On this week’s episode of the Performance Delivered Podcast, we talk to Sam Erdheim, VP of Corporate Marketing at GuidePoint Security. Sam has two decades of experience across all facets of marketing and product management for enterprise software companies, with 15 years focused on cybersecurity.

Today we sit down with him to talk about digital marketing in 2021, and:

  • Directing, differentiating, and solving problems with your content
  • Hitting the right target with your content every time
  • Where to get the biggest bang for your buck on social
  • And more


Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered. Insider secrets for digital marketing success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Here to speak with me today, Sam Erdheim, who is the VP of Corporate Marketing at GuidePoint Security. He has two decades of experience across all facets of marketing and product management for enterprise software companies. With 15 years focused experience on cyber security. Sam, welcome to the show.

Sam Erdheim: Thanks, Steffen. Pleasure to be here.

Steffen: Now, before we start talking about digital marketing today, I want to find out more a little bit about you. Tell our listeners about you, how did you end up in marketing? And how did you end up focusing on cyber security?

Sam: Sure. So when I went to college, many, many moons ago, I was really interested in journalism, that was at a pretty interesting time when you know, sort of the beginning of the downfall of print media, in more, you know, digital and online. And I was very invested from a time perspective with our daily college newspaper, and I saw some of the people who were had been editors and chief go off to places, you know, parts of the country that I didn’t have an interest in spending time in making next to no money. So I sort of had to pivot of you know, what, how do I take the things that I like about journalism, from a writing perspective, you know, creativity, trying to understand things that maybe I don’t know, originally? 

And how can I take that and use that in another way. And so that sort of started me down a path of, you know, PR and marketing, internships and things like that. And, you know, that’s sort of how I got to marketing, you know, coming off of that pivot from from having an initial interest in journalism, how I got into cybersecurity, you know, really my first I’m trying to think my, my second job out of college was a technology company. And my first job was actually direct physical direct mail, where we actually shipped companies binders that with different quarterly inserts. So just to date myself a little bit. 

But you know, my second job was a technology company. And then my third job was a startup that was in the email archiving space. And after a few years there, and that experience, and just how exciting it was being in the technology space, we sort of ended up pivoting and that was more on the storage, side storage and security are, you know, have some synergies, you know, I got a job with a security company probably 15, 16 years ago, something like that. And from then on, just realize how fast paced a space it was. 

How things are always changing, you’re never bored, because there’s always a new threat, a new vulnerability, a new technology that expand with the threat landscape, the threat, or attack surface, and there’s always something to do there to better defend. And so, from that perspective, it was very exciting. And I also kind of looked at it as like, hey, I’m, you know, even though I’m on a on the corporate side, helping ultimately helping a company, sell something, you know, the whole reason for our existence is to actually help companies and help them protect themselves and their customers. So, you know, there’s that sort of that, you know, doing some good in the world as well, as a side benefit. 

Steffen: Well, it’s interesting that you said you pivoted from journalism, to to marketing, I think last week’s guest had a similar story, who, you know, he was a journalist, and he said that he identified that you can make more money in digital marketing and the, the Director of Marketing for scripted.com, which is a writers marketplace, but, you know, from a, from a corporate marketing perspective, what’s the importance of content for you in in your digital marketing strategy?

Sam: Sure. I mean, you know, they say content is king and that there’s, you know, overuse, but it’s there for a reason, you know, when I, you know, I first came to GuidePoint Security, which is where I work now, we’re the, probably the second largest cybersecurity reseller services solution provider in the US. Our entire approach to marketing was event based. And so I started last April. And as you can imagine, physical events were no longer possible because of the pandemic. So the company had to pivot totally and quickly. And, you know, they weren’t used to it because that’s not how they ever marketed and so my arrival came at a good time because that’s kind of more my been more my background is the digital side of things. 

And so, you know, my one of the first things that I did was, hey, how do we, how do we create a content engine, where we really didn’t have any content, meaning, we didn’t have enough data sheets, we didn’t have a website that was, you know, real impressive at the time, we didn’t have any thought leadership, etc. And so really trying to pull together, you know, what types of content do we need? That does a couple things. We need to make sure that our sales people have tools to properly explain and educate customers and prospective customers on the things that we do. 

