Daniel Bernard
August 26, 2022

SentinelOne CMO on Building a Challenger Brand

Guest: Daniel Bernard - CMO, SentinelOne

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Want to build a challenger brand? This episode with CMO Daniel Bernard of SentinelOne is for you. SentinelOne has boldly faced off against Goliath (Microsoft’s CrowdStrike), zoning in on the fact that it’s the only next-gen autonomous security platform of its kind and showing up in all kinds of exciting ways.    

From out-of-home airport ads to working with resellers to setting up their booth right next to their biggest competitors, Daniel shares challenger brand best practices that are not to be missed. After all, who wouldn’t want a 7 out of 10 win rate for their business?   

What You’ll Learn in This Episode 

  • How SentinelOne became a challenger brand 
  • The Challenger Approach: Best practices 
  • How to truly differentiate your brand 

Resources Mentioned 

Time-Stamped Highlights 

  • [2:29] Meet Daniel: From investment banking to tech  
  • [6:26] Who is SentinelOne? 
  • [7:53] Becoming an official challenger brand 
  • [13:47] SentinelOne’s rebrand and internal positioning 
  • [16:59] Show Break: CMO Huddles 
  • [17:36] The mic drop moments make a brand promise real 
  • [20:15] A challenger brand goes-to-market  
  • [23:52] The ABCs of working with resellers 
  • [25:15] Content must deliver value 
  • [28:44] Why SentinelOne doesn’t sell FUD 
  • [30:11] Poking the bear (AKA your biggest competitor) 
  • [32:46] The Challenger Approach 
  • [37:24] Measuring SentinelOne’s success 
  • [41:43] Going IPO 
  • [44:24] Daniel’s tips for challenger brands 

Highlighted Quotes

“Being able to break really, really complicated technology down into something that's understandable and simple… That's the role of the CMO. That's the first part of figuring out who you are.” —Daniel Bernard @SentinelOne Click To Tweet 

“Being seen in the right places at the right time was a really important part to being in the flow. You’ve got to be in it to win it.” —Daniel Bernard @SentinelOne Click To Tweet 

“I'm all for taking it to the mat and taking our competitors to the mat, but I want to do it through showing differentiation. I don't need FUD. That’s a waste of time.”—Daniel Bernard @SentinelOne Click To Tweet

“We would strategically position our booth next to our biggest competitor because we had a great story to tell.” —Daniel Bernard @SentinelOne Click To Tweet 

“The Challenger Approach—whether it's digital, in-person, or at our events—everything that we do in marketing is to build the brand and show how we're different and better.” —Daniel Bernard @SentinelOne Click To Tweet

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 307 on YouTube 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Daniel Bernard

Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know the audio version of Renegade Marketing 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, was recently ranked the number one New B2B audio book by book authority. It’s kind of cool, right? Anyway, you can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio platform. Now speaking of podcasts before we get into the show, I want to do a shout out to the podcast professionals that share your genius. We started working with them about three months ago to make this show even better, and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, or want to turbocharge your current show, and I’m telling you, our downloads have almost doubled since we started working with them. So be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at share your genius.com that’s share your genius.com and tell her drew sent you. Okay, let’s get on with the episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing renegade Drew Neisser

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers, you may be familiar with the idea of a challenger brand, one that faces off with a category leader. Now according to Wikipedia, and you can always trust Wikipedia, right? A challenger brand is a brand in an industry where it is neither the market leader nor a niche brand. Challenger brands are categorized by a mindset that sees they have business ambitions beyond conventional resources and an intent to bring change to an industry. So one of the things I thought was interesting about that Wikipedia post is that they mentioned a book called Overthrow II by Adam Morgan and Malcolm Devoy. And they note in the book, there are actually 10 types of challenger brands, like next generation, think Oatley, or Irreverent Maverick, think Dollar Shave Club. Or feisty underdog that’s sort of the traditional challenger like Avis or Pepsi. Or dramatic disrupter think Casper and Tesla. So in today’s show, we’re going to be speaking with a CMO who loves having an enemy to market against, to challenge and preferably defeat in battle. That CMO is Daniel Bernard, who is the CMO of SentinelOne and is pumped to take on a Goliath, Microsoft, and its subsidiary, CrowdStrike. So Daniel, welcome to the show. How are you?

Daniel Bernard: Drew! Great to be here.

Drew Neisser  

And where are you?

Daniel Bernard  

I’m at our headquarters in Mountain View, California. It’s a beautiful day outside. And this is where we’re based.

Drew Neisser  

All right. Well, you know, I couldn’t help but notice that you studied Chinese. I think when you were in college, did you have a plan for using it? Was there any method to your madness there?

Daniel Bernard  

Great question. So I was lucky, I grew up in Kansas, and my public school had a Chinese program. So I started way back then and then continued in college and actually majored in it, there was really no plan except taking on a challenge. So I guess challenger stuff started way back then. Talk about a language with no alphabet, it’s sort of like scaling a wall without anything to hold on to. So it was memorizing each thing as you go. And I think it was all about developing work ethic, doing something interesting, and doing something different.

Drew Neisser  

Yeah, I mean, I know from my brother—actually, my son studied Chinese, but my brother actually got some fluency in it by spending a year in in Taiwan, and you know, all the characters that you need to be able to read it is, I mean, I think it’s a minimum of 3000 or 4000. And there are probably 10,000 of them that you have to get to. So that was all while you are at Wash U, right? 

