How Stonesoft Corp. launched its Evasion Prevention System at the Black Hat USA conference

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The Black Hat USA conference drew more than 6,500 information security professionals to Las Vegas in late July, amassing an audience of influencers who are known not only for their big brains but also for their strong preference to remain anonymous. Network security firm Stonesoft Corp. developed a campaign to launch its Evasion Prevention System at the event, combining the announcement with the release of a free tool that tests a network's vulnerability to cyberattacks. The company built a themed event campaign that played off the popularity of Valve Corp.'s 2007 brain-teaser video game Portal. It drove the audience to a microsite where they could exchange their name, home country and an email address for the free testing tool, which Stonesoft branded Evader. The tool became the first step in a conversation about the need for the protection system, and the download form also gave prospects a compelling reason to offer initial contact details to the company. “Evaluators and buyers are wary about giving up their information right away,” said Jeff Anderson, VP-marketing communications, Americas, at Stonesoft. “You're more likely to get a personal Gmail address. Some [marketers] throw out those accounts; we don't. Just give us enough [information] that we can follow up with you. We provide content to those hidden accounts until they want to identify themselves.” Stonesoft developed the campaign two months before the Black Hat event, working with Atlanta-based marketing firm Arketi Group to identify a theme that would appeal to the technical audience. Portal fit the bill because many of the attendees play the game, Anderson said. It also provided a conceptual connection. Players solve puzzles to open “portal” holes within the environment and advance to the next level. Stonesoft prospects used the Evader tool to identify holes in their own systems. “We appealed to their interests in both gaming and technology,” Anderson said. Stonesoft scored a small coup when it nabbed a coveted giveaway item, a limited-edition, life-size replica of the Portal gun (used within the game) that had sold out following its release. The company developed an email campaign around the Portal theme, inviting prospects to register to win the gun, visit the Stonesoft booth and attend a game-themed after-party. Stonesoft employees used Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote the event, and Boston-based PR firm Shift Communications conducted press outreach. A 30-day Google AdWords campaign invited all users browsing the search engine for information about Black Hat to the Portal party. During the event, an actor dressed as Portal protagonist Chell carried the replica gun and posed for pictures with attendees, strategically positioning a QR code in each shot. The company placed two large projection screens in a 200- square-foot booth, offering product demonstrations and handing out QR codes that took attendees to the Evader test tool microsite. The emphasis was not on selling. Stonesoft wanted to showcase its research and development investments that led to the creation of the EPS and Evader technologies. The focus on engagement and conversation led to the success of the event, said Micky Long, VP-practice director, lead nurturing at Arketi Group. “They gave people something of real value without charging them, something that people could take back to their network and identify risk. That goes a long way to building that relationship with a prospect before you ask them to sign on the dotted line.” Once Stonesoft built its lead database post-event, it began nurturing even the vaguest of attendee leads. The company rolled out follow-up direct mail and telemarketing initiatives, and asked people who downloaded the Evader testing tool to take part in a survey about its effectiveness. More than 1,000 people visited the Stonesoft show booth, twice the traffic seen in the previous year, and 325 people attended the Portal after-party. Overall, the event pulled 808 qualified leads into the Stonesoft pipeline. In the first month of the campaign, the microsite attracted 5,500 visitors. Almost a quarter of those visitors downloaded the free tool. The company plans to promote the campaign to a global audience and will use it at future security events, including the RSA Conference. “The challenge now is how to keep the momentum going,” Anderson said.
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