You need content from a demand gen perspective. Hey, you know, we want to expand our customer base, how do we, what types of content are they going to be interested in? Who are buyers, etc? Who are our influencers? What topics are they interested in, that we, you know, that are relevant for what we do? And then it’s, you know, how do you extend the brand and actually become a thought leader. And so, you know, all of that, without content, you can’t do any of those things, content itself doesn’t make those things happen, but it’s sort of the foundation in my mind. So, you know, you can’t really do PR and be and, you know, talk to Wall Street Journal, and CNN and tech magazines and sites as well. 

Like, if you don’t have thought leaders, and and content that behind sort of, that they’ve worked on that explains, you know, ransomware, for example, is huge in the news right now. Well, we’ve have folks at our company who, you know, run ransomware. So from a proactive perspective, like, how do you sort of get ready from a ransomware perspective, you know, so that you don’t get hit by it? But, you know, oftentimes, it’s, you know, okay, we’ve been hit now what? And how do we, you know, and everything from negotiating with ransomware actors. And so if you don’t have that kind of content, and that knowledge, and a way to put that out to the market in a sensible way. I mean, you’re, you’re behind the curve. 

Steffen: What you just said is, I think, is something really interesting slash important, because you got to develop content for different scenarios, right? So you have an educational part where, hey, we’re all good, you know, it’s not an issue for us, we were not targeted at the moment by some, some people wherever they are. But then all of a sudden, you have a situation where, you know, where people are being targeted where they are, you know, on the thread, and they need a solution now. So what type of content Have you found, works best in each of those different stages?

Sam: So I think, I think there are things you know, you need educational content, meaning and at different levels. So you know, there are folks who maybe they want to learn more, and there, they don’t know a lot about a certain topic. So you got to provide educational content, that’s, you know, easy to consume, right, shouldn’t be a 20 page, deep paper. And people like to consume content in different ways, whether it’s video, we’re starting to put a lot more focus on on short videos, now. But you still need the paper, you know, five to 10 page, white paper tops. Or an Ebook, something that you know, with some graphics, and something that’s kind of an easy read, but but explains, you know, hey, this is a, you know, more for beginners level type of thing. 

So you want to try to have people understand, like, with with the title, for example, hey, we’re, you know, with a quick synopsis, what am I? What should I expect, if I give you 30 minutes of my time to read this? Or watch this or whatever? What should I expect out of it. As well as some more in depth, technical content of, hey, you know, maybe from our threat intelligence group that, you know, our threat intelligence team that talks about different threat actors in more depth, or, you know, reverse malware engineering, you know, some some piece of malware and explaining how it works. 

And so there’s different types of content for different people, whether it’s more technical hands on practitioner, that’s the day to day, you know, in the trenches, or, you know, something from a higher level of, hey, you know, here’s how we need to understand and report on risk to the board, for example. You’re not going to send the other one, that other type of content, that wouldn’t make sense. So it’s understanding who the people are that you’re trying to reach, and what their goals and challenges are, and then what type of content is relevant for them. And sometimes you can have some content that can cross both of those things. And then sometimes you have content that’s very specific for one audience, but not for the other. 

Steffen: I think that’s that’s a that’s a great point, Sam, because in addition to looking at where someone is in a purchase funnel, right, it’s about they’re always different people involved in the decision making process right. There are champions, there are people that are using your solution. And then there are the ones that actually make the buying decision. And you need to service each of those individual groups with different pieces of content, because they have a different need. Now, how do you go about to identifying that need for each of those group, Sam?

Sam: Sure. So some of that is, you know, talking to folks in the field, right? The folks, you know, so I’m a little bit removed, as the VP of corporate marketing here. So, you know, I’m not talking to customers every day. So, you know, I need to get that insight from the folks who are. And obviously, when I tend to speak to customers, that’s great. But you know, so it’s really trying to keep in tune with feedback from the field, as far as where different pain points, what are the types of things that they’re seeing and hearing from their customers, where opportunities that you know, maybe we haven’t hit on as much as we should have or should be doing. 

And you’re really then trying to, that can be broken down by a vertical and it can be broken down by role. You know, we’ve found that there are certain channels, right, where we have more success based on the type of person we’re trying to reach. For example, you know, we found that we run a capture the flag, maybe once a quarter type of exercise that one of our practice groups, you know, the service they run, but we also, we hope that we have one created, and we open it up to people, so they can kind of get a taste of what this is, you know, it’s fun and educational for them. For us, it’s a great way to sort of extend our brand and sort of highlight, you know, one of the things that we do, you know, from a services perspective. And what we found is that, you know, promoting that type of thing on LinkedIn, for example, is not that effective. 

