Why Cybersecurity Planning Should be an Integral part of the Marketing Function

Imagine yourself a member of a marketing department in any organization. You spend most hours of your days every week for the past years; designing, building and launching marketing campaigns and developing customer relationships.

As well as developing your organization’s brand awareness, your main goals include attracting new customers as well as retain existing ones. After tremendous efforts and dedication, you succeed in attracting new customers and having them trust in exchanging value with your organization. Then, your organization becomes the victim of a cyber-attack and a data breach takes place, and unpleasantly the breach results in the exposure of your customers’ data.

Does this simply mean that your marketing efforts and investments over the past are now wasted? Will your customers lose their trust in your firm? Will they perceive the same value of exchange with your firm that they used to perceive before? How as a marketer can you minimize the loss of your customers in such incidents?

According to a survey by Ping Identity, where 3,000 respondents from the US, UK, France and Germany, 78% of the respondents indicated that they would stop engaging online with a brand if it experienced a breach. Similarly, in another 2018 survey by Gemalto interviewing 10,500 consumers, it was found that 66% of the respondents were unlikely to shop or do business with an organization that had a data breach exposing sensitive and financial information.

More interestingly, it was found that ONLY 26% of the respondents feel that companies take customers data security and protection seriously. That said, we can strongly argue that this presents a serious challenge for any marketing department in any company. The threat of losing customers or the inability to attract new buyers can create nerves if a breach took place, but also is it predicted that the frequency of cyber-attacks and data breaches are only expected to rise.

Thus, marketers not only need to seriously devise a comprehensive plan in advance on how to minimize customers’ loss post data breach incident, and be an essential stakeholder of the company’s crisis communication plan, but also, marketers need to be an integral part of any organization’s cybersecurity strategy and planning. By doing so, an organization may benefit in a number of ways.

Firstly, by integrating the marketing function of a company in its cybersecurity plan, the marketers can develop more awareness among the company’s executives, as well as the cybersecurity team on how much effort is done to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Thus, shedding more light on why it’s important to invest in technologies and skills pertaining to protecting customers’ data, and securing the overall company’s digital infrastructure to the best possible level. 

Secondly, it was indicated in a global survey by Capgemini that cybersecurity and data privacy are the main reasons a consumer would select a retailer. In this regard, we can argue that if the company is already is investing in its cybersecurity, then the marketing function can leverage the latter as a marketing material where it can communicate to its prospected and existing customers the security and privacy value they can expect to get when engaging with the firm. 

Thirdly, having the marketing function as an integral part of the cybersecurity planning from the start may lead to the firm’s avoidance of unanticipated expenditures and possible cost reductions. This is due to the crucial and proactive role marketers can play inside a company as a loud “voice” with regards to the importance of best securing customers data and the company’s digital infrastructure.

Fourthly, the marketing function usually acts as the “Voice of the Customer” in a company and is usually closest to the customers in terms of understanding their needs and wants in comparison to other functions in the firm, including the cybersecurity department. Thus, by being proactive and anticipating cyber threats and risks in advance, if a successful cyber-attack takes place and results in a data breach, the marketing function can effectively contribute to the post breach crisis communication and address customers.

Accordingly, we can clearly indicate that in our currently increasingly digitized and interconnected business to consumers that different functions in an organization must clearly communicate more and align their departmental objectives. However, as we are moving more and more towards a world where data privacy and customers data protection practices are heavily scrutinized, having the marketing function as a major stakeholder in cybersecurity planning and implementation is becoming more important than ever.

Mohamed ELDoh, MBA. is the Director of International Business Development at United Investment- Egypt & a Business Doctoral student at Grenoble Ecole de Management, France.

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