Apr 19, 2024
24 min
Episode 66

TOP CMO: Mandeep Khera, SecureAuth - 'From Contact to Contract'

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  00:00

Some of the surveys are telling them that they don't even want to talk to an AI anymore. They're like we have all the information now just give us a demo, give us a price. And that's it.

Ben Kaplan  00:09

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups.

Ben Kaplan  00:24

This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan.

Ben Kaplan  00:32

today I'm chatting with Mandeep Kehra, CMO of SecureAuth a cybersecurity company that specializes in providing identity and access management solutions. Mandeep has more than 20 years of experience in company market and revenue growth. He served as CMO of cybersecurity companies like centac Lodge Logic arc San and valley mail before joining  SecureAuth. Ever since he started his career as general manager at hardware giant Hewlett Packard, he's had a long history of leadership. So how should you as a leader address the fear of job replacement with the adoption of AI in marketing? And what essential skills should aspiring marketing leaders focus on before holding a CMO role? Let's find out with Mandeep Kehra. Mandeep, one of the things that I know you have focused on that is maybe different than traditionally how we think about marketing is this notion that by the time a potential lead or a potential customer hits your sales team, maybe for the first time, they would have been more educated about the product. They've been self educated on their own, before they even get to that phase. So why are you thinking in those terms now? And then why has that been a change from what you might have done? years prior? Yeah,

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  01:48

absolutely. Ben, first of all, thanks for having me. And I'm looking forward to this conversation. We are living in an information age, right. So the buyers now have every every information at their fingertips about your product about your company. So they do a lot of research before they even contact you and show any interest in that product. And some statistics are saying anywhere from 70 to 80% of that journey is complete before they even contact the company for your product, right? So so why is that important? It's important for marketers, because we want to make sure that we are providing the relevant information, right in terms of value props, what our product can do for them, what pain points are we solving in an easily digestible way so that by the time they come to us, they already have all that information. And the interesting thing I heard from an analyst recently was, some of the surveys are telling them that they don't even want to talk to an AE anymore. They're like, we have all the information now just give us a demo, give us a price. And that's it, right. So it's a pretty interesting trend that we're watching.

Ben Kaplan  02:49

That can be very exciting. Because they're coming in more educated, they're further along in their cycle, you only have 20, or 30% left to go. On the other hand, it can be very daunting, because you're not controlling that initial 70 80% of education. And what if your competitor is controlling some of that? And they've said, Oh, but Mandeep  SecureAuth can't do this, this and this. And that's incorrect. That's not true. Or maybe that was true three years ago, but that's not true now. So is it liberating? Is it nerve racking? What do you do? You said, people are coming further along in the journey when they talk to you? But maybe you don't control a big portion of that journey now?

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  03:26

Yeah, no, that's a really interesting point. So I would say it's, it's all of the above, right, all those emotions that you mentioned, because it's it is a scary, right, because like you said, they might not know enough about you. And they might know more about the competitors. And I think that puts more pressure on the CMO, right? Because we have to is really cmo and market marketing job primarily. But obviously the rest of the company also has to go along with that, to make sure that the buyers do see the relevant information and the right content to leadership endless, right. So influencer marketing, leveraging all kinds of resources to make sure that information, the latest information gets to the buyer, right. So it is a challenge. But it's our job to make sure that it happens and

Ben Kaplan  04:07

probably part of a bigger trend, right, which is really we've seen since the pandemic where we discovered while a lot of b2b products might be used in a b2c way or it's kind of blurring the lines in this case, this notion of self service, well, not purely b2c. I mean, it could be is more thought of in sort of the class of products that's like non enterprise, right? Small companies, you because you just don't have the budgets to do elaborate sales teams, but then you're talking about  SecureAuth or talking about a product we could talk a little bit about the positioning of it where you might be going after large clients, but if the buyer wants to be think about this in a self serve manner, how do you have to think differently about your marketing? Yeah,

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  04:50

so you know, cybersecurity market is slightly different and also enterprise market, right. So so we're going after primary large enterprise customers and also maybe mid level To launch right so over 1000 employees mid market large customers, so they, you can't really make it like a b2c model completely. But I think from at least from value props, making sure we can provide easy to see demos, videos, how we solve their pain points, those types of things, making making it real easy for them, right? So that part of the journey has to be very smooth, until you can make it like a freemium product, freemium to premium type of product, right, we could eventually get there. But typically cybersecurity market is a little bit more hand holding more sensitive to those types of things. So So you know, our target market or target buyers are typically chief security officer CISOs. And there's their team, right. So information security managers, identity managers, and those types of folks. So it's a little bit of hand holding, but so it's not completely b2c model that we can get to, but I think we can make it much easier the journey part. And

Ben Kaplan  05:51

of course, with cybersecurity, marketing, one of the challenges is your marketing to a business, they're concerned about protecting the assets and the intellectual property and everything that makes their business, their business. But in this era of more blended work from anywhere, work from home, someone's on a device using their own personal applications and logging in and using passwords. And then, you know, might be coming over and using a business application on the same device. How do you think about marketing that? Because I think one of the challenges is is like, yeah, no, we're marketing to a business. But some of the actions of individual actors in our business, expose us to all kinds of risks? And how do you sort of bridge that messaging divide? Because you might be a CISO. But you're concerned with one person on your system who just has bad practices? Who is doing something personally, that puts your entire company at risk?