Promoting it, and trying to engage with people on Twitter is very, you know, we’ve seen a lot of success there, as far as engagement. And because different types of users use different types of channels. And, you know, it’s a little bit of a generalization, but from what I’ve seen, you know, for example, LinkedIn is much more business oriented folks, that’s where you might hit, you know, from a security perspective, CSOs and VPS of security and, and other folks who, you know, want to be a little more thought leaders in network and all that was Twitter, you know, oftentimes, and there are other things like Twitter, but Twitter is where a lot more of the hands on practitioners, technical folks are, at least from what I’ve seen. 

And so it’s understanding that and directing your content to those channels, from a, you know, how do you differentiate between the users, you know, trying to understand where people fall on that decision tree, and sometimes that depends on whatever problem you’re trying to solve. So you know, if you’re talking about, you know, if you’re talking to someone who’s a network security person, trying to talk to them about things that are outside of that, probably isn’t going to be too super successful, especially if it’s in a large, large organization, where they’re going to be very focused on one task. It’s understanding their role, and where their pain points are, it’s understanding the size of the company, because that also makes a big difference, right? 

So you can have a, you know, I’ve seen some midsize companies where IT is, you know, security and IT are all together. It’s not, you don’t have a necessarily a separate security team. Whereas in a larger organization, you might have, you’re gonna have your network security and your cloud security team, your data, you know, security, your, you know, your risk, you know, governance types of folks. So you’re gonna have different your sock, you’re gonna have different groups within that security team and program. And so you want to make sure that when you’re talking to them, that you’re hitting on things that they care about, because at the end of the day, there are hundreds to 1000s of security vendors who are spamming everybody with everything. So you got to be highly relevant.

Steffen: Yeah, that makes that makes sense. Now, you talked about content promotion, Sam, did you mean organic promotion? Or are you also paying for promoting the content you develop?

Sam: Both. So I’m, I’m a huge believer of, you know, being found, if you think about, you know, beyond if you look at you know, research, hey, where do people where do people find out about products, technology, services, solutions, etc? Where do they do their research, just as even as a if I step back and step away from cybersecurity, just as a consumer of regular product right at home, I typically go online and type into Google or Bing or whatever search engine you want to use, whatever I’m looking for. You know, if I’m looking for a receiver for a sound system, I’m going to type in you know, surround sound receiver and see what comes back and then start doing my research. That’s how most people I think, are doing their, you know, starting that buying process. 

You get some word of mouth for sure. And you see things that you know, events and trade shows. But beyond that, it’s also searching online. So you have to be visible to the online world based on things that are highly relevant for what you do. So making sure you have good content, that ranks is really important. Making sure you have a strategy around different keywords and phrases that your audience is using. And having content to support that. And rank for that is also really important. And then having a paid strategy around that as well. So, GuidePoint Security, we cover every discipline within cyber. So especially you know, where we are, from a marketing maturity perspective, it’s hard to be everywhere for everything, because we cover the whole thing. 

We have expertise across all those disciplines. So, you know, we can’t be everywhere, right out of the gate. So where are the, where are the phrases, and search terms that we think have the most legs. From in terms of search volume, in terms of the types of people who are searching for that. So for example, cloud security, will everybody cloud security gets tons of traffic. But cloud security as a phrase doesn’t necessarily mean that someone typing in cloud security is, you know, looking for a cloud security solution, or help with their strategy or whatever, they might simply just want a definition. So it’s really, you know, what are the what are the phrases, terms that people are actually using from a search perspective that show up where you want to rank for, you know, on page one, so that you get more eyeballs on your site, and make sure that your site and your content are providing valuable information for them so that they stay. 

So you know, I think that’s really, really important. That’s a huge focus for me. And that’s sort of always that there’s never an end game there. It’s always constantly evolving, and optimizing. But then there’s also the paid side. And that can be on a couple of different sides, right? Getting in front of getting your content in front of people who haven’t reached your site yet. So things as simple as content syndication, you know, paid ads, LinkedIn, all those, you know, all the social media at that type of stuff. And finding, you know, were doing some testing and figuring out what’s the right, what’s the right mix with the right audience with the right targets that you can hit. But then there’s also there’s things you can do, you know, beyond that, like, hey, someone came to your site, and then they left well, or they’re about to leave. 

