Cybersecurity as a Competitive Advantage

Cybersecurity as a Competitive Advantage

How do you leverage cybersecurity as a competitive advantage for your business? Well, it's a lot like being in a relationship. You'll need to showcase transparency, introduce them to your friends, not blindly copy others that are doing it well, and be proud to show it off!

Guest Posts
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6
 Min read
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October 25, 2021

Researching anything cybersecurity-related is like the tonality of ciphering through endless pages of WebMD: cyber criminals are likely around every virtual corner, it's imminent we're headed toward an apocalypse of evil bots, and basically, our businesses are all dying...so-to-speak. It's more doom-and-gloom than a Stephen King novel. And while security concerns are not unwarranted, the fear-factor approach to cybersecurity tends to overshadow a huge opportunity for just about every organization out there - cybersecurity is a tremendous way to drive sales, raise money, and rapidly expand into new markets. In other words: cybersecurity could be leveraged as your next secret weapon for sales and success!

It's true that cybersecurity has long operated in its own internal silo thought to only influence IT departments and the number of help desk tickets. But with the dramatic rise of data breaches being flaunted on the front page of the news (just kidding, it's the 21st century… breaches flaunted on Apple and LinkedIn news updates) as well as groundbreaking global regulations like GDPR attracting attention, consumers are more aware than ever of the value of their data and the need to secure it. However, while this rise in consumer awareness is generally met with finger-waving warnings regarding the detrimental implications of not taking action towards enhancing your security posture, it also represents the opportunity to differentiate from competitors and seem superior. Think about it - we are talking about a customer interest that applies to your ENTIRE client base (and on this day, marketers everywhere rejoiced!).

So, how do you leverage cybersecurity as a competitive advantage for your business? Well, it's a lot like being in a relationship: you'll need to showcase transparency, introduce them to your friends, not blindly copy others that are doing it well, and be proud to show it off!

Show Off the Goods

When it comes to transparency with your customers, security initiatives don't generally top the list of conversation starters. But the conversation isn't just for those of us that like to nerd out on obscure technical acronyms and words that end with "as-a-service." Offering transparency with your security philosophy, initiatives, and remediations demonstrates that you're not only deserving of a certain amount of trust, but it also demonstrates that you value what's important to your clients even outside the functional scope of your product/service and that you want to bring them into the conversation.

One way to do this is to publicize the report from what should already be part of your core security practices - your organization's security certifications. Now before you go passing out raw report data like you're on an episode of Oprah where, "EVERYONE GETS A… report", consider instead converting the results into an executive summary that avoids sensitive details that could draw attention to vulnerabilities in your environment. Typically, you're provided a summary report with your SOC2 or ISO 27001 audit report, making this effortless. Or, if you don't have a certification yet, then spend some effort to fill out one of the more popular, intense questionnaires out there, like the SIG or CAIQ.

A topic as complicated as cybersecurity requires simplicity and transparency, both of which are building towards trust. Don't over-engineer this process with marketing fluff and obscurity, as any customer that has a baseline understanding of security/privacy will see right through it. When it comes to trust, we like to lean on Ricky Bobby's wisdom: "If you ain't first, you're last." Trust is one of those incredible benefits that pays off twice: it not only builds more confidence in your brand, but it simultaneously creates less confidence in your competitors. They say the opposite of trust is fear, so if you don't earn consumer trust, you're unlikely to make the sale regardless of competitive advantages, discounts, or the like. This brings us to the next phase in the relationship… introducing them to your friends.

group of business people discussing cybersecurity as a competitive advantage

Invite Your Security Team to the Sales Party

Sometimes, the best way to create new excitement is to invite someone new to join the party (professionally speaking, of course). While no one can speak better to your core capabilities than your business experts, no one can speak better to cyber initiatives than your security professionals, especially if they are independent. When it comes to your customers' security questions, it's invaluable to provide an objective party that can present objective facts with authority and without any incentive to make a sale. Whether it's concerns as minor as wanting to understand system architecture and risk mitigation efforts better or as major as concerns over incompatibility or findings on a recent audit, security is presenting more commonplace hurdles in the sales cycle that security professionals can help you overcome.

We know it's a big step, but introducing them to your security friends could offer the assurance needed to make more informed, quicker decisions. And let's be honest: second to 'time with loved ones,' time never seems more valuable than in a sales cycle.

If you don't have a security team, that's ok! You can actually hire external parties, whether they are independent security contractors or independent consulting firms, and leverage them in a similar manner. Remember how I talked about trust? Well, what better way to enact trust in a conversation about security than having a third party validate what your company is doing right to your customer's face? Bring these consultants in when it's time to answer Security Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs) or when it's time to have a security discovery call with a prospect. Added bonus: I bet your sales team will love the alleviation of pressure to speak to what they feel is witchcraft!

Don’t Flaunt What You Don't Have

While the validity of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery is arguable, the potential for detriment when applied to your security program is not. We've all been there... Maybe it was an Insta-worthy hangout spot that was lighting up your social feed or a trendy new workout routine you saw on TikTok. You see someone else rockin' it and follow suit with the hopes of achieving the same result, throwing caution to the wind when it comes to practicality, compatibility, or even genuine satisfaction. Unfortunately, security posture was never meant to be a cookie-cutter approach, which is why enterprise customers who all follow the same NIST CSF are still getting compromised.