Daniel Bernard  

Correct. 

Drew Neisser  

Got it. Yes. I had to do a little shout out to that because my new son in law graduated from there. So go Jeremy! Okay, before we get too far, what was the worst job you ever had?

Daniel Bernard  

It was the worst job—and by the way, also probably one of the best jobs at the same time—I worked in investment banking for a number of years before moving into tech. It really taught me to pursue a passion and also figure out and hone your craft of what you’re really good at. And so sometimes you got to go through a little bit of fire and a little bit of hell to get to a good spot and doing things that you’re excited about that you enjoy. That’s not to say you don’t learn by running across those coals on the way.

Drew Neisser  

Oh, god. Okay, so that metaphor hurt me because I saw recently that a lot of companies were doing coal for sort of fun bonding and yet, like they were all getting injured crossing the coals. Not a good idea. Don’t try that at home. But I am curious as you were an investment banker, I know a lot of my alma mater—that’s a path for a lot of smart students. They think, “Oh, I’ll go into investment banking will follow the money. Make a lot of money.” And then about 5 years in, I get a phone call saying, “Hey, Drew, you know all that marketing and arts thing that sounded kind of cool to me at the time.” But how did you get from investment banking to marketing and even make the link? Because it’s not like you would see marketing in your investment banking job?

Daniel Bernard  

Yes and no, and I’ll cover that. But really, if you think about investment banking, you amass a strong quantitative perspective and analytical view of how to assess a business that’s invaluable. being fluent, comfortable, conversant—and Excel is actually one of the greatest assets of a CMO, being able to be analytical about this function about this crap. The other piece of investment banking that I found fascinating was figuring out what the story was, whether it was a sell side transaction, or an IPO with an equity story. And in a way coming back to your question, really what investment banking was, for me, was a gateway into how do you market? Like, how do you get investors to give a darn, about a company? How do you take a company that maybe isn’t a great company, and figure out what its unique differentiators are to get it sold, or to take it public? If I were to crystallize what I take away from banking, that’s the invaluable piece, it’s eight analytical skills and be the ability to put together and tell a story out of a company—which that’s I think one of the most important parts of what a CMO brings to the table is, what is the story of the company? How is it different? And why is the world better because the company was there?

Drew Neisser  

Okay, I’m gonna buy that we’re gonna to keep moving and we’re going to dive into the story at hand. So you joined SentinelOne about five years ago as VP of Corporate Development, and then became CMO January 2019. And just in case my 96 year old dad is listening to the show, can you explain what SentinelOne does in a way he could understand?

Daniel Bernard  

SentinelOne is a next generation autonomous cybersecurity platform. Let’s go talk to your dad now about what that means. People have computers, they have servers, they use the cloud, how do you protect those attack surfaces against cyber attacks, SentinelOne replaces legacy anti virus with an AI powered platform that protects all these surfaces from endpoint to cloud to identity against cyber attacks.

Drew Neisser  

So a lot of protection from cyber attacks.

Daniel Bernard  

Correct cybersecurity, big topic. I mean, that’s probably one of the big risks that face every enterprise out there ransomware, malware, all the like.

Drew Neisser  

When you started as CMO in 2019 was the enemy already identified? 

Daniel Bernard  

When I started a CMO in 2019, we didn’t really know who we were, we knew who we were fighting against, or who we aspired to be fighting against, but they didn’t know who we were either. And that was sort of the competitive landscape. I mean, there were about 80 endpoint vendors at the time. And we were one in the long tail with some really interesting technology. But we needed to figure out how to tell the story behind our technology and how to get people to care and know who we were.

Drew Neisser  

Let’s talk about that. What was the process that you went through?

Daniel Bernard  

I think first, it’s critical to understand objectively, why is your technology or your offering better, or worse than your competitors? That’s really the first step. It was not just me, but it as a company with sales, with our executive team, like why do we win deals when we do win? And why are we losing them? And where are we going with this thing? What’s the roadmap of this thing look like? And that really gave a strong level of fluency around who are we and figuring out who we are. And for us, the big differentiator, if I boil it down, is the technology actually prevents, detects, and respond deals with the ransomware, all of our competitors rely on people to actually manually take action to deal with it. So if you think about like driving a car, in the world of driving a car, we’re the Tesla of endpoint, this is an automated experience that scales people so that no matter how big or small a cybersecurity team is, they can achieve a level of protection that they were never able to achieve before. Our competitors on the other hand, it’s people, it’s people that have to take action. That really crystallized for us and for me, and for the company, a strong value proposition to go to the market and say, “Everybody else is doing this. This is what we’re doing. And this is why we’re different” 

Drew Neisser  

When you got to the point where you said, “Okay, it’s the tech that empowers the people.” How did you validate that? What gave you a sense of confidence that this was the right story to tell?

