Pitching Risk Mitigation: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt!

I have never been a proponent for using FUD factors…to pitch security products or services. Admittedly, the temptation to do so, i.e., exploit fear, uncertainty, and doubt while pitching a prospective client-buyer through dramatized examples of risks to bolster a ‘buy’ rationale (decision), is routinely present.

I am hard pressed to believe it is an effective means of persuasion today…as perhaps it may have been, in large part because substantive (real) security, risk, and threat issues are consistently in play.

Instead, security product (system, service) developers, marketers, and vendors may be better served…in my judgment, to minimize the use of subjective – worst-case scenario FUD-related language (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) in their marketing-promotional materials and especially their pitch scripts.

Prospective buyers (clients) of security products – services…based on my various experiences, prefer objective, evidence-based, qualitative-quantitative rationales be integrated in their buy – don’t buy decision. https://kpstrat.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3520

My rationale for casting dispersion on FUD factors…as a (primary) persuasion tactic, is today’s business transaction environment is often global, extraordinarily competitive, predatorial, and dominated by intangible asset intensive – dependent companies, thus most risk is not localized. Instead, risks are pervasive, persistent, asymmetric, and can be very costly to remediate when (if) they materialize.

Experienced decision makers, are, as numerous surveys of security expenditures reveal...well acclimated to factors-variables which broaden risk and can spawn costly and often irreversible losses especially those which manifest as reputation risk to a specific product and/or cascade throughout an enterprise.

Addressing – mitigating security threats and risks should be characterized…in objective, factual, and evidence-based contexts with a ‘eyes wide open’ manner. Over reliance on FUD-related techniques (menus) as a means of persuading the presumed uniformed or reluctant, while it could be effective in the near term, I find is often espoused by those with strong allegiance to past practice and therefore presume sewing FUD to be an effective starting point for sales calls. To be sure, I disagree.

Admittedly, playing the ‘FUD card’…as I often refer to it, is a path that is difficult to resist, in part because it is very amenable to ‘pitch scripting’ and therefore perceived as the shortest, perhaps the most efficient route to a sale.

Interestingly, I have engaged numerous prospective clients – buyers…whose company has already experienced – ‘survived’ a previous materialization of significant risk. In numerous instances, the businesses leaders profess – characterize their earlier experience in the context of collegiate basketball metaphor, i.e. ‘one and done’.

In other words, for various reasons, these decision makers assume…another significant risk or threat will not likely reappear – re-materialize for some time, if ever. By extension, buying additional security – safeguards in the near term, they reason, is unnecessary and/or excessive.  https://kpstrat.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5983

As we know to be reality however, today’s risks – threats are asymmetric…which I translate, with good reason, as there are no longer interim periods in which targets and/or companies should consider to be risk-threat free. Those that do so, are engaging in very risky rear-view mirror thinking!

Too, such false beliefs are often rationalized…as if a company’s decision makers understand global culprits’ methodology, i.e., those who execute the risks and threats, (a.) exist in singular fashion, and (b.) executing risks – threats seldom strike the same target (victim) twice or in close time proximity. Assumptions as this, also manifest as a sense of dismissiveness exhibiting little, if any appreciation for objective assessments related to (risk) probability – vulnerability – criticality relative to near-term reoccurrence of an adverse event.

Such scenarios, influence my confidence that security product (system, service) developers, marketers, and vendors would be well served to…limit, if not omit subjective FUD-related language in product marketing materials and/or pitch scripts. The rationale for doing so is rooted in today’s business environment which is obviously global, extraordinarily competitive, predatorial, and dominated by intangible asset intensive – dependent companies, and, where security risks and threats are no longer singular or localized, rather pervasive, persistent, and asymmetric!

Today’s risks – threats target company’s intangible assets…making it all-the-more obligatory that security products-services, and how they are developed, marketed, and ultimately ‘pitched’ genuinely…

  • reflect the irreversible and paradigm shifting economic fact that today, 80+% of most company’s value and sources of revenue lie in – evolve directly from intangible assets.
  • accommodate management teams, c-suites’ and boards’ achieving operational familiarity with their company’s intangibles and their fiduciary responsibilities to safeguard and preserve these assets’ value and competitive advantages they produce-deliver.