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  06:45

Yeah. And then the beauty of our solution is that we're trying to get help for that, that problem, right, which is because we provide this password less authentication solution, which removes the password, right, so and that's our pitch to the information security team. So I think, when we explain it, look, it's perfect for not only workforce, but also remote workforce, because you can be accessing from anywhere. And we can track who you are and how you're accessing everything. So we're providing this passwordless continuous authentication that solves all your password issues, as well as the hacking issues that you're facing right now. So actually, our value prop fits in pretty nicely with the environment right now. So

Tom Cain  07:21

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Tom Cain  07:39

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Tom Cain  08:13

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Ben Kaplan  08:21

in, you mentioned the information security team. So as you're doing your marketing, you might have a decision maker that you're hoping to get to you can't quite get to them at the start. How do you think and I know, we've talked about previously, but this notion of clusters of people that you're marketing to, so that choosing  SecureAuth becomes the consensus decision, of course, we need to do this, as opposed to targeting an individual person who might just be the decision maker at the end of the line.

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  08:48

So buying groups is becoming a big thing now, right? So buyer groups, because people are making decisions collectively as a group. So what we try to do is, obviously try to reach to the CISOs. And typically CISOs, don't download things and click on emails and those types of things. So that's more of a personal relationship through roundtables through events where we can actually meet with them form a relationship, explain to them what we do in in an intelligent way. And then you have the remaining team that that can consume, you know, other thought leadership type. So things like the white papers, you know, why do we need passwordless? Or what how does it solve my pain points? So it's a combination of selling high selling low, but also buying groups, right? So everyone feels like they understand the the solution and why that's different from others, right? So we do have to market it differently to different different groups within the company, whether it's webinars or events or white papers or ebooks or videos. So it's a combination really multiple channel strategy, right, that reaches different different parts of the organization. And

Ben Kaplan  09:51

I know you stay on top of trends in marketing, what is a trend that you would like to leverage better that you can't At fully leverage at the moment, what trends are you trying to jump on board? And maybe one year, three years, five years? You'll have more capabilities in those? Yeah,

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  10:08

no, absolutely. I think the biggest trend that I see is the general AI. Right? So we're all talking about it. And like I've told my team, I said, you know, we have to stop adopting it very quickly get on the train. And it's going to go mainstream very quickly, right?

Ben Kaplan  10:22

Adopted, in what way? Do you mean, it's like helping do initial drafts of content that would take you longer? And you're going to edit it? Do you actually mean, something more complex than just written words more like, processes that you can automate? Not just an individual prompt, but a workflow of prompts? Or what do you mean by that?

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  10:39

I'm thinking about more of a crawl Walk Run strategy right now, because, you know, marketers are still getting used to the whole AI concept, right? Some of them are afraid that this is going to take their job job away. And I think the famous line that everyone has heard is from a professor and Geneva is, yeah, will not take your job away. But someone who knows AI will take your job away, right. So so I that's what I keep telling my team that, you know, learn it and start using it. And so the way we're using different things, different tools for AI right now are mainly focused on content, right. So for example, creating an initial draft of the blog, creating an initial draft of the press release anyone with a starting with the ebook. And then obviously, we have to still spend time and work on it, and to modify it and make it better, but at least it gives you a starting point, and helps eliminate some of the grunt work, competitive analysis, right. So market research, we even did a search, for example, you use the to say, create me a marketing campaign on this specific topic, right. And that gave us the fundamental blocks, and then we obviously enhanced that and streamlined it so so we're starting to dabble in it, I wouldn't say, you know, we have used extensively, but I think it's coming and we're going to start using extensively and, and start looking at various tools that we can leverage in the coming months, the

Ben Kaplan  11:56

way I think about it for where we're at now is a little bit like, I don't know, back to your days in school, if you'd like, you know, use the graphing calculator or used a tool, you can actually do all of that work by hand, but it's gonna like speed it up to produce the result. And then you still got to check in, you still got to know how to use the tool. But that's kind of where we're at now, where we're getting to, it's not just a single question, like, I'm going to answer with this calculator, but it's like, could you set up processes that have like 100 questions that we have to answer in sequence in a process that has to happen? And we can turn loose generative AI, on that whole series of processes that take the input one and take the output and put it in here? And solve complex things? That's level two. And then level three is, how are we not even gonna necessarily have to define the process those 100 questions, but we're gonna let general AI help us define what those be. And we're gonna see an iteration of what does this elaborate process gonna look like that that we can do? So I always feel like right now, people constantly like I'm behind, or, oh, people are doing this or like, you know, gosh, this other person I know spent all this time in chat GPT. But it's important to realize we're still early days, we're largely like, we have one question, how do I write this blog post? How do I write this press release? How do I write this eBook to your point, but it's still early days, we're just asking a very simple question, these questions and processes are gonna get a lot more complex. And that unlocks some of the productivity from business, which ultimately could come.