Are there things you can do to try to, you know, remain sticky, you know, with retargeting, or with, you know, an occasional overlay on your own site, that, hey, they’re leaving your cloud security page, what you have this asset that you think is really worthwhile. Maybe you have a little overlay that pops up as they’re trying to leave, it says, hey, you know, might be interested in this, and it’s on something that has to do with cloud security. And maybe that captures their attention and get them stickier and keeps them there. So I think there are a lot of different things you can do from both paid and organic. 

But at the end of the day, if all things are equal, I prefer for the organic than the paid, I think paid is more payments, how do you how do you get more eyeballs? In a shorter term, Google Pay Per Click is really expensive for some of these terms. You can’t I mean, unless you just have endless budget. That’s, that’s a struggle. So, you know, I look at it as hey, are there specific things that I want to convert on? Or hey, I just feel like it’s an important from an awareness perspective. And it is what it is, until I can get the organic search to rank high enough where I don’t need that anymore. You know, those are the those are the types of things that we look at into the play off each other.

Steffen: You mentioned social and form of LinkedIn, and Twitter. And that should be probably part of any digital marketing strategy, especially if you want to promote content or engage with your target audience. But from a business perspective, are there any any common pitfalls or opportunities that that company needs to be aware of and produce that they can exploit that you can share?

Sam: As far as LinkedIn and Twitter? 

Steffen: Yeah, as far as social media networks.

Sam: Yeah, sure. So social media, you know, if you go to any marketing strategy, you know, consultant, or whatever, you know, I remember a few years ago, everybody was talking about how social media is, how important it is and how big it is. And even if it you know, regardless of if you were b2c, or b2b, you know, at least the companies that I’ve been at, we’ve never had the manpower to get super creative in terms of and detailed around social media. I think you have to understand what resources you’re willing to put to it. You have to understand where you’re like what audiences are for each channel. So I’ve been at lots of companies where you see lots of things where they just they put the same thing across every channel that they do. So you know, let’s say let’s say we’ve got three channels, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You take the exact same post and push it across all three. Well, does that really make sense? 

Or are there different things that work better in different channels? Should you focus more on one channel and put more eggs in your basket? So I think those are things you have to kind of think through before you start just posting stuff. What’s your overall strategy? You know, LinkedIn, like I was saying, before we found that LinkedIn is where more some of the higher level roles and more business types of folks and conversations are going on. Whereas for us, not that those not that all those people aren’t on Twitter, but we found more engagement and better engagement, when we’ve done things are a little more technical, and focused that on Twitter versus LinkedIn. So for us, we have found sort of organically Hey, what things work better on what channel. 

But I think one of the big pitfalls is that people sort of see it as, hey, we can promote something here. It’s another way and it’s free, right? Unless you’re doing the paid promotions, but from your own LinkedIn, whether it’s your personal, your corporate, or Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram or whatever, you’ve got this sort of outlet where you can start pushing stuff. I think the problem is that social media isn’t really meant to, it’s not really meant for a promotion, type of thing, not not that you can’t ever do it. But social media is all about a conversation and networking, and commenting on things and providing insights on things and having conversations and back and forth. 

You know, the best posts are the ones where you’ve got 30 people who are providing comments, or having a discussion. To me, that’s what social media is, it’s, and many companies sort of missed that point. And they just push, push, push, push. We’re doing this event, we’re doing that event. Come to this come to that, you know, it’s not a, it’s not asking questions, it’s not trying to engage with people, it’s a one to many. Social media, I think where you’re most successful is when you can get to that one to one. But to do that, you need to have the right people behind it. So if you’re in cybersecurity marketing, like myself, you know, I’ve been in cyber for 15 plus years, but I’m not a technical, technical person. 

So there are certain conversations, I just have no credibility, I can talk about challenges and different threats at a high level. And I understand, you know, all the all the basics and stuff. But if we’re, you know, getting into a technical conversation around some piece of ransomware, or whatever, I’m not going to be the most credible person to talk about that. And so I won’t, but if you know, if someone on my team is managing our social media account, well, they can’t, they’re not qualified to have that conversation. So it’s also pulling in the right expertise, depending on what that topic is. 

