Marketing Cybersecurity

Transcript Follows:

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I’m excited to be joined today by Yoel Israel, founder at WadiDigital based in Israel. Welcome to the podcast, Yoel.

YOEL: Thanks, Rob. Thanks for having me.

ROB: Why don’t you start off by running down for us what WadiDigital is excellent in? 

YOEL: Actually, our focus is LinkedIn advertising and SEO. We’re very focused on lead generation, and all of our clients are B2B technology startups. They usually have at least Round A, Round B funding. A large majority of them are cybersecurity, especially because we’re in Israel. It’s like the cybersecurity hub of the world. So, we do a lot with cybersecurity there.

We also now do cybersecurity influencer marketing. We have a cybersecurity influencer distribution platform that we’re still building, and we’re currently using but we’re building a new one right now. We do a lot of influencer marketing in the cyber space. So, we do a lot, but our focus is B2B LinkedIn, SEO, lead gen, and influencer marketing for cybersecurity.

ROB: That’s probably an underappreciated and unknown aspect of Israel for people who don’t know. In the technology space you get a flavor for that deep security knowledge and that expertise in the venture funded companies in Israel, but a lot of people may not necessarily make that association, so I’m glad we get to dig into that a little bit.

I want to pull on the thread a little bit – when you mentioned cybersecurity influencers, that’s interesting. I’m sure it looks a little bit different than what people may commonly think of as influencer marketing. What does influencer marketing look like in cybersecurity?

YOEL: We have two parts. How we got into it was a few years ago, a cybersecurity client of ours asked us if we do cybersecurity marketing. We just said no. Then two months later, a different cyber client asked us the same question. We looked around online like, “All right, let’s help them,” and we didn’t find anything. There’s nothing really for B2B for influencer marketing, and if there was one, it was more like an Upwork where they come in and make the connection and there’s nothing special about it. It’s definitely not cybersecurity focused. When a third client asked us, we decided to build it.

So, the influencer marketing, right now we’re actually developing our own that will be ready in January. We spent over $60,000 on it. It’s going to be epic. But what we’re doing right now is using an affiliate network to manage and track clicks, where basically every affiliate, which is influencers, can log in and have their own unique tracking. We have about a dozen cybersecurity companies on our platform.

There are two parts to our influencer distribution platform. One is where our cybersecurity clients and other cybersecurity companies want to share and distribute their blogs and their non-gated content, and then influencer CISOs and such, mostly in America, get to go grab these links, share it, and they get compensated based on the clicks. That’s one.

The second part that we’re doing is now we’re offering, within our pool of dozens of cybersecurity influencers, some of them are writers and they’re real experts within their space, within cybersecurity, so we’re not just writing content, but we’re also co-hosting webinars. If you were to do a webinar with SANS or Gartner, it might cost you 15 grand. However, there’s no reason to do it twice because they send it to the same audience.

What we do is set up our cybersecurity clients with different influencers every single time, and those influencers promote their content in the webinar. They each bring a different and important audience to each webinar, not to mention it’s a fraction of the price if they were to pay SANS or Gartner.

ROB: Got it. In one case you’re providing them a platform to showcase expertise alongside people they’d want to be appearing alongside, and on the other side it sounds almost like you are helping the influencer solve a problem. It’s often not really the case in influencer marketing. The problem you’re helping them solve is they want money. But in this case, it sounds like part of the problem somebody who would be sharing one of these links would have is actually that they want to talk about the industry. They want a source of good, credible content, and you’re able to connect content with people who want to share good content.

YOEL: That’s correct. We’re curating. These people are already sharing and engaging with excellent cybersecurity content that they’re sharing, but now in addition to what they’re sharing, we’re curating that content from about a dozen companies, and more are joining, that are able to then go and grab your content, and they can share it. It’s really fantastic that we make it so easy for the influencers. We bring them good content and they get compensated for it.

ROB: That’s a really interesting model I haven’t heard very much about before.

YOEL: That’s why we had to make it.

