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B2B insights | How to target the CISO

It’s the first rule of marketing — know your target audience. The best campaigns are designed around the right audience, and for marketers working with cybertech that means the CISO.

But who is the CISO, and how much do you understand what they care about, what drives them, and who influences their decisions?

In this series, we’ll be looking at a key individual who influences which security solutions a company puts in place. Combining data from one-on-one interviews, qualitative research, and our own survey of 100 CISOs, we’ll be sharing insights to help marketers and comms professionals at IT and cybersecurity brands reach the CISO.

What does today’s CISO look like?

It’ll be no surprise to hear that CISOs take cybertech very seriously. In fact, 80% are the final purchase decision maker when it comes to cyber technologies. CISOs are also very dedicated to their industry, with 67% having stayed in cyber during their entire career (although only 24% stay with the same company).

When you imagine a person in charge of an organisation’s entire security infrastructure, you may be picturing someone with a greying eminence. In reality, the average age for a CISO is between 35 and 44, having typically spent six years in their role.

Targeting the CISO

Understanding the CISO: personality

CISOs are ambitious. They strive to get ahead in the business world, but not by making risky moves. It’s no surprise then that the top career goal for a CISO is to be successful.

CISOs take a practical approach to decision making and as such are typically convinced by facts, evidence, and credentials, rather than emotional appeal. As such, case studies and data points will be essential marketing tools. Given that over half (51%) are the sole decider on buying new technology, it’s understandable that they want to have complete confidence in the decisions they’re making.

That said, CISOs don’t back away from a challenge and are still willing to keep an open mind and examine new ideas. If you’ve got a new innovation, they will want to hear about it.

CISO personality traits

What matters to CISOs?

CISOs face a precise tightrope walk between external and internal pressures. Security is a key issue right now, and one that is only becoming more pressing for companies as they try to navigate new data privacy regulations, evolving technologies, and growing cyber threats. If something goes wrong, the CISO might have to answer for the impact on customers, share price, and the company’s image.

To connect with a CISO, it’s vital to show you understand their challenges and the pressures they’re under. How does your product solve their problems and make their job easier? If you can communicate that, you’re already halfway there.

CISO Priorities 2023

Who influences the CISO?

CISOs are happy to work independently and are confident in their own judgement; feeling valued actually ranks as their lowest priority when carrying out their role. But they still work closely with the rest of the organisation and are keen to get buy-in from multiple departments.

CISOs work most closely with technical collaborators, like the CTO, CDO, and CIO. But they must also work with non-technical C-suite actors, like the COO, CEO and CFO to get their priorities put into action.

One of the CISO’s biggest frustrations can be a lack of C-suite buy-in for their goals, so reaching the CISO means looking beyond the individual to the entire C-suite and understanding how you can be a valuable partner for the business as a whole.

CISO Influencers 2023

What do CISOs look for when buying tech?

CISOs are well versed in technology — it’s their bread and butter. They know their stuff and they’re not willing to take a salesperson at face value. Due diligence of new technologies is essential.

CISOs reach out to their networks to verify new technologies, whether that’s by asking fellow CISOs for recommendations, attending industry events, or reading analyst reports.

CISOs will read your website closely — four out of five say it’s a key source of information. So make sure your digital presence is up to scratch and is packed with facts and proof points. Case studies can be particularly important, as are product specs so CISOs can quickly grasp how your technology will help them.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of the press. CISOs read industry-specific technical media to gain an insight into the latest in their industry.

By meeting CISOs where they are, you have the best chance of capturing their attention.

Marketing to CISOs

What social media do CISOs use?

Just as CISOs are savvy in the latest technology, they also have a strong presence online and on social media. As many as 87% of CISOs say they use social media to engage with the world and stay up to date on the latest technology news. So where can you find CISOs on social media?

CISOs are signed up to multiple platforms, with 77% using Instagram, 72% using Twitter, 69% on Facebook, and 66% active on LinkedIn.

CISOs are also not just signing up to social media, but actively using it to read content, commenting on others’ posts, and making connections with others.

While LinkedIn is the classic social network for ‘professionals’, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of more consumer channels, with 38% and 37% of CISOs looking to connect with others on Facebook and Instagram respectively.

What social media do CISOs useReaching the CISO with marketing and PR

Now that you have the download on who CISOs are and what they’re looking for, it’s time to put your knowledge into action.

Wildfire is here to help. From Cloudflare and SolarWinds, to IS Decisions and BSS, Wildfire has developed marketing and PR campaigns across the cybersecurity industry.

Looking to reach CISOs or market your security product? Drop our team an email or check out our latest security case studies.

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Wildfire Labs

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Wildfire Labs explores intelligence, insights and trends from the world of tech marketing and PR. Articles and content by Alex Warren, Tim Richardson, Rebecca Quin and Paula Fifield. If you'd like to learn more about any of our trends or our team, contact