High–Impact Event Marketing in High–Tech


The covert world of systems security might not seem like fertile ground for publicity or marketing. But in recent years, Checkmarx, Inc.—a provider of software solutions that scan code and flag vulnerabilities in real–time—has made news for successfully hacking into consumer products. The company’s research unit is responsible for uncovering some seriously scary flaws in Amazon’s Echo, and Leapfrog: a tablet for children. 

Senior field marketing manager Ann Marshall is likewise unafraid to go bold when it comes to events. At the 2018 Black Hat conference, for example, her team set up a wind machine and a station to take “speed selfies,” so that visitors could experience the “speed of DevOps” in a way that they were unlikely to forget. 

Creativity is key in addressing at least one challenge inherent to Marshall’s role: How to stand out at jam–packed trade shows, where Checkmarx’s booth might be right next to a competitor’s? 

“That is the magic question,” Marshall concedes. Her team is doubling down on brainstorms in the lead–up to June’s RSA conference. To come up with ideas big and broad enough to stop passersby in their tracks, she begins by thinking critically about what differentiates Checkmarx’s offerings. 

“Obviously, we feel we have a better product to deliver,” she explains. “Maybe it’s easier to implement, maybe it’s more cost-effective, maybe it has more longevity to scale. It really depends on the purchaser and the requirement that every company has.” 

Considerations like these are kernels of ideas that grow and expand to include every aspect of a sponsorship. Messaging, slyly attuned to buyers’ needs, unifies talking points with swag, and signage with activations like a wind machine. 

Aside from effective branding, there are also practical considerations that can be “hacked” to make a booth more enticing. For example, Marshall makes sure there’s space for plenty of seating, so that attendees looking for a place to rest their feet can also catch a presentation. 

Outside of major trade shows, Marshall’s approach is focused and collaborative. She credits internal workflows as key to the company’s success in both increasing brand awareness and acquiring customers. 

 “I work very closely with the sales organization, and we try to be in alignment,” she stresses. As to how the relationship seeps into events strategy, she elaborates: “If our guy in Minnesota needs help, we’ll look into events in Minnesota, where we can make an impact.”

Regional events are another way that Marshall homes in on untapped markets and prospects. This entails broadening her scope when it comes to “industry events.” For example, Checkmarx has been known to sponsor meetups for financial institutions, to both make connections and better understand the needs of potential and current clients. 

Marshall also has her sights set on a 10–city roadshow in 2022. She’s optimistic that smaller, more intimate events (to supplement Checkmarx’s efforts at tentpole gatherings like RSA) will yield healthy returns. 

Fittingly, recent branding features imagery of a road made up of 1s and 0s, to drive home the connection between software security and safety in the modern world.

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