ROB: [laughs] That’s why you had to build it. Especially considering, from a product perspective, how do you think about elevating towards quality? Because that is one of the problems in the affiliate and link sharing world; it kind of has a bad reputation. How do you evaluate that experience?

YOEL: We don’t let anyone who wants to come and share links. We review anyone that wants to share a link. We go to their profile, we see all of their posts, make sure the overwhelming majority of their posts are cybersecurity related. We look at their engagement, their follower count, their work experience. So, you have to apply to be an influencer and we manually choose who can and cannot be influencers. That’s how we get rid of the junk, and then the companies, especially when our platform will be ready in January, get to choose what companies they want influencers from, if they only want to pay for clicks from what countries.

So even though you might have gotten clicks hypothetically from Pakistan, you don’t want to pay for those, so we’re not going to charge them and we’re not going to pay out our influencers that way either. We have a lot of control over it. It’s not just like “set it up and do whatever you want.” Especially the cybersecurity audience, they’re very conservative. They’re professionals. They do things by the book. By definition, they kind of need to. That’s just how they are and who they are, so we need to make sure everything is very clean and kosher.

ROB: Excellent. I love the clean and kosher. Yoel, if we rewind this business a little bit, how did WadiDigital come into existence? What led you to start the business and how did you arrive at that point?

YOEL: It was weird. In 2009 I was getting my MBA at Bar-Ilan University here in Tel Aviv in Israel, and I met with a friend of mine who’s a huge tech influencer in Israel. I wasn’t friends with him at the moment; it was in 2009, and he took me out for some coffee and he goes, “Dude, you’ve got to get on Twitter.” I’m like, “What’s Twitter?” This is 2009, right?

I really got into it and I loved it. It was a real intro to social media. I’d been on Facebook a little bit, especially from college for my undergrad when that was up and coming. But I got on and I set up my university on Twitter and they were able to get some international students. They actually gave me a scholarship, so I knew I was good at something here. 

I went back to Philly, where I’m originally from, and went back to work for Xerox. On the side I was doing social media management organically on Facebook and Twitter for small businesses. Then I had a client ask me to take out ads on Facebook, and then I saw the whole dashboard and I kind of fell in love. Originally, I have a finance background, so I do love numbers and I love looking at tables of data. But once I understood that I could actually manipulate that data, I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living.

Then I got trained up in Google Ads from a friend of mine and then started my own business and started selling Google Ads. I moved back to Israel after two and a half years in Philly. That was 7 years ago, and then naturally, because everything here in English is B2B tech, I started getting more into B2B and Google Ads and then getting all-in on LinkedIn ads, and we grew from there. Once LinkedIn rolled out lead generation forms on April 1st, 2017, we went all-in and we skyrocketed, bringing in enterprise leads and business because we were first mover advantage.

ROB: That’s a good wave to catch. For a while, a long time, you would hear that LinkedIn ads were expensive and that’s all you would really hear about them. Then I think there started to be a transition at some point – I don’t know whether it was an evolution of the platform or in strategy, but you started to hear instead that LinkedIn ads were expensive but effective. What do you think fed that transition, and what was your experience in that?

YOEL: It’s definitely expensive relative to other platforms, but it’s totally worth the money. You can target whomever you want professionally on LinkedIn. You can’t do that on any other platform. It’s extremely powerful.

ROB: Talk more about that target. What’s that look like in practice to be really effective?

YOEL: In practice, if I want to target CISOs (Chief Information Security Officers) at Fortune 500 companies only within the United States and who have just switched jobs in the last 90 days so they might be looking for new security opportunities for them to secure their companies, we can do that targeting.

ROB: Got it. Does it line up a little bit with that enterprise hunting, account-based marketing mindset?

YOEL: You could also do account-based marketing. You can upload a list of companies that you directly want to target and do that too. But then they also have different target options that you can choose, like the industry and the company size within that industry that you want to target. There’s a lot of different ways – not just choosing what companies, but there’s all kinds of different ways that you can target by company and you can target by the individual based on their experience.

ROB: Got it. To justify the expense, do you look more at something that’s in a lead capture mode? Is there any place for just pure brand and awareness marketing in LinkedIn?