We see all these trending terms in the security space that companies want to use to draw attention to their brand, but they miss the due diligence process entirely and inadvertently start lying to the general public about certain aspects of their security program by claiming they are doing things that they are not. Insert Exhibit A: Zero Trust Security. Many companies claim they enact this type of identity governance, when in fact, they aren't even close. Even if they are effective, the problem with mimicking trendy initiatives is twofold: they may not apply to your environment and business model, and they could create a false sense of security to your organization, or worse, your customers.

Worse yet, both of these shortcomings are easy for an educated customer to see through and risk compromising trust, not to mention your risk posture. Instead, it's important to look yourself in the mirror with honest consideration to accurately assess your security environment and figure out what you CAN brag about. This will also help you identify things you can work towards so you have more things to brag about.

Bonus tip: build a roadmap that you share with your customers! Put bluntly, perfect security is a fallacy too easy to see through. While this lofty goal sounds like a salesperson's dream, it's unattainable mainly thanks to continuously developing technology and increasingly sophisticated hacking techniques. Instead, embrace the fact that you will always have something to work on for your security program, align remediation efforts with your development roadmap, and be transparent to show customers that 1. You've identified them, 2. You have a plan to remediate, and 3. You have a timeline to set expectations.

Shout From the Rooftops About Security

Why is it a commonly validated stereotype that, if you're wealthy, you're likely to be the proud owner of a sports or luxury vehicle? Well, ignoring any potential for contributing factors like vanity or ego, there is one undeniable association, whether intentional or not: status. It's an inherent way to be differentiated and for others to make educated assumptions about financial/societal posture.

This assumption can also be applied to how customers look at companies, so similar strategies can be employed to make your security status easily identifiable, beautifully outlined, and packed with definable feature functionality that sets your organization apart from the rest. And the easiest way to do this is to show it to their faces ("if you've got it, flaunt it"). Promoting your security posture via publicly accessible forums like your website is a fantastic way to boost consumer trust and expedite the sales cycle. It's estimated that 60-70% of the buyer journey is conducted before the prospect even engages you.

Offering easily consumable information about your cybersecurity practices can alleviate a lot of later-stage hurdles and better position your product/services both in the competitive landscape and in the consumer's mind. Consider including a statement about your security mission and the team supporting the achievement of it (if you have an internal team dedicated to security), the testing you conduct to maintain it, provide download options for the summarized reports from your testing, and any relevant information on the security associated with your product/services. You have to work hard for your security posture, and it matters to customers, so make that relationship status public and be proud of what you and your team are accomplishing.

upward view of buildings

Conclusion

Instead of thinking of cybersecurity as a necessary evil to avoid imminent chaos or *GASP* one of those pesky cost centers, realize the tremendous opportunity to utilize it as a competitive advantage and begin taking steps to capitalize on it. Today, we learned that:

  1. You can build a nice security package to provide to all your customers and prospects from the offset. Show off those slick certifications, deliver a summary doc outlining what you've got going on under that security hood, or even tee up a completed SIG or CAIQ questionnaire.
  2. Use your security team to close deals! They would love the opportunity to nerd out about security and will likely come off far more convincing than your sales team. If you have the money, invest in independent consultants that can tie sales and security together. At Eden Data, we get brought in on every questionnaire and every security call with our customer's prospects to give the comfort of security posture with an independent perspective.
  3. DO find things in your security program that you are proud to share with others, but DO NOT be enticed by what others are doing and feel that you can just copy them.
  4. Make it easy to find more information about your security posture for whoever would like to learn more about it. Build a dedicated security page on your website, have your security professionals participate in webinars, and update your customers when you've made significant changes.

Bonus: embrace the fact that security is a continuous loop rather than a line with a start and an end. Identify your gaps, build a roadmap to address those gaps, and then share that roadmap with your customers and prospects!

Cybersecurity is currently in its infancy and will only become more critical, more regulated, and create more FOMO. But because security is currently in the 'Wild West' phase, it presents a tremendous opportunity to stand out. I'll never forget back in 2008 when a friend I knew, Jack, got the first-ever iPhone. I thought he was THE coolest person on the planet. Now everybody and their mother have an iPhone, and I can't even tell the difference between them anymore. So be like Jack circa 2008: use security as your competitive advantage while your competitors are still sleeping on it.

About Eden Data

Eden Data offers cybersecurity leadership for the next generation of startups. We build security, compliance, and data privacy programs based on the client's unique differentiators and tech stack- enabling them to:

  • Win more sales while adhering to new regulatory standards
  • Attract clients/investors with data privacy assurance
  • Attain long term scalability by building programs that are SaaS and automation-first
  • Breach mitigation through continuous compliance optimization
  • ... and most importantly, free your resources to focus on your business

Eden Data offers services in a subscription-based consulting model that encompasses all of your cybersecurity needs and affords clients the flexibility to scale security services with growth. We defied the outdated model of consulting because it is our core belief that startups should have programs that match their disruption & ingenuity. And most importantly, Eden Data’s goal is to build agile processes where we prove our value and necessity through our leadership and evolving knowledge rather than building a dependency on our services.

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