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  13:24

Absolutely. I mean, and you deal with it, as part of your top agency, I'm sure. And you're starting to look at all these tools as well. Right. And I think you're absolutely right. It's pretty elemental right now. But boy is coming. And I've spent a ton of time on AI and even taking a course on Wharton online, extensively on AI, not just for marketing. I mean, it's coming in the next phase, the phases that you define right are not that far away. I mean, it's like you're looking at within next couple of years is going to be much, much more intelligent, and do a lot more things that they can do today. And so we just need to be ready. Right? So if we can start the journey with it, I think we'll be prepared when the big big thing comes, right. That's how I look at it.

Tom Cain  14:03

Okay, so here's what I'm thinking. It's a Western with a sci fi twist. But there's also a film noir plot running in the background. And dinosaurs because why not right. Take the dinosaurs down a little bit. Okay, no dinosaurs. But a little bit of romance is always welcome.

Tom Cain  14:39

And zombies. Yeah, we just heard from zombies in there. Your vision, our craft, talk, thought leader.com. I don't know. Can I listen to the first draft again, back to the show.

Ben Kaplan  14:55

And I want to ask you a little bit of a side question because you're a unique marketer, and you're in unique cybersecurity CMO, because you're also the author of book called Why answers to life's most important questions. And lo and behold, life's most important questions are not just marketing questions. Yeah, turns out those are important questions. But you have some questions here that you answer. Is there a god? Why do you innocent children suffer? How do you deal with sad events? And these kind of big questions? So how is that an element of what you do? And then we'll we'll actually talk about some of the connections, important questions back to marketing. But how did that book come about? Yeah,

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  15:31

it's interesting. And I honest to god, I'm not promoting the book, by putting it behind me, it's, I usually have a  SecureAuth Zoom background, I was telling a producer, I'm like, I'm not pushing it. It just happened to be there. And so now, look, I mean, I've always believed in in the spiritual things, and right from the beginning, and an understanding of life and death, and all of those concepts. And I just knew it wasn't in me, I could have written a book about marketing management leadership much easier. This is a much heavier topic. So I just wanted to pay it forward, share with the community, you know, you don't make a lot of money in books, as you know, I mean, it's, you can publish it, I was, you know, thankful to find the publisher who published it for me, but still, you know, there wasn't my objective was to really hear how many lives can make a difference in and it's not a religious book is more of a spiritual book, and really to understand the concept of life death. And even from a science perspective, in a parallel universe, you know, the power of positive thinking and those types of concepts, right, so, so the good thing is, you know, I received many emails, I've done speaking engagements on this, and people have given me a lot of good feedback and emails, that has changed their lives. And that's, you know, for me, even one life is ROI for me, right? So from a marketers perspective,

Ben Kaplan  16:41

yes, yes. Well, but the question of why is also an interesting one, from a marketing perspective, just the general concept of it, we do something that top agency already called the circle of wise, and trying to get it like, what is the emotional truth that we're trying to reach in our end consumer? So it's so yes, they may want a cybersecurity solution that's password less from  SecureAuth, but like, why? And then you get to the heart of it, because well, what's their reason for that? While they're trying to protect a lot of essential systems, but then why? Why did they want to protect those systems, and then you keep asking those wise and you kind of peel the onion to get it eventually, the emotional truth of what you're trying to market out. And of course, that's done really well by brands like Nike or Apple or others that can kind of have the kind of emotional resonance. So certainly, why is a powerful question in your life? It's also a powerful question for understanding who you're marketing to. So it makes perfect sense to me, at least, that a marketer would explore that

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  17:43

no, absolutely. And I'm a huge fan of Simon Sinek, right, who kind of is a big proponent of this concept of y, right. And I think that's why I like to be associated with companies where we're making a huge difference. And we know why, right? And in this case, look, you want stronger security, and a much better user experience, frictionless. That's why we're doing this. And I think it's very straightforward. And everyone gets it. And it's like, okay, why wouldn't I want that I can have the cake and eat it, too. I want strong security and better user experience. Great. So that's how I see it. And I think we're all passionate about our mission. And I think that comes through when we talk to our customers and prospects as well.