YOEL: Oh yeah, for sure. If you’re a startup or you’re a disruptor, people don’t know that you’re solving an issue that they don’t know they have. They’re not searching for that solution. Therefore, you can’t use Google, but you can put in front of them the solution that you provide. So, awareness is fantastic. Video is very good. It’s not necessarily good for lead generation but creating awareness videos and then remarketing people that viewed 50% or 75% of the video and then hit them up with a lead capture, you’ll do very well.

ROB: Wow, that’s an interesting direction to take things. You started this and you got this thing moving; at what point did you realize that you were going to have to grow the team and this was really going to have to be something bigger than yourself?

YOEL: When I stopped getting enough sleep. [laughs] I was working wire to wire, and then you get this really hot client. It was like, “Ugh, I’m totally full with time. I shouldn’t take them,” but it was someone you really wanted. You’re like, “Okay, now I need to hire.” That’s how it happened.

ROB: Got it. So, you just basically got to full capacity and then you said, “Well, I’ve got to do something that is beyond me.”

YOEL: Right.

ROB: Are you still in that sort of mode, or have you shifted in terms of capacity planning and hiring to some different metrics? Or do you still think about getting a little bit too busy?

YOEL: I always try to make sure we’re stretching before I do my hires. We’re already 11 people full time, and I just signed last Thursday night a huge senior, the only other person that’s worth – let’s say it’s someone else in Israel that’s got perfect English, has LinkedIn ads, Google Ads experience, worked in an agency, built a team. So, I just made a big hire, a very expensive hire, who will be starting in January. I’m continuing to grow and I’m all-in, and I’m putting up a few more job postings now. To really build up a perfect team obviously will cost us a lot of money in the short term, but I think the medium and long term will be happy.

But in general, as a rule of thumb for others that have agencies, do as much as you can, learn as much as you can, save up as much as you can, work wire to wire until you absolutely need to hire. Then hire. Too many people try to apply the 4-hour workweek before – the whole point of the 4-hour workweek is to escape the wire-to-wire working. First, you’ve got to build the business, build the revenue, and get all that. Then you can learn how to step back. Don’t step back and start outsourcing things until you’re really working like crazy.

ROB: I know I’ve certainly had that experience of hiring for the business I wish I had instead of what’s right in front of me. Have you had any either fractional or full-time hires that you’ve learned you may have made prematurely and had to pull back from it?

YOEL: I used to say I hire on personality and then I learned that’s not nearly as important. I think having a good work ethic is more important than anything. That’s what I really learned. You need people to have a good work ethic. If they have a good work ethic, they’re competent, and they really care about the quality of their work, I think that’s the number one most important thing.

ROB: How do you think about screening for a good work ethic and evaluating that before someone’s on board?

YOEL: Make sure they have a full year of working somewhere. If you’re in marketing, digital marketing, maybe a 1 year of white collar, making sure that they haven’t been fired, and calling the references – were they on time? I really think speaking to the references and making sure they actually have some full-time employment. You should be able to get it from the references. Make sure to ask difficult questions to the references. A lot of people try to be nice to references because they’re being kind with their time, but that’s really the way to know.

ROB: Not only that, but people will often give you the good references. It’s hard to get to sometimes the references you really need to understand the full picture of the person.

YOEL: Right, but you need to ask the hard questions. You’ve got to pivot it and do it like this. Let’s say Peter. “Is Peter more of an introvert or an extrovert? Does Peter excel better working alone or excel better working on a team?” Don’t say “Has Peter ever been late?” They’ll say no. You frame it as, “How many times a month has Peter been late?” Then you hear if they think or not. You get an idea. So when you frame it that way, you get a better idea. It’s how you frame the question, you’ll be able to get an honest answer.

Also, ideally, when you do these reference calls, if you can schedule a video call because then you can see their reaction. If you can avoid the telephone and do a video call, which everyone now knows how to do because of the pandemic, you’ll be better off.