So that it’s not a company, saying something silly, or saying something that’s really not credible, or being called out on it should be the worst case, and making sure that you’ve got someone there, whether it’s through their own or just supporting you from a corporate perspective to make sure that whatever it is you’re you are talking about is credible and can be defended. And it doesn’t mean everybody has to agree, but it just, you know, credibility is really important. And I think that social media can give you, that’s a risk. If you’re too loose with that. 

Steffen: Yeah. Now, before we come to the end of today’s podcast, and one solution we haven’t talked about, which is email marketing, obviously, it can be very successful if done right. However, you know, these days, I think we all get flooded by emails in our inbox. What are your thoughts on how to effectively reach people with your message and send them information that they actually are interested in reading? That is useful to them?

Sam: Yeah, I mean, that’s a tough nut to crack. Because, you know, like I said, I think I mentioned at the beginning, I started off in direct mail in my career, and then direct mail sort of, you know, slowly, slowly dissipated. And email marketing is huge. And I think the problem now is that email marketing is just so much white noise. I, personally, am on so many lists, that I get things I don’t unsubscribe, it takes too long. I just check, check, check, check, check, delete. I just deleted, it just mass, you know, bulk delete. And I think more often than not, that’s probably happening more than the opt out. 

Because no matter what, like over the last 5, 10 years, I mean, I’ve never had a problem with opt out, based on, you know, comparing to industry benchmarks and all that. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve always had the best email approach. It’s just saying that I think, you know, a lot of it’s white noise. And so, you know, obviously, the more targeted we can be with whatever the message is, making sure you’re hitting the right people, really trying to be diligent about keeping your data clean, understanding who is in ascend. That’s easier said than done. You need to have, you know, good marketing, marketing and sales operations and infrastructure behind that, or start off with a clean database. 

But I mean, I’ve never, I don’t know many companies that have where at least where I’ve been in the past, you know, have clean data, there’s always problems there. So having someone who can get their hands dirty and understand that, and, you know, as best as possible account for that, so that you don’t have, you’re not sending things to people that shouldn’t get it, you’re not sending irrelevant content. You know, and then there’s things like, what is it that you’re sending? How long is an email, you know, I’ve seen these marketing emails that are beautiful, in terms of the design, and, you know, the language that’s written, but it’s, it’s too long. People have very, very short attention spans, and, you know, you got to pull it out, like, hey, I reading this email, you’re gonna get these two or three things. 

Otherwise, I don’t care. You got it. You can’t, can’t say like, you know, here’s the whole explanation of blah, blah, blah. Like you need to get right to the point. People don’t have the time or the energy to read through a long thing. So I think there’s a couple things in between data integrity, understanding your audience, trying to keep things short and sweet, and ultimately valuable. If it’s salesy. You know, I don’t know. But I’m sure most people would say that the turnoff. So instead of trying to sell something, it’s about educating and consulting, trying to help someone do something better. And I think some of that has to be, yeah, it has to be written that way. But I also think you actually have to, I think it helps if you actually mean that, if that’s actually your intent, instead of, hey, I’m trying to sell you something, forget that. 

I’m gonna, you know, I’d have expertise in this area. And I can help you do X, Y, and Z. And if they, you know, accept that or find credibility in that, at the end of the day, you will sell them something at some point. But it’s, it’s you got to have that credibility and not go for the sales pitch right out of the gate. And can you provide them things that are valuable, whether it’s a video how to, or some kind of paper, it’s something that’s valuable for them, where it’s not feeling like they’re going to get bait and switched? That’s something that they have value in, and then that that will get them coming back to open more emails, as long as you follow that type of thing.

Steffen: Thank you so much. I think I was a was a great last word. And thank you so much for joining the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your your knowledge. And if people want to find out more about you and your company, how can you get in touch?

Sam: Sure, the company I work for is GuidePoint Security. So it’s www.guidepointsecurity.com. You can find me on LinkedIn as well. I don’t remember my LinkedIn URL specifically. But I think it’s just my last, my name, Sam Erdheim on LinkedIn. You’ll find me there.

Steffen: Okay, wonderful. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com