Daniel Bernard  

With prospects of neuro POCs (proof of concepts). We also took that narrative to the analyst community, Gartner, Forrester, and the analyst. At the beginning, from the prospects it was like, “Yeah, I don’t have enough people, the people that I have, I can’t always hire skilled people. And there’s too much manual work and too many alerts amongst the 38 or so cybersecurity products that I have. So you know, this sounds great to me. Do I believe it? Well, that’s for you guys to prove it. Good luck. Gartner, Forrester, the analyst community it was “Okay, that’s different, that’s whitespace you need some whitespace you people over at SentinelOne.” Like, why does the world need another endpoint security company, good luck, proof will be in the pudding. I found them to be helpful and critical. But ultimately, the way that you win with them and get the most value for them is when you deliver the sales results and deliver the market traction. And then it’s “Oh, yeah, you were right. I told you so!” 

Drew Neisser  

Yeah, I mean, they’re good at sort of challenging, but you still gotta you, you have to go and prove it. And they go, “Oh, okay. See, we told you.” But important, nonetheless, in the process, okay. As you sort of test this with and show proof of concept with your prospects, when did you start to say, “Oh, okay, well, really, from a go to market strategy, there’s this big player there. And if we go after them, it will really help us from a business standpoint, or at least help us internally sort of organize our activities.”?

Daniel Bernard  

Putting up a mirror is a really important thing to do. Because what objectively was going on in our market 3-5 years ago, is we were a pretty small company, with a lot of excitement and great ideas and promise and potential, and we were competing against a company CrowdStrike that was far larger than us. So inevitably, and every single opportunity that we found ourselves in, not only were they in probably 5X or 6X the opportunities that we were in, but they were in every single one that we were in, you know, necessity is the mother of invention, we had to be different than them. And these opportunities, and if we weren’t able, in front of a prospect to prove and demonstrate and illustrate that differentiation in a very articulate way, pretty darn fast, we were out the door. 

Drew Neisser  

Interesting. And at that time, you weren’t a number 2 to them, you were kind of way back.

Daniel Bernard  

Yeah, I’d say a number N you know, when you’re doing math problems when you’re in school, it’s like, we were, you know, probably somewhere in the top 10. And then worked our way to being in the top 5, and then worked our way to being in the top 2. And now at the top 1 where anybody in this market who’s looking to replace legacy antivirus or doing an endpoint project is going to look at us amongst these others.

Drew Neisser  

So in the classic Avis versus Hertz, when they said we try harder many, many years ago, what was so interesting about that case, is that at the time, Avis was barely a number two, it might have really been a number 3, because it was a 3 horse race, and they made it into a 2 horse race by sort of calling attention to the fact that we’re this challenger, and we’re going to work that much harder for your business, it’s one thing to identify an enemy, but then you have to sort of compete against them. And typically, if you’re competing against a larger company, they have a larger footprint, they have a larger sales force, they have a marketing budget that’s bigger, and so forth, and I’m gonna get ahead of myself, because I don’t want to get to execution yet. Was there a way that you articulated when you sort of said, “Okay, here’s where we want to be. And we’re going to compete with this,” you know, is there a an expression of purpose, that Sentinel came up with?

Daniel Bernard  

Well, the whole notion of positioning our company and our technology as autonomous, that is directly an illustration, and is the opposite of what they do. Our biggest enemy, their line is “We stop breaches, people stop breaches, the crowd, the intelligence of the crowd,” Ours is “The power of the technology, the power of automation, the power of AI.” Choosing something that is like A, that’s what we are and who we are and what we do. So authenticity is critical, but then B making sure you have that differentiation. And making sure it’s clear as day to a customer, to a prospect, to a buyer, to an analyst, I think those are the pieces. 

Drew Neisser  

So give me the full sentence, give me the full descriptor that you use for SentinelOne.

Daniel Bernard  

We talked about autonomous cybersecurity. Okay, cybersecurity that runs by itself, the self driving car.

Drew Neisser  

And was there anything that you had to do from an internal standpoint, first of all, for either from a product change, or from an internal standpoint, to get employees to understand the notion of autonomy and the power of autonomy, and to make them sort of appreciate why this was going to be such an effective positioning?

Daniel Bernard  

There’s a couple key pieces of answering that question. So the first was having a strong brand identity, and we didn’t really even have a brand at the time. And so I think one of the first pieces was we rebranded the company with a logo that we made in house that was something that we could all rally behind, and I’m actually wearing it here today. It’s sort of a shield with the 1 in the middle. And before we had a different logo, and it didn’t really mean anything to anybody, and it was hard to put on clothes. And you know, everybody that watches the podcast knows you got to have a logo that you can put on clothes to have swag. You got to have a logo of your software that looks good on a toolbar at the bottom of the computer. First was coming up with a logo that people got excited about and refreshing everybody’s swag and getting the website moving and all that kind of stuff that was A. B was figuring out how to connect the dots, if you will, from the storyteller technology. I’ll give you a couple great examples. One of the features of our platform that was already here that was built innately from the beginning was the notion of a rollback. That has the ability to actually take malware or ransomware and let the technology automatically if it starts to execute, roll it back. And one of the things that we show our prospects and a demonstration is actually, if you turn off all the protection mechanisms and the product, let the malware actually take over the computer, let the ransomware run. And it’s sort of an eye opening experience for a customer. I mean, you hope that they never see that and that they’ve never seen that in their life before. However, with industry statistics, saying 3 out of every 4 businesses will be hit by ransomware. For some of them, that’s a splash screen that they’ve seen—that they saw yesterday that they had to call insurance about that they had to bring in somebody to do incident response, a computer, it’s a visceral image. And from there, our technology actually rolls it all back. rolls that attack back without any human intervention. That is autonomous cybersecurity. So we weren’t only able to talk the talk over here, but we’re able to walk the walk, you know, people would show the rollback demo before but there was not a good narrative of like, what is this? Well, it’s the emergency exit on the airplane and case everything else… No, this is autonomous cybersecurity, what is autonomous cybersecurity? Well, let’s show you. And the underlying technology is something called storyline, where the technology automatically connects all the dots of everything that’s happening on the computer. So being able to break what is really, really complicated technology down into something that’s understandable and simple, I think, for enterprise software company, and frankly, probably for any company. That’s really the role of the CMO. That’s the first part of figuring out who you are, how do you make it simple and be able to tell a story around it, walk the walk, talk the talk. 

