginning of March, there was just a sudden surge of interest and inbound communication from both customers and non-customers, and our partners, to figure out what people needed to do to function in a lockdown situation.

What were some of the first steps you took to help your customers?

What we are trying to do for our customers is map out some waves to prepare for. There’s certainly addressing the immediate crisis. Getting up and running, getting your employees up and running, making sure that they can work remotely, assessing the vulnerabilities that you’ve now introduced into your environment—and understanding what your risk appetite is going forward, because that may have changed. Then, how does that change your overall risk strategy for your company and risk management?

We’re trying to help our customers take one thing at a time instead of trying to address everything at once, because everybody’s functioning in crisis mode. Even in the marketing that I get personally, it’s overwhelming. Just the barrage of information that’s not useful right now. For our customers, we’re trying to walk them through “worry about this later, worry about this now.” You know, where are you in this and then helping them understand what they need to be focused on. There are several digital and Vinyl floor graphics or billboard marketing strategies you can use to reach more customers even in the time of a pandemic.

How did this approach evolve over time?

What we’ve done is, we’ve really leaned into our community. We have a pretty strong community. We call it RSA Link. We’ve leaned into that more and it’s been on the back burner to modernize that experience for RSA. It’s certainly something that has been high on the priority list, but, in security, a lot of things come and go on the priority list.

Now we’ve elevated that as a core initiative that we’re taking on. Also, because of the business surge that we’ve seen in our identity and threat intelligence and threat detection business, we are finding new ways to link customers to information they can get quickly and easily—versus having to call and talk to somebody, which they may or may not want to do—new ways to get them information that they need to do more with what they have. This really creates loyalty and an important customer connection.

How did you redeploy event and field salespeople?

I think that, for years, marketing people have been trying to secretly—or maybe not so secretly—wean salespeople off events, heavy events. Like I said, they’re tangible and in front of their face and I think they really like them. Without them, it forces them to come into our world because marketing does a lot of things that salespeople don’t even see.

One of the things we’ve been really trying to get off the ground much more aggressively is predictive analytics and helping sales teams understand where to find their white space. It’s been difficult to get their attention on some of these leads coming across and why they’re important, but now, suddenly, we’re getting attention on those kinds of programs. It has accelerated, in a lot of ways, our overarching marketing transformation to more digital. I think that’s a really positive thing.

Where have you shifted focus for salespeople?

The sales team has been working on a more traditional lead waterfall model, in which the leads come into the system and then are mined. We’ve been helping them understand the shift to account-based marketing and help them better understand an engagement-based model. I’ve been working on that for the last 18 months. That has also really helped accelerate us making that change as well. I think the sales team is leaning in now because they’re like “Hurry up, do something!” and we’re like “No, no, no. We’re doing all these things. How can you take advantage of all these leads we’re giving you that you may not even know about?”

What is RSA’s strategy for account-based management?

I think every company does this differently, so I’m going in with that assumption. We are trying to work with the sales teams on account plans and account strategies. So, by linking our marketing teams to different segments of the market, whether it’s regional-based or customer segment-based, we’re helping them get a handle on the accounts that matter. Maybe they are existing customers to cross-sell and upsell or expand or renew, or maybe they’re new customers, new segments, or new industries they’re trying to get into. You have to go through a whole exercise of that white space analysis that includes pulling big data in and making sure that the sales teams and the marketing teams are aligned on the segmentation strategy and targeting and relevant messaging.