Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The "Tchotchke" Debate: A Reflection from RSA Conference 2013

After more than two decades in high-tech marketing, I've discovered one universal truth (okay, several universal truths, but this is a big one)--there are never enough marketing resources to go around. Marketing budget is a precious commodity. When invested wisely, every dollar spent should pay a return. This is especially true when investing in large trade shows, which often consume the largest portion of a marketing programs budget.

Take RSA, for example, the largest information security conference in the world. A 10'x20' booth like the one depicted above costs $16,500. When you add in all of your overhead expenses--booth graphics and furniture, product collateral, shipping fees, electricity, carpet and pad rental, travel expenses, and booth staff wages--the expense comes to well over $25,000. As the RSA expo is open for 18 hours over three days, that comes to about $1,389/hour.

Now, as a CMO, your goal is to maximize the "quantity" and "quality" of your leads. One approach is to hand out "tchotchkes" (small gifts, such as USB drives, t-shirts, squeeze balls) in exchange for badge scans. That will certainly increase lead quantity, but has no bearing on lead quality. The other approach is to offer nothing, or perhaps put out a dish of Halloween-sized (or as the manufacturers these days call it, "fun-sized") treats, as depicted in the empty booth above, in hopes that attendees will at least slow down long enough so you can engage them as they pass by your booth.

So, what's the better approach? That's easy. Go for the tchotchkes. And here's why. Let's say you're accustomed to registering 30 leads per hour (if you're lucky) with just a dish of candy. Considering all of the costs above, that comes to about $80/lead. Now, let's say you gave away a $5 tchotchke to any person that walks by. You'll easily triple your lead count without blinking an eye, to at least 90 leads per hour. When you add $450 (cost of 90 tchotchkes) to $1,389 (hourly cost to exhibit), that comes to $1,839 per hour. But when you divide that cost by 90 leads, your new cost per lead is now $20! Suddenly, by investing another $8,100 (90 leads x 18 hours x $5 per tchotchke), you've reduced your cost per lead by 75% and tripled your lead count! And your CEO thinks you're a genius!

Okay, but what about lead "quality"?  Isn't that important, too? Of course, it is. But, unfortunately, conference attendees don't wear stickers on their shirts to distinguish qualified buyers from college kids looking for jobs. But my experience has shown time and time again that when you triple your number of "raw" leads, you also triple your number of "qualified" leads. Plus, as an added bonus, you'll increase your brand recognition for when those college kids actually land jobs!

Monday, March 4, 2013

'Big Data' a Big Hit at RSA Conference 2013

Each year, I look forward to attending the RSA Conference in San Francisco--hands down the largest information security conference the world has to offer.  I look forward to RSA for many reasons--reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people, previewing the latest innovations in cyber defenses, and observing the latest trends.

This year's RSA Conference was... well... 'BIG'... for a couple of reasons.  First, attendance was up.  Way up.  A typical RSA Conference in the U.S. attracts around 15,000-18,000 attendees.  Last week's conference was reportedly a record-breaker with 24,000-25,000 registered attendees!  And let me tell you that the show floor was jam-packed!  It is abundantly clearly that businesses and government agencies are investing more in security than ever before--which makes sense given that a week doesn't go by without hearing about a major cyber attack on the evening news.

The second reason this year's RSA Conference was 'big' relates to the 'Big Data' theme frequently depicted in vendor booths around the show floor.  Vendors like RSA, Solera Networks, Splunk, and dozens more adopted Big Data messaging in their booth graphics and product collateral.  RSA offered a Big Data Security Challenge game show in their booth, giving away a remote-controlled helicopter to one lucky attendee each hour. Solera Networks gave away Big Data Security t-shirts, depicted below, along with Big Data Security for Dummies books, authored by yours truly.

The great thing about 'Big Data' is that it doesn't belong to any single category of security products.  And it doesn't apply to just one type of data.  It's a broad concept that relates to finding hidden, actionable meaning within large data sets.  Big Data can help you uncover hidden threats, determine the scope and impact of successful attacks, and even prevent data breaches in the first place.

Want to learn more about Big Data and the benefits it brings to information security? A great place to start is to download Big Data Security for Dummies, courtesy of Solera Networks.