Safeguarding – preserving intangibles’ value and competitive advantages…are markers I and colleagues have been advocating for many years, along with articulating the additional value which security systems, services, and products deliver in the form of ‘security intangibles’. Especially in today’s increasingly security conscious – aware environments, which are being increasingly influenced to comply with international (security related) standards and asset safeguards.

More company’s leveraging their ‘security intangibles’…however, those wishing to do so should be prepared to address these potential challenges and/or impediments…

• legal counsel may caution any public articulation of same because…doing so, may unjustifiably elevate user expectations (of feeling safe, secure), thus if/when a risk does materialize, a company may be overly exposed to certain liabilities…

  • intangible assets, by their nature, lack a conventional sense of physicality…which some prospective clients-buyers still find too obscure to effectively convey in product-service promotional materials and integrated in pitch scripts, or too esoteric for broad interpretation as constituting viable competitive advantages which clients – users, in turn, translate as willingness to pay a premium.
  • intangible assets are generally interpreted in accordance with strict standards for asset accounting and valuation…which I believe, with additional operational familiarity and experience with intangibles will lead to recognizing ‘security intangibles’ as (company-business) value-adds, i.e., what security products and/or services produce for all parties outside the conventional standards.

Some security practitioners, mistakenly, in my view, hold the perspective that…public announcements about the presence-use of security products and/or systems applied to an environment will undermine their potential – implied deterrent effects, and thus compromise the (security) benefits they were intended to produce.

These perspectives are awkward, but certainly not particularly-challenging to refute…based on my often, daily experiences in responding to these, and other issues and questions. Semi-valid as they initially appear, prospective clients-buyers of security products-services are misplacing substantial value if they overlook or convey sense of dismissiveness toward their intangibles, i.e., goodwill, reputation, and image, intellectual, structural, and relationship capital, etc.

One reality is, the value of these essential intangible assets will rapidly and significantly depreciate, if not go to zero, if effective safeguards, monitoring, and preservation practices are not in place and effectively aligned.

So, if the product-outcomes of ‘security intangibles’ are overlooked or wholly dismissed, prospective clients…will likely be inclined to draw their own (subjective) conclusions relative to pursuing, engaging – not engaging particular-business initiatives and/or transactions, i.e., based on their subjective interpretations regarding probability, vulnerability, and criticality that particular-risks-threats will materialize to produce adverse effects.

Subjective conclusions-decisions, as this, I find, seldom take-into-account the value-adds to risk – threat mitigation premiums, i.e., user – consumer sense of feeling good, safe – secure, and productive.

When user’s sense their expectation of ‘feeling safe, secure, and productive’, for example…are dismissed – disregarded, the probability, vulnerability, and criticality for an adverse event (re-)occurrence generally elevates. While people’s ‘feelings’, standing alone, are intangible, the product – outcomes of the adverse feelings can be tangible, i.e., lower productivity, higher error rates, lower sales, low retention, etc.

Of the many instances I have witnessed in which presenters omitted ‘security intangibles’ from their pitch scripts…one such occurred during a (security) product presentation in which the vendor, as it was revealed later, was also the developer-inventor of the product which (a.) had multiple distinctive (new, advanced) features which set it apart from conventional competitors, (b.) could be effective in numerous environments which its competitors could not, and (c.) it’s purchase (and deployment) would, in my judgement, both compliment and exceed buyer needs and user expectations.

However, the presenter omitted each ‘security intangible’ that would – could be produced by his product. Through follow-up conversations with most of the attendees, I sensed none recognized any ‘security intangibles’ this unique security product would deliver to their respective company’s – environments if purchased and deployed.

Michael D. Moberly March 15, 2018 St. Louis [email protected] ‘The Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where one’s attention span, intangible assets, and solutions converge!

Readers are invited to explore other papers, books, and blog posts I have published at https://kpstrat.com/blog/papers

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