Drew Neisser  

Boy, are you preaching to the choir here, love all of that, we’re gonna take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re gonna just keep going on walking the walk, we can all talk the talk, but can we walk the walk? So stay with us. 

Drew Neisser  

I’m gonna plug CMO Huddles for a second. Launched in 2020. CMO Huddles is an invitation only subscription service that brings together elite B2B CMOs—we’re over 100 now—to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. CMO Huddles is a force multiplier, we ask for an hour a month and guarantee 10 hours back in time saved helping you to make faster, better, and more informed decisions. If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit CMOHuddles.com, or hit me up on LinkedIn to see if you qualify. 

Drew Neisser  

Okay, we’re back, Daniel, there’s so many things that I want to pause or put punctuation points on. It’s funny, I’m doing a talk tomorrow with a group that’s in the rebranding process. And the whole marketing team is there and I was reviewing the questions and so much of brand—for people who don’t know about it, they think about logo, they think about design, they think about other things. But really, ultimately, it is a promise delivered and how you can deliver that promise as many & in as many different ways as possible. And I love the roll back, the demo that is the moment where this promise of autonomous becomes real. And so if you make a promise, a really large promise like autonomous in the world of cybersecurity, if you’re new to that, it’s a big promise. To see it in action really changes the conversation. And I believe that those demos are sort of mic drop moments.

Daniel Bernard  

They are mic drop moments and in an industry where when you’re working, the end customer doesn’t see anything, it’s really important to have those aha moments. That’s just one of many in our product from the UI in our dashboards, to being able to have these kinds of demonstrations, finding the aha moments and figuring out how to tell a story around the aha moment. That was the core, the Genesis, if you will, to creating a brand.

Drew Neisser  

I get the rollback. I’m wondering, also, it’s funny because as I think about autonomous and I think about the way people want to buy, right? People want to buy autonomously, too. I wonder what, if anything, how you apply that notion of autonomy to your go to market strategy. I know I’m pushing two different things together. But it’s your actions make it real. So tell me. 

Daniel Bernard  

It’s and how we demonstrate the technology. But then nobody just takes endpoint security off the shelf and says I’d like one of those. They test it first. And so it is incumbent on us to prove autonomous in the proof of concept. We need to show a security operations team, a Cisco and a CIO, that they can do more newfound capabilities, more automated workflows, fewer clicks with fewer people and less time having to manage endpoints or cloud or identity. Our whole go to market motion is really around that demonstration and proving out the value of our brand in the evaluation process because that’s why they’re going to choose us over our competitors, which they do when we’re there, 7 out of 10 times. 

Drew Neisser  

Which is a great number, I think any brand listening to the show would be very happy to win 7 out of 10 times, assuming you get enough at bats. So we’ve sort of gotten employees excited about it with the new logo and this new swag and so forth. How did you sort of bring this idea to market to make sure that you did get enough a bat so that you could get your 7 out of 10 win rate?

Daniel Bernard  

First, let’s talk about the market. Every single business enterprise organization is buying endpoint security. This isn’t a market where there’s like tons of greenfields here and there. This is a market where you are replacing somebody else. So it is trench warfare from the start, which I love, because you’re not a nice to have, you’re a need to have. So then the problem is how do we figure out how people can know who we are. The other thing is understanding your buyer universe. Cisco, and his or her direct report is generally the one who makes the decision. And generally they bought endpoint protection or antivirus that’s on a 1 or a 3 year contract. So there’s tons of flow in this market. And the really, the challenge for us and for anybody is making sure you’re in the flow. So the first way you get into flow is you gotta have a strong message and resonate to the channel resellers. That is where a lot of the commercial relationship happens on product evaluation. The second is you got to build a really big outward brand, I’m gonna dare go into some other somewhat volatile or, you know, scary areas from a podcast standpoint. But one of the things we did early on that really produced a lot of buzz was airport advertisement. And this is back when people were traveling more than they’re coming back, and some really pivotal big out of home. Because that put us on the map, it works in cybersecurity, because our decision maker travels, they go all around the globe, they go to this theater team in different places, they have their stock in India, they have teams everywhere else, they’re traveling generally. That’s the demographic being seen in the right places at the right time was a really important part to being in the flow, what’s the you got to be in it to win it.