Ben Kaplan  18:19

So when you're hiring someone for your marketing team, do you like someone who, when you give you two candidates, there's Candidate A lives and breathes marketing, like they think about marketing nonstop, they're in it, that's all they think about Candidate B might be interested in has some sales and marketing, but as very wide interests, a lot of different types of lifespans. They're much more a person who's all over the place with interests. Who do you pick? Given that? It seems like you're someone that has more interest outside of just marketing? Obviously,

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  18:47

it depends on the role, right? So if I'm going to hire someone for demand, I want to make sure they have deep experience in demand, but they also have other diverse perspectives. Otherwise, you're too myopic, right? So marketing, a lot of marketers get too myopic, and you know, just think of their tunnel, which is not a good, good way to look at things. So I prefer obviously having deep expertise in the area in the domain that they will be playing in. But then also have some diverse perspectives. So they know broader picture of customers, keeping customers in mind keeping business in mind, right? So maybe a combination of what you just described hybrid of those two skill sets.

Ben Kaplan  19:23

Finally, we do a lot on the show, talking about those who are five years away from being CMO, what should they be doing, what skills what experiences should be they be getting? What is your advice for that group, but then something we don't do a lot as the person who's 20 years away, right, just at the beginning of their career. So what is your sort of the five years cmo and the 20 years CMO? What is your advice for him or her right now? What should they be doing right now?

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  19:50

Yeah, I think for the five years of scmo, you know, they need to start broadening their skills. So if they are VP of Product Marketing, for example, right now, right? They're focused on a certain elements of your product. content, the messaging, the positioning all of that they need to start thinking of other areas of marketing that makes a big difference the pipeline, the revenues, customers, right partners channel, because CMOS job is not, you know, it is really both strategy with the big M and the small m, right both. So I think VP of Marketing, who's five years away, they have to start looking at all of those different areas and start getting some experience, find a way to, you know, get that experience somehow under their belt. And also think start thinking more strategically. And, you know, cmo even has to think from a business perspective, right? CFO is not just marketer, you have to have technology knowledge, you have to have finance, knowledge, and all of that, someone who's like 20 years away, or like just starting off, they have to understand what their passion is. CMR is not an easy job. It's a very challenging and stressful job, a lot of responsibilities and a lot of additional pressure, especially when in a bad economy, because you have to do more with less. So the person who's starting in the beginning, they have to understand what do they enjoy, enjoy about marketing, marketing is not just advertising, right? So do they enjoy going to events or writing content or doing PR, once they know that, then I think they can figure out if they ever want to get become a CMO, and which is okay, if they don't want to be. But if they do, then they need to, again, start trying different things, and seeing which aspects of that cmo role they like versus dislike. And

Ben Kaplan  21:20

I think it's sometimes underrated the passion you have for a topic, sometimes people pursue things or pursue careers or pursue industries or start companies because they see, oh, there's a market opportunity, or oh, I can see a way that this is lucrative for me or for my company, or they sort of see a slight rift in the universe that they can plug up. And that's a good opportunity, and I can be successful. The issue is that the moment you encounter challenge, or obstacles or other things, if purely what it is, is just an opportunity you saw, and you thought, hey, it's a good opportunity, I should take it, it becomes difficult to persist. And most things that are worthwhile, there's going to be some difficulty. But if you're passionate, if you truly care about it, it sort of propels you forward. And so sometimes I think we put so much emphasis on just like, oh, you should pursue what you're good at, whether you're passionate or not, you pursue an opportunity, whether you love it or not. But that love and that passion is that fuel that gets you through what are inevitably going to be difficult moments. I don't know if you agree or disagree. Yeah,

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  22:24

no, I totally agree. Totally agree. You have to follow follow your passion and be passionate about what you're doing. So where

Ben Kaplan  22:29

do you see us all going in the field? What will we be doing in five years? How will we be marketing differently? How is all of this going to end up for those of us in the field? Now?

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  22:38

I think two things one thing we already talked about, I think AI will be a major player, as whatever we do as marketers and we have to adapt to it and but also figure out the right way to utilize it and also make the best out of those tools. So that's one piece I think second piece would be personalization for customers even on the b2b side, I think that would be huge deal like you said earlier, you know kind of b2c model but I think from a personalization perspective, definitely b2c models where every value prop every messaging every solution will have to be personalized for for our buyers. So I think those two things for marketers will have a huge impact in five years.

Ben Kaplan  23:13

Thank you so much Mandeep Khera CMO at  SecureAuth and thank you for your your insights on marketing and your musings on the big questions and the meaning of life as well. I like folks who can do both of those things. So thank you so much for joining us on topsail

Mandeep Khera - SecureAuth  23:28

Thank you for having me. Appreciate it enjoyed the conversation.

Tom Cain  23:34

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