ROB: That’s definitely an opportunity I’ve seen in this time. People are much less weirded out by a video call because we’re all used to it. If you had told someone you wanted to do your first screen on a video call two years ago, I don’t know if you would’ve had the level of adoption that I’m seeing with candidates now.

YOEL: Right. It’s a hiring market. Employers have a lot of leverage in a difficult economy. If someone asks for a video interview, I couldn’t imagine anyone saying no. If you really want to weed people out, find out those that aren’t willing to do a video interview.

ROB: People find a lot of ways to weed themselves out. It constantly surprises me. Someone will spend the time on a video call, but then they won’t follow up timely on the next step you ask them to do. It’s a real tell.

YOEL: It is, yeah. For those looking for employment, just a little tip: don’t forget to send a thank you email after the interview.

ROB: Man, it’s such a way to stand out.

YOEL: It’s sad. I studied finance and they taught us a lot about business. We used to send handwritten letters. I’m not that old, man. I’m turning 35 next month. [laughs] I don’t write in cursive and all that, but there’s something to it. You want to stand out, you send a handwritten letter. You’ll get that job.

ROB: I think it’s also interesting to recognize that one of the ways that I think you’re really able to make those good premium hires you’re talking about is in your choice of market. You’re not talking to somebody who’s selling a widget for $5 bucks a month. The cybersecurity market – the threats continue to grow. There’s a lot of money on the line. What are you seeing when it comes to categories of cybersecurity that’s emerging, trending? What should people be scared of that they don’t know about yet?

YOEL: Don’t worry, all our clients are B2B. We’re not selling VPNs like B2C to end users or anything like that. But everything and anything can be hacked. If you really want to be scared, to be honest, under no circumstances should you have TikTok or WeChat on your phone. They’re stealing your texts. Anything you copy in your clipboard, even when you’re not using the app, it’s sending it to the Communist Chinese Party. That’s the simplest and easiest thing you can do. I could really scare you, but I’m not going to do that. You wanted an easy answer. [laughs]

ROB: I wonder if maybe there’s a novel category of solution that you’ve worked with, a client you’ve worked with that people wouldn’t even realize was a problem or a solution.

YOEL: I don’t use Zoom. Most people do, but we use Google Meet because Zoom is hosted in China, so it’s not secure. And most of our clients are cybersecurity. A few of our clients don’t care; most of them do. There’s a lot. You have no idea. People know everything about you. They’ve watched you do everything on your phone through your camera, heard every conversation. They’re recording everything. Everything you think Google’s recording, which it’s doing legally and with your permission, imagine what foreign governments are doing and getting information on you. I don’t think anyone can run for office in a free country in the future with foreign adversaries knowing everything about you.

ROB: Right, or they can and then it becomes a security risk.

YOEL: Right. You can see that right now.

ROB: Exposing the information is actually – you do that, you can never use it again. But if you hold it over someone’s head, you can influence them for a long period of time.

YOEL: Correct. That’s what’s happening right now maybe in America with Hunter Biden, with everything that he has on him and on Biden. It’s a little worrying. But we’ll see.

ROB: You really do have to wonder. I hadn’t thought about it too much. If someone has the dirt on you – 

YOEL: People don’t think about it. And they have the dirt on you. That’s the thing. They have it on me. They have it on you.

ROB: So turning over the dirt is the nuclear option.

YOEL: You don’t turn it over. It’s taken from you.

ROB: Yeah. But them releasing the information is the last play. There’s a lot in between. It’s really interesting. Some interesting trends I have seen in this world – I don’t know what you’ve seen here – is an increase – we have one client who is moving to virtualized desktops. It was an S&P 500 company and they got ransomwared, and they’re just over it. So they are deploying – all of their developers are going to be developing on virtual Windows boxes, I think on Amazon’s cloud. Virtual desktops.