Drew Neisser  

Awareness, you know, I talked about that a lot in my book, and it’s so underappreciated in B2B, awareness matters. I mean, as you said, you can’t you can’t win it, if they don’t know who you are. It’s funny airport, I’ve always been a big fan of airport and at home, because in all the other forms of media, you can sort of tune it out, that’s one of the ones it’s really hard to tune it out, right? And also, if you can sort of tie your message to the moment of where they are, and so forth. There’s some really great opportunities to do interesting work in the out of home business. So there is a reason that a lot of B2B brands advertising in airports because they’re road warriors, they’re so—

Daniel Bernard  

And they’re, by the way, Drew about saving time, because that’s one of the byproducts of technology. And like when you’re traveling and you’re stressed, and whatever, you know, you want to you want to try and save time and have a quick connection or whatever. The other piece that I want to flag though, if it wasn’t just about that air cover of out of home, it was a very, very strategic focus on content creation and getting the right content in front of the right decision maker at the right time. So there’s a whole bunch of tools, but I think that’s really secondary. It’s first the substance to me, once you have a brand in cybersecurity, then it’s like, what are you doing? And this is where I think it was a it was a moment for us as a team, we realized we need to sell trust, how can we get people to trust us. So this is where your third party analysts become critical. Do you have cybersecurity discoveries that you can use to make the news not just be in the news, but actually make the news we’re talking New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, global outlets. That’s when you start to get to a new level of relevance that people are like, “Hmpf I’ve seen them, I read about them, I want to try them.” 

Drew Neisser  

A couple of things I want to go back first to resellers, we’ve never really done a show on resellers the role they play in a market like yours. But from a CMO standpoint, talk a little bit about the ABCs of working with resellers and getting them to understand this story, which we’ve already talked about.

Daniel Bernard  

So one in our market, our competitor does a terrible job with resellers, they treat them like an afterthought. Again, knowing your competition—I’ll come back to that. And I know you’re gonna come back to it—It’s super critical. So wherever we can differentiate, what do we do? We treat them great. We give them swag. We give them collateral, if they want to run marketing campaigns, the answer is yes. They want to close parties. The answer’s yes. If they want to do a huggin chog as I call them with other a couple other technology providers, yes. We want to be the easiest to work with, the most lucrative for them to work with, and they kind of don’t care until they care is how I would encourage people to think about resellers. You invest, you invest, you invest, and when they lose a couple of deals to you from another reseller and they see your winning in the market and they see where everywhere. All of a sudden they’re this huge force multiplier. For your go to market and for your demand gen engine,

Drew Neisser  

Great stuff. All right, very helpful. You got to date them, you got to romance them, you got to make them sort of love you enough that they want to date on an ongoing basis. It’s basic relationship building, because these are partners. Okay. You mentioned content, though there’s no shortage of content in the world of cybersecurity. Everybody wants—is putting out content. There are two major issues that we talk about a lot and huddles, one is creating really good content. It’s just so hard. Given the your target, you talked about the CISO—and that’s Chief Information Security Officer. Is that what that title stands for? 

Daniel Bernard  

Chief Information Security Officer. 

Drew Neisser  

Yes. Right. Okay. I mean, they’re getting bombarded with content. So that one is just the creation of the content. Other challenge number two is, how do you get it in front of them? You can’t you know, if you’re just counting on Google to sort of them finding it organically, you’re dreaming. So talk about first, how do you make sure that your content is in fact, one delivering or reinforcing the story that you want to tell? But doing it in a way that’s actually broadly relevant and interesting?

Daniel Bernard  

Am I delivering value? And let’s define value. Is it new that they’ve never read before? That’s the most important piece like there’s so much noise and cybersecurity, like you said, there’s so much content 99% of that content is garbage, it is complete garbage, like what I defined by garbage is like if you lived on planet earth and didn’t read the content, would you have just as good of a life if you didn’t read the content as you do while you have read, and that’s what most of it is. Now, to some extent, you’ve got to play the game and have content but one of the things we started doing early on was producing ebooks with our customers, showcasing our customers and letting our customers give advice on how they run cybersecurity programs. That’s interesting. Prospects don’t want to hear from me. They want to hear from their peers. Two, delivering value. Education, we put on classes, we had a series called “Zero to Hero”, the different things you need to know to do malware reversing technical topics. This wasn’t necessarily geared at the Cisco because the Cisco is not going to give us their time. But his or her direct reports might so that they get smarter on different things, and they trust us back to building trust. So having industry experts deliver courses and having that under our umbrella and giving people a certification. I mean, I couldn’t believe it, the 1000s of people that signed up for this, and then presented their certification on LinkedIn to show off to their peers. They were doing marketing. For me, that was great. And the really the crown jewel piece is just creating this research division that we created within the marketing team in conjunction with our engineering team and research capabilities called SentinelLabs. This is a bespoke, we don’t push product. We don’t talk about the product. We talked about the threat landscape that’s been a huge resource and a huge asset to our brand, because that’s what enables us to not only be in the news, but to make the news.

Drew Neisser  

There you go. In my book, we call that sell through service. Research is a fundamental part of that. And speaking of that, we’re going to take a quick break so I can talk about research. And we’ll be right back. 

Drew Neisser  

Have you thought about doing some market research but didn’t have the manpower or expertise on your team to make sure your research was methodologically valid insight rich and newsworthy research that can be a tentpole for an entire quarters worth of marketing activities. Research that your SDRS can use to help move a lead into a genuine opportunity. It’s a lot to ask for market research, which is why more and more B2B marketers are coming to Renegade for help in this area. Renegade can help you draft the questionnaire, field the research, analyze results, and even write up and design a report if your in house team is too busy. If you’re a B2B CMO, even thinking about market research, do yourself a favor, visit renegade.com and set up a time for us to chat. 

