Erin McLean. PHOTO:

Field Of Cybersecurity Dreams

eSentire CMO Erin McLean on softball, careers, and marketing

David Braue

Melbourne, Australia – Nov. 1, 2022

Erin McLean wasn’t completely sure what cybersecurity involved when she first heard about it, but she wanted to be part of it.

At the time, the one-time Canadian Olympic softball player, Bell Canada and Virgin Mobile marketing specialist had spent years developing her chops in direct-to-consumer marketing and corporate branding.

But it was when she heard about the emerging field of cybersecurity, McLean told Cybercrime Magazine, that she knew she had found her raison d’etre.

Cybersecurity “was this unknown and dynamic industry that was just on the cusp of exploding,” she explained. “I really wanted to be part of something obviously technical, obviously in demand, and an area that really needed differentiation.”

That recognition led McLean to change the direction of her expanding marketing career, joining Toronto-based security services provider Herjavec Group for what would become a seven-year stint helping that company scale up and expand across the globe as SVP of marketing communications.

For the past 18 months, however, McLean has been setting her shoulder against a new challenge: chief marketing officer with security firm eSentire, a newly minted unicorn and Microsoft partner that, among other things, last year set out to disrupt the managed detection and response (MDR) market by delivering 4-hour response times for remote threat suppression.

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“I’ve been able to take what started out as a telecommunications experience, transition into cybersecurity into a very clear B2B marketing function where differentiation was really important, and now continue down the path in cybersecurity,” she said, “but in a little bit more of a niche area around MDR.”

“There’s never been a more heavily contested, confusing and complex area that really needs brand and marketing and differentiation support.”

Lessons from the field

In an industry that is changing so quickly, developing a coherent marketing strategy is far from being as clear-cut as in better-defined industries like telecommunications.

Yet McLean has approached the challenge with aplomb, borrowing from her experience contesting the Beijing 2008 Olympics softball medal — Canada finished in fourth place — and working to instill those values in her team.

“I always like to reference how resilient you need to be in sport — particularly in the sport of softball, where you’re failing 7 times out of 10 and having to bounce back — to what we do as marketers in cybersecurity,” she explained, “because we are facing such heavy competition.”

“There are so many new tools out there where everyone’s saying the same thing — and we really have to be resilient, and we have to continue to improve and continue to differentiate.”

Differentiating, however, is about much more than just making different products: although the customer base for cybersecurity companies are a willing audience, McLean said, cybersecurity concepts still go over many executives’ heads.

Cybersecurity “still needs digestibility, and it still needs the explanation,” she explained. “You can’t speak to a business leader in a language they don’t understand.”

“They know they have a problem; they know they want to be secure; and they want to continue to scale and grow. But you have to be able to speak in the right way that makes the service you’re bringing forward digestible and understandable — and that was the real challenge, and opportunity, that presented itself when I made the move into cybersecurity.”

Effective marketing is about much more than colors and slides and logos, however: in today’s ultra-competitive industries, McLean said, businesses need to integrate a degree of marketing culture throughout the entire organization — from competitive intelligence, to public relations, to strategy.

Analytics, in particular, is a crucial skill set that McLean said CMOs must have if they want to be successful in today’s climate. Also essential: experience in digital advertising, field marketing, channel relationships, and more.

“You need to dabble across the board, and really arm yourself with enough information to be dangerous,” she said, “and have a really strong sense of self in terms of where you are strong and where you need your team to bolster you up.”

Marketing “really can touch every element of the business from a strategic perspective,” she continued. “It really covers the gamut, and that’s why marketing is so critical — and it’s what led me to want to pursue this field overall.”

Helen Hunt, she admits, also played a role: when a young McLean watched the actress pitching a campaign about Nike sneakers, the idea of making a big pitch and winning the deal seemed appealing.

Yet there is so much more to marketing that McLean only came to understand as she progressed deeper into the organizations she was working with.

“As I’ve progressed, I’ve been really curious about the business, because taking care of the business first as a marketer is what’s going to help you be successful.”

“You really need to understand how the business functions, what’s important to the business, who’s making those decisions, and then how your greater function can support that operation.”

“You’re always selling your business and whatever that mission or objective is that you have to deliver for the customer. It’s something that everybody has to take pride in.”

– David Braue is an award-winning technology writer based in Melbourne, Australia.

Go here to read all of David’s Cybercrime Magazine articles.