YOEL: Yep, not surprising. You hear a lot more than that. I give examples of what people can do as individuals, but my clients are B2B, so it’s more like how they present a ransomware, patching solutions, things like that. Having different keys in order to access different information, using cryptocurrency and things like that. All kinds of different technologies in order to be able to prevent different kinds of penetration for IT and OT and industrial and ICS. It’s amazing. Think about it; if they take down the energy supply, you’re screwed. You have no food. Nothing gets to you. They can’t even pump the water that comes out of your faucet. Everyone’s out in the street killing each other.

ROB: We got a scary sneak preview. I don’t know what the immediate COVID-lockdown experience was for you, but you realize how overoptimized and how fragile our supply chain is. What was your experience?

YOEL: Yep, yep, yep. A lot.

ROB: What could you not get and what can you still not get?

YOEL: I have a couple old B2C clients from back in the day back in the States, and they’re ecommerce. Ecommerce was through the roof when people couldn’t go to the store. I was like, “Yo, we’ve got to up our budgets. This is amazing. Our ROI is like 5x the previous month. This will only last as long as the pandemic or until things open up.” He goes, “I can’t. My supply chain is screwed.” We had to cut budgets, and it was time to rake it in. He couldn’t supply. We had to go through and start removing products on their website. They sell beads for arts and crafts, high end beads and all that, like African beads. Just to get an idea.

And that’s not even important stuff. Then you talk about all of your medication and all that. I know we’re totally off topic, but that’s fine. All of your medication ingredients that go into medication and all of your technology and everything is made overseas, not to mention your master PPE equipment and everything. Nothing was made here at the time. Big changes have been made in the last 6 months, thankfully, for America to be able to centralize and other countries to start bringing their manufacturing back home. It’s become a national security risk.

ROB: Yeah. I was going to say, that’s a good security story as well. We talked a little bit about some things you’d learned along the way. What are some other lessons you have learned from building WadiDigital that you might do a little bit differently if you were starting from scratch?

YOEL: Starting from scratch? It’s such a simple question but I never thought of it that way. I would’ve maybe hired a little bit earlier. I would have taken processes more seriously. I never worked at another agency, so I would’ve hired a consultant that worked at another agency to give me some tips on how to do and build things, processes, streamline, and save time.

Oh, another thing I did, if you own an agency: get a personal assistant. I learned between me and let’s say one junior when it was just the two of us, only one person working under me, all my time was client-facing, and then I would assign tasks on Monday.com and she would do them. But then my other time went a lot of times to stuff in my personal life. So you can hire someone pretty cheap either locally, in my case – I hired someone on my block – or you can hire someone virtually to do a lot of the stuff you need to do in your personal life. I freed up almost an hour and a half of my time a day. That’s three client calls a day. That’s a lot more work and business that I can take on.

I only started that a couple months ago. After I got used to the personal assistant, I was like, “Why didn’t I do this years ago?”

ROB: [laughs] Right. What I have found is you start off thinking of a few things you could delegate and hand off, and then you just keep on realizing things you can hand off. There’s a freedom that starts to come when you start to think about the additional things you can take off your plate instead of having the mindset that you have to do it.

YOEL: It’s a shift. It doesn’t make any sense to people that don’t. Once you start delegating and handing things off, your life changes.

ROB: I think to some people it sounds very indulgent. It sounds like one of those first world problems of whether or not you have an assistant. But when you’re trying to build a first class business, it’s hard to imagine how you can go without it. After a time. Maybe not when it’s just you.

YOEL: But it’s not even that. I know a lot of people, they’re employees themselves, but they hire some help at home to help with the kids and dishes and cleaning and things like that, and it makes a huge difference. Then they can stay later at work, maybe earn more. And these aren’t people building a business; they’re employees. They just need some help so they can mentally recharge, so they’re not up all night cleaning up after the house and the kids or whatever or helping with tutoring with children. In a sense, it’s all a personal assistant in a way.

ROB: Right, especially now, probably, to have someone who is in your inner circle, who you know and trust their habits. In the middle of the pandemic, I’m not scared, but I am careful. The list of people I’m going to call to babysit my kids has gotten a lot shorter right now because I want to know how you’re living your life.

YOEL: Yeah, I feel you, man. My wife and I went through the same thing. There’s less babysitting.