Drew Neisser  

So we’re back. I love everything that you said about the content. I can’t help but sort of bring up the word FUD. We’ve talked about cybersecurity marketing for 30 minutes. And we haven’t mentioned Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt which has been the standard method of selling security products since there was such a thing as security products. I’m curious what your position is on that. And it doesn’t sound like you take that approach. 

Daniel Bernard  

I think that’s part of the noise Drew that’s out there. Like if everybody’s doing something, I’m going to do it differently because I need an outsize return I need to be able to draw something different—like another email that says, “Are you afraid of the dark?” or whatever the heck, you know, “Pick your flavor a variety” is useless. You know, that’s, that’s a cop out. The threat landscape there’s plenty to talk about there. There’s new cybersecurity discoveries, new vulnerabilities and products that you can discover all the time. There’s tons of new capabilities in our technology, we have no shortage of what to talk about. And we don’t need to talk about what everybody else is talking about. We have plenty to talk about to show how our technology is different than our competitors. That to me if you want to go that direction. I’m all for taking it to the mat and taking our competitors to the mat but I want to do it through showing the differentiation. I don’t need five that’s a waste of time.

Drew Neisser  

Well, yes. Especially, as you think about it, just keep in mind, you’re not selling a category, you’re selling your product against other specific products. And so FUD is really often about selling a category. So I want to get back to the enemy marketing and this this story that we started with. I’m going to tell a story. Years ago, we were working for a division of Panasonic, and I don’t think I’ve told this story on the air before about—and it was oxy right batteries. And we did a ridiculously funny poking at the ever ready bunny. I mean, we went after it in a just a highly amusing kind of—a very Renegade, maybe a little perverse—anyway, we went after this. And eventually what happened was, I mean, and it worked, we got the trades attention, because this was about a trade push. But eventually, the chairman of Everready called the chairman of much Houston said, “Oh, by the way, you know, we buy your industrial batteries, we have a business relationship, what are you doing?” And we had to the next day had to stop the campaign it was boom, pulled right off, the air. It reminded that they poked the bear and the bear growls and it came back to bite them. I’m curious if you’ve ever in your efforts to be overtly competitive, you’ve had some pushback

Daniel Bernard  

In the early days, we just wanted to get on the map. So there was no pushback internally at all, if I think back a number of years, we would strategically position our booth next to our biggest competitor, because we had a great story to tell. And you know, their icon is a bird. And so we would have a video facing their thing for people because they were getting more traffic than we were. And we had a video up there that was called flip the bird. And it was all the differentiation. And it drove them crazy to the point that they spent more time talking about us than themselves. And that’s exactly the kind of dynamic that you want to create with a competitor. Knife fight in a telephone boote, that’s what this industry is endpoint security, wherever you can find that whitespace and play smarter, they have a bigger stage than we have back then. The more they would talk about us on their stage, that was a huge win. And so in many ways, inadvertently, they legitimized us in our technology, our approach and us as a company. And for that I’m, you know, I’m indebted to them. I appreciate it.

Drew Neisser  

Yeah, I’ve just for all you leading brands out there, if you have someone who is taking a challenge your approach, the best thing you can do is ignore them, you know, their nats, just ignore them. Don’t ignore necessarily the product that they’re providing and what they’re doing and how they’re exposing it. But don’t acknowledge them, you’re just giving them credibility. If anything, what you want to have happen is that they don’t show up because you can use your clout on the flip side of this. So I’m curious how else have you executed in a way, as this challenger brand?

Daniel Bernard  

Let’s talk about the full stack of everything that we do in marketing is to build the brand and show how we’re different and better. The challenger approach, whether it’s digital, whether it’s in person, whether it’s at our events, you know, we have, we have a Formula 1 partnership, where we take our prospects to Formula 1 where they can see a lot of other logos on cars. And we needed to be doing that too. We have sports marketing programs where we we take our prospects to different kinds of sporting engagements, really the challenger brand piece comes through and everything that we do, because we want to connect with the prospect and they don’t just accidentally buy our technology, it’s a probably the biggest choice they make in their role at their company. We want them to know they made the right choice, that they did something back in the day that was different. But today, it’s not different. It’s innovative. It’s the right choice. All the engagements, whether it’s the digital touches all the way through the in person touches is all about proving every step of the way, that you’re making a different choice, but it’s the right choice. And there isn’t any fear around that you’re making a choice that over 7000 other of your peers made as well. So I think like big answer, but you’ve got to carry it out. Like you don’t just do challenger, you’re on one thing and then—no it’s who you are, embrace the identity. Know who you are, know who your competitor is, and then dance.

Drew Neisser  

What’s so interesting here is it’s overly simplistic. And I’m sure you’re competing with other brands. But the power of simplicity internally is not to be underestimated the power of getting everybody to see, that’s the villain, we’re the hero. They’re the bad guys, we’re gonna really upset and disrupt this market by doing this better than they are. And it’s so funny in the old—and I talked about this a little bit in the book—in the old days of positioning, it was to convince blank to use blank instead of blank. And we would just put one competitor and because of blank and so it’s convinced, you know so ISOs to use SentinelOne instead of Microsoft CrowdStrike because it’s autonomous. Boom! I mean what’s great is the simplicity of being able to express it that way. Now, obviously, the execution is everything and being able to deliver that against employees, customers, and prospects consistently over time makes it real, right?

