By Dan Steiner
CMOs have a tough enough job as it is. The way that consumers interact with their brands is changing at lightning speed. And there’s the constant drumbeat of new technology disrupting traditional advertising channels.
To keep up with the rapid pace of change, it’s tempting to broaden the circle and find new perspectives to help create fresh marketing strategies. But, you need to balance this gut instinct with the reality that your marketing strategies are your company’s nuclear launch codes.
If a proactive competitor knows how you’ll spend your ad budget, and what the messages will be, you’re sunk.
The Threat of Corporate Espionage is Real – Especially in Marketing
Examples of corporate espionage aren’t difficult to find. However, companies usually don’t broadcast the fact that they’ve suffered a marketing team defection. So, the overwhelming majority of these events remain in the shadows.
I’ve had to clean-up the aftermath of a rogue marketing employee jumping ship. While I would never embarrass that client here, I’ll just share that the former ad placement specialist was offered a $40,000 sign-on bonus by a competitor. Eventually the employee was sued for violation of their NDA, but it was an expensive legal battle. Not to mention the cost of rewriting the entire marketing playbook from scratch.
Some of the most highly publicized acts of corporate espionage involve attacks on U.S. businesses by Chinese intelligence operatives. The relationship between China’s businesses and government is very different than the corporate / government landscape in the US.
From marketing plans to corporate negotiating strategies, the threat of a breach is always there. It’s always better to invest in safeguards, rather than suffer through an expensive clean-up.
CMOs Need to Build a Digital Moat Around Their Marketing Intel
There are a number of ways that CMOs can better defend their marketing data against bad actors.
Data encryption involves the use of complex algorithms to encode information in storage and in transit. Once information is encrypted, it can only be decoded by other authorized devices with the key. Even if the data is intercepted, or firewalls are breached, the information is unreadable.
While it is possible for quantum computers to run a series of tests until the right combination of variables are found, it would take months or even years for the mathematical puzzle to be solved.
Protecting Data in the Field
If you’re anything like me, you live a mobile lifestyle. I regularly work from coffee shops, hotel rooms and in-flight WIFI. It’s the nature of being a consultant. To help protect my privacy, and all of the corporate data my device comes in contact with, I use a VPN service that utilizes OpenVPN protocols.
This is the most private and secure type of connection because it involves multiple layers of encryption, a tightly controlled set of keys and is still being updated to compensate for emerging threats.
I feel confident servicing my clients and handling sensitive campaign data when properly secured behind a quality VPN connection.
Per-User Access Restrictions and Logs
The other important thing that I see more and more companies deploying are per-user access logs with account-level restrictions. While this is old-hat in many industries, marketing teams have, until recently, valued diverse input over data security.
After all, the hackers are going after corporate financials and customer data, not boring marketing plans, right? Wrong. Thankfully, CMOs are waking up and smelling the coffee.
The most secure companies that I work with use the same virtual data handling protocols deployed by high-level government agencies. Everytime I access an internal marketing file, my credentials are watermarked into the document. I am required to reauthenticate everytime I access the database, and anything I download or print is heavily watermarked with my personal information.
Access logs allow for internal security teams to monitor access and quickly identify potentially compromised accounts. And per-user access levels only allow me to view a narrowly focused set of information.
Prioritize Engagement of Marketing Employees by Communicating Value
But, even with the best technology and access protocols in the industry, losing key marketing personnel can be a body blow – especially in the leadup to a busy holiday shopping season, where retail fiscal years are made or lost. And if that individual heads to a competitor, things go from bad to worse. All of the training and insight into your operations travel with the people you hire and fire.
The things that have the biggest impact on an employee’s decision to stay or leave include:
The ability of leaders to communicate a clear vision to their team and gain buy-in.
The opportunities for training, advancement and interesting projects that broaden horizons.
The sense of respect an employee feels – something that can be difficult to balance with oppressive security protocols.
The happiest marketing teams that I’ve had the pleasure of working with operated like a team of freelancers. Everytime few months, members were offered to opportunity to jump between campaigns. This kept the team feeling engaged and excited about what was coming around the corner, and how they could contribute to the company’s bottom-line in a fresh, creative way.
If CMOs can learn to better secure their human talent, and develop better strategies to secure their marketing data, they’ll enjoy a less stressful and more productive career. Maybe it’s time for you and your CTO to grab coffee and discuss some new protocols for the new year?
Now that you know how to defend your data, learn how CMOs weigh in on other challenges, including how they can skillfully decipher, understand, and leverage the abundance of available data to engage with customers. Download The Data Driven CMO.