ROB: For sure. You mentioned processes. I think a lot of us, especially the creative class, “I’m going to go start a business,” bucks at the idea of structure and process. It almost feels like rules, but it’s also kind of like having a bionic exoskeleton sometimes that can help you be a lot stronger than you would be on your own. What was it that helped you realize – was there a particular process that you realized needed to be tightened up or some experience that made you turn the corner on processes?

YOEL: I found out that one of my competitors had some processes that I wasn’t doing, and then I really looked into it and I figured out, “I need to get it together.” [laughs] I went all-in on these processes. I started making processes and spreadsheets, processes in Monday.com, processes on what I do before and after a call and everything. It’s almost automatic. I don’t think about it. It’s become a habit, and everything’s documented, and no work ever gets forgotten or unchecked by doing things a certain way. Processes are important.

But you don’t notice you need it until you either hear complaints from a client or you find out what other people are doing in the industry and you’re like, “Oh, I should be doing that. Why aren’t I doing that?” Which is why I recommended earlier to bring in a consultant, because you don’t know what you don’t know.

ROB: Right. Those experiences beyond yourself, certainly.

YOEL: Correct. Especially because I haven’t worked at an agency, so I haven’t really learned how to do that. I don’t have that experience of “Here’s how we do things, here’s how we do training, here’s how we do keyword research,” and the processes of hiring. You need other help sometimes to see things differently if you don’t have that experience.

ROB: We’ve had a couple of those sorts of folks on. There’s a couple of gentlemen, David C. Baker and Blair Enns, who co-host the 2 Bobs podcast. They’ve both been on here, and they are both consultants to agencies that just have that longitudinal visibility. Even right now, if you want to say, “Hey, what are people doing? How are people’s bookings? What categories are hot, what categories are not hot? What are people doing about office space?”, these are all things where you need some perspective.

YOEL: Right. But get more specific. I don’t follow what people do; I try to do the exact opposite of what everyone does. But when it comes to processes, you need to get specific. Don’t follow the crowd per se, unless you want to enter a rat race, but sometimes you’re straight-up missing the obvious, which you don’t even know.

ROB: Very solid. Yoel, when you think of what’s ahead for WadiDigital and marketing and maybe cybersecurity, what are you excited about that’s coming up?

YOEL: We’re trying to transition from a cybersecurity marketing agency to a cybersecurity marketing and media agency, so in addition to influencer marketing and doing those things, we’re building some reading resources, websites, cybersecurity news websites, cybersecurity TV show. We’re trying to do – that’s for a few years from now. We’re really trying to make the destination for everything cybersecurity marketing and media so if you’re in cybersecurity, you’re a fool not to work with us.

ROB: Where’s that going to live? Do we have a future parking spot domain for that, or some digital properties? Or just follow WadiDigital?

YOEL: You can follow WadiDigital on LinkedIn, but right now, cyfluencer.com. “Cy” like cyber. That’s our distribution platform. That’s going to be launched January. There’s a LinkedIn page we literally just made, and then Cyber Intel Mag is going to be where we do our cyber news and all of that. It’s a cyber intelligence magazine. And then there’s some other things I can’t really share just yet. Just follow me or WadiDigital on LinkedIn to learn more.

ROB: Got it. Is it WadiDigital.com? Where do we go to find you? We can find you on LinkedIn.

YOEL: Yep, wadidigital.com, but the best is search “Yoel Israel” in LinkedIn. Send me a connection request, tell me you heard me from here, and I look forward to following and engaging. I’m very active there.

ROB: Awesome. If we google your name, there’s a nice Google ad that runs right up top too. It’s pretty sweet.

YOEL: As it should. [laughs] Control your name.

ROB: Very good. Yoel, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. It’s great to learn about what you’re doing both within cybersecurity marketing, but also that goal and the thought and the distilled knowledge going into the platform and the media side. It’s really, really instructive.

YOEL: Awesome. Thanks. My pleasure, and I appreciate you having me on.

ROB: Thank you so much. Be well. Bye.

YOEL: Cheers.

ROB: Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.