Daniel Bernard  

Correct. And also, the focus that it brings is super critical. And I’ll give you a couple of examples. Because we knew who our competition is, was, will be, we can be extremely focused on our product and on delivering certain things in our roadmap that continues the differentiation gap. It’s this virtuous cycle of focus where because that’s who our focus is, and that’s where we’re focused, we continue to differentiate and broaden our competitive moat, then we can message that further. And it sort of creates this like engine, if you will, behind our technology that continues to propel us forward in a way that they can never catch up. 

Drew Neisser  

The alternative is flyswatter, when you just, you know, busted open a beehive, you’re going BAM! Boom! You’re trying to put all of these things at the same time. And just the need for focus, from a product development standpoint, from a messaging standpoint, from a marketing standpoint, is so profound, and yet, it’s hard. And I got to imagine there was some pushback, because you probably had some folks that said, “Well, does it always have to be autonomous? Don’t we have some other things that we could talk about too?”—Or there must have been some internal dissent?

Daniel Bernard  

Yeah, I think also, like failure is a good teacher, and can be the best teacher. Or lackluster results, if you want to call it that. Which is like coming into SentinelOne, this is a company that had really high aspirations and wanted to achieve a hell of a lot more than it had. A lot of the traditional pushback, if you will, was really unified, it was a force that was able to be reconciled, because from Product Engineering, to sales, to marketing, we were fully aligned. And I think the other part that’s an unspoken piece of building a really successful brand. And delivering on the promise, like you said Drew, is are you actually aligned with your counterparts within the company? Is the CMO and sales actually aligned on that? If you don’t have that you’re not going to be successful. And so I’d be remiss. And as we have this discussion, the fact that from product to sales to marketing, we’re so on the same page, we’re all friends, we’ve worked together before, you got to have your dance partners for this thing. That’s a key part of being successful challenge.

Drew Neisser  

Let’s talk about successful and how you’ve measured success. I mean, I don’t know exactly the timeline for when you went all in on autonomous, but talk about awareness about pipeline about close rates, about growth, in terms of the context of marketing.

Daniel Bernard  

All those metrics, every quarter that we have, and that we’ve had for—I don’t know, the last you could call it 12-14 quarters, has been a new record every single time. And that’s really what propelled us to be able to go public when we did, which was last June, have that build up and unprecedented, like enterprise software growing the fastest of any enterprise software company at our numbers, like, awesome, like, that’s what you want. And so the virtuous flywheel starts to work, you know, we can talk metrics until we’re blue in the face. And people say I’m a metrics person, that’s code for they don’t know anything about their metrics in my opinion. There’s one metric that I actually care a lot about and I want to talk about that. Because it’s very easy in marketing, to also get caught up in measuring a lot of things. And it’s sort of like an airplane, if you have so many dials, you don’t even know what’s going on what actually is important. And to me, what’s really important is the percent of our wins every quarter that we win, without a proof of concept. Remember, I said before, that nobody just takes this stuff off the shelf and buys it. That’s true. The bigger we get and the more powerful and real our brand is, the more people that will get on the call with one of our sales reps are taken meeting, have a demo. And on the other side of that say, “You know what, this looks really damn good. I’m ready to buy it because I know these five other people bought it. I’ve been reading your blog for a year or two. I’ve seen you guys execute in the market. Wow. I will have FOMO if I’m not part of this movement, I’m ready for autonomous cybersecurity.” So I’m myopically tracks how much of our business do we get quarter over quarter without a proof of concept. I can have a bazillion leads and I can create a lot of pipe—pipe by the way is what I care about. I don’t really care about lead so much I care about pipeline and we can talk more about that if you’d like and that that isn’t like a function of Product Marketing or demand generation or a field marketing or corporate. No or PR let’s step back and look at the big picture. The big picture is how many people are buying this product because of the power of our brand. That’s what I measure.

Drew Neisser  

So if we look at this and I love that, really nobody’s talked about that. It’s particularly your business too—but a lot of enterprise have proof of concept. If you can sell your product—when in at some someone’s looking for a new thing. You can sell it without doing proof of concept. They’re basically saying your reputation precedes you.

Daniel Bernard  

Precisely. First thing. I trust you, right? I don’t have to earn the trust like, right. The second chapter in our in our brand development was we have to earn trust, we have to earn trust. Now what this metric proves is we won the trust. 

Drew Neisser  

So how is that percentage doing?

Daniel Bernard  

So it started a single low single digits, and now it’s costing above even the 30% mark. And that’s awesome. It’s really, really, really awesome. And to me, that is the most gratifying part of one customers all around the world prospects all around the world, come knock on our door, aka our website. And say, “I want a demo”. To get a demo with a sales rep. And they’re like ready to go, ready to buy, that’s scale. That’s why, that’s flywheel, that is the power of all the dollars and time and years and tears and laughs of building a team and building a team that can produce and create a brand.

