Q&A: Lisa Sherwin Wulf, Federal Marketing Director, SolarWinds, on the Value of a Strategic Market Research Program - (Archived)

Lisa Sherwin Wulf on creating a market research program.

Lisa Sherwin Wulf,
Federal Marketing Director,

In 2014, SolarWinds, a leading provider of powerful and affordable hybrid IT infrastructure management software, in conjunction with Market Connections, launched the first in a series of studies on cybersecurity in the federal government. The company followed it up with a second study in 2015.

SolarWinds has successfully used the results of this strategic market research program for advanced thought leadership marketing strategies that include publicity, social media promotions, webinars, speaking engagements, demand generation and much more. And together with their public relations agency, SpeakerBox, they won a Gold MarCom Award in the “Research/Study” category.

As SolarWinds and Market Connections prepare to field the third annual Cybersecurity in the Federal Government Research Study, FedPulse sat down with Lisa Sherwin Wulf, Federal Marketing Director at SolarWinds, to discuss the value of a strategic market research program.

FedPulse:  Tell us about the idea behind the cybersecurity studies and why you chose to use third-party market research.

Sherwin Wulf:  We wanted to launch a comprehensive thought leadership campaign that was grounded in research and showed the daily obstacles federal agencies face when it comes to cybersecurity.  We also wanted to gain insights from both federal IT and IT security professionals to gain a more comprehensive view of the challenges our users face.

We chose to do market research because we wanted to see what was really happening in the marketplace, not what we thought was happening. We knew market research would give us a better understanding of the challenges our federal users face. And by conducting the study annually, we can benchmark changes within the federal government landscape in how agencies address both internal and external cyber threats.

FedPulse: How did you initially use the results of the survey to advance your marketing efforts, and what new tactics did you use with the 2015 study?

Sherwin Wulf:  We worked closely with Market Connections and our corporate communications team to develop a long-tail campaign where we leveraged the content in multiple ways. We initially released the research through a press release, which helped us secure a significant amount of press coverage.  In conjunction with this effort, we issued the full results through SlideShare, and hosted a webinar with the Digital Government Institute (DGI).  We also shared the results through an online event with GovDefenders, and spoke at a DGI Cyber Security Conference & Expo about the results.  Finally, we developed a comprehensive white paper and an infographic.

These tactics worked well, so we implemented the same strategy for 2015… with even better results. For example, because we now had two years’ worth of data, the results told a deeper story, and had even more of an appeal to the press. We received coverage in Forbes, Federal Times, DorobekINSIDER, and our data was referenced in a Gartner Research report (Market Trends: Secure Employee Behavior Consulting Initiatives Create New Consulting Opportunities, available to Gartner customers.) Our SlideShare views also doubled, which is a good indication of interest in the data. In fact, all of the content has worked well for social sharing.

Two new things we did were to work with our security marketing team to add this content to a microsite that was developed for National Cybersecurity Awareness month (NCSAM). It was a timely way to present the data and gain additional website visits and engagement. We also leveraged the content for a Washington Post Brand Connect campaign, which had great engagement with the readership and ran during NCSAM.

FedPulse: How is SolarWinds using the research to market its federal cybersecurity capabilities?

Sherwin Wulf:  The data has had a significant impact on awareness of our position in the market and led to an increase in lead generation from activities around the research. One somewhat unexpected benefit of having the research data is that we have been able to leverage it for more speaking engagements — twice as many as the year before. This is an incredibly valuable way to get our brand in front of our customers and prospects. Another unexpected outcome is the traction this research is getting in Europe — even though it is U.S. data. This is leading to new, exciting opportunities for our National Government team.

FedPulse: What do you have planned for the 2016 data?

Sherwin Wulf: I have some ideas, but you are going to have to wait!

FedPulse: Fair enough. How about any final thoughts about the value of market research?

Sherwin Wulf:  The first year we conducted the research, the project was perceived as a big risk. I believed it would yield valuable results, but it is not a small investment and the SolarWinds Federal team had never done this kind of market research program before. It was a little nerve wracking waiting to see the results. But it did pay off — big. The results from our investment were more than we had hoped for, and we are excited to see how we can build on that success.

I believe that when done right — and by that I mean taking a strategic, thoughtful approach to the research program and working with a research partner that is aligned with your goals — the investment will pay off. And that it really isn’t a risk when the payoff is so valuable.

FedPulse: We would like to thank Lisa for taking the time to speak with FedPulse. To learn more about the 2015 study, click here.


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