Drew Neisser  

And that is an intangible thing. It’s so interesting that you found that. It’s a tipping point, right? Because until you start to win without proof of concept, you don’t have it. You could say that’s that’s the absence of brand. All enterprise brands, who if they look right now have to do a proof of concept. They know they don’t have brands, the question that they’ll have is, well, how much? What would I have to do to get to the point where these folks will buy without proof of concept, and it’s a lot of stuff, it’s not one thing.

Daniel Bernard  

And honestly, it’s probably more art at that extent than science, like if I had the recipe to say, you spend this on this, and do that with that. And it’s gonna just happen, right? You know, I think I could probably quit this job and just go full time and telling people how to do that this job is too much fun. So

Drew Neisser  

There you go. But I love that, amazing, by the way, I was thinking, talking to CMO the other day about the fact that that the company is not going to be able to do an IPO you were able to do an IPO in a marketplace when IPOs were happening actually at a faster rate than anywhere. And now they’re not happening at all. Was there anything about the IPO marketing process that was a aha moment for you? I don’t know if you’ve done an IPO before. I mean, I obviously had the finance background, but we did a whole Renegade Marketers Live on IPOs. I’m just wondering if for you, there was a moment where besides the fact that your options are suddenly going to be worth something, was there a moment or part of that marketing played that you went, “Okay, that was pretty cool.” 

Daniel Bernard  

Luckily, here we were involved from the very start. I mean, it helps I know the other side of the table. So because I know the other side of the table, it was good to be on this side of the table, it’s actually much better to be on this side of the table. Men being on this side of the table. The IPO, in essence is the largest marketing event period, bar none. Being able to leverage it as such was critical. And really what we were able to do in the S1 filing was chart out our vision of the world and tell the story of how and why we’re different. I would encourage all the podcast listeners and Drew go ahead to read just the first two pages of RS1 the box. Because it is a very distilled crystallization of who we are and why we’re different. And even if you’re in another industry, that has nothing to do with cybersecurity, that is such an important piece of building a brand back to where we started the conversation. Who are you and why are you different? If you can do that, the rest of this stuff is actually pretty darn easy. And so for me and for SentinelOne, getting that right in the IPO was super critical. And it created the differentiation for—by the way, our big competitor CrowdStrike that we’re talking about that a highly successful IPO a number of years earlier, the market, investors were already primed to say, Okay, we know the space, why are you different and prove that there’s enough space for both of you. That’s what we did throughout the whole IPO. And if you look at our our net roadshow, the digital part for the investors that you don’t meet in person, we actually had our customers we produced an anthology and had our customers tell the story of why they bought us and how and why we’re different versus us. Aha moments, fortune 500 after fortune 500 after fortune 500, you create a story that’s undeniable. That was what enabled us by the way to have cybersecurity largest IPO of all time.

Drew Neisser  

I love it. We will link to the S1 in the show notes. So if you’re listening and you’re going, Oh, I’m working out but I want to see that we’ll put it in the show notes on renegade.com. You’ll find it right there. Okay, amazing conversation. Daniel, let’s wrap up and give us two do’s and a dont when it comes to being a challenger brand.

Daniel Bernard  

One, have a competitor and know everything, everything about them. Two, take risks. I talked to too many CMOs that are afraid to take a risk whether that’s doing a TV commercial, whether that’s a website, redo whether that’s a rebrand, you name that risk whether it’s hiring somebody for outside your industry, the only way that you really crack it is when you have something that you take a risk on that performs extremely well. And by the way, we could have a whole nother podcast on all the things on this journey that didn’t work, right. That’s part of the journey as well. To recap that: One, know your competitor, have a competitor, and know everything about them. Because shame on you, if you get that wrong. And two, take big risks, because that’s how you see—don’t do stupid things—But take big risks. That’s how you see disproportionate returns. Don’t, don’t get caught up in that airplane dashboard, just staring at a bunch of numbers. Because a lot of times the numbers can be meaningless. Too many people that I talked to are fixated on, “Oh my god, I saw the most MQLs that I’ve ever seen in history of my time at the company. And I think this is our watershed moment and its—” numbers can actually be highly misleading. Zoom out from those, figure out your metric that actually your board wants to hear about and that you need to present and that you need to follow, follow the metrics, but don’t get caught flying your airplane looking down at the controls, you need to look out at the windows because the visual is actually where you see where you’re going in the market. Not the controls.

Drew Neisser  

Got it. All right. Well, I should say thank you DB, right? Because that is your preferred—DB, thank you! Thank you listeners for hanging in with us. You probably just about figured finished your workout. If you found this episode of value, please thank DB, that’s Daniel Bernard on LinkedIn. And do me a favor and rate us on your favorite podcast app. For more interviews with innovative marketers visit renegade.com/podcast and hit that subscribe button. Renegade Marketers Unite is now a production of Share Your Genius Melissa Caffrey is our content director. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and intro voiceovers and Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about my latest book and the savviest B2B marketing boutique in New York City, please visit renegade.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser and until next time, keep those renegade thinking caps on and strong!

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For more interviews with innovative marketers, visit renegade.com/podcasts and hit that subscribe button. Thank you.

Renegade marketers. Unite is now a production of share your genius. Melissa Caffrey is our content director. The music is by the amazing burns twins and intro. Voiceover is Linda Cornelius to find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about them. And the savvy is B2B marketing boutique in New York city.